Motorcycle law

Motorcycle and moped riders are largely required to follow the same road rules that other road users must – however, riding a motorcycle comes with its own specific legal requirements.

26th April 2018

Motorcycle helmets and protective clothing

Wearing a safety helmet is a legal requirement for moped and motorcycle riders – this includes passengers on a pillion seat, but not those in a sidecar. The only exception to this rule is if you are a member of the Sikh religion, and you wear a turban.

Your helmet must meet strict standards.

Your helmet must meet strict standards with regard to its durability and the protection it will offer if you fall off your bike. The helmet will only be considered safe enough if it meets one of the following standards:

  • British Standards BS 6658:1985 (it will carry the BSI Kitemark if so).
  • UNECE Regulation 22.05.

A helmet will also be considered adequate if it meets a standard equivalent to the BS 6658:1985, but from another country in the European Economic Area (comprising all countries in the EU, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

If you wear goggles or a visor, these legally must also meet certain standards – again, they should bear the BSI Kitemark, or an EEA equivalent.

There are no legal requirements for riders to wear any other protective clothing, but it is highly recommended, unless you have a specific desire to be separated from your skin. You can find more information about this on the government’s website.

There are no legal requirements for riders to wear any other protective clothing, but it is highly recommended.

Age restrictions on riding a motorbike or moped

You can learn to drive some vehicles, such as mopeds and light quadricycles, from the age of 16 – however, it isn’t until age 17 that you can move up to motorcycles and some of the more powerful tricycles.

There are some bikes that have higher age requirements – age restrictions can go as high as 24 years old, depending on the motorcycling experience of the individual.

Once you meet the age requirements for riding a certain class of vehicle, you will need to pass the theory and practical test for the licence type that you require. Before you can begin preparing for your tests, you will most likely need to complete compulsory basic training.

CBT training (Compulsory Basic Training)

Compulsory Basic Training is required to teach a would-be motorcyclist how to safely ride – this is a necessary step in obtaining your provisional driving licence. Once CBT has been completed, you can ride on the road, provided that your motorbike or moped is equipped with L plates.

Note that your provisional licence will only allow you to ride mopeds or motorcycles up to 125cc on the road. Once you have obtained the provisional licence, you have two years to pass your full test – if you fail to do so within this period of time, you will need to retake compulsory basic training.

When you complete the training, you will be awarded the DL196, a certificate of completion. You should ensure that you keep hold of this certificate – if the police stop you while you are still learning, they may ask to see it. Replacing the certificate can cost as much as £20.

If you already have a full motorcycle licence, you do not need to retake the CBT in order to take the test for a higher category. You are also spared the CBT if you passed your car driving text before February 1st 2001, provided that you are only seeking a moped licence.

Motorcycle and Moped Licence Categories

Moped and motorcycle licences are split into distinct levels – if you have a higher licence, you will be able to drive more powerful vehicles. There are greater age restrictions on the higher licences, and naturally, the tests for these licences are harder to pass.

Motorcycle licences are split into distinct levels – if you have a higher licence, you will be able to drive more powerful vehicles.

AM/Q Licence (mopeds and lighter vehicles)

This licence is the earliest licence available, with would-be riders able to able to obtain this licence at age 16. An AM licence will qualify you to ride the following types of vehicle:

  • A moped with a speed range of 25km/h-45km/h
  • A quadricycle weighing less than 350kg, with a top speed of 45km/h
  • A 4 Kilowatt or less 3-wheeler, at no more than 50cc

You will also be awarded the Q licence, which simply allows you to ride a two or three-wheeled moped up to 25km/h. This is a direct replacement for the category P licence, which was the standard moped driving licence until 21st January 2013. The AM and Q licence categories were brought in on this date, to bring the UK in line with the rest of Europe.

However, if you already had a P licence prior to this date, your licence will remain valid, and you are not required to take any other tests or update your licence.

A1 Licence (small motorbikes)

The A1 licence is the lowest motorcycle driving licence available, and it can be obtained from the age of 17 onwards. With an A1 licence, you can ride the following:

  • Small motorbikes up to 11kW and 125cc
  • Motor tricycles with a power output of 15 kW or less

There is an exception for motorcycles under the A1 licence – if the motorcycle’s power-to-weight ratio is greater than 0.1 kW per Kg, you would not be allowed to ride it with this licence, even if it is less than 11kW.

A2 Licence (Medium motorbikes)

This licence is available to those aged 19 and up. This licence allows you to ride a motorbike up to 35kW, provided that its power-to-weight ratio is less than 0.2kW, and it is not derived from a vehicle more than twice its power.

If you have two or more years of motorbike riding on an A1 licence, you will only need to take a practical test for this licence – otherwise, you will need to take a practical and a theory test.

A Licence (All motorbikes)

This is the highest licence, giving holders the freedom to ride any motorcycle, regardless of size and power. The A licence also allows holders to ride motor tricycles over 15kW.

If you have limited motorbike experience, you will not be able to obtain this licence until you reach age 24 – however, if you have 2 or more years of experience with an A2 licence, you can obtain this licence from the age of 21 and onwards.

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