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How to get a motorbike licence and pass your test

Riding a motorbike offers you the chance to avoid traffic jams and a more affordable way of getting around. See what you need to do to get your licence and start the journey to freedom on two wheels.

Riding a motorbike offers you the chance to avoid traffic jams and a more affordable way of getting around. See what you need to do to get your licence and start the journey to freedom on two wheels.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance expert
7 MAY 2021
7 min read
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How to get a motorbike licence

Before you get on a bike, you’ll need to apply for a provisional licence. The earliest you can apply is aged 15 years and 9 months, and you can start riding when you hit 16.

What you can ride will depend on your age. You’ll also have to meet different requirements according to the type of bike you want to ride. It’s a little bit more complicated than for car drivers.

To get started, you can apply for a provisional licence online.

Most people will have to take Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) so that they have the basic skills needed for riding a motorbike.

What is CBT and who has to do it?

Compulsory Basic Training is a course you’ll need to take before you can ride a moped or motorbike on the road. It makes sure you can ride safely while you practise for your moped or motorcycle test.

You can be fined up to £1,000 and get up to six penalty points for riding without a valid CBT certificate.

You don’t have to take CBT if you:

  • want to ride a moped up to 50cc and you passed your car driving test before 1 February 2001
  • want to ride a motorcycle and have a full moped licence from passing a moped test since 1 December 1990
  • have a full motorcycle licence for one category and want to upgrade to another

How much does CBT cost?

The courses are run by private training schools that can set their own prices. Costs can vary from around £90-£160 and will also depend on whether you use your own moped or motorcycle or need to use one belonging to the school.

You’ll need to give the school your driving licence information before you start the course, so make sure you apply for your licence in time.

What does the CBT course cover?

The CBT course usually takes around a day and covers:

  • introduction and eyesight check
  • on-site training – how the bike works, maintenance checks and getting a feel for the bike
  • on-site riding – carrying out manoeuvres safely, braking, changing gear, road observations
  • on-road training – positioning, safe distancing, speed, anticipating hazards
  • on-road riding – riding in typical traffic conditions, a U-turn and an emergency stop

See full details of the CBT syllabus

You’ll need to check with the training centre about what they expect you to wear, and whether motorbike gloves, waterproofs and a helmet are provided.

What bike can I ride after I’ve done my CBT?

Once you’ve done your CBT you can ride a:

  • Moped if you’re 16 or over
  • Motorcycle up to 125cc with a power output of up to 11kW if you’re 17 or over

When you’re using your bike you must use L plates (L or D plates in Wales).

Getting your full motorbike licence

You’ll need to pass your full moped or motorcycle test within two years of your CBT. If you don’t, you’ll have to take the CBT again or stop riding.

Another reason it can be worth getting a full licence is that while you’re riding on a provisional licence, you’re likely to be treated as a learner driver by motorbike insurance providers – which could make your premium more expensive. So what’s the best way to get that licence?

There are two ways to go – progressive access and direct access.

Progressive access is generally aimed at younger riders, who need to pass a test for a particular size of bike. They can then wait two years and pass the next level test on a larger size of bike.

How many times this is done depends on the age of the person and the type of bike they took their original test on.

Alternatively, if you haven’t ridden before, you can start with direct access in the appropriate age category. You’d need to be 24 to take the large motorbike direct access test, for example.

Motorbike type

Licence category

Requirements for licence

Minimum age

Mopeds with speed range of 25 km/h to 45 km/h


Compulsory basic training (CBT), theory test, practical test on all powered 2-wheeled moped


Light motorcycle up to 11 kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.1 kW per kg) and 125 cc


CBT, theory test, practical test


Standard motorcycle up to 35 kW (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.2 kW per kg), bike must not be derived from vehicle more than twice its power


Direct access route –

theory and practical

Progressive access route – two years’ experience on A1 motorbike and a further practical test


Unrestricted motorcycles in size/power, with or without a sidecar, and motor tricycles with power output over 15 kW


Direct access route – CBT theory and practical (you must be at least 24)

Progressive access route – held an A2 licence for a minimum of 2 years – practical test (21 or over)

24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)

How to get your motorbike licence

1. Take motorbike driving lessons

While your CBT gives you basic instruction, lessons will give you the option to use a more powerful bike.

Having lessons means you’ll know how to ride the correct way to pass the appropriate test and won’t get into bad habits. You’ll learn how to manoeuvre, handle and control your bike along with road riding skills under different conditions so you’ll be ready for your test and will become a safe rider. How much training you’ll need will depend on how much experience you have.

2. Take and pass your theory test

You have to have your provisional licence before you can book your theory test.

The motorbike theory test comes in two parts:

  • a set of multiple choice questions
  • a video test on spotting hazards on the road.

They’re taken as a single test and you have to pass both parts. If you have a car licence, you’ll still need to pass the motorcycle theory test before you can take the motorcycle test.

You can take the theory test before or after you’ve taken your CBT. You must take the theory test before taking the practical motorcycle test.

3. Take and pass your practical motorbike test

After you’ve passed your theory test you’ll also need to pass:

  • an off-road riding test (known as the ‘module 1 test’)
  • an on-road riding test (known as the ‘module 2 test’)

You must follow all the rules set out for taking your test such as wearing appropriate clothing and a face covering. You’ll also need:

  • a moped or motorbike for the class of licence you want
  • your driving licence
  • your theory pass certificate
  • your CBT certificate
  • your module 1 certificate, if you’re taking module 2

What happens in the motorbike test?

The off-road test takes place in a special area known as the motorcycle manoeuvring area. It takes about 20 minutes. You’ll be expected to be able to demonstrate skills including:

  • ride a figure of 8
  • do a U turn
  • ride slowly
  • corner
  • do an emergency stop
  • avoid hazards

You’ll be told if you’ve passed or not and what your faults were, if any.

If you pass you’ll get a certificate that allows you to then take the module 2 on-road test. If you fail, you’ll need to rebook the test and try again. If you’ve already booked a module 2 test you may have to change the date if necessary.

The on-road test takes around 40 minutes. Before you start you’ll get an eyesight check to see that you can read a number plate from a set distance. You’ll also be asked some vehicle safety questions that show that you know how to carry out basic safety checks.

Once all these elements are completed you’ll start the road riding part of your test. You’ll have to drive in various road and traffic conditions. The examiner will give you directions using a radio and will usually follow you on a motorbike themselves. They’ll expect you to perform:

  • normal stops
  • an angle start by pulling out behind a parked vehicle
  • a hill start, where possible

You’ll then complete around 10 minutes of independent riding, while your ability to ride safely will be assessed.
You’ll be told whether you’ve passed or failed at the end of the test and any faults you’ve made. You can ride home without L plates if you pass – you don’t have to wait for your full licence to arrive.

If you’ve failed you’ll need to book a retest – and brush up on the areas you’ve failed in. You’ll have to wait at least 10 days for a retest.

If you take the tests on an automatic geared scooter or motorcycle, you'll only be able to ride automatic bikes. Passing on a manual geared bike allows you to ride both.

Once you’ve passed, taking an advanced training course could help you cut the cost of your insurance.

How much do the theory and practical motorcycling tests cost?

  Weekdays Evenings, weekends and bank holidays
Theory test £23 £23
Module 1 motorcycle test
£15.50 £15.50
Module 2 motorcycle test
£75 £88.50
Extended test for disqualified riders (on-road) £150 £177

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