A Brief Guide to Learning to Ride a Motorbike in the UK

With all the frequent changes to motoring legislation and regulations, it may appear much more tough to figure out what you want to do to ride a motorbike in the UK than it is to actually pass the required tests. So I will attempt to break down the required tests and certicates here.

In all there are three diverse categories of motorbike, based on the size of its engine – moped, learner motorbike and standard motorbike. Depending on your age and present licences it might be possible to start riding straight away.


The smallest of the three categories, a moped is defined as a bike with an engine size of 50cc or much less, weighing under 250kg and being able to go no faster than around 30mph. If you have a full auto driving licence that was received before February 2001 you can start riding mopeds straight away. Anybody else – aged 16 and over – will want to very first pass their Compulsory Basic Training (which I will go into later), and have already passed their driving theory test.

Learner Motorbikes

Learner bikes are motorbikes or scooters with an engine size up to 125cc and a power output of 11kW. You must be at least 17 years of age, have a provisional motorcycle licence and have passed your CBT to be allowed to ride a 125cc motorbike.

Standard Motorbikes

The next stage for the learner biker is to move on to the full size motorbike. You will will need to have very first passed your CBT and theory tests and then you can move onto the full practical road test.

Once you have completed all this you could still be limited in the size of bike you can ride. For example, if you are under 21 you will be restricted to bikes with a power of under 25kW and a power/weight ratio of no much more than .16kW/kg (your instructor will be able to explain what this indicates in practice).

Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)

No matter what your age, any rider wanting to legally ride a bike larger than a moped will will need to pass their CBT. The CBT consists of a series of theoretical and practical lessons, typically all performed on the exact same day, taking you by way of the basics of stopping, starting, turning and typically all you want to know to get on the road safely. You will likely first have to try out the manoevres in a vehicle park, before moving onto the roads where your instructor will be looking for you to demonstrate these skills and general road safety and awareness.

Once your CBT is completed, you will have two years to ride freely with ‘L’ plates, giving you plenty of time to prepare your self for the full test.

Now this can be one of the riskiest times for learner motorbikers – quite a few young riders will be tempted to ride around like they’re in a race, which with little experience can be disastrous. The best riders must be constantly searching at how to enhance their safety awareness. This can be anything from wearing the correct clothing to looking for particular courses where you can get professional and expert training. Your instructor or examiner will no doubt be able to point you in the right direction.

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