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How to get a motorbike licence and pass your CBT test

Thinking about becoming a biker? Before you can get your full motorbike licence, there are a few hoops to jump through. As well as some basic training, there are theory and practical tests to consider. But with enough preparation, you should be on the open road in no time. Here's what you need to do.

Learner motorbike rider taking their test

 

How do I get a motorcycle licence?

Your first step is to get a provisional licence, which costs £34 online. If you’ve got your basic ID ready – passport, National Insurance and proof of addresses, for example – you could have a provisional licence within a week.

To apply for your provisional licence from DVLA online you must be at least 15 years and 9 months old. You also need to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away.

But if you’ve a full driving licence you can jump on a 50cc moped without needing any training. But it does depend when you passed your driving test.

If you passed before 1 February 2001 there’s no need to take Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) to ride a moped. But you’ll still need the full CBT to ride a motorbike.

Those who passed a driving test on or after 1 February 2001 still have to take the CBT to ride a moped. A 50cc moped won’t make you a bona fide biker just yet.

 

What’s a CBT test?

Before taking your motorbike on the road you need to complete your Compulsory Basic Training. The emphasis here is on the words ‘compulsory’ and ‘training’. There’s no pass or fail test here, despite the common phrase being a 'CBT test'.

Once you've finished this one-day course you can ride a motorcycle up to 125cc if you’re 17. Or a scooter for two years if you’re 16.

But this CBT is only valid for two years, and you can’t ride on motorways. But you can ride on dual carriageways and you must display your L plates at all times.

While not strictly a test, you could be held back if your trainer feels you need more training.

Made up of five parts, the CBT is an excellent primer for all biking matters, off and on-road. You're expected to have a basic knowledge of traffic signs and The Highway Code before you begin.

There’s also:

  • An eyesight check & basic maintenance checks
  • Braking & maneuvering
  • Changing gear & riding behaviour
  • Riding in typical traffic conditions & U-turns
  • Emergency stops
  • At least two hours out on the road with your instructor
Once you’ve your CBT certificate you’ve then got two years to pass your full moped and motorcycle theory and practical tests.

If you take your own bike to your CBT, do make sure it’s taxed and you’ve got a motorbike insurance policy in place.

Compare motorbike insurance quotes

 

How much does a CBT cost?

It varies, but most courses usually cost between £110-£150. That could also include helmet hire and  insurance.

There are usually flexible cancellation options if you need them and all fuel costs tend to be included. Do check to make sure any ‘reservation fee’ is included in the total cost.

Some companies may be quicker to offer you the training than others. If you need your CBT licence in a hurry, then phone around. If you’ve trouble finding a course near you then the government’s CBT portal could help you.

If you don’t take your CBT training you could get up to six points on your licence and be fined up to £1,000.

 

How much does getting a motorbike licence cost?

Once you've finished your CBT, there are still a few steps left to take. And each of these steps comes at a cost. Let's break it down:

 

How much do motorbike lessons cost?

There are lots of training schools, so it’s worth shopping around. You should be fully supported by a training instructor to guide you through the maze of motorcycle licences, on-road and off-road tests.

Typically, motorbike lessons cost from around £20 an hour. Remember, your CBT training qualification only lasts two years. So if you want to upgrade to a more powerful motorbike and get your full motorbike licence, it might be worth keeping up with these lessons.

The actual cost depends on how many lessons you take before passing your motorbike test. If we assume that learning to ride a motorcycle is as difficult as learning to drive a car, the DVLA estimates around 47 hours of official lessons. 

That comes to around £940 in total for motorbike lessons. 

 

How much does the motorcycle theory test cost?

The theory test costs £23 and the price is the same for evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

 

How much does the motorbike test cost?

The practical motorbike test is split into two modules.

The Module One off-road test costs £15.50 and the Module Two road test costs from £75 in normal working hours. This goes up to £88.50 at other times including weekends.

 

Adding all those costs up, we get:

Test Cost
Provisional licence
£34
Compulsory Basic Training
£150
Theory test
£23
Practical test: module one
£15.50
Practical test: module two
£88.50
Total
£311
Total including lessons
£1,251
 

How do I get a full motorbike licence?

After the CBT you might be itching to hit the road now you know the basics. But you're still only about half way there. Now come the actual tests. Here's a quick rundown of what you need to do next to get your full motorcycle licence:

  • Pass your motorbike theory test - 43/50 questions right
  • Pass your hazard perception test - 44/75 points
  • Pass the Module One (off-road) motorbike practical test
  • Pass the Module Two (on-road) practical test
  • Upgrade your licence to full
 

What should I expect at the motorcycle theory test?

Before the motorcycle practical test, the motorcycle theory test comes first. You can book your motorbike theory test online or over the phone.

There’s a 50-question multiple choice test and a hazard perception test. This second part uses video clips.

The multiple question test is based around real-life situations and case studies. While there are 50 questions in total, you only need to get 43 out of 50 right.

Here are a few examples of the questions you might be asked.

  • Question: What should you use to clean visors and goggles?
  • Possible answers: Petrol, white spirit, anti-freeze or soapy water?
  • Question: At an incident, someone is suffering from severe burns. How could you help them?
  • Possible Answers: a) Apply lotions to the injury. b) Burst any blisters. c) Remove anything sticking to the burns. d) Douse the burns with clean, cool water.
  • Question: Which lane must not be used by a motorcyclist?
  • Possible Answers: a) Crawler lane. b) Overtaking lane. c) Acceleration lane. d) Tram lane.

The test covers all aspects of riding, so it’s worth being fully clued up before booking the test.

The hazard perception test is made up of 14 clips. There’s a maximum of 75 points but you only need to get 44 to pass. Each ‘hazard’ is worth five points. Unlike the first multiple choice test, you can’t nip back for a second go.

What’s really helpful is that you can practice both parts of this theory test online for free. There’s also a bunch of books, online videos and apps out there to support you.

 

How does the motorcycle practical test work?

The practical motorbike test is split into two modules. Module One is an off-road riding test. This test lasts around 20 minutes and tests your bike-handling skills at an official test centre.

Typically, it covers basic road skills including some bike-handling. The examiner should be looking closely at any potential faults that might put you, the public or the examiner at risk.

Even though it’s a highly-controlled environment, treat the test as if you’re on a public road.

Module One includes:

  • Wheeling the moped or motorcycle and using the stand
  • Doing a slalom and figure of eight
  • A slow ride
  • A U-turn
  • Cornering and a controlled stop
  • Cornering and an emergency stop
  • Cornering and hazard avoidance

The hazard avoidance and emergency stop exercises must be done at a minimum 19 mph on a moped or 31 mph on a motorcycle.

As long as there are no major faults and no more than five minor faults you should pass.

Even then the examiner might give you a run-down of possible areas of concern or areas you can improve on. If not, it's worth asking.

If you’ve passed, congratulations! This means moving onto Module Two. If you haven’t passed you’ll need to wait three working days before re-attempting the test.

If you’ve already booked your Module Two test and failed Module One then you might need to change this date.

Module Two takes around 45 minutes. and begins with an eyesight check. This optical check means reading back a new-style number plate from 20 metres away. Also, reading an older-style number plate from 20.5 metres away.

This test is usually from a marked car. Or perhaps a plate fixed to a wall or fence.

Then there are some ‘show me, tell me’ safety questions. This part of the test is where you demonstrate your awareness of how your bike works. Don’t worry, you’re not expected to know anything too technical.

Some of these ‘show me, tell me’ questions might typically include:

  • Where is the brake fluid reservoir and how would you know if it’s safety topped up?
  • What about the condition of your bike’s chain? How could you check for tension and alignment?
  • How would you check the brakes – and what might you need to look for?
  • What advice would you give a pillion passenger if they’d not been on the back of a motorcycle before?

After this some riding, separated into two parts, begins. The first part typically covers stopping, hill starts and pulling out from parked vehicles.

The second part – the independent ride – is a test to demonstrate your forward-thinking abilities. The examiner gives you a basic set of directions and it's up to you to follow all road signs correctly to get there.

 

How do I upgrade my bike licence?

Motorcycle licences are a bit less straightforward than driving a car. What route you take depends on the type of bike you want to ride, and your age. The process is so complicated that the DVLA has created a flow chart to help would-be riders navigate it easier.

So, let's clear things up a bit:

 

A1 light motorcycle licence

You need to be at least 17 years old to get this licence, which lets you ride motorcycles up to 125cc and carry a pillion passenger. You must also:

  • Complete the CBT - this lets you ride 125cc bikes with an L-plate for two years
  • Pass the theory test
  • Pass Modules one and two of the practical test
 

A2 motorbike licence

You need to be at least 19 years old. With an A2 licence you can ride motorbikes with a maximum power output of 35kW. You also need to:

  • If you have a provisional motorbike licence, you must complete the CBT and pass all theory and pass all theory and practical tests
  • If you've had an A1 licence for less than two years, you must pass the theory and practical tests
  • If you've had an A1 licence for more than two years, you must pass the practical motorbike tests

You can also ride on motorways and carry a pillion passenger.

 

Category A bike licence

You must be at least 21 years old to think about a Category A motorbike licence, which lets you ride a motorbike of any size.

  • If you're between 21 and 23 years old, you need to have held an A2 licence for at least two years. You then need to pass the practical motorbike test on a 595cc bike.

Once you reach 24, your path to a full bike licence depends on what licence you already have:

  • If you have a provisional licence, you need to pass the CBT as well as the theory and practical tests
  • If you have an A1 licence, or have had an A2 licence for less than two years, you need to pass the theory and practical tests
  • If you've had an A2 licence for more than two years, you just need to pass the practical tests. 

If you’re aged 24-plus with some car driving experience then a Direct Access Scheme (DAS) could help you get a full motorcycle licence without needing any previous licences. Prices might vary, but expect to pay around £600 for one of these courses.