Motorbiking and riding – what you need to know

Our expert motorcycling solicitors have answered some of the most asked questions in a special series of blog articles.

23rd August 2018

Bikers often call our legal advice helpline, with questions ranging from disputes with motorcycle dealers and service centres, to the law when riding overseas, and liability disputes resulting from motorcycling accidents. In this first article, we answer questions around general biking and riding.

Top tips for riding overseas

When biking overseas it is important to ensure that you carry your licence, insurance documents, passport and V5 document with you at all times. In most jurisdictions the authorities have the right to confiscate your motorbike if you are stopped and fail to provide these documents when requested.

From July 2012 it became a requirement in France to also carry a breathalyser kit. It is advisable to ensure that there is sufficient time left on your MOT and vehicle tax before you travel, because if it were to run out whilst overseas this would invalidate your insurance. You must display a GB badge when driving abroad, although newer number plates will have the 'EU' marking on them.

Is filtering illegal?

No, filtering is not illegal in the UK, and that applies to most European cities too - you are allowed to filter through traffic as long as it’s safe to do so. The filtering must however be carried out in a safe manner. Filtering is however illegal in France and can result in a hefty fine (90 euros minimum if paid promptly).

What to do if caught speeding

Breaking any speed limit (including temporary speed limits) is an offence, and it is the driver’s responsibility to be aware of the limits. When a speeding offence is committed, a Notice of Intended Prosecution will be issued to the registered keeper of the vehicle.

Offences caught by speed cameras will mean that the Notice of Intended Prosecution is delivered in the post, whereas being caught by the police will generally result in a verbal Notice of Intended Prosecution issued from an officer’s mouth.

A verbal Notice of Intended Prosecution is enough, but if the police do not give you one, they have 14 days to issue a Notice of Intended Prosecution to you through the post. After this, you will usually have 28 days to respond – if you don't reply in time, you could face an endorsement of 6 points on your licence and a fine of up to £1,000.

If you feel you have a legal defence against the accusation of speeding, or you have been incorrectly issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice, you will be able to dispute the speeding offence in court.

It is important to bear in mind however that if you are unsuccessful with challenging your case in court, you will liable to pay court costs along with any penalty issued by the court.

Can you get arrested for fitting an illegal exhaust on a motorbike?

Carrying out modifications to a vehicle causing it to fail to comply with the air emissions standards that it was manufactured for is an offence under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations and the Road Traffic Act 1988. It is also an offence for any modifications to take place that would render the motorbike being driven on the road unlawful.

Although a modification contrary to the Act would not be an arrestable offence, it could result in an unlimited fine. Changing the exhaust on a bike to increase the noise levels emitted could result in you being pulled over by the Police if the noise level exceeds the legal limit of 82 decibels, with the Police able to issue fines and order that the exhaust is changed. 

It is an offence under the Motorcycle Noise Act 1987 to supply or offer an exhaust or silencer in the course of running a business, unless it complies with the requirements made by the Secretary of State. If convicted, contraventions of this act can result in imprisonment (a maximum of three months) or a fine (not exceeding £5000).

You should also check the provisions of your insurance if you make any modifications to your vehicle as you may need to notify your insurer and it may alter the nature of your insurance policy.

Bike insurance, tax & MOT

If you are caught driving a vehicle without insurance on a road or in a public area, the Police can issue you with a fixed penalty of £300 and six penalty points on your driving licence. However, if they decide to take you to court, the consequences could be considerably more severe; for example, you could be disqualified from driving and fined up to £5,000. Depending on the circumstances, you could even have your vehicle seized and crushed.

All UK insurance policies cover at least the minimum requirements for driving in an EU country. It is recommended that you check your individual insurance policy before you drive abroad in order to see what cover it gives you, as it may only be the minimum level of cover and for a limited period of time.

Vehicle tax is required for most mechanically propelled vehicles – this includes motorbikes and motor tricycles. Failing to pay vehicle tax can result in a fine of up to £1,000, as well as the owner being ordered to back-pay all of the tax that you missed.

An MOT is a regular check that must be carried out on a vehicle to ensure that it is in a roadworthy condition. Driving without an MOT is a criminal offence, unless you are driving to a pre-booked MOT test at an approved centre, or you are driving to an appointment at a garage to have any necessary work carried out after the vehicle has failed an MOT test. Failing to have a valid MOT certificate can result in a fine of up to £1,000.

Driving a vehicle without an MOT or vehicle tax can invalidate the vehicle insurance policy.

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