Getting a motorbike licence - CBT, AM, A1, A2 & A explained

Getting a motorbike licence - CBT, AM, A1, A2 & A explained
Riding a motorbike for most will bring an unrivalled sense of joy, however, in order to get a motorbike licence you need to understand the motorbike licensing system – and it’s far from being as straightforward as with cars.

To make things as easy as possible we have gathered all of the information you need to take you from novice to fully licensed rider and presented it in an easy-read guide.

Contents

How to get a motorbike licence

The licences

The tests

 


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How to get a motorbike licence

How to get a motorbike licence

There are two commonly known routes to getting a motorbike licence you can choose to take depending on your age and riding experience, but before you decide on either, you will have to consider the provisional driving licence.

Do I need a provisional driving licence to learn to ride?

Yes, you must have a provisional licence, this is the first thing you need to apply for before you take your CBT - you cannot begin learning to ride a motorbike without one.

Follow the link to find out how to apply for a provisional licence.

Can I ride a moped with only a full driving licence?

Yes and no, the answer to this depends on when you passed your driving test.

If you passed your driving test before 1 February 2001 you can legally ride a moped (up to 50cc) with no L plates, without taking a CBT course or the full moped test.

In this instance you will, however, need to take a CBT if you want to ride anything larger than a 50cc moped.

Anyone who passed their driving test after 1 February 2001 will have to complete their CBT before being able to legally ride a moped or motorbike.

You don’t have to take CBT if you:

You will also not need to complete your CBT if you want to ride a motorcycle and have a full moped licence from passing a moped test since 1 December 1990 or if you live and ride on some offshore islands.

The direct access route

The direct access route is when a non-rider decides to get a licence based on what their age group permits them to with no previous riding experience.

This route entitles you to an:

  • AM licence (allowing you to ride a 50cc bike) if you are 16 or over
  • A1 licence (allowing you to ride a 125cc bike) if you are 17 or over
  • A2 licence (limiting you to a bike up to 35kw) if you are 19 and over
  • A licence (allowing you to ride any bike of any sized engine) if you are 24 or over.

The progressive route

The progressive route, on the other hand, allows you to progress up through the bike licences gaining riding experience along the way to attain your full A licence at a younger age.

If you begin riding at 16 you can work your way through the categories consecutively which will eventually mean a rider can attain a full A motorcycle when they are 21 as opposed to waiting until they are 24. 

Providing you adhere to the right number of years' experience, and your theory test certificate is valid, this route entitles you to an:

  • AM licence (allowing you to ride a 50cc bike) if you are 16 or over
  • A1 licence (allowing you to ride a 125cc bike) if you are 17 or over
  • A2 licence (limiting you to a maximum bhp of 47) if you are 19 and over
  • A licence (allowing you to ride any bike of any sized engine) if you are 21 and have held your A2 licence for two years or more

The other benefit of the progressive route is if you progress through the licencing system, gaining the appropriate number of years' experience with each licence, you will not need to retake your motorcycle theory test. 

The licences

There are a number of different licences you can get each of which entitle you to ride differing powers of bike. Here we explain what they all mean, what they let you ride and how you can get one.

Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)

Compulsory basic training

You cannot legally ride a bike on the road without completing you Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). So before attempting to attain any of the other licences you must first complete this - hence the word compulsory.

What is the CBT?

The CBT consists is a five-element training course that you must complete to be allowed to legally ride a bike. 

It is a course, not a test. However, if your trainer feels you are not a sufficient enough rider and may be a danger to yourself or others they are entitled to make you complete more basic training before you get your certificate.

What does the CBT involve and how much is it?

The CBT has five elements

includes on-site and off-site training, which must total at least two hours of on-road riding.

On-site will be training in a safe controlled environment that is closed off to other road traffic. This time will be used to allow you to get used to riding a bike and practise manoeuvre using cones.

The off-site training takes place on public roads where you would need to demonstrate to your instructor that you can ride safely with other road users

Your CBT will cost around £120.

What can I ride with my CBT?

Completing the CBT earns the rider a DL196 certificate, this offers different privileges at different ages.

If you complete your CBT at 16:If you complete your CBT any older than 16:
You can ride a low-power moped of up to 50cc (maximum speed 28mph)You can ride a 125cc motorcycle with a maximum speed of 60mph
You will have to ride with L-plates onYou will have to ride with L-plates on
You are not allowed to carry a pillion passengerYou are not allowed to carry a pillion passenger
You are not allowed to ride on motorwaysYou are not allowed to ride on motorways

Taking your CBT also allows you to begin the process of attaining a bike licence. 

What will you need to complete your CBT?

You will need to have your provisional driving licence before you start.

It is also worth investing in a helmet and the proper protective riding gear too, including: a jacket, trousers and gloves.

The test centre will normally be able to provide you with this but if you're going to start riding you will need your own equipment anyway.

Does your CBT expire?

Your CBT will expire after two years. This means if you do not graduate to a motorbike licence within two years of taking your CBT you will have to take it again to legally ride on the roads.

DID YOU KNOW? - The RAC's vehicle check service gives a detailed history of whether a motorbike has been been stolen, written off or is still on finance, allowing you to make the right decision on a used bike before buying. The service also provides a personalised valuation that gives buyers the opportunity to find out if they are getting a good deal or not.

The AM licence

AM licence

What can I ride with a full AM licence?

An AM licence allows riders aged 16 and over to:

  • Ride a mopeds with speed range of 25 km/h to 45 km/h (rough top speed of 30mph)
  • Ride small three-wheelers (up to 50 cc and below 4 kW)
  • Ride light quadricycles (weighing under 350 kg, top speed 45 km/h)
  • Ride without L-plates on
  • Carry a pillion passenger

How do I get an AM licence?

You will need to:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Have a valid CBT certificate
  • Pass the motorbike theory test
  • Pass the two-module motorbike practical test

This test has to be carried out on a 50cc motorcycle or moped.

The A1 licence

A1 licence

What can I ride with a full A1 licence?

An A1 licence allows riders aged 17 and over to:

  • Ride a light motorcycle up to 11 kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.1kW per kg) and 125 cc (rough top speed of 60mph)
  • Ride without L-plates
  • Carry a pillion passenger
  • Ride on motorways

This is an exciting category: the choice of 125cc motorcycles is enormous and companies such as Honda and Yamaha sell convincing 125cc bikes that look like junior sports bikes.

Here you can see our recommendations of the best beginner bikes to kick start your motorbike journey.

How do I get an A1 licence?

You will need to:

  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Have a valid CBT certificate
  • Pass the motorcycle theory test
  • Pass the two-module motorbike practical test outlined below

This test must be carried out on a 120 to 125cc motorcycle capable of 55mph or above that produces up to 11kW of engine power.

The A2 licence

A2 licence

What can I ride with a full A2 licence?

An A2 licence allows riders aged 19 and over to: 

  • Ride a bike that produces no more than 35 kW or 47bhp (these are normally advertised as A2 bikes in dealer showrooms)
  • Ride without L-plates
  • Carry a pillion passenger
  • Ride on motorways

How do I get an A2 licence?

The direct access route

If you are aged 19 or over, you will need to pass the theory test and two-module practical test outlined below - providing you have an in date CBT.

This test must be taken on a minimum of a 395cc motorcycle with a power output of between 20 kW (27bhp) and 35 kW (47bhp).

The progressive route

If you have held a full A1 licence for at least two years then you can upgrade to an A2 licence by passing the two-part practical test, without taking your theory again. If you are 19 and have held a full A1 licence for less than two years, you will have to take your practical test again.

This test must be taken on a minimum of a 395cc motorcycle with a power output of between 20 kW (27bhp) and 35 kW (47bhp).

REMEMBER - that the maximum power to weight ratio is not allowed to be more than 0.2kwh per kg, also any bike that produces more than 70kwh or 94bhp in standard factory issue cannot be restricted down to 35kwh.

The A licence

A licence

What can I ride with a full A licence?

The A licence entitles you to ride any machine of any cc and unlimited power, carry a pillion passenger and ride on motorways.

How do I get an A licence?

The direct access route

If you are aged 24 or over, you will need to pass the theory test and two-module practical test outlined below - providing you have an in date CBT.

This test must be carried out on a motorcycle that produces at least 54bhp or 40kw and is over 595cc, however, it is not advisable to go straight into the A licence without any previous riding experience. 

REMEMBER - if you want to practise for your test on this size bike, you can only do so if accompanied by a professionally qualified D.S.A. approved motorcycle instructor. 

Progressive route

If you have held an A2 licence for at least two years you upgrade to your full A licence by passing the two-part practical test, without taking your theory again.

This means you can take the test when you are 21 instead of 24, as with the direct access route.

This test must be carried out on a motorcycle that produces at least 54bhp or 40kw and is over 595cc.

The tests

The theory test

The theory test is a crucial part of getting your motorbike licence, it will teach you valuable knowledge that you will carry with you every time you get on your bike. Here we explain the process of taking and passing your theory test.

Do I need to take a motorbike theory test if I have a full UK driver's licence?

Yes, you always need to take and pass a motorbike theory test before taking the motorbike practical test, irrespective of whether you have a full driving licence or not.

When can I take the theory test?

If you are planning to ride a 50cc moped when you are 16 you can take the theory test from your 16th birthday onwards.

However, if you are planning to learn to ride a motorbike you can take the test from your 17th birthday onwards.

You do not have to take your theory test before you have completed the CBT, but you can if you wish to.

Where can I take it and what do I need to take with me?

When you book your practical test one of the steps you will be taken through will prompt you to type in your postcode and will show you the nearest test centres to you.

You must take your UK photocard driving licence with you to your test. If you do not have it with you, you will not be able to take the test - no exceptions.

If you have a licence from Northern Ireland you will need to bring the photocard and paper counterpart licence and if you have a paper licence you will need to bring a valid passport as well as your paper licence.

What does the test consist of?

The theory test is similar to that for car drivers as it involves two parts to the test:

  • A multiple-choice section - 50 multiple-choice questions to answer in 57 minutes
  • A hazard perception section - a video test about spotting hazards on the road.

You book and take them as a single test. You have to pass both parts to pass the test.

How do I book my theory test and how much does it cost?

You can book your theory test online by visiting gov.uk's page on theory test booking.

It costs £23 to take your motorbike theory test, you will have to pay by direct debit card and will be prompted to do so when you book.

Theory test revision and practise

There are a number of resources you can use to practise for your motorbike theory test, from apps to mocks to paid for media.

We recommend the following resource:

Take a mock motorcycle theory test

 

How do I change, check or rebook my test?

The Government portal offers the chance to change the date of your theory test after you’ve booked it, check your appointment details if you’ve lost your booking confirmation and rebook your test should you fail, with ease. 

When rebooking your test you will need to choose a date at least three working days away.

What are the theory test pass marks?

You will need to pass both parts of the tests to pass your theory test.

Test partPass markPoints available
Multiple-choice questions4350
Hazard perception4475

You will find out your result immediately after your test. If you pass you will be given a letter with a pass certificate number at the test centre.

You need this when you book and take your motorcycle test.

REMEMBER: This pass certificate number will last for only two years, meaning you will need to pass both modules of the motorcycle practical test in that time, otherwise you’ll have to take the theory test again.

The practical test

Is the practical test the same for every licence?

The practical test is the same for each category, the only difference is the size of the bike you complete the test on. The AM test has a lower speed requirement but follows the same format.

  • A1 riders must carry out the test on a 120 to 125cc motorcycle capable of 55mph or above that produces up to 11kW of engine power
  • A2 riders must carry out the test on a minimum of a 395cc motorcycle with a power output of between 25 kW (33bhp) and 35 kW (47bhp)
  • A riders must carry out the test on a motorcycle that produces at least 54bhp or 40kw and is over 595cc

What does the test consist of?

The practical test is a two-part test, both of which you have to pass to attain your licence. These parts are known as module one and module two.

Module one

This section comprises a 20-minute off-road driving module which tests riders on the following skills:

  • Wheeling the moped or motorcycle and using the stand
  • Riding a slalom and figure of 8
  • A slow ride
  • A U-turn
  • Cornering and a controlled stop
  • Cornering and an emergency stop (minimum speed of 19mph for mopeds and 31mph for motorcycles)
  • Cornering and hazard avoidance (minimum speed of 19mph for mopeds and 31mph for motorcycles)
Module two

The second part of the practical test, module two, is a 40-minute on-road test that includes road riding, independent riding and motorcycle safety check questions.

  • An eyesight check

    You’ll have to read a number plate from a distance of:

    • 20 metres for vehicles with a new-style number plate
    • 20.5 metres for vehicles with an old-style number plate

    If you are unable to do this you will automatically fail your riding test

  • ‘Show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions

    ​This part consists of two vehicle safety questions such as: ‘show me how you would check the brake lights are working’ and ‘tell me how you would check the condition of the chain on this machine’.

    Here is a full list of the questions.

  • Road riding

    During this section you will drive in a number of road and traffic conditions, not including motorways.

    You will also be asked to carry out the following maneuvers:

    • Normal stops
    • An angle start (pulling out from behind a parked vehicle)
    • A hill start (where possible)

    The examiner will give you directions using a radio while they follow on a motorcycle.

  • Independent riding

    This section is roughly 10 minutes long and allows the instructor to assess your ability to ride safely while making your own decisions by giving you directions to follow.

    You can ask the instructor to repeat the directions if you forget them - you won’t fail the test if you go off the route. You can’t use sat nav.

You have to pass module one before attempting module two.

Where can I take the test and what do I need to take with me?

When you book your practical test one of the steps you will be taken through will prompt you to type in your postcode and will show you the nearest test centres to you.

On the day of the test you must take:

  • Your UK photocard driving licence
  • Your theory test pass certificate
  • A moped or motorbike
  • Your compulsory basic training (CBT) certificate - unless you’re taking the test to upgrade your full motorcycle licence
  • Your module 1 test pass certificate - if you’re taking your module 2 test

Your test will be cancelled and you won’t get your money back if you don’t take the right things with you.

On the day of your test you must wear:

  • A motorcycle helmet that meets British safety standards (unless you’re Sikh and wearing a turban)
  • Motorcycle boots or other sturdy footwear that supports and protects your ankles
  • Textile or leather motorcycle trousers or heavy denim trousers
  • A textile or leather motorcycle jacket or a heavy denim jacket with several layers underneath
  • Motorcycle gloves

How do I book the test and how much does it cost?

You can book the riding tests separately or at the same time, however, you must pass module one before attempting module two.

To book visit the Government's portal on practical test booking.

Module one costs: £15.50

Module two costs: £75

How many lessons should I have before taking the test?

There is no minimum legal requirement for the amount of lessons you have to have before taking the motorbike practical tests.

However, it is recommended to have a couple of days tuition prior to attempting your full A licence if you are an inexperienced rider taking the direct access route.

How do I change, check or rebook my test?

Change the date of a test        

Check the details of your test

What are the pass marks?

Both modules have separate passing criteria.

Module 1

You’ll find out if you’ve passed module 1 at the end of the test.

During the module your examiner will note:

  • Dangerous faults - these involve actual danger to you, the examiner, the public or property
  • Serious faults - these are potentially dangerous
  • Riding faults - these aren’t potentially dangerous, but could become serious if you keep making the same mistake

You will fail module one if your examiner observes:

  • One dangerous fault (a ‘major’)
  • More than five riding faults (‘minors’)
If you pass

The examiner will tell you what faults you made, if any and give you a pass certificate, which you will need to take to the module 2 test.

If you’re upgrading your licence through ‘progressive access’, you must pass module 2 within six months of passing module one otherwise you will have to pass module 1 again.

If you fail

You’ll have to book another module 1 test and pay again. You have to choose a date at least three working days away.

If you’ve already booked the module 2 test you might need to change the date, since you must pass module 1 before you can take module 2.

You’ll lose your fee if you don’t give 3 full days’ notice to cancel your module 2 test. Sundays and public holidays don’t count as working days.

Module 2

You’ll be told if you’ve passed module 2 at the end of the test.

During the module your examiner will note:

  • Dangerous faults - these involve actual danger to you, the examiner, the public or property
  • Serious faults - these are potentially dangerous
  • Riding faults - these aren’t potentially dangerous, but could become serious if you keep making the same mistake

You will fail module one if your examiner observes:

  • One serious or dangerous fault (a ‘major’) 
  • More than 10 riding faults (‘minors’)
If you pass

The examiner will tell you what faults you made, if any, give you a pass certificate and ask if you want your full licence to be sent to you automatically - if you do, you will have to give the examiner your provisional licence.

If you fail

You'll have to book another module 2 test and pay again. You have to choose a date at least 10 working days after your first attempt.

10 motorbike test tips

Passing the practical motorcycle test requires plenty of practice with your instructor and the mastering of several techniques that you’ll be assessed on during the 40-50 minute ride.

A good riding school will prepare you fully for this, but there are still tips to remember that will help.

Here we run through 10 things that will help you pass your motorcycle test.

  • Practice and preparation

    Do not take the motorcycle test before you are ready.

    Practice is vital: intensive direct access courses, for example, consist of a week’s riding – that’s at least five full days of intensive training.

    If you’re taking less intensive lessons, at least 12-15 hours may be necessary before you’re ready.

  • Things to remember before the test

    Before the test, check the weather to make sure you’re dressed correctly.

    Also don’t forget all your documentation, or else the test will be over before it’s begun. There’s quite a lot to take:

    • Driving licence
    • CBT certificate
    • Theory and Hazard Perception test pass certificate
    • Module 1 test pass certificate
  • Watch your speed

    Stick to the speed limit at all times.

    Easier said than done, if you’re nervous and concentrating on umpteen things – but it’s something that can lead to an instant fail. Be particularly careful around industrial estates: motorcycle test centres are often based on them, and they can have lower speed limits than normal roads.

  • Keep your head during the independent riding element

    The test involves 10 minutes of independent riding. The instructor will give you a location and it’s up to you to find your way there.

    Don’t panic! Make sure you stay safe, within the speed limits and in full control while you figure out where to go.

  • Don’t forget the pre-test training

    If you can spare the time, a full day’s training before your motorcycle test will help put you into test mode.

    Try to take at least an hour’s instruction beforehand. A good instructor will make sure all the things you need to do are freshly ingrained into your riding.

    Even if you already have a progressive motorcycle licences such as A1 or A2, don’t be complacent: some training before your test will make sure any bad habits you’ve picked up are filtered out.

  • Practice, practice

    There’s no substitute for saddle time. The hours riding with an instructor are crucial and will help you get a feel for the motorcycle in all situations.

    It will help immeasurably, from helping your balance during slow-speed manoeuvring, to your overall confidence when negotiating traffic and tackling tight bends.

  • The turn in the road

    This is the bit many riders fear the most. One way to get used to it is riding around in circles in a large, empty car park.

    Start decreasing your speed and the width of the circle, balancing the clutch and throttle to get a feel for the balance.

    Soon, you’ll become much more comfortable with such tight, low-speed manoeuvring – making the turn in the road much easier.

  • Listen to the instructor

    They will speak to you via intercom. You’ll be used to this from your riding lessons, but don’t let nerves during the test lead to you mishearing them.

    Act on their every word – and try not to let concentrating on their instructions lead to you forgetting essentials such as indicators. However, if you do mishear them, don’t panic.

    Ultimately, they’re checking your riding safety, rather than your navigational ability. Better to pick up a minor fault rather than losing your head and failing completely.

  • Lifesaver checks and indicators

    Remember your lifesaver checks! In the panic of the ride, they’re easy to forget.

    Make sure looking over your shoulder is an ingrained habit before taking your test. Also, don’t forget to cancel your indicators.

    Try to regularly check the dash to make sure they’re not blinking.

  • Don’t lose your head if you think you’ve failed

    If you make a mistake, don’t assume all is over and then start riding lazily.

    Often, what seems like a major fault could actually be just a minor error – the instructor is assessing your safety: if you make a mistake, how you respond to it is more important than the mistake itself.

    Don’t set yourself up to fail.

Can I ride a motorbike without L-plates as soon as I have passed my practical tests?

Yes, you don’t need to wait for your full licence to arrive.

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