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Motorcycle licence categories: what can you ride?

Motorcycle licence categories are more numerous than those of cars, and getting a motorcycle licence is not as simple as just taking a motorcycle theory test and one-size fits all practical test and riding off into the sunset!

There are several different UK motorcycle licence categories that dictate what types of bike you can ride, and in this article, we will explain the differences between them and how to get them, to help you to determine what type of motorcycle you can ride.

Table of Contents

How to find out which licence category entitlements you have

On the front of your driving licence photocard, Section 9 will show a list of letters divided by slashes that indicate your entitlements, and on the back of your photocard appears a detailed list of categories in grid format. This grid is filled in with start and end dates across columns 10 and 11 for the entitlements that you hold.

Any time that you get a new entitlement or pass a new test, you will need to return your driving licence to the DVLA so that they can update your licence to reflect this. CBT certification (explained in the next section) is not reflected on your driving licence itself, but comes in the form of a separate certificate that should be kept with your licence.

Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)

The first step towards becoming a biker is taking your CBT certification, and you need this before you can progress through any of the other motorcycle licence categories. The CBT is a short course consisting of basic roadcraft and riding, which can often be completed in one day.

This is not a test per se-but in order to receive your CBT certificate, the instructors that train you have to be confident in your basic competency, understanding of the rules of the road, and ability to ride safely before they will issue your certificate.

Once you have your CBT certificate, persons of 17 or older can ride a motorcycle of up to 125cc and with a top speed of 60mph with L-plates, but you are not allowed to carry a passenger nor use motorways. If you are 16, your CBT only permits you to ride a moped of up to 50cc and with a top speed of 28mph, with the same caveats as those for older riders.

CBT certificates are valid for two years from the date of issue, and must be renewed at the two-year mark if you have not progressed through one of the full motorbike licence categories outlined below.

The AM licence

An AM licence permits holders to ride mopeds with a top speed of around 30mph (and also, small tricycles and quads) without L-plates, and with the option to carry a passenger.

In order to get an AM licence, you must be 16 or over and the holder of a current CBT certificate, and pass the motorcycle theory test and a two-part practical test.

The A1 licence

The A1 licence can be attained by riders of 17 or over, and permits the holder to ride small motorbikes of up to 125cc without L-plates, including using motorways and carrying a passenger.

To get an A1 licence, you need a current CBT certificate, and to pass both the motorcycle theory test and a two-part practical test.

The A2 licence

The A2 licence is available to riders of 19 or older, and allows holders to ride bikes capable of producing no more than 35kW or 47bhp without L-plates, including on motorways and carrying a passenger.

There are two different routes to gaining an A2 licence, which are known as the direct access scheme (DAS route), and the progressive route respectively.

The DAS route requires a current CBT certificate, the motorcycle theory test, and a two-part practical test pass on a motorcycle of 395cc minimum and with a power output of 20kW-35kW.

The progressive route is available to riders who have held an A1 licence for at least two years, and involves taking a two-part practical test as outlined above, but without the need to re-take the theory test.

The A licence

The A licence is the highest level of motorcycle entitlement, permitting you to ride any motorcycle regardless of power, carry a passenger, and use the motorways.

Once again, there are two different paths to achieving A licence entitlement, being the DAS or direct access scheme route, and the progressive route respectively.

If you are 24 or over, the DAS is the fastest way to get your A licence, requiring a current CBT certificate, the passing of the motorcycle theory test, and a two-part ridden test on a bike of at least 595cc.

The progressive route is open to riders who have held an A2 licence for at least two years, which gives younger riders the opportunity to gain their A entitlement as early as 21 years old rather than 24. To get Category A entitlement via the progressive route, you must take a two-part practical test on a bike of 595cc or over, but you do not need to re-take the theory test.

Questions or Comments?

If you’ve got a question about this article and you need a bit more guidance, drop a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Likewise, if you’ve got something to add to this article or an experience you’d like to share, let’s hear it!

We love reading your comments and helping our readers.

  • louise says:

    my son is 21yrs old and did his cbt for a moped when he was 16, he no longer has a bike and is currently driving on a full uk licence, can he at 21 train to ride a 450 bike or does he have to hold a A2 licence for 2 yrs first or wait until hes 24?

    • Ben Cope says:

      Hi Louise, I’m presuming when you say he is driving that you do mean a car and not ‘driving a motorbike’. If so, then yes he’ll have to do his CBT again as they expire after 2 years. Then he can take his theory test and then, his A2 restricted licence.

  • Ibrahim says:


    I’m from Overseas, from a country that uses the right-lane-forth. In my driving license, there is a sign fo the M category that is allowed. So, a few questions of mine are 1; What do I need to ride a scooter motorcycle (gearless; automatic) or a geared one? I have a TIER 4 visa and will be here for at least 2 years. I live in London now and 28 years old. Any suggestions?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Andrew Morse says:

    can you kindly answer my question, I have an A cat on my licence, as follows 19.01.13 31.03.27 79(3),01
    What does this actually mean
    Thankyou v much

  • Richie says:

    Been living in Oz for many, many years. Returned to UK, swapped my Oz licence for UK one but my R (Rider) category says Cat A on the UK one (but with 79.3)? Am I still able to ride my bike here or does this mean I have lost my bike category – these letters and numbers are confusing for me, sorry.

  • Richie says:

    Just looked up on the UK Gov site (but am still none the wiser here as I am confused by it saying I can ride in excess of 35KW but it also says, can ride upto 35KW, and a trike?? I apologise guys if I sound a bit troppo but I simply don’t understand all these UK categories (in Oz its just R – ‘Rider’).

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