UK Motorcycle Licence Categories

UK Motorcycle Licences

The law on Motorcycle testing and licensing changed in January 1997, introducing new classes of tests and licence categories.  It was changed again in February 2001.  It changed again with the 3rd European Driving Licence Directive.

Briefly the rules are (written 2009, hope they haven't changed it.  Again.) : -


Provisional Licences

All moped and motorcycle provisional licence holders (including full car as provisional) must, by law, hold a current DL96 (CBT) certificate, showing they have completed the Compulsory Basic Training course before riding on the road. (A Provisional Licence isn't not a valid licence without a CBT certificate).

A provisional moped licence (Group P) can be held from 16 years old and isn't time limited.
But remember if you de-restrict your moped, it's then legally a motorcycle.

A provisional motorcycle licence (Group A) can be held from 17 years old.
Those issued before 1st Feb 2001 were time limited to 2 yrs. from date of issue; whilst those issued from 1st Feb 2001 are valid to age 70. If yours will, or has lapsed under the old rules you can now apply to have this restored immediately.

If applying for a provisional car licence, be sure to tick the box asking for motorcycle also. Otherwise you will have to re-apply - and pay - again to add on motorcycle entitlement.

Remember on a provisional licence / entitlement you must display L plates and no pillion passengers or motorway use!

Full Licences

A full moped licence automatically gives you a motorcycle provisional but you must be over 17.

A full car licence automatically gives you a motorcycle provisional.

Full car licences issued before 1st Feb 2001 automatically gave you a full moped licence. You could ride without L plates, even endanger a passenger all without taking any training but we recommend you do. Training is essential.

Car licences issued after 1st Feb. 2001 now only give a moped entitlement. You need a CBT as well but that CBT is presently valid for the life of your car licence (but only for a moped).

If you pass your car test after 1st Feb. 2001, do a CBT, then send both certificates to DVLA and get the full moped entitlement on your licence.

Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) :-
Can only be carried out with Approved Training Bodies using qualified Instructors, all regulated by the Driving Standards Agency and the course content laid down by law.

A CBT obtained on a moped is also valid for motorcycle (at 17 yrs. old).

If you passed a full moped test after 1st Dec 1990, you don't need a CBT for motorcycle.

Residents on some remote islands are exempt from CBT (but only on those islands). Check with DVLA / DSA if you think your location may be exempt.

If you do your CBT on a motorcycle with sidecar or a moped with more than 2 wheels, your provisional entitlement will be restricted to that same type of vehicle.

You can do a CBT using a motorcycle & sidecar combination or other 3 wheeler but, if you do, then your CBT will be qualified and only valid for 3 wheelers

Motorcycle Training

As above, CBT training can only be carried out by Approved Training Bodies and Instructors.

For up to 125cc learner bikes, you can teach yourself and/or be taught by a mate; it's quite legal as long as your mate isn't paid anything. If he/she takes any money then that's "professional instruction" and the Instructor must be qualified (ask to see his DSA licence).

For Direct Access, you are only allowed on road if accompanied by a qualified Instructor, on another motorcycle and in radio contact at all times. So professional training is the only route here.

The Theory Test

You will probably have to pass the Theory Test before taking a practical test for a moped or motorcycle.

A full car licence does NOT exempt you from the Theory Test anymore.

The theory test is not required if you have passed a two part moped test or a lower category motorcycle test since 1st July 1996. It can be taken before you take a CBT but it must be a Motorcycle theory test, even if you have just sat the Car theory test.

The Theory Test Pass Certificate is valid for 2 years.

The pass mark is 43 out of 50 multiple-choice questions. You get 57 minutes to do it, results will be given on the day. The test uses a touch-screen computer but the questions can be read to you on earphones and you may ask for an extended special needs test if necessary.

From October 2002, they added a hazard perception test as well, video clips and testing 'Hazard Perception'.

Get a Theory Test Quiz Book (approx. £7) from your bookseller, or better a recommended CD-Rom (approx £14) as the format of the test is not as straight-forward as you might think. The top resource here is the DVLA's own free online mock test.

Contact the Booking Centre online, or find phone numbers, at DVLA The fee is currently £20.50

Test Times usually 9.00am to 4.15pm Mon. to Fri.
Sometimes to 6.15pm Evenings.
9.00am to 12.15pm Saturdays.

Any tranining school will be happy to test and help you with your knowledge for the Theory Test.

Licence / Test Groups

Moped Is, by law :-Max. 31 mph, 50 cc, age 16 or over and you need :-
A provisional Moped entitlement
A Compulsory Basic Training certificate
Then ride with "L" plates
Pass Theory Test
Pass Moped test
Ride without "L" plates and even carry a pillion passenger
But remember if you de-restrict your moped, it's then legally a motorcycle (see Top tips/misc/de-restrict mopeds)

A1 "Light Motorcycle" Is, by law :-Max. 125 cc, 11kW / 14.6 Bhp, age 17 or over and you need :-
A provisional Motorcycle entitlement
A CBT certificate (unless you've already passed a moped test, see above)
Then ride with "L" plates
Pass Theory Test (unless you already hold moped licence from 1st July 1996, see above)
Pass your test on a machine between 75 & 125 cc.
Ride without "L" plates and carry a pillion passenger but only bikes up to 125cc and 11kW

A2 "Standard Motorcycle" Is, by law 25kW / 33 Bhp & Power/Weight ratio below 16kW/kg, age
17 or over and you need :-
A provisional Motorcycle entitlement
A CBT certificate (unless you've already passed a moped or A1 test, see above)
Then ride with "L" plates on machines up to 125cc and up to 11 kW only,
Pass Theory Test (unless you've already passed moped or A1 test, see above)
Pass your test on a machine between 120 & 125 cc, capable of at least 62 mph.
Ride without "L" plates and carry a pillion passenger on any bike but you are restricted to a 33 Bhp machine for 2 years; after that, you're free to ride any bike, there's no re-test.

A "Direct Access" Is, by law Over 35kW / 46 Bhp, age 21 or over and you need :-
A provisional Motorcycle entitlement
A CBT certificate (unless you've already passed a moped, A1 or A2 test, see above)
Pass Theory Test (unless you've already passed a moped, A1 or A2 test, see above)
Learn only with an approved Instructor, in radio contact, on a machine over 35kW / 46.6Bhp.
Pass your test on a machine over 46.6 Bhp.
Ride any bike you want straight way, without "L" plates and carry a pillion passenger.

A "Accelerated Access" (A2 licence holders, reaching 21 but before their 2 year restriction ends)
Learn only under controlled instruction, with "L" plates, all as for Direct Access.
A test failure won't affect your existing licence.

The Practical Test costs £51 (£60 on Saturdays and evenings).

Sidecars / Disabled Riders

Learners can practise with a sidecar combination (same Bhp rules apply) but must take their test on a solo machine (excepting disabled riders). Again the same (restricted licence) and other rules apply. Disabled riders will then have their entitlement restricted to combinations.

They've complicated it haven't they. Contact NABD or your local Training Company for support and information

Pillion Law

Without going through all the road traffic acts, here's a brief synopsis:-
You must hold a full licence for the machine you're riding, wear a safety helmet etc.
Your Bike must be adapted to carry a pillion (a rear seat and passenger footrests).
Your pillion must wear a safety helmet, sit astride the machine facing forward (side-saddle is illegal).

There's no legal age required for riding pillion but he/she must big enough to hold on, sat astride with feet on the foot pegs (so there is a size limit) and able to fully understand the detailed instruction you will surely give.


Article supplied by Channel Rider Training, who offer all levels of motorcycle and scooter training from two centres in Asford and Folkestone, Kent.

Copyright © Channel Rider Training - All rights reserved

Editor's Note.  This article was written before the introduction of the new Multi-Purpose Test Centres.  There are also recent changes to the Theory Test.  Licence categories are the same, but how you sit the test has changed. Check with your local Training School.