UK Motorcycle Laws

Before you can ride a motorcycle on the road you must comply with certain legal requirements. The UK motorcycle laws are very clear and the regulations fall into two categories

  • Those with which YOU must comply
  • Those with which your MOTORCYCLE must comply

The topics covered are



To ride a motorcycle on the road you must

  • Be at least 17 years old (16 for a moped)
  • Have a driving licence which allows you to ride motorcycles (category A)

That licence can be any of the following

  • A provisional driving licence with motorcycle entitlement
  • Full car licence. This automatically provides provisional motorcycle entitlement
  • Full motorcycle licence
  • Full moped licence. This provides automatic provisional motorcycle entitlement if you’re aged 17 years or over


Provisional motorcycle entitlement

This entitles learners to ride a motorcycle

  • Up to 125cc
  • With a maximum power output of 11kW (14.6bhp)

Learners who wish to ride a side-car outfit can do so with a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.16kW/kg.

If you’re not sure about any of this then you can get further advice from your motorcycle dealer or trainer.

With provisional motorcycle entitlement you must not

  • Ride on motorways
  • Carry a pillion passenger
  • Ride without L-plates (or D-plates in Wales)


Two year limit

Provisional motorcycle licences used to have a life of 2 years. But as from 1st February 2001, motorcycle licensing rules were changed. All new provisional licences showing motorcycle entitlement issued from that date are valid until the holder’s 70th birthday.

Holders of the old licences can apply to have the licence replaced with one that will include provisional motorcycle entitlement valid to age 70. Replacement licences should be applied for from DVLA using the normal application forms (available from Post Offices).

Existing motorcycle provisional licence holders who do not pass a motorcycle test before their provisional licence expires are NOT now subject to the 12 month wait before they can get new entitlement.


How to get a licence

If you don’t already have a licence with provisional motorcycle entitlement then collect a D1 form ( driving licence application ) and a D750 form ( photocard application ) from a Post Office or from DVLA ( 0870 240 0009 ). Complete the forms and send them to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre ( DVLC ) at Swansea.

All provisional licences now automatically include motorcycle entitlement but many post offices are still issuing the old application forms on which you had to tick the ‘with motorcycles’ box to get learner motorcycle entitlement included.

If you want to ride a motorcycle you can ignore this section of the application form or you can tick the ‘with motorcycles’ box just to make sure.



All learner motorcyclists and moped riders must complete CBT before riding on the road unless they

  • Passed a full moped test after 1 December 1990
  • Live and ride on specified offshore islands
  • Already hold a Certificate of Completion (DL196) obtained during a previous motorcycle entitlement or when riding a moped
  • Intend to ride a moped and passed the car tests before 1st Feb 2001

When you’ve completed CBT you’ll be given a DL196. You must produce this before you can take the practical motorcycle test.

A DL196 has a 2 year life. If you don’t pass both your theory and practical tests in that time then you’ll have to take the CBT course again.

A DL196 obtained on a moped is valid for a motorcycle when the rider reaches the age of 17.


As from the 19th of January 2013 there are 4 moped / motorcycle licence categories

Min age CC Code Licence
16 Max 50 AM Moped
17 120-125 A1 Light Motorcycle
19 Min 395 A2 Medium Motorcycle
24 Min 595 A Full Licence


For full details see Routes to Your Motorcycle Licence with Flowcharts



The Registration Document (VRD)

This contains details of your motorcycle

  • Make and model
  • Year of first registration
  • Engine size and number

It also gives your name and address.

If you buy a new motorcycle the dealer will register it with the DVLA. A registration document will then be sent directly to you from the DVLA.

If you buy a second-hand one you’ll receive the VRD from the seller. Fill in the “Change of ownership” section and send it to the DVLA at the address given on the document. You should do this immediately as it is an offence not to notify the DVLA.


Vehicle excise duty

Also known as the ‘vehicle licence’ or ‘road tax’. You must display the ‘tax disc’ on the vehicle.

You can get the vehicle licence application form at any post office and most main post offices can accept your application.

The fee varies with engine size. The classes are

  • Not over 150cc
  • Over 150cc up to 400cc
  • Over 400cc up to 600cc
    All other motorcycles


For current fees.

When you apply to renew your vehicle excise licence you must produce

  • A vehicle test certificate (MOT) if your motorcycle is three years old and over
  • A valid certificate of insurance
  • An excise licence renewal form


Older motorcycles

Motorcycles registered before 1st of January 1973 are exempt from tax but should display a tax free (historic) disc.


The vehicle test certificate (MOT)

The MOT test applies to all motorcycles, mopeds and scooters over 3 years old. The test must be carried out every year at an appointed vehicle testing station.

The purpose of the test is to check that your motorcycle is roadworthy. When your machine passes the test you’ll be given a vehicle test certificate which you’ll need to produce when you renew your vehicle excise licence.

If your motorcycle fails the test you must not ride it on the road unless you’re taking it to have the faults corrected or unless you’re taking it for an arranged retest.


It’s illegal to ride without insurance. Before you take a motorcycle onto public roads you must get proper insurance cover.

Insurance costs depend mostly on your age, the size of the bike and the area where you live. One of the UK market leaders for motorcycle insurance is Bennetts. To get an online quote please click on the banner below. You can save the quote they give you so you don’t have to complete the form again if you go back later.


Types of insurance

Third party.

This is the cheapest and legal minimum type of insurance cover. The ‘third party’ is any person you might injure or property you might damage. You aren’t covered for injury to yourself or damage to your motorcycle.

If you damage a car the owner could claim against you. Or, if someone damaged your motorcycle you could claim against them.


Third party fire and theft.

The same as third party but it also covers you for your motorcycle being stolen or damaged by fire.



This is the best, but most expensive insurance. Apart from covering other people and property from injury and damage this covers

  • Damage to your machine
  • Replacement of parts damaged in an accident
  • Personal injury to yourself


Pillion passenger insurance.

All policies used to automatically include cover for a pillion passenger but now you can decide whether to have that cover included or not. You can, apparently, save up to 10% by not taking out cover for a pillion passenger and, of course, never carrying one.


The cost of insurance.

This varies with:

  • Your age – the younger you are, the more it will cost
  • The make of your motorcycle
  • The power and capacity of the engine
  • Where you live

Engine-size groups for insurance purposes can vary from one insurer to another so it pays to shop around.

Exactly what is and what isn’t insured can vary from company to company so read the small print and ask your insurer or broker.

You’ll often have to pay the first £50 or £100 of any claim. This is called the ‘excess’.


The certificate of insurance

This is a short and simple document which certifies

  • Who is insured
  • The type vehicle covered
  • The kind of insurance cover
  • The period of cover
  • The main conditions


Sometimes a broker will give you a temporary certificate or ‘cover note’. This is issued while you’re waiting for your certificate and is proof of insurance.

Keep the certificate safe and produce it:

  • If the police ask you
  • When you apply to renew your vehicle excise licence


The policy document.

This contains the full details of the contract between you and the insurance company. It’s usually written in legal language. Ask your broker or the insurance company to explain any details which you don’t understand.



By law, you must wear a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle on the road. All helmets sold in the UK must either

  • comply with British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI kitemark or
  • comply with UNECE Regulation 22.05 or
  • comply with any standard accepted by a member of the European Economic Area which offers a level of safety and protection equivalent to BS 6658:1985 and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI kitemark


More on helmets and clothing


Our thanks to Abbey Rider Training for their contribution to this section