Updated February 2019
Whether you’re eagerly anticipating your 16th birthday to get on your first bike or getting into motorcycling at a ripe old age, figuring out which licence you’ll need can be confusing. There are different rules based on what kind of motorcycle you want to ride, how old you are and your experience level. When you add in constraints around maximum power output, carrying passengers, and terms like direct and progressive access, it’s easy to see why a lot of first-timers are finding the topic baffling!
To help you solve this, Bikesure has compiled a simple infographic to explain the legal requirements for each type of bike and when you can apply to take your test. Or you can read the information and advice below.
Infographic: what motorbike can I ride?
What type of motorcycle licence do I need?
Knowing which motorbike licence you need is complicated and, as the infographic shows, dependent on several factors. The approach is called ‘staged access’. For example you may be above a certain age, but not have passed certain tests or completed certain training, and this can impact what you can ride.
You must have the right provisional driving licence when you’re learning to ride. You apply for a provisional licence if you’re at least 15 years and nine months old and can read a number plate from 20 metres away. Your vehicle must have a valid V5C registration certificate (log book), be taxed, have an MOT (if needed) and you will need adequate motor insurance. Get a motorcycle insurance quote here.
If you are: 16 or over and have completed your CBT.
You can: ride a moped up to 50cc with L plates for two years (when you must retake CBT or take a practical test).
If you are: 17 or over and have completed your CBT.
You can: ride a motorcycle up to 125cc with L plates for two years (when you must retake CBT or take a practical test).
If you are: 16 or over and have completed CBT, a theory test and the practical test.
You can: ride a moped (scooter or motorcycle-style) up to 50cc with a top speed of 28mph without L plates. You may also carry a passenger.
A1 Motorcycle Licence
If you are: 17 or over and have taken a two-stage practical test, after completing your CBT and passing your theory test.
You can: ride a motorcycle or scooter up to 125cc without L plates and to carry a passenger. It is worth noting at this stage that passing a full motorcycle test can help reduce your insurance costs.
A2 Motorcycle Licence
If you are: 19 or older and have held an A1 motorcycle licence for more than two years.
You can: take another practical test and, if you pass, receive your A2 Motorcycle Licence.
If you are: 19 or older and don’t already have a licence.
You can: complete CBT, and passed the theory and practical tests to get your A2 Motorcycle Licence.
This licence type will allow you to ride a motorcycle up to 35 kW (49.6bhp).
Unrestricted A Motorcycle Licence
If you are: 21 or older and have held an A2 Motorcycle Licence for two years.
You can: take another practical test and get an unrestricted A Motorcycle Licence.
If you are: 24 or older and don’t already have a licence
You can: complete CBT, and pass your theory and practical tests
Once complete, you will be able to ride any motorbike or scooter without L plates and carry a passenger.
What if I already have a car licence?
If you passed your driving test on or after 1 February 2001 you can receive a full moped licence if you complete CBT. Alternatively, you can complete CBT then pass your car driving test within two years. This will allow you to ride a 50cc moped without L plates as long as your car driving licence lasts.
If you passed your driving test before 1 February 2001, you can ride a 50cc moped without L plates and without taking CBT or the full moped test. However, you must do CBT if you want to ride anything larger than a 50cc moped.
What are the moped and motorcycle tests?
After completing your CBT you can apply to take your full test whether on a moped or a motorcycle. The main difference between the two tests is that the motorcycle test includes the aspect of gears, while the moped test does not – the vehicle being ungeared, or twist-and-go.
Motor tricycles or trikes
You can ride a trike of any power rating if you’re over 21 and have a full car driving licence.
Provisional category B car licences and provisional category A licences only cover you to ride motor tricycles if you have a physical disability. Driving tests for three-wheeled vehicles are only available for physically disabled drivers.
If you’re not physically disabled and want to ride a motor tricycle you’ll now need to get the right provisional entitlement and pass CBT.
Bike categories, ages and licence requirements
|Licence category||Vehicles you can ride||Requirements for licence||Minimum age|
|AM||Mopeds with speed range of 15-28mph||Compulsory basic training (CBT), theory test, practical test on all powered two-wheeled moped||16|
|AM||Small three-wheelers (up to 50cc and below 4 kW)||CBT, theory test, practical test||16|
|AM||Light quadricycles (weighing under 350 kg, top speed 28mph||CBT, theory test, practical test||16|
|Q||Same as AM plus two- or three-wheeled mopeds with a top speed of 15.5mph||Granted with AM||16|
|A1||Light motorcycle up to 11kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.1 kW per kg) and 125cc||CBT, theory test, practical test||17|
|A1||Motor tricycles with a power output. Notmore than 15kW||CBT, theory test, practical test||17|
|A2||Standard motorcycle up to 35kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.2kW per kg), the bike must not be derived from a vehicle more than twice its power||Direct access route – theory and practical. Progressive access route – two years experience on A1 motorbike and a further practical test||19|
|A||Unrestricted motorcycles in size/power, with or without a sidecar, and motor tricycles with power output over 15kW||Direct access route – CBT theory and practical (you must be at least 24). Progressive access route – held an A2 licence for a minimum of two years – practical test (21 or over)||24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)|
What is CBT (Compulsory Basic Training)?
The CBT course involves on-site training and riding as well as driving on the road with the help of a trained guide. Your motorbike instructor will take you through each stage once you have demonstrated basic safety skills at a level they are satisfied with. Once these have been completed, you will be issued with a certificate (DL196), which will last for up to two years. Learn more about what CBT involves, where you can take it and what to bring with you.
What is the theory test?
The theory test comprises multiple-choice questions and a hazard perception test.
The multiple-choice test consists of 50 questions specific to motorbike riding that must be completed in just under an hour. The hazard perception part of the test consists of videos filmed from the rider’s point of view in which you must identify a number of hazards to pass. The sooner you can respond to a hazard, the higher you score. There is a possible score of 75 and you need to score at least 44 to pass. The test takes roughly 15 minutes.
You will be given your results straight away. If you don’t pass on your first attempt, you can re-sit the test at a later time. You must pass both sections in order to pass. If you fail one but pass the other, you have to re-take both sections before receiving a full motorbike licence.
Read more about the new, “harder”, theory test.
Click here to download the infographic…
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