You can ride: up to a 125cc motorcycle or scooter
You’ll need: A CBT, which lasts for 2 years
It’ll cost you: Around £90 for the CBT test
You can opt for a: Full A1 licence test
When you are a minimum of 17 years old, you can ride a 125cc motorcycle or scooter with just a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) certificate. You’ll then be able to ride with L-plates on. The CBT certificate will last you two years until it expires and then you’ll have to retake the CBT if you want to carry on riding.
The answer is yes. It is always a good idea to do your CBT on a machine that is similar to the one you will be riding. However, if you do your CBT on a 125cc scooter, you are free to carry on riding a 125cc scooter (known as an automatic) or you can get a 125cc manual motorcycle and ride that with no further training.
If you opt for the easiest route, the CBT, that’ll cost you around £70-£100 and it takes a day.
The price includes the hire of a 125cc motorcycle or moped, and the loan of equipment (usually a helmet, jacket and gloves). At the end of the day, your instructor will issue you with a DL196 form, also known as a CBT certificate. Look-out, world! You’re ready to ride.
If you’ll only ever want to ride a 125cc motorcycle or scooter, then you might want to consider passing your A1 licence. The A1 licence involves a theory and practical test on top of your CBT but once passed, it means you can ride your 125cc motorcycle or scooter (A1 category) without L-plates and you won’t need to retake your CBT (or any test) every two years. You can also carry a pillion passenger.
However, most people prefer to take a CBT as it is a cheaper way of getting onto an A1 category bike, requires less training and enables you to get out on the road faster. The drawback to only having a CBT is that it expires after 2 years and you will need to retake it. You’ll also have to ride with an L-plate on your bike if you only have a CBT and you can’t carry pillion passengers.
The trouble with an A1 licence is that it doesn’t really allow you to do much more than if you just got a CBT (except carry passengers and ride without L-plates).
The CBT is valid for two years, so if you’re 17 and you get a CBT, you’ll get two years of riding under your belt and you’ll be 19 and able to go for the A2 licence.
The A2 licence allows you to ride a motorcycle up to 35kW (46bhp). The A2 test is exactly the same as the test for your A1 category motorbike licence, so if you’re going to shell-out for an A2 licence, consider whether you need to spend the extra £500, time and hassle of getting an A1 licence when a CBT will be enough to carry you on through.
Our advice: If you’re 17 and new to biking and eligible for a 125cc machine, get a CBT, get on the road and chalk up some experience. The chances are you’ll be totally cool with a 125 and L-plates and won’t see the need for an A1 licence once you get your wheels. Save your money and put it towards your A2 licence and a bigger bike when you hit 19.
You can ride what the government refer to as ‘light motorbikes’ with:
The reality of this is far simpler than it sounds. Any motorcycle or scooter with an engine capacity of 125cc or below falls into the A1 category. So you don’t need to worry about matching the right power-to-weight ratio or looking for the kW power output in the sales brochure.
To take your A1 category motorcycle licence you’ll need:
You’ll then need the training to get you up to the required skill level to take your A1 motorcycle test. Most motorcycle training schools will offer a 3-day course, where you’ll take your Module 1 test on the second day and the Module 2 test on the third day.
A 3-day A1 motorcycle training course, including motorcycle and kit hire and your test fees, will cost around £500. A 2-day course will cost around £100 less.
Total cost to get an A1 category motorcycle licence: £500-£600.
Your A1 motorcycle test is in two parts; Module 1 and Module 2.
Module 1 is an ‘off-road’ course but don’t be alarmed. The horribly sloppy choice of phrase by Her Majesty’s Government doesn’t mean you’ll be donning motocross boots and riding a big-hairy dirt-bike through muddy fields. Off-road simply means: not on a public highway.
The Module 1 test involves the candidate demonstrating a set number of manoeuvres to the examiner at an approved motorcycle test centre. You’ll be very familiar with the course layout, as you’ll have covered it during your training, albeit at a different location.
The manoeuvres that you’ll be examined on are:
The Module 1 test takes around 15 minutes to complete and by the time you head to your Module 1 test, you’ll have carried out the routine so many times, you’ll practically be able to do it with your eyes closed. However, we all know that nerves play a part in how you perform, so just remember to relax. If you can do it on the training ground, you can do it on the day.
You can only take the Module 2 once you have passed your Module 1. You’ll usually take your Module 1 the day before your Module 2 test is booked.
The Mod 2 test is less compartmentalised than the Module 1. The Mod 2 involves an eyesight test and then around 30-minutes of assessed riding on the public roads. At the end of the test, when you return to the test centre, the examiner will ask you a few questions relating to the motorcycle you’re riding and topic of carrying a passenger (known as a pillion).
If you fail your Mod 2 test, you’ll only need to retake the Mod 2 and not the Mod 1. If you need to resit your Mod 2, budget around £150 which includes some pre-test training, motorcycle hire and the test itself.
It costs £18 per year to tax any motorcycle under 150cc, so it’s the same price whether you’re on a scooter or motorcycle. You can only buy this tax for a 12-month period but you can pay for this road tax monthly on Direct Debit, with the total cost being £18.90 for 12 months. You cannot buy this tax for a 6-month period.
Average 125cc insurance costs will vary, depending on the age and location of the rider. There are 17 motorcycle insurance groups and most 125cc motorcycles and scooters are under group 5, whereas a powerful superbike will be group 17.
125cc scooters, although offering very similar performance to a 125cc motorcycle will often be cheaper to insure as well as cheaper to buy. So it’s worth considering whether you really need a motorcycle if you are watching the pennies.
125cc motorcycles and mopeds have varying to speeds. Most will be able to get to 60mph with no problems. 125cc scooters will have a maximum top speed of around 65mph, due to the fact that they have ‘one’ gear in their CVT gearbox, which needs to be a blend of acceleration and top speed. If a 125cc scooter was geared to go 80mph, it would be incredibly slow to get going.
While 125cc ‘sportsbikes’ are designed to look fast, the reality is they are barely any faster than their non-faired equivalents. Take a Yamaha YZF-R125 and Yamaha MT125 as an example – the YZF is a ‘sportsbike’ and the MT a ‘naked’ or ‘unfaired’ bike. The MT will have a lower top speed by a few miles an hour but will be geared for lower speeds and therefore faster from the traffic lights. That’s why we put ‘sportsbikes’ in inverted commas; they’re barely any different to an unfaired equivalent.
All 125cc motorcycles for sale in the UK use a 4-stroke engine but a decade ago, a majority of 125cc motorcycles and scooters used 2-stroke engines. They were still 125cc but the nature of a 2-stroke engine means it produces around 60% more power than an equivalent sized 4-stroke engine, so if you want a ‘fast’ 125cc motorcycle look for an Aprilia RS125, Cagiva Mito or Yamaha TZR125 or a Gilera Runner 125 2T scooter – these should be capable of 75+mph.
Let’s take two theoretical riders, looking to insure their 125cc motorcycle in two different locations.
The first hypothetical location is a city centre postcode (SE5), medium to high risk. The second hypothetical location is a suburban postcode (RG45), low to medium risk.
The 125cc motorcycle is worth £3500 and garaged at night.
Rider 1 is 17 years old. Rider 2 is 35 years old. Both have zero No Claims Bonus.
Rider 1, 17-year old: Fully Comprehensive Insurance £600 per year, £250 excess
Rider 1, 17-year old: Third Party Only Insurance £450 per year, £250 excess
Rider 2, 35-year old: Fully Comprehensive Insurance, £300 per year, £250 excess
Rider 2, 35-year old: Third Party Only Insurance, £200 per year, £250 excess
Rider 1, 17-year old: Fully Comprehensive Insurance £1000 per year, £250 excess
Rider 1, 17-year old: Third Party Only Insurance £700 per year, £250 excess
Rider 2, 35-year old: Fully Comprehensive Insurance, £500 per year, £250 excess
Rider 2, 35-year old: Third Party Only Insurance, £350 per year, £250 excess
These are just estimates but they give you an idea of how much it would cost to insure a 125cc scooter or motorcycle in a city-centre or suburban location. Remember that other factors will affect the cost of your insurance, including:
The bike’s make and model, how many years you have been riding and your No Claims Bonus. Where you live and where the bike is kept overnight, whether you use the bike for commuting, your annual mileage and the level of cover you require: Fully Comp, Third Party Fire & Theft or Third Party Only.
If you’re looking to get a 125cc and keep your cost down, then a general rule of thumb is to avoid new motorcycles and avoid sportsbikes. The one caveat to that is that some manufacturers will offer reduced or free insurance with a new model purchase.
The simple rule here is to keep the cost of the bike down and choose a bike that is cheap to repair and cheap to replace. That is why sportsbikes are out: they have fairings which are expensive to replace, should they get scratched in a low-speed accident or smashed in a more serious one. Sportsbikes often feature slightly higher specification and with that, parts are more expensive in general.
A good older model to look at is Honda’s CG125 or CB125F or Yamaha’s YBR125 or YS125. You can pick up a decent CG125 for a few hundred quid or a decent YBR125 for under £1000.
The Yamaha YS125 and CB125F are current models and retail for under £3,000 new but can be picked-up for around £1,500. Most of these ‘budget’ or ‘commuter’ 125cc models are only a tiny-bt down on performance compared to the flashy-looking sportsbikes but will be in a far lower insurance group – most around Group 4, compared to Group 7 for 125cc sportsbikes.
If you’re in biking for the long-term start on a cheap 125, make your mistakes, get it out of your system and pick-up vital experience, then when you upgrade to an A2 motorcycle, a sportsbike starts to make sense, whereas a 125cc sportsbike is just a 125 in a posh frock.