A2 motorcycle licence explained

Understand the January 19th changes

BY NOW everybody will be aware that there are significant changes coming to the system of motorcycle licencing in Britain. 

The new system isn't actually as complicated as you may have heard it is. The stated goal of the new laws is straightforward - to guide young riders, in a progressive way, towards a full, unrestricted licence. If, at the age of 16, you take a CBT, you will be entitled to ride a 50cc moped. But not until the age of 21, a full five years hence, will you be able to ride a bike of your choosing. This 'progressive' model is largely the result of the E.U. Directive 2006/126/EC; the theorists presumably hope that by this point you will have developed the nous to ride anything with a modicum of ability.

For many, it's unlikely to affect their trajectory in motorbike riding too extensively; newly-passed young riders under the previous system would in any case be unwise to go straight out and buy a bike so far beyond the new 47bhp limit that the new rules will massively hinder them.

Remember that if you already have a full motorcycle licence, your entitlement will not be affected in any way. The new rules will only impact current learners or new riders. 

As before, you will still have to hold a provisional licence and a CBT before you can do anything - all subsequent licencing is dependent on this. 

We've broken down the new system in full below:

Age 16 - 50cc max: the AM licence. At this stage, L-plates are compulsory after passing the CBT, until you have taken the moped test (theory and practical). Examples of 50cc bikes include: Honda Vision 50Yamaha Aerox R, Peugeot V-Clic 50.

Age 17-18 - 125cc max: the A1 licence. After passing your CBT, and taking a theory and practical test, you are entitled to ride up to a 125cc bike without learner plates and carry a pillion passenger. As before, this type of licence essentially formalises the content of the CBT. And yes, this means that below the age of 19, you can only ride a 125. Examples of 125cc bikes include: Suzuki VanVan, Aprilia RS125, Yamaha DT125R.

Click 'Next page' for more.

Age 19-20 - 47 bhp max: the A2 licence. This is where the rules become slightly complex. From the age of 19, you are permitted to take an A2 test (which must be taken on a bike of at least 395cc, with a power output of between 25kW/33bhp and 35kW/47bhp). If you don't already hold an A1 licence you will need to do a CBT beforehand, as always, and pass a theory test, before you take the practical test.

Upon passing, the rider is restricted to bikes with a limit of 35kW/47bhp and a power-to-weight ratio of no more than 0.2kW/0.26bhp per kg, for two years. The power-to-weight ratio is an important qualification because it makes drawing a distinction between 'can ride' and 'can't ride' more nuanced than a simple bhp cap. In real terms, it imposes a minimum weight of 175kg for any bike using the full 47bhp, dashing hopes of super-lightweight 250s making a mockery of the bhp limit. 

It's relatively straightforward to restrict a bike, meaning you are not necessarily ruled out of riding the bike of your dreams - unless you are dreaming of anything 'more than twice' as powerful. Any bike originally making more than 94bhp is still out of reach of the A2 licence.

You will need to hold the A2 licence for two years before you can move on to a full A licence. Examples of A2 permissable bikes include: Honda NC700Kawasaki Z800eBMW G650GS.

Click 'Next page' for more.

Age 21-23 - you must be 21 to hold a full, unrestricted A licence. However, at this age you can only take the test if you have held an A2 licence for two years or more. It is important to note that unlike the current system, you are not automatically upgraded to an A licence without a further test. If you started riding after 19, and are not yet 24, you will be restricted to A2 for two years regardless.

Finally, with all these hoops jumped through, you can ride any bike you like...

Age 24+ - The age at which direct access can be taken has risen from 21 to 24. At this point, beginners can take a direct access test and receive an unrestricted A licence, without the A2 probation period. The CBT and theory test still apply. 

This now means that there are four categories of motorcycle licence avaliable, the AM (moped licence), A1 (125cc limit), A2 (47bhp limit) and unrestricted A.

For the record, we don't recommend you trying to rush through the process between now and January 19th... don't hurt yourself trying to nip out from under the yoke of the 47bhp limit! 

Finally - the content of the tests will remain the same. It is just that if you are a youngster you will have to take more of them...

Click here to see a useful explanatory video from DVLA.

Here is the official government guide to the new tests.