Me, about a week after passing my A2.

Motorcycle Licensing in the UK

Here's how to get yourself on two wheels (legally)

The UK motorcycle licensing system is legislation that we've adopted as part of our EU membership. At a glance, it's rather complicated. The laws are designed to keep kids off of "crotch rockets", and encourage them to take lots of training on smaller bikes.

Classes of motorcycle

To begin with, motorbikes and the licences you need to ride them are separated into the following four classes:

AMThese are what we would call mopeds. They can only have a top speed of 28mph (45km/h) and often have an automatic transmission, making them easier for beginners.

Browse AM bikes

A1The first geared (proper) motorcycles. The engine can be up to 125cc, producing up to 14.75hp (11kW) with a power to weight ratio below 0.1kW/kg.

Browse A1 bikes

A2One class up from A1, an A2 bike has no limit on the engine size, but power is limited to 46.96hp (35kW), and the power to weight ratio must be below 0.2kW/kg.

Browse A2 bikes

AFinally we have the full A class licence. This has no limits imposed. As long as it has two or three wheels and is road legal, you can ride it.

Browse A bikes

CBT - Compulsory Basic Training

Compulsory basic training is one day of training with a riding school. There's no test and you can't "fail" the CBT, but if you aren't quite ready by the end you may be asked to come back for more training. The course is designed for complete beginners, but you are expected to be familiar with the highway code before you arrive. You'll be talked through the controls for the bike you're riding, as well as learning about the laws and etiquette of the road.

The day is usually thoroughly enjoyable, and at the end you will be presented with a CBT Certificate of Completion or, to give it it's proper name, a DL196. This is valid for two years and entitles you to ride a moped or motorbike up to 125cc on the road, though you must display L plates. It is also required in order to take the full motorcycle test, so whatever you want to ride eventually, a CBT will be your first step.

More information on the CBT is available at gov.uk.

Prices for a CBT are set by the riding school, but usually range between £95 and £125. The course must be conducted by an approved school. Find one here.

You will need a provisional driving licence before you arrive for your CBT. Both cars and motorcycles require the same provisional licence, so if you already have either a full or provisional licence to drive a car you needn't worry. More information, including how to apply, can be found at gov.uk.

Theory Test

The test comprises of two sections, done one after another:

There are 50 multiple-choice questions, which you have 57 minutes to answer. There are no trick questions and most are simply common sense.
More info at gov.uk.

After that, there's a hazard perception test. You are instructed to watch some videos and click the mouse whenever you see something that you may need to react to.
More info at gov.uk.

If you've taken a car theory test, you do still need to do a motorcycle theory test, but this will all be very familiar to you. It's mostly identical except for a few motorcycling-specific questions.

You don't need to have done your CBT in order to do your theory test. You just need to be at least 17 years old, or 16 if you want to ride a moped.

The Full Motorcycle Licence

In order to ride without L plates, or without having to renew your CBT every two years, or in order to ride a bike with an engine larger than 125cc, you need to attain a full motorcycle licence.

There is a full licence for each of the classes of motorbike (AM, A1, A2, A), and there are different age restrictions for each with the aim to keep the inexperienced away from large bikes.

  • AM - Valid CBT, Theory test passed and at be at least 16 years old.
  • A1 - Valid CBT, Theory test passed and at be at least 17 years old.
  • A2 - Valid CBT, Theory test passed and at be at least 19 years old.
  • A - Valid CBT, Theory test passed and at be at least 24 years old, or have held an A2 licence for two years.

There are two practical tests to be completed in order to gain your full licence - Module 1 and Module 2.

Module 1 is conducted off of public roads, on a specially constructed asphalt area. It's a skills test to make sure that you can control the bike before you go out on public roads. More information, including the manoeuvres you will need to demonstrate can be found on the gov.uk page.

Module 2 is pretty much the same as a driving test, including a quick "read the number plate" eyesight test and some "show me, tell me" questions before you go out on the roads. You are expected to demonstrate that you can ride safely and independently on public roads. More info on the gov.uk page.

Module 1 and Module 2 are done on separate days, and you will need your pass certificate for Module 1 in order to book your Module 2.

Once you've passed your practical test, it doesn't expire and you can ride the class of bike that you did your test on forever. If you want to upgrade the class of bike you can ride, you will need to redo the practical test on the class of bike you wish to have a licence for, but you don't need the valid CBT or theory test certificates. More information on the requirements for each licence type is available at gov.uk.