How to Get a UK Motorbike Licence
Getting a UK motorbike licence can seem pretty complicated. Theory tests, Compulsory Basic Training (CBT), and four different categories of actual licences cover a range of different options. This guide to UK motorcycle licences should help you understand what you are eligible to get, what you need to do, and what options you have in the future.
If the licence laws weren't complicated enough, there are also some rules which only apply if you passed your car driving test before February 1st, 2001. And there have been some changes to the provisional licence and test if you want to ride a trike rather than a two-wheeled motorcycle or scooter.
So we'll take you through each type of UK motorcycle licence, and also explain what your options are depending on your age and other qualifications.
The only person in the UK who doesn't have to hold a valid driving licence is the Queen, who has been exempt since the first registration was introduced in 1903. For the first 30 years, one licence covered both cars and motorcycles, and for many years, the motorcycle test basically comprised of riding around for a few minutes to show you had basic control.
It's important to note that the provisional driving licence that allows you to ride a moped, scooter, motorcycle or quad will let you travel on the public roads with an L Plate on the front and rear of the vehicle, but you'll be restricted from carrying a pillion until you pass your full test.
Current UK driving licences are a photocard which was introduced in 1998. A paper counterpart was also used with your entitlements and convictions until June 2015. That information can now be viewed online, and if you do have a licence issued before 1998, you don't have to switch until either the current licence expires or you change address. Your photo licence now has to be renewed every ten years.
When you've passed your test, you're valid to ride until the expiry date. There's no maximum age, but you have to renew your licence when you are 70 years old, and self-certify your fitness to still ride every 3 years after that date.
UK Licence Categories
AM Licence Category:
The AM Licence covers mopeds and light quad bikes. You can achieve an AM Licence from the age of 16, and this will allow you to ride any low-powered motorcycle with an engine of 50cc or less, and a maximum speed of 28mph. You won't be allowed to ride on motorways, for obvious reasons.
A1 Licence Category:
The A1 Licence requires you to be aged 17 or above. You'll then be allowed to ride motorcycles up to a maximum of 125cc capacity and 14.8bhp (11kW) in power, although for a trike you're allowed 20.1bhp (15kW). Check out our top ten 125cc scooters and top ten 125cc bikes for some inspiration.
A2 Licence Category:
The A2 Licence is the most complicated to understand of the current motorcycle licence categories. From a minimum age of 19, you can ride a motorcycle of up to 47bhp (35kW), and which doesn't have a power to weight ratio better than 0.2 kW/kg. You'll need to take your test on a motorcycle of 27bhp (20kW) or above to be eligible for the A2 Licence. Check out our top ten A2 scooters and top ten A2 bikes for some ideas.
To confuse things further many manufacturers offer restrictor kits as factory options, allowing you to buy an A2 compliant bike or scooter which can then be de-restricted once you have your full licence. While they may cost a bit more up front they will potentially last you a lot longer.
A Licence Category:
At the age of 24 and above you can take a full motorcycle licence, which is the A Licence Category and this enables you to ride whatever you want.
Alternatively, if you have already held an A2 Licence for two years, you can then take another practical test which will give you the full A Licence Category. That means you'll need to be at least 21 to have held the previous licence for two years. Check out our top tens for some inspiration.
From January 2019 the law changed such that test bikes now have to make 50kW / 67.1bhp rather than the old 40kW / 53.6bhp. They must also now have a minimum wet weight of 180kg.
Stages of Getting Your Licence
For many people, the first stage will be to apply for your provisional motorcycle driving licence. You'll need to be at least 15 years and 9 months to apply, and meet the minimum requirements for your eyesight, which will be tested at the start of any practical exam. You'll also need to be a resident of Great Britain, and not already have any reason to prevent you from driving (i.e. already have a driving ban).
You can apply online or by post, with ID documents, a passport photo and a payment of £34 online, or £43 if you're using the postal service.
If you already have a full car licence, then you don't need to apply for the provisional licence.
Compulsory Basic Training (CBT):
To ride on UK roads, you need to complete Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). It's not the full motorcycle test, but a look at your riding to make sure you're safe to be around other road users, and issue you with a DL196 certificate to prove it.
It includes an eyesight check, followed by practical on-site training and riding, and then practical on-road training and riding.
The CBT course usually takes one day, although it's fine to take a little longer to ensure you're safe when riding on the road.
Once completed, your DL196 CBT certificate is valid for two years. If you haven't passed your full motorcycle licence in 24 months, you'll need to repeat your CBT.
The only exemption is if you have a full car licence issued before February 1st, 2001. That allows you to ride a 50cc moped on the road without L plates, and with a pillion, without taking your CBT first.
You don't actually need to take a CBT if you live on certain offshore UK islands but you do need a CBT to ride in these places:
- the Isle of Wight
- South Uist, North Uist
- mainland Orkney
- mainland Shetland
- and any island connected to mainland Great Britain by road
Motorcycle Theory Test:
The motorcycle theory test is required before moving onto the practical licence test. It applies whether or not you have a full car licence, and again, will be valid for 2 years from the pass date. If you haven't completed your licence in that time, you'll need to take the theory test again.
The exemption here is if you have passed a two-part (full) licence on a moped or lower capacity motorcycle since 1996, and held it for at least two years. So if, for example, you have an A1 Licence, you don't need to retake the theory test for your A1 or A licence.
The Motorcycle Theory Test is a two part test done by computer which costs £23, and is performed in two parts.
The first part is a multiple choice quiz which covers the rules of the road, from the Highway Code, the Official DVSA Guide to Riding and the official Know Your Traffic Signs books. So this is where you'll need to know about things like the rules of the road.
The second part consists of 14 film clips from the perspective of a motorcycle to test your awareness and hazard perception.
Motorcycle Practical Test:
The actual riding part of the UK motorcycle licence test comes in two parts. There is the Module One (Off Road) test which costs £15.50, and the Module Two (On Road) Test from £75 during working hours, and £88.50 at other times.
You'll need to use the same size and type of motorcycle for both parts.
Module One (Off Road) takes around 20 minutes, and you need to show you can do the following:
- wheel the moped or motorbike and use the stand
- do a slalom and figure of eight
- a slow ride
- cornering and controlled stop
- cornering and the emergency stop
- cornering and hazard avoidance
Module Two (On Road) takes around 50 minutes, although it can feel much longer or shorter depending on how well it goes.
- an eyesight test
- safety questions
- road riding including stopping, an angle start (pulling out from behind a parked vehicle) and a hill start, where possible
- 10 minutes of independent riding, when you’ll be asked to ride a route following traffic signs or a series of directions, to see how you make decisions while riding.
If you do fail Module One, you'll need to wait at least three working days before retaking it.
If you fail Module Two, you'll need to wait at least 10 working days before you can have another go.
Once you've passed, you can now send your details to the DVLA to get your new full licence.
Licences By Age
16 Years Old:
You can apply for a provisional licence and take your test for a full AM Category Licence for mopeds.
17 Years Old:
You can now take your test for a full A1 Licence for up to 125cc.
19 Years Old:
You can now take your test for a full A2 Licence for up to 47bhp.
21 Years Old:
You can now take your test for a full A Licence if you've already held an A2 Licence for at least two years.
24 Years Old:
You can now take your test for a full A Licence regardless of previous licences.
32 Years Old:
If you're 32 or above, you may have passed your driving test before February 1st 2001, which allows you to ride mopeds with pillions, and without L plates. And you won't need to take your CBT first.
Learning to Ride Trikes
If you're physically disabled, you are able to take your CBT and motorcycle/trike test on a three-wheeled vehicle.
If you're not physically disabled, you'll need to go through the process on two wheels for an A1 motorcycle licence for trikes up to 15kW power, and a full category A motorcycle licence for more powerful trikes.