How to get a motorcycle licence

Last updated by on November 8th, 2022

So, you’ve decided that two wheels is the way forward and you need your motorcycle licence, but what’s with all the jargon – A1, AM, CBT, what does it all mean, it just feels too complicated.

Well, the good news is that we’ve got the answers to help you get to grips with getting on your bike – here’s what you need to know.

Where do I start?

Before you learn to ride a motorbike, you’ll need to organise your provisional licence, which you can apply for when you’re 15 years and 9 months old. If you’ve already got a full driving licence that was issued before 1 Feb 2001, then you won’t need a provisional licence and you can ride a moped up to 50cc without L plates.

If you’re 16 you’ll only be able to ride a moped or other AM category vehicles (we’ll explain more about categories later). If you’re 17 or older, then you’ll be able to ride a motorcycle up to 125cc. In both cases, to get your bike licence, you’ll need to do the following:

• take a compulsory basic training (CBT) course
• pass your motorcycle theory test
• pass your motorcycle practical test – there are two parts (module 1, and 2)

What is compulsory basic training (CBT)?

It’s a training course for anyone who wants to ride a moped, or motorcycle. The course is divided into five elements and although it’s not a test, you won’t be able to complete it until you’ve shown you understand all the elements.

If you complete the course successfully, you’ll receive a DL196 certificate which is valid for two years; it means you can ride a moped or motorcycle unaccompanied on the roads so long as you have L plates.

It you want to continue riding your bike, you should aim to take your motorcycle theory and practical test within the two years that your DL196 is valid for; otherwise you’ll need to take CBT again, or give up riding. You can find out more about the ins and outs of compulsory basic training in our handy guide to CBT.


Motorcycle theory test

You can sit your theory test before or after you’ve completed your CBT training. There are two parts to the test – multiple-choice and hazard perception.

You’ll find out whether you’ve passed or failed on the day, but you’ll need to pass it before you can take the practical test. Find out more about what the theory test involves and some top tips for passing first time in our guide to the motorcycle theory test.

Motorcycle practical test

This is made up of two modules and you have to pass the first one before you can take the second:

Module 1 – an off-road test where you’ll need to carry out various manoeuvres such as U-turns and cornering.
Module 2 – an on-road test, where you’ll demonstrate your road riding abilities.

For some top tips on passing your test first time, head to our guide on the practical motorbike test.

What are the different moped, and motorcycle licence categories?

This is where it can start to sound confusing as licences and vehicles are broken down by category. The licence you can hold also depends on your age and experience; here’s what they mean:

AM licence – this is your basic moped licence for anyone aged 16 or over. It lets you ride a moped up to 50cc with a max speed of 28mph. You’ll also be allowed to carry a passenger. Other AM category vehicles include tricycles and light quadricycles.

A1 licence – you’ll need to be 17 or over to be eligible for this licence. It’ll allow you to ride light motorcycles up to 125cc. After two years you can choose to upgrade your licence to an A2.

A2 licence – you have to be 19 or over for this licence, but it’ll let you ride motorcycles up to 500cc. If you’ve had an A1 licence for two years you can take another practical test to upgrade it to an A2 (known as progressive access). If you’ve never ridden before you’ll need to complete CBT, and pass both theory and practical tests.

A licence – this lets you ride any motorcycle with any engine size. If you’ve had an A2 licence for two years then under the progressive access rules, you can upgrade to an A licence by taking another practical test. If you don’t, then you’ll have to wait until you’re 24 to be eligible for this licence and complete CBT and pass the theory and practical motorcycle tests.

What do I do once I’ve passed?

Becoming a fully-fledged rider is a big deal and you’ll want to protect yourself and your wheels. So, whether you’re 16 and looking for the best value premium, or just want someone to explain all those confusing insurance terms – we can help.

Compare motorbike insurance quotes online or over the phone today.

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