Top 10 most common MoT-exempt bikes

Around 100,000 bikes were made MOT-exempt in May. But which brands make up the majority?

Top 10 most common MoT-exempt bikes

ON MAY 20, 2018, MoT rules changes came into force exempting some thousands bikes currently on the DVSA’s books from annual testing.

To be MoT-exempt in the past, bikes needed to be registered before 1960. The new rules shift that date to 1978. And according to official figures that means some 107,000 bikes registered between 1960 and 1978  will be able to go on the road without first passing an MoT.

Of course, the legally still need to be roadworthy – so you shouldn’t just fire up the old knacker that’s been rotting in your shed for the last decade and take it on the street. But some people probably will nonetheless. While cops will surely still stop anything that looks dodgy, since there’s no longer an MoT for pre-78 bikes, which also enjoy free road tax, it’s going to be easy for any bike registered before that age to avoid Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) based checks for road-legality.

Of the 107,237 surviving bikes listed on DfT records as being licenced between 1960 and 1978, less than half were actually taxed for road used at the end of last year. In total, 48,235 were licenced – which meant they must have had an MoT – while 59,002 were covered by a SORN (Statutory Off-Road Noctice).

While the year-end figures will be skewed by the fact a lot of bikes, particularly classics, will be taken off the road during winter, that’s still a large proportion of SORN’d machines.

Unfortunately a model-by-model breakdown of surviving pre-1978 bikes is unworkable; too many are registered with no model name. But we can reveal the manufacturers of the top 10 most coming survivors from the 1960-1978 period.

10: Velocette – 2148 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

Velocette might be one of those long-lost British brands, having closed its doors in 1971, but enough of the machines it made between 1960 and that time survive to get it onto this list. Of the 2148 survivors, well over half (1327) were taxed at the end of last year, with just 821 SORN’d, so most are up and running and clearly capable of passing an MOT quite happily.

9: BMW – 3203 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

Given BMW’s dominance of the new bike market at the moment, thanks to the R1200GS that’s now the single most common bike on British roads, you might have expected to see them higher on this list. But the firm’s 1960-1978 offerings aren’t as common as you might imagine. As it turns out, they’re also much more likely to be stuck in sheds or garages – 1940 of them were SORN’d at the end of last year, with only 1263 licenced for road use.

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8: Kawasaki - 3593 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

It might be one of the ‘big four’ but Kawasaki only makes it to number eight on this list. And a massive majority of its surviving 1960-1978 bikes aren’t fit for the road, either. Just 976 of the 3593 on the DVSA’s records were licenced at the end of last year, with 2617 languishing under SORNs.

7: Lambretta - 5275 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

The Mod scene it clearly alive and kicking, since Lambrettas score well on the list of surviving bikes from the 60-78 period. And most of them are road-legal, too. At the end of last year 3274 were taxed, and hence presumably MoT’d, while only 2001 were covered by SORN declarations.

6: Norton - 5445 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

Nortons are among the archetypal British bikes from the 60s and 70s, so perhaps it should be no surprise to see the firm’s machines well up on this list. Its surviving machines are split roughly 50-50 between licenced and SORN’d machines, with 2683 of the former and 2763 of the latter.

5: Yamaha – 5821 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

Yamaha might have been an unknown upstart at the start of the 1960-1978 period covered by the new MOT rules, but by the late 70s it was a giant. However, while there are 5821 Yamahas listed on the DVSA’s records from that era, only 1843 are licenced and on the road. That means 3978 had SORN declarations, and a lot of them will be a long way from being roadworthy.

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4: Suzuki - 7565 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

Suzuki’s situation is much the same as Yamahas – there are a lot of survivors, but the vast majority are still waiting to be resuscitated for road use. Of the 7565 bikes held on record, 5186 had SORN declarations and only 2379 were on the road at the end of last year. So if we were looking only at road-legal machines they’d be well behind Norton on this list.

3: BSA - 13534 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

It’s a big leap, number-wise, to BSA, and just like some of the other bona fide ‘classic’ brands on this list, there’s an even bigger difference when it comes to the ratio of machines on the road compared to those SORN’d. In total, 7094 were taxed and road-legal at the time these numbers were collated, and 6440 had SORNs.

2: Triumph - 16215 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

Triumph’s figures are broadly similar to BSA’s, with a large number of survivors out there from the 1960-1978 period, and plenty licenced for road use. However, the balance is tipped slightly towards the SORN’d machines, with 8756 holding Statutory Off-Road Notices, and only 7450 taxed for the road.

1: Honda – 21,043 surviving 1960-1978 bikes

Of course Honda is number one. But just as with the other Japanese brands on the list, the balance tips heavily towards SORN’d machines with no valid MOT or tax at the end of 2017. In fact, at 13,644 the number of SORN’d 1960-1978 Hondas is nearly two thirds of the total survivors, with a relatively small 7399 taxed for road use at the end of last year.

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