UK Motorcycle Laws

UK Motorcycle Laws
A guide to the new UK motorcycle laws which came into effect on 19th January 2013. The 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


UK Motorcycle Laws

Car driving test passed on or after 1 February 2001

  • You need to take CBT to ride a moped if you passed your car driving test on or after 1 February 2001, however, you won’t need to take further theory and practical tests or take CBT again
  • You don’t need a CBT to ride a moped if you passed the car driving test before 1st February 2001


The following information is for Licences issued after 19th January 2013, if you held a motorcycle or moped licence before this date then you keep your existing entitlements and can still ride the same category of bikes as before.



To ride a motorcycle or moped on the road you must

  • Be at least 17 years old (16 for a moped – speed range of 25 km/h to 45 km/h)
  • Have completed compulsory basic training (CBT)
  • Have a provisional Category A driving licence


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 – held prior to 19th January 2013
  • Full moped licence – held prior to 19th January 2013


Provisional motorcycle entitlement – Aged 16 or over with completed CBT

This entitles learners to ride with L plates

  • Mopeds up to 50cc – speed range of 25 km/h – 45 km/h


Provisional motorcycle entitlement – Aged 17 or over with completed CBT

This entitles learners to ride with L plates

  •  Light motorcycle up to 11 kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.1 kW per kg) and 125 cc


With provisional motorcycle entitlement you must not

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


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

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

Get your provisional driving licence for a car, moped or motorcycle from the DVLA – apply online. Or you can use Form D1 which is available from the Post Office.

To be approved you must

As of September 2015 the cost is £34 payable by debit or credit card.





All learner motorcyclists must complete CBT before riding on the road. 

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You dont need to take a CBT to ride a moped if you

  • Passed a full moped test after 1 December 1990
  • Live and ride on specified offshore islands
  • Passed the car driving test 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.


Motorcycle Licence


Licence category Vehicles you can ride Requirements for licence Minimum age
AM Mopeds with speed range of 25 km/h to 45 km/h Compulsory basic training (CBT), theory test, practical test on all powered 2-wheeled moped 16
AM Small 3-wheelers (up to 50 cc and below 4 kW) CBT, theory test, practical test 16
AM Light quadricycles (weighing under 350 kg, top speed 45 km/h) CBT, theory test, practical test 16
Q Same as AM plus 2 or 3-wheeled mopeds with top speed of 25 km/h Granted with AM 16
A1 Light motorcycle up to 11 kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.1 kW per kg) and 125 cc CBT, theory test, practical test 17
A1 Motor tricycles with a power output not more than 15 kW CBT, theory test, practical test 17
A2 Standard motorcycle up to 35 kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.2 kW per kg), bike mustn’t be derived from vehicle more than twice its power Direct access route – theory and practicalProgressive access route – 2 years experience on A1 motorbike and a further practical test 19
A Unrestricted motorcycles in size/power, with or without a sidecar, and motor tricycles with power output over 15 kW Direct access route – CBT theory and practical (you must be at least 24)Progressive access route – held an A2 licence for a minimum of 2 years – practical test (21 or over) 24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)


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.


Tax your motorcycle


You must display a 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
  • Over 600cc

Current tax rates 


When you apply to renew your tax you must produce

  • V5C registration certificate (log book) in your name or
  • New keeper supplement (V5C/2), if you have just purchased the motorcycle
  • Your vehicle tax reminder (V11)
  • Vehicle test certificate (MOT) if your motorcycle is three years old and over

In Northern Ireland you will also need

  • An insurance certificate or cover note


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.


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


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