How Do I Get a Motorbike Licence?

Published: August 11, 2014

Want to zip around on a motorbike?  You will need to have a motorbike licence first.  There is a set process for getting one of these and this article will provide you with all that you need to know.


Compulsory Basic Training Course

The purpose of the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) Course is to ensure that you reach a decent standard before attempting to ride on a public road.  As this is for your own safety as well as that of the general public, all learner riders are required to undertake a CBT course.  Please note that there is an exception to this – if you already hold a full car licence, or if you passed a car test before 1 February 2001, then you can ride a moped without completing a CBT course.  A moped can only travel at a maximum speed of 30 mph and has a limited engine size of 50cc.

Fortunately, the CBT course is only a short course and can usually be completed within a day.  Costs vary depending on where the training takes place, but you can find out where the approved training bodies are located as well as their costs through the government website.

What you can expect during the course:

  • You will have to take an eyesight test
  • Topics such as clothing and equipment will be covered
  • You will learn about the various components of the motorbike and what they do
  • You will be shown how to put the bike on or off its stand
  • You will get to ride a bike and learn basics such as clutch control, pulling away, turning and stopping
  • Legal topics and highway code theory will also be covered
  • The instructor will explain how traffic and weather conditions can impact a rider
  • You will have an instructor-accompanied ride of at least two hours on public roads

At the end of the course, you will be issued with a form DL196 provided the instructor is happy with your progress.  Armed with this form, you are now able to proceed onto the next stage.

Tip #1: You may be able to use your own bike for the CBT or hire one from the school

Tip #2: You should dress for safety when attending the class.  Jeans and a sturdy jacket (like a leather jacket) are a must, as well as heavy-duty boots.

Theory Test

The next step to getting your motorbike licence is to complete a theory test, which includes answering 50 multiple choice questions.  The aim of the test is to ensure you have the right road attitude, know the road rules, understand motorbike handling and that you have mastered the basics of road safety.

You will need to get at least 43 of them right to pass, and you will have 57 minutes to complete the entire test.  You can take an official motor bike practice test at the NIDirect government services website.  Expect to pay around £31 to sit the test.

P plates

Practical Test

Once you have passed the theory test, your next hurdle will be the practical test.

The practical test has two modules, both of which must be taken within two years of the theory test.  The first module involves doing set manoeuvres on the motorcycle while the second module is an on-road test.

First module

The manoeuvres test lasts around 30 minutes, and you will be expected to complete the following exercises:

  • Riding alongside the examiner at a walking pace
  • Riding around cones and in a figure of eight
  • Walking and U-turns
  • A curve to be ridden in 2nd or 3rd gear
  • Avoidance and brakes
  • An emergency stop

On-road test

The purpose of the test is to see if you can ride safely on public roads in different traffic conditions.  You also need to demonstrate through your riding that you understand the Highway Code.

Before riding begins, you will be given an eyesight test.  You can also expect two machine safety check questions.  The test takes around 40 minutes.

You will be asked to do angle starts where you move from behind a parked car, as well as normal starts where you move off the side of the road.  Once you have pulled away, you will need to follow the road ahead unless you are instructed to do otherwise.  On completion of the road test, you will be asked a final question to check that you can keep your balance when carrying a passenger.

In terms of costs, the off-road manoeuvres test will set you back £15.50, while the on-road test will cost £75 on a weekday and £88.50 on a weekend.

Recent Legal Changes

Since 19 January 2013, several legal changes have taken place which impact on the practical test:

  • When taking both modules of the practical test, your machine will need to have a speedometer measuring speed in miles per hour.
  • It should have a top speed of no more than 28 mph and be no more than 50 cc if it is a moped.
  • You will need to display L or D plates at the front and rear.
  • Your machine should be insured, taxed and roadworthy and have no engine warning lights showing at the time of the test.
  • You must use a motorbike with the same engine size for both modules, otherwise your test will be cancelled and you may lose your fee.

The size of the motorbike you ride for your test (and therefore the machine category you will be licenced to ride) will depend on how old you are.

  • Aged 16: you can start riding a moped and your licence category will be AM
  • Aged 17-18: you can take the test on motorcycles up to 125cc, giving you licence category of A1.  Once you’ve had this for two years, you can take another test on a category A2 machine.
  • Aged 19 and over:  you can take the test on a category A2 machine, which has a minimum of 395cc, with engine power between 25 to 35kw.  When you have held this for two years, you can take a final test on a category A machine.
  • Aged 24 and over: you can take a test on a category A machine of at least 595cc, with engine power of at least 40kw.  You will end up with a licence that will allow you to ride bikes of any size.

So, there is a lot involved in getting your motorbike licence – but passing the tests and getting that licence can be a great benefit. You can enjoy many of the UK’s roads suited for motorbiking, and be part of many motorbike clubs that run up and down the country. Good luck in getting your licence, and enjoy the ride!

If you’re searching for motorcycle insurance then Devitt can help.

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