In order to ride a motorcycle or moped on British public roads you are required to have the appropriate driving licence. Driving on a public road without a valid license is considered to be an offence and you may be penalised for this. You may receive a penalty of three to six points on your licence, which will be endorsed on your official licence once you have acquired the correct one.
People who are repeatedly caught riding a motorbike without a valid licence will be subjected to more severe penalties, which can include a driving ban and a prison sentence.
In the UK, there are currently 4 different types of motorcycle licence available to riders. If you intend to ride a different type of motorcycle to the one that you normally ride, you must make sure that it is covered by the licence that you hold, or else you could be in breach of the law. The licensing requirements were changed in 2013, so older licence holders may have valid licences which display different categories to the ones mentioned below.
All of the licence categories require potential riders to complete the Compulsory Basic Training Certificate with a qualified motorcycle instructor who is registered with an Approved Training Body. The CBT certification course is made up of five different elements which are essential for motorcycle (or moped) safety; Introduction and Eyesight Testing; Learning Basic Motorcycle Controls; Off-Road Riding; Road Briefing and Safety Discussion; and Practical On-Road Riding.
The different types of licence that are available in the UK are as follows:
AM – The AM licence allows riders to drive a moped with a speed range of between 15.5 mph and 28 mph on the public roads. Riders can apply for this licence from the age of 16. In order to get a moped licence, applicants must complete the CBT course and do a theory and practical exam.
A1 – Riders with an A1 licence are permitted to ride a light motorcycle that offers up to 11 kW or 125cc power. The power-to-weight ratio of the bike must not exceed 0.1 kW per kg. Riders can only apply for this type of licence once they are 17. Successful applicants must have previously completed the CBT theory and practical tests.
A2 – Riders are permitted to drive a standard motorcycle with up to 35kw (47bhp) power. The power-to-weight ratio of the motorbike cannot exceed 0.2kW per kg. This type of licence is only available to motorcycle riders who are aged 19 or over. In order to obtain this type of licence, drivers must have a minimum of 2 years of experience with an A1 licence and they must pass a further practical test. Alternatively, there is a direct access route involving a theoretical and practical exam. The test must be taken on a motorbike with a power of more than 20kW (27bhp).
A – The A category of licence may alternatively be known as a full motorbike licence. Licence holders are permitted to use any size or power of motorcycle. They can also drive a motorcycle with sidecar attachment. If the rider has held an A2 licence for at least 2 years prior to applying for their full licence then they are allowed to get this licence at the age of 21. However, if the driver does not already have prior experience of riding with an A2 licence then they cannot get a full licence until they are 24. In order to get a direct access A category licence, the rider must complete their CBT training and pass a practical exam on a bike of a suitable standard.