You have bought your bike, purchased bike insurance, the leathers fit like a glove and your crash helmet is shiny and new — but before you can feel the thrill of the open road you’ll need to pass your motorcycle test to prove you are a competent rider.
Before riding you must have a valid driving licence. This can either be a provisional driving licence that provides provisional car, motorbike and moped entitlement - or a full car or moped licence that also includes provisional motorcycle entitlement.
Both types can be applied for from the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA).
Getting started towards obtaining your motorbike licence
However, unlike driving a car, before you are allowed to ride on the road with L plates attached you must have completed Compulsory Basic Training (CBT), which is designed to equip you with the basic skills required.
There are a number of elements to the CBT. As well as a basic introduction and eye test, these include practical training that looks at how to control a bike and carrying out the relevant safety checks.
It also includes the basic riding skills that must be mastered, including how to use gears, as well as starting and stopping. Getting to grips with anticipation, observation and positioning on the road are also covered.
Perhaps the most important element is having at least two hours accompanied road riding with a certified instructor. This is to ensure that you can cope in a variety of conditions and that you have a broad understanding of the basics.
Once you have successfully completed the CBT you will be awarded a DL196 (CBT Certificate) that entitles you to ride a motorcycle solo up to 125cc, as long as you are at least 17-years-old (16 for a moped), display L plates at the front and rear, and don’t carry pillion passengers or ride on motorways.
The next stage of the licence process
You will then have two years in which to pass the theory and practical tests before your certificate expires, in which case you would have to retake the CBT before being allowed to continue.
The first hurdle is the theory test. This is screen based and split into two parts to gauge your understanding of riding practice. Part one is in the form of 50 multiple choice questions and lasts just under an hour.
The second part of the theory is called a hazard perception test which examines how well you respond to a series of film clips containing one or more developing hazards. This lasts about 20 minutes. Both parts of the test will need to be passed in one sitting.
Once your theory is in the bag you will be given the opportunity to show off your riding skills for real. However, it is advisable to not only read a copy of “The Official DSA Guide to Learning to Ride” but consider having formal training prior to the test.
There are two main types of full motorcycle licence. The first is a light motorcycle licence (A1), that restricts riders to any bike up to 125 cc and a power output of 11 kW; and a standard motorcycle licence (A), is obtained if the practical test is taken on a bike of over 120 cc but not more than 125 cc and capable of at least 100 kilometres per hour (km/h per hour).
After passing the standard motorcycle practical test, you will be restricted for two years to riding a bike of up to 25 kW and a power/weight ratio not exceeding 0.16 kW/kg. After this you may ride any size of bike.
Fast track to your motorbike licence
Just to complicate matters, riders aged at least 21 – or those reaching this age before the end of their two year restriction periods – have other options. The first is known as “direct access” and enables those that complete their CBT and theory tests to take the practical on a motorcycle with a power output of at least 35kW. A pass will allow them to ride any size of bike.
Then there is accelerated access. This is for those who hit 21-years-old within the restriction period. They can take a further test on a motorcycle of at least 35 kW.
For further information visit the Government’s website.
Upgrading your biking skills
Just because you have passed your test doesn’t mean you can’t further improve your skills. The Enhanced Rider Scheme (ERS) is a training process for all full licence motorcycle holders. It is effectively tailored to your needs and when completed you receive a certificate that can help you get lower motorbike insurance premiums. Make sure you mention your ERS qualification when you are comparing motorcycle insurance quotes.
Find out more about motorbike insurance