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The UK Motorcycle Licence Categories

motorcycle licence categories - The UK Motorcycle Licence Categories

If you are a young rider looking to purchase your first bike, it is important to know exactly what kind of license you will need, and how and when you will be able to progress to riding larger, more powerful motorbikes as your experience grows.

Table of Contents

A Provisional Licence

Before you can learn to drive a car or ride a motorbike or moped in the UK, you will need to be in possession of a provisional license.  This type of license costs from £34 and will usually take a week or so to be sent out to you.  You can apply for your provisional license online from the age of 15 years and 9 months.

Your provisional license is important because you will need it in order to be able to undertake your CBT – compulsory basic training. This short course teaches you all the basics you need to know to ride safely on the roads.

Once you have completed the CBT your provisional motorbike license will allow you to:

  • Ride a moped or scooter up to 15cc providing that you are over 16 years old, have completed your CBT, can display L plates and have insurance.
  • Ride a motorcycle up to 125cc if you are over 17 years old, have completed your CBT, can display L plates and have insurance.
  • Ride more powerful bikes if you are over 19 years old, but only when accompanied by an instructor during lessons

Your provisional license coupled with a completed CBT will be enough to get you on the road with L plates, but you will also be limited to 14.8 bhp / 11 kW and 125 cc. You will not be able to carry a pillion on a provisional license.

It is also worth noting that if you already have a full drivers licence you won’t need to apply again for a provisional license to ride a moped or motorcycle.

How to apply for a provisional licence

Applying for your provisional license is straightforward and can easily be done online on the www.gov.uk website.   In order for your application to be successful you must be:

  • at least 15 years and 9 months old
  • be able to read a number plate from 20 meters away

You will need to make a payment of £34 using your credit or debit card in order to submit your application, and will also need to provide:

  • a valid UK biometric passport
  • your National Insurance number
  • a residential addresses for the last 3 years

Once you have applied you will receive a confirmation email from the DVLA and your licence should arrive within 1-2 weeks of your application.

Compulsory Basic Training – CBT

Once you are in possession of your provisional license, you can get yourself booked on to a CBT course.  This training course has been developed to offer novice moped and motorcycle riders the basic skills they need to remain safe and in control out on the road.

First introduced in 1990, the test has helped to significantly improve rider safety throughout the UK.  Every new rider will need to complete the CBT before they are allowed to ride on the roads whilst displaying an L plate, but it you gained a full driving licence before 1 February 2001, you will be exempt from completing the CBT if you only want to ride a moped not exceeding 50 cc.

The CBT is broken down into 5 different elements that cover riding techniques, road safety training, knowledge of the Highway Code, legal obligations as a rider and advice on appropriate clothing and other requirements.  You cannot pass or fail the CBT as it is a training program and not a test, but you must successfully complete the CBT in order to obtain your DL196 (CBT) certificate. Your instructor will not issue you with this until you have completed all 5 elements of the course.

Your CBT training is valid for a period of two years, during which time you can take your full motorcycle tests should you wish to.  Alternatively, you can simply retake the CBT every two years and continue riding with your L plates.

You don’t need to take the CBT if you live in any on any of the following UK islands, but you will need to have completed one if you wish to visit and ride there:

  • The Isle of Wight
  • South Uist, North Uist
  • Benbecula
  • Harris
  • Lewis
  • Mainland Orkney
  • Mainland Shetland
  • Any island connected to mainland Great Britain by road

Motorcycle Theory Test

If you want to progress your motorcycling career further and can’t wait to experience the thrill of a more powerful bike, you will need to take a motorcycle theory test before moving on to taking the practical license test. The motorcycle theory test is required whether or not you have a full car licence and it will be valid from two years from the pass date. If you do not take your practical test within that timescale, you will need to resit it.

The Motorcycle Theory Test is a two-part test that is done on a computer.  It costs £23 and you will need the following before you book online:

  • your UK driving licence number
  • an email address – you have to book by phone if you do not have one
  • a credit or debit card

The test can be found on the www.gov.uk website.

The Motorcycle Theory Test consists of a multiple choice question section and a hazard perception test. 

Multiple choice – this section tests your knowledge of the Highway Code and offers a total of 50 questions.  You need to get at least 43 correct (86 percent) in order to pass. Before you sit this part of the test you should refresh your knowledge of the road using not only the Highway Code, but also the Official DVSA Guide to Riding and the official Know Your Traffic Signs books.

The theory test covers a numbers of significantly important abilities that you need to be able to demonstrate knowledge of before you can sit your practical license test. These areas of assessment include:

  • Alertness and observation
  • Having the right attitude to riding on the road
  • Keeping your bike safe and roadworthy
  • Knowing how safety margins change in inclement weather or on difficult roads
  • Hazard awareness
  • Riding safely around vulnerable road users and pedestrians
  • Handling your bike at night, on bendy roads and in traffic jams
  • Knowing the rules of riding on dual carriageways and motorways
  • Understanding the basic rules of the road including speed limits and road signs
  • Knowing which legal documents you need
  • What to do in the case of an accident

You may be exempt from having to take the Motorcycle Theory Test if you are upgrading from Category A1 (motorcycle under 125cc) to Category A2 (motorcycle restricted to 46bhp) if you’ve had the licence for at least 2 years.

Motorcycle Practical Test

You can either take an A1 licence, A2 restricted or go for your full Category A motorcycle licence (also known as Direct Access). The best way to see which licence you can go for us to use our motorcycle licence age chooser and follow the guide.

Much like the theory test, the Motorcycle Practical Test also comes in two distinctly different parts.  You will need to complete both parts in order to obtain a full license, and will need to be riding the same size and type of bike for both parts.

The Module One Off Road Test costs £15.50 and is a 20 minute test that take places off road. During the test you will need to demonstrate that you can undertake the following:

  • Wheel the moped or motorbike and use the stand
  • Ride in a slalom and figure of eight
  • Undertake a slow ride
  • Safely perform a U-turn
  • Demonstrate that you are proficient at cornering and a controlled stop
  • Demonstrate that you are proficient at cornering and the emergency stop
  • Demonstrate that you are proficient at cornering and hazard avoidance

The Module Two On Road Test costs £75 during working hours, and £88.50 at other times.  This also takes place on the road, but runs longer at around 50 minutes depending on how well you perform.  It includes:

  • An eyesight test
  • A series of safety questions
  • A selection of riding techniques including stopping, an angle start and a hill start
  • A 10 minute segment of independent riding during which you will be asked to ride a route given to you by your instructor, while following traffic signs and a series of directions.

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 send your details to the DVLA to get your new full licence and get ready to take to the road.

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