How to get a motorbike licence
Before you can take a motorbike on the road you need to have a valid driving licence. This can either be a provisional driving licence that provides provisional car, motorbike and moped entitlement, or a full car or moped licence that also includes provisional motorcycle entitlement. You can apply for both types from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Step 1: The CBT
Whereas you can attach learner plates to a car and drive on the road as soon as you have a provisional licence, this is not the case with a motorbike. First you need to complete a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course, which gives you the basic skills necessary to ride a motorbike safely.
The CBT includes a basic introduction, an eye test, and practical training that teaches you basic riding skills, how to use gears, how to make the right safety checks, and how to control the bike. You complete at least two hours of accompanied road riding with a qualified instructor, exposing you to a range of conditions and situations so that you are equipped to deal with them on your own later on.
On successful completion of the CBT you will be awarded a DL196 (CBT Certificate) entitling you to ride a motorbike up to 125cc solo with L plates displayed on both the front and rear – as long as you are at least 17 years old, or 16 for a moped. You are still not allowed to ride on motoroways, however, or carry pillion passengers.
Step 2: Theory test
To get a full motorbike licence you then have two years in which to pass the theory and practical tests before your DL196 certificate expires, otherwise you have to retake the CBT before you can take the further tests.
The motorbike theory test is screen-based and divided into two parts, both of which have to be passed in one sitting, and aim to assess your understanding of riding practice:
- 50 multiple choice questions, lasting just under an hour.
- Hazard perception test, lasting about 20 minutes, examining your reaction to film clips containing one or more developing hazards.
Step 3: Practical test
Next up is the standard practical test. To prepare for this, read a copy of “The Official DSA Guide to Learning to Ride” and consider having formal training prior to the test. There are two main types of full motorcycle licence:
- Light motorcycle licence (A1): you take your test on a motorcycle of between 75 and 125 cc. If you pass you can ride a motorcycle up to 125 cc with power output up to 11 kW.
- Standard motorcycle licence (A): if your test bike is between 120 and 125 cc and capable of more than 100 km/h you will be given a standard (A) licence. You will then be restricted to motorcycles of up to 25 kW for two years. After two years you can ride any size bike.
Fast track options for riders aged 21 or over
'Direct Access' or 'Accelerated Access' enables riders over the age of 21, or those who reach 21 before their two-year restriction ends, to ride larger motorcycles sooner. To obtain a licence to do this you need to:
- successfully complete a CBT course;
- pass a motorcycle theory test, if you are required to do so; and
- pass a practical test on a bike with power output of at least 35 kW
Enhanced Rider Scheme (ERS)
To get more enjoyment out of your motorbike, improve your riding skills, and enjoy motorbike insurance discounts, you can also undertake Enhanced Rider Scheme (ERS) training. There's no test, but training can be tailored to your specific needs and you will receive a certificate on completion. Mention this when you apply for motorbike insurance because it can help lower your premium.