Learn To Ride with Visordown: Getting started

The motorcycle test changes next year

IN OCTOBER 2008 the motorcycle test will change. A new element, aimed at testing a rider's manoeuvrability, means prospective candidates will need to undertake a more complex test. The assessment will be conducted away from public roads at one of the new 'uper centres', which are currently being built at key areas around the country. The new manoeuvres, including the slalom, figure of eight, hazard avoidance and cornering skills, will all be examined during the new test.

Don't panic...the swerve test won't be this challenging

It's not a massive change to the existing syllabus but it will be extra hassle, so now's the time to act if you've not already got your full licence.

Over the coming weeks we'll be looking at how to get on two wheels, starting with which licence to choose, how to apply for it and the type of courses on offer.

Getting started

There are different ways you can get a licence to ride a motorcycle, moped or scooter, depending on your age and the type of machine you want to ride.

Moped Licences

A provisional moped licence can be held from 16 years old, but it's only valid when the compulsory basic training (CBT) has been completed at an approved training school. The certificate is also valid for motorcycles under 125cc once a rider is 17 years old. A full moped licence gives provisional motorcycle entitlement, but not to people less than 17 years old.

Motorcycle and Scooter Licences

You'll need to be 17 years old to hold a provisional motorcycle licence. It allows the holder to ride a moped, motorcycle or scooter as a learner with L plates.

A provisional licence issued before 1 February 2001 is valid for two years. Licences issued after 1 February 2001 are valid until the rider is 70 years old.

Once CBT is completed anyone over the age of 17 years can ride a bike up to 125cc unaccompanied displaying L plates and no pillion passengers.

In simple terms:

16 yrs - Mopeds with an engine capacity not exceeding 50cc and a maximum design speed not exceeding 50km/h

17 yrs and over - Light motorcycles with a cubic capacity not exceeding 125cc and a power output not exceeding 11kW (14.6bhp)

Over 21 - or 2 years from the date of standard A test pass - Any size motorcycle with or without a sidecar or 2 years from the date of standard A test pass

Applying for your licence

Before you can learn to ride moped or motorcycle you must apply for a provisional driving licence. If you already hold a valid full driving licence and want to learn to drive larger vehicles, minibuses or buses you will need to apply for provisional entitlement for these vehicles.

Apply online

You can apply for your first provisional driving licence for a car, moped or motorcycle using the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's (DVLA) secure and easy to use online service. Go to:


Apply in person or by post

You can apply for your provisional driving licence by completing the D1 application form that is available from the DVLA form ordering service or Post Office branches. You will also need to enclose original documentation confirming your identity, a passport style colour photograph and the fee of £45.00. Send your completed application and payment to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AD.

When your licence arrives you're then ready to tackle the three stages to a full licence. They are:

Theory and Hazard Perception tests

CBT (Compulsory Basic Training)

Practical pursuit riding test

The Theory Test

Before taking the Practical test you must pass the Theory Test for Moped and Motorcycle Riders at a local DSA theory-testing centre, even if you already hold a licence for other vehicles. The test includes a number of Highway Code questions and some simulations of traffic scenes in a Hazard Perception Test.

Have a practise here: http://www.dsa.gov.uk/mockpaper/theoryintro.htm

How much?

Theory and Hazard Perception: £21.50 (£28.50 from 3 September 2007)

Compulsory Basic Training

CBT...the place where it all begins

Compulsory basic training (CBT) was introduced in 1990 to help reduce the high accident rate among inexperienced motorcyclists. CBT must be completed before a learner moped or motorcycle rider is allowed to ride unaccompanied on the road with L-plates or D-plates in Wales.

You will need to complete CBT if:

you want to ride a moped: (a moped has an engine not over 50 cc with maximum design speed not exceeding 50 kilometres per hour (km/h) which is approximately 31 miles per hour)

you want to ride a motorcycle: If you obtained your car licence before 1 February 2001 you do not need to complete a CBT to ride a moped.

What does CBT involve?

The CBT course involves five elements:

A. introduction

B. practical on-site training

C. practical on-site riding

D. practical on-road training

E. practical on-road riding

The five elements have to be completed in sequence, although the order of the exercises within the element can be varied. You will only move on to the next element when your instructor is satisfied you have learnt the necessary theory and demonstrated the practical skills to a safe basic level. Trainees must, by law, receive a minimum two hour on-road ride in Element E.

Certificate of completion (DL 196)

When all five elements have been satisfactorily completed, a certificate of completion, called the DL196, is issued. This is a legal document which validates the relevant entitlements on your driving licence. It is important that the holder of a DL196 considers the following points:

A DL196 certificate validating a provisional moped or provisional motorcycle entitlement lasts for two years - CBT will have to be retaken if both theory and practical tests are not passed within the two year certificate life

for moped entitlement only, if you pass your car driving test whilst your DL196 is still current or complete a CBT course and obtain a DL196 after passing your car test, the certificate is not subject to expiry, you will therefore need to keep your DL196 certificate safely. Please note that this applies to mopeds only, for riding motorcycles as a learner the DL196 remains valid for two years.

Once you have your certificate you are advised to take additional training to pass your theory and practical tests and qualify for a motorcycle or moped licence. You must take the DL196 certificate with you when you go to your practical test.

Where and how much?

Only instructors certified by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) can teach CBT at an approved training body (ATB). ATBs must have instructors who have successfully completed a two day assessment and have sites approved by DSA for off-road training.

The cost for the course varies typically from £70 to around £100. Most ATBs offer the loan of machines and helmets for the course. The cost of CBT may be incorporated into the cost of a full training course that leads to a motorcycle test.

What next?

It's time to take your test:

There are three categories of full licence - choose one that suits you

Category P - moped - for those that want a to ride a moped only

Category A1 - restricts riders on a bike up to 125cc ( 11kW / 14.6bhp) for riders happy to serve out two years probation before moving up to a big bike

Category A - standard motorcycle licence " gained automatically two years after passing A1 test or by taking Direct or Accelerated Access (see below).

Standard motorcycle test

The practical test must be taken on a bike between 121cc and 125cc and capable of at least 100 kph. After passing the test the holder is restricted to 25kW (33.3bhp) for two years, but you can discard L plates and carry a passenger. After two years you can ride a bike of any size. However, riders over the age of 21, or those who reach 21 before their two year restriction ends, have other options:

Direct access scheme

Direct access is a scheme which allows a person over the age of 21 to avoid the two year/25 kW restriction by taking a test on a machine of at least 35 kW (46.6 bhp). A pass allows you to ride any size of bike. Any instruction given on a machine that exceeds the normal learner motorcycle specification must be supervised at all times by a certified motorcycle instructor who should be in radio contact. You should also wear fluorescent or reflective clothing and follow all other provisional licence restrictions.

Accelerated access

Riders who reach the age of 21, while still within the two year period where they are restricted to maximum 25 kW (33 bhp) machines, but who wish to ride larger bikes need to pass a further test on a motorcycle of at least 35 kW (46.6 bhp). They may practise on bikes over 25 kW (33 bhp) under the same practice conditions for direct access riders. You will revert to learner status while practising (on a motorcycle greater than 25 kW (33 bhp)) although test failure will not affect your existing licence.


If you want to ride a moped you can take your theory test when you are 16, but again you must make sure you have a valid provisional licence. If you are 16 and already have a provisional licence for an agricultural vehicle or a moped, this will give you provisional entitlement to drive a car when you are 17.

Job done...it's a wonderful feeling

How much will it cost me?

A basic motorcycle test at a DSA test centre costs:

Practical Test: Weekday £60 - Weekend £70

An all inclusive course at an approved training school:

Costs vary on the type of course taken, location and quality of the school. As a rough guide we'd recommend putting aside £500-600 if you're a complete novice and £300 - £400 if you've previous motorcycle experience. These approximate costs should include CBT, accompanied rider test fee and bike hire.

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