Getting a motorbike licence: All you need to know

Your step-by-step guide.

Getting a full motorcycle licence is slightly more complicated than a car licence. For a start, there are several types of UK motorbike licences that allow you to ride different bikes. And there are two different routes to go about it: the progressive approach and the direct access scheme (DAS). The route you choose will depend on your age and how quickly you want to get on the road.

To help you navigate the world of motorbike licences, here’s everything you need to know. We’ll answer, “How much does a CBT cost in the UK?” as well as all your questions about provisional licences and the qualifications you’ll need.

Getting a motorcycle licence: A quick overview

Getting your first motorcycle licence can feel daunting. In fact, there are so many different options (mostly depending on your age and experience) that the DVLA has a flow chart to help you understand the process.

We’ll go into detail on each step, but first you’ll need:

  • A provisional licence
  • A compulsory basic training (CBT) pass certificate
  • A pass on your motorbike theory test
  • A pass on your motorbike practical test, consisting of two modules

If you’re “progressively” moving through the licences (starting with an AM licence), you’ll also have to sit further practical tests to ride more powerful bikes.

If you’ve opted for a DAS course, you can potentially go straight to an unrestricted Category A licence. As long as you’re 24 or older, you can then drive a bike with any engine capacity.

How do I get a motorcycle licence?

If you want a motorcycle licence, your first step is getting a provisional licence. A provisional driving licence currently costs £34. 

It’s easy to apply online. The only stipulations are you must be over 15 years and 9 months old, be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away, and have the right to live in the UK.

You’ll need:

  • An identity document, like a passport
  • Your addresses over the past three years
  • Your National Insurance number, if you know it

After you’ve applied, you’ll get an email from the DVLA. Once confirmed, you should receive your provisional licence within one week. 

What licence do I need to ride a motorbike?

If you’re just getting started, you’ll need a provisional licence to ride a motorbike. 

  • If you’re over 17, you can start riding a motorbike with a provisional licence. You’ll also need your CBT, which we’ll cover below.
  • If you’re under 17, you can only ride a moped. You’ll also need your CBT certification.

Even with a provisional licence, if you’re caught riding a motorbike without your CBT, you’ll face a fine of up to £1,000 and six points on your licence.

So, what does a CBT involve?

How much does a CBT cost in the UK?

The cost of a CBT course varies. But it’s normally in the region of £150 to £200, depending on the provider.

A CBT is a one-day course letting you ride a motorbike with a maximum power output of up to 125 cc. If you’re under 17, it covers mopeds with a top speed of 30 mph.

The two key words are “compulsory” and “training”. You have to do the course to ride a motorbike. But it’s also training, not a test. So while it’s unusual not to get your completion certificate, if your trainer feels you aren’t aren’t participating safely or appropriately, you might have to do more training.

The certificate of completion is known as a DL196. It’s valid for two years, but you’ve always got to display your L plates when you’re out and about. You can also ride on dual carriageways, but not motorways.

The training covers a lot in a day. You’ll spend time with an instructor on public roads and learn about:

  • Basic motorbike maintenance
  • Eyesight checks and general safety
  • Basic braking and road manoeuvres including U-turns 
  • Riding behaviour in standard traffic conditions 
  • Changing gear and emergency stops

New riders should also understand The Highway Code and basic traffic signs before getting started.

A word of caution. Check what your CBT course fee covers, as there might be extras like helmet hire, motorbike insurance, and fuel costs. If you’re using your own motorbike, make sure you’ve arranged tax, your MOT and insurance.

To find a CBT provider near you, head to the government website.

How do I get a full motorbike licence in the UK?

With your CBT certificate, the next step is passing motorbike tests.

To get your full UK motorbike licence, you’ll need to:

  • Complete your motorcycle theory test
  • Complete your hazard perception test
  • Complete module 1 of your practical motorcycle test (off-road)
  • Complete module 2 of your practical motorcycle test (on-road)

Once you’ve passed each of these tests, you’ll receive your full motorbike licence.

How much is a full motorcycle test in the UK?

As we’ve seen, there are a few steps to getting a full motorcycle licence in the UK. The total cost amounts to £297.50.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the fees:

  • Provisional licence: £34
  • Compulsory basic training: £150
  • Motorcycle theory test: £23
  • Practical test module 1: £15.50
  • Practical test module 2: £75

Before you take your motorcycle tests though, you’ll probably want some lessons. 

Now, there are no set costs here. Some people might need many hours of lessons. Others might be proficient after only a few hours. But talking averages, motorbike lessons are usually around £40 an hour. And the DVSA estimates that most people need about 45 hours of lessons in order to pass their driving test. 

So using that as a rough guide, motorbike lessons could cost £1,500 to £2,000.

What are the different types of motorbike licence?

There are a few types of motorbike licences. They let you ride different powered bikes at different ages. 

The motorbike licences are:

  • Provisional licence: Lets you take your CBT
  • AM licence: Lets you ride a 50 cc motorcycle if you’re 16 or over
  • A1 licence: Lets you ride a 125 cc motorbike if you’re 17 or over
  • A2 licence: Lets you ride a 35 kw bike if you’re 19 or over
  • A licence: Lets you ride a bike with any power output if you’re over 21 or 24 years old. This depends on whether you’ve opted for the progressive or DAS route.

If you’ve gone for progressive access you could gain an A licence at 21 years of age, rather than waiting until you’re 24 with a DAS course. 

How long does it take to get a full motorbike licence?

The time it takes to get a full motorbike licence depends on whether you choose the progressive route or DAS.

Here’s what’s involved and the timescales for each.

The progressive route

As the name suggests, this is a progressive, step-by-step approach to getting your motorbike licence.

With a provisional licence, you can start riding at 16 years old. 

A CBT course only takes a day. So if you’re organised you can be out on the roads super quick. You can then take your AM practical test at 17. Your CBT remains valid for two years, so as long as you complete your theory and practical training within this time — you’re good to go!

You can take your A1 licence test after you’ve driven on an AM licence for one year. Two years after that, you can take a further practical test for your A2 licence. Another two years later, you can take your A licence test. And you’re free to drive any motorbike you like.

In total, the progressive route takes at least five years. 

Although this may sound a long time, it could get you to a full A licence faster than direct access. 

It all depends on your age when you start learning.

The direct access scheme

The direct access scheme (DAS) starts similarly to the progressive route. You’ll still need your provisional licence and a valid CBT certificate. But once you’ve got your CBT, you can immediately apply for the highest licence for your age. 

So if you’re over 24 years old, you can take a DAS course teaching you how to handle a high-powered motorbike. You can then take your A licence test and, presuming you’ve passed, hit the road.

You’ll also have to pass your motorbike theory test before starting your DAS course. 

DAS courses usually last three to five days. So you could potentially get your full licence in just one week.

Prices vary depending on the training school you go with. But expect to pay £700 or more for a three to five-day course.

Is it easy to get a motorbike licence?

While there are a lot of steps to getting a motorbike licence, it’s not that hard. 

The various licence categories and age restrictions are designed to keep you and other drivers safe on the road. 

In terms of passing the tests themselves, practical experience and revision are key. Just like any other exam. 

And while the practical test might suit some people’s skills, others might excel at theory. So it really depends on the individual.

Take some time to research the knowledge and skills you’ll need for both the theory and practical elements. As long as you’ve prepared and have good control of your bike, you should pass without any problems. There aren’t any “trick questions” or difficult manoeuvres designed to catch you out. 

So keep calm, take your time, and you’ll be out on your bike in no time. Good luck!

Quickfire summary

To get your motorbike licence, you’ll need to start with a provisional licence and a CBT course. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to take your theory and practical tests for a full motorbike licence. 

If you’ve opted for the progressive approach, you’ll need to work your way through the motorbike licence types. This could help you reach an unrestricted A licence by 21 years old.

Alternatively, a direct access course lets you apply for the highest licence you’re eligible for. If you’re 24 or older, this means you can go straight to an unrestricted A licence.

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