Different types of licences and minimum ages for riding

Whatever the reason for wanting to take to two wheels (be it for commuting, social pleasure or just that it’s less tiring than cycling) there are a few ways to get started.

Provisional entitlement

First off you will need to apply for a provisional motorcycle licence which you can do either at the post office (by picking up a D1 form) or by applying online. In fact, it has become all a bit technical down at the DVLA (The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). Gone are the days of trundling down the high street searching for a photo booth and then cutting out a wonky picture with a pair of scissors. When applying online, if possible the DVLA will take your signature and photo from the records of the Passport service. Also have your National Insurance number handy as they will cross check this with the records at relevant departments. The current cost of the provisional licence is £50.

If you hold a car driving licence and want to ride a motorcycle or scooter you will need to check that it holds provisional motorcycle entitlement, if not you will still need to apply for a provisional motorcycle licence. You can apply for a provisional licence from the age of 17 or 16 if you wish to ride a moped.

CBT

Once you have received your provisional licence you will need to undertake Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). You must not go onto the road without first completing this training and receiving a CBT pass certificate (DL196).

It is worth noting that the CBT certificate makes no distinction as regards to the type of motorcycle you can ride (in terms of moped, scooter or motorcycle) as long as it is limited to 125 cc (11kw, 14bhp). It would be advisable though to take your CBT on the type of bike you will be riding on the road. A manual motorcycle can take a bit longer to get the hang of so it’s better to get to grips with it within the safe environment of training school. Some centres will offer training by the hour if you did want to make the switch later down the line.

Distinctions do apply for full licences and as with a car if you pass your test on an automatic (scooter) you would not be allowed to ride a manual motorcycle (clutch, gears).

There are exemptions in which a CBT is not needed:

• If you have passed a full moped test after December 1st 1990

• If you have a car licence issued before February 1st 2001 you are entitled to a full moped licence without needing to do a CBT course

• If you are upgrading your category A licence (for example you are doing a Direct Access course but already hold a Category A1 licence)

The CBT certificate (DL196) is valid for two years and during this time you will not be able to ride anything more powerful than a 125cc (14.6 bhp), you cannot carry a pillion or travel on the motorway and your bike must display L plates at all times. After the certificate expiry date you will need to either retake your training or undertake one of the options below to obtain a full licence.

Category A1: Light Motorcycle Licence

For individuals 17 or over who only wish to ride a bike limited to 125cc (11kw, 14bhp) there is an option to take your light motorcycle test. The test must be done on a bike with a minimum engine capacity of 75cc.

Once test passed you will be entitled to ride motorcycles limited to an engine capacity of 125 cc (14.6 bhp) up to until the age of 70. You will be able to ride without L plates, carry a pillion (providing bike has a pillion seat and rear footrests) and ride on the motorway.

A valid CBT, provisional licence and theory test pass certificate (taken within two years) must be produced before the test commences.

Something to consider: Will you always want to ride a 125cc? If not and you will be taking to your test on a 125cc anyway think about taking the Standard Motorcycle test which gives you more options later on. However, the A1 will still give you plenty of time to practice if you decide later on to upgrade to a full A licence via the Direct Access route.

Category A2: Standard Motorcycle Licence

This test can be taken at 17 and over and is ideal for those who do not want to (or cannot) follow the Direct Access route or are not as comfortable with bigger bikes. The test must be taken on a machine between 120-125 cc and must be capable of a top speed of 100 kph (that’s about 63 mph in old money). The successful participant will then be licensed to ride a motorcycle limited to 25 KW (33b bhp) and a power/weight ratio not exceeding 0.16 kW/kg. You will be able to ride without L plates, carry a pillion (providing bike has a pillion seat and rear footrests) and ride on the motorway.

After two years you will be able to ride any size of motorcycle whatever your age.

A valid CBT, provisional licence and up to date theory test pass certificate (they are valid for two years) must be produced before the test commences.

Something to consider: There is not a massive range of bikes over 125cc that are limited to 33 bhp including 250cc. There is the option to buy a de-restrictor kit which limits the bike to 25 KW and 0.16 KW/kg, but ensure that you get the bike fitted by a reputable dealer and make sure you retain the certificate/receipt. Also see Direct Access below, this may be a better option.

Category A: Full Licence – Direct Access

Open only to those aged 21 and over. There are various ways of undertaking the training and this can depend on budget, experience and time. Usually the training will take between 3-6 days, though some Approved Training Bodies do offer more tailored training in an hourly format. The test must be carried out on a bike with a power output of at least 35KW (46.6 bhp) with a DVSA examiner. Any practice for the test on a bike with this output must be done wearing hi-visibility clothing, L plates must be on the bike and the training must be carried out by a certified Instructor who has passed their test at the DVSA headquarters in Cardington. The instructor will usually be on a separate bike, but will be in radio contact.

A valid CBT, provisional licence and theory test pass certificate (taken within two years) must be produced before the test commences. Many training schools offer the CBT course as part of the Direct Access Course. You will not need to do your theory test again or retake your CBT if you are upgrading from a lower category licence such as Category A1.

Something to consider: Completing six days of training followed by a successful test pass should be seen as an achievement to be proud of. It does not necessarily mean that jumping straight on a 1 litre sports bike is always gong to be a great idea. Pick a bike that will suit your riding style, budget and experience.

Category A: Accelerated Access:

If you were to complete the standard motorcycle test at 20 years old you would still be restricted to a 25KW (33bhp) machine for two years. If you can’t wait that long there is the option at 21 to take your test which follows the same requirements as Direct Access. Any practice for the test on a 35 KW bike must be done wearing hi visibility clothing, with provisional conditions (L plates) and the training must be carried out by a certified Instructor who will be in radio contact with you.

A valid CBT, provisional licence and theory test pass certificate (taken within two years) must be produced before the test commences.

You will not need to do your theory test again or retake your CBT if you are upgrading from a lower category licence such as Category A1.

Something to consider: Although you will have to ride in the same provisional conditions as others taking Direct Access (including riding with L plates when on a 35 KW motorcycle) your existing licence will not be affected should you fail the test on the bigger bike.

Category P: Moped Licence

Mopeds, as favoured by pizza delivery boys and cabbies learning their knowledge have an engine capacity of 50cc and have a top speed of 31 mph (50 kph). You can ride a moped at the age of 16 but you must have a provisional moped licence entitlement and you must complete a CBT course before riding. As with motorcycles and scooters you cannot carry a pillion or travel on the motorway and must display L plates and retake your CBT after two years.

For those wanting to ditch those L plates, a moped theory test will need to be undertaken. Once completed you can then take a moped test that, once passed will give you a Category P full moped licence and allow you to ride without L plates and carry a pillion (though you must have rear seat and rear footrests), still no motorway riding though due to the power restrictions.

There are a few (potentially confusing) exemptions in relation to Category P entitlement:

• If you have a car licence issued before February 1st 2001 you are entitled to a full moped licence with the entitlements described above without needing a CBT. This though is not recommended and completing a CBT would still be the most sensible (and safer) option.

• If you have a car licence on or after February 1st 2001 you are entitled to a full moped licence with the entitlements described above but must first complete a CBT.

• If you pass your car test in the two years of passing your CBT you are entitled to a Category P full moped licence

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