What Motorcycle Can I Ride? - A Guide To Motorcycle Licence Categories

By Marc Potter
marcpotter Tested every new bike since 1994, loves anything on two wheels, runs Potski Media, ex-BikeSocial boss. Recently discovered elbow-down riding - likely to end in tears.
Baffled by the motorcycle licensing laws and not entirely sure what motorcycle you can ride? Hopefully this makes some kind of sense of learner laws.

 

So you’re thinking about getting on two wheels? Congratulations, whether it’s for commuting or just for fun, you’ve made a fantastic decision. What you need to know now is what type of motorbike can you ride and what licence will you need? 

Getting on the road on a bike is easier than in a car, but getting a full licence is a little more complex. That’s because there’s more to learn, which is also why riding a bike is so much more rewarding. Don’t see it as hassle, instead, be glad of the chance to learn to ride safely from enthusiastic experts. What kind of test you take will depend on both your age and the size of the motorcycle you wish to be licensed to ride. Find your age below to check out your options.

 

What motorcycle can I ride?

 

Age 16

After getting your provisional licence from the DVLA you need to do your Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) which takes 1-2 days. Then you can ride a 50cc moped restricted to 28mph. You can’t take pillions and need L-plates but at least you have some freedom. Should you wish you can progress to take the two part practical test, but you will still be restricted to 50cc and 28mph although you can take a pillion and dump the L-plates – though most riders would consider this a bit of a waste of time. 

 

Age 17 or over

If you successfully take your CBT at the age of 17 (or passed it on a moped at 16) you can ride a 125cc bike on L-plates with no pillion. Take your theory test and two part practical and on a new A1 licence you can ride a 125cc bike with no L-plates. Before 2013, you could have ridden 33bhp bike at this stage, but since 2013, you are restricted to a 125cc bike until you are 19 years old. 

 

Age 19 or over

Unless you already have an A1 licence you need the CBT, theory test and the two-part practical test, which will give you an A2 licence. Do this and you can ride any bike of up to 46.6bhp (with a power:weight ratio of no more than 0.266bhp/kg) without L-plates and carry passengers. You can also ride a restricted version of a bike that makes more power providing the original output isn’t more than 93bhp and the final power:weight ratio isn’t greater than 0.266bhp/kg. Most manufacturers sell A2 versions of some of their bigger bikes.  

If you already have an A1 licence and are 19 years old or more, you can take the practical test and upgrade to an A2 licence. After two years, or on reaching 24 years old, you can opt to take a Full Category A test and ride bikes of any capacity or power output. Previously this extra restriction didn’t exist and you could have ridden anything you liked after taking the practical test at 17 and doing your two years probation on a 33bhp bike. So while you can gain a full licence, at 21 years old, the only way to do it is by taking you A1, A2 and A tests. 

 

Age 24 or over: Direct access

Previously Direct Access (which means you turn up, pass your test and ride away on anything you like) could be done at 21 years old. This is no longer possible and instead you have to be 24 years old. As before, CBT gets you on a 125cc bike with L-plates and no pillions. Theory and two-part practical now gains you an A licence via direct access. Off you go, enjoy any bike you like. If you have an A2 licence and are over 24 or have held the A2 for two years you can take the practical test and also ride anything you like. If you have an A1 you can go straight to an A unrestricted licence if you’re over 24.

 

What happens when I pass my CBT?

 

Experiencing the open road for the first time

That moment when... you've passed your CBT and get out on a bike for the first time.

 

What category is a full motorcycle licence?

A full motorcycle licence is Category A and you need to be at least 24 years old to get one. depending on your age, there are three other categories of motorcycle licence you might hold. AM is the licence you get if you do your CBT aged 16. An A1 licence is what you get if you pass CBT, theory test and the two-part practical test between ages 17-19 and an A2 licence is what you get passing CBT, theory and both practical tests between 19-24 years of age.

 

How much does a motorcycle licence cost?

Costs vary depending on the part of the country you are in, time of year (winter is cheaper) and how many lessons you need. Typically (in early 2020) CBT costs around £150, training costs somewhere between £100-200 per day (expect to need around five full days),the theory test is £23, module 1 practical is £15.50 and module 2 is £75.  You’ll probably need some bike hire too, meaning a probable cost of between £1000-£1500 to get a full licence.

That’s a lot of money at one go, but comparable to the cost of a couple of skiing holidays (where all you’ll learn is how to fall down a mountain in the company of drunken stockbrokers), and therefore a bargain that will improve your life forever.

 

What motorcycle can I ride with a full car licence?

If you passed your car test before 1st February 2001 you can ride a moped (50cc, restricted to 28mph) on a car licence without doing Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). But any other motorcycle needs CBT. If you passed your car test after 2001 you’ll need CBT for a moped too. You can’t ride any other two-wheeled motorcycle on a car licence without CBT, but there are some three-wheeled scooters that can be driven on a car licence if you are over 21 because the front wheels are wide enough apart (they must be at least 420mm apart) to class as a powered tricycle. 

 

Honda School of Motorcycling

BikeSocial sent an experienced 125cc rider to review the Honda School of Motorcycling for their Full Licence training and tests.

 

Where can I do my motorcycle test?

Finding your local motorcycle training school is easy, simply click here to find yours. 

 

In summary – bike, age and licence needed

Licence

Motorcycles you can ride

Min. age

Tests required

AM

Mopeds with speed range of 25 km/h to 45 km/h

16

CBT, theory test, practical test on all powered 2-wheeled moped

AM

Small 3-wheelers (up to 50 cc and below 4 kW)

16

CBT, theory test, practical test

AM

Light quadricycles (weighing under 350 kg, top speed 45 km/h)

16

CBT, theory test, practical test

Q

Same as AM plus 2 or 3-wheeled mopeds with top speed of 25 km/h

16

Granted with AM

A1

Light motorcycle up to 11 kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.1 kW per kg) and 125 cc

17

CBT, theory test, practical test

A1

Motor tricycles with a power output not more than 15 kW

17

CBT, theory test, practical test

A2

Standard motorcycle up to 35 kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.2 kW per kg), bike must not be derived from vehicle more than twice its power

19

Direct access route - theory and practical. Progressive access route – 2 years experience on A1 motorbike and a further practical test

A

Unrestricted motorcycles in size/power, with or without a sidecar, and motor tricycles with power output over 15 kW

24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)

Direct access route - CBT theory and practical (you must be at least 24)

Progressive access route - held an A2 licence for a minimum of 2 years - practical test (21 or over)

 

Now you know how and where to get your bike licence, check out some cheap learner legal bikes and A2 licence-friendly bikes here.

 

Steps to getting a motorcycle licence

How to get a motorcycle licence

From CBT to A1 to A2 to A

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