The best way to learn to ride a motorcycle is through a combination of taking courses with a trainer and practicing on the road yourself. Especially if you have no prior experience or are worried it will be difficult to learn to ride a motorcycle, you’ll need a mix of training courses and time on the road to build confidence and skills and feel comfortable on a bike.
Many experienced bikers choose to take advanced riding courses for this very reason, but everyone who wants to learn to ride a motorbike starts off with Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). Not only is the CBT useful for teaching you to ride, but once you have it you’re able to ride on the road with your provisional or full car licence.
(There’s one exception: those who took their full car driving test before 1 February 2001 can ride a moped of 50cc or lower without taking any motorbike tests or CBT, although CBT is still recommended.)
How much is a CBT course, and what is it?
CBT stands for Compulsory Basic Training, and it teaches you to ride safely on your own while you practise for your full moped or motorcycle test. CBT usually takes just one day to learn and pass. It involves things like eye tests, balancing on and handling a bike, basic road-driving theory and at least two hours driving on the public highway.
Some people pass their CBT in under 6 hours, while others need two days. Overall, though, the CBT is relatively cheap. (Just google 'CBT test near me' to find your nearest registered official CBT centre). It usually costs about £100 if you shop around—which isn't much when you consider the total costs of motorcycle ownership. The CBT is not technically a test and is relatively easy to pass compared to a full car test.
CBT is valid for 2 years, during which time you can ride on the road (but not motorways). Before it expires you need to pass a full moped (AM) or motorcycle test (A1, A2 or A) or else you need to take it again if you want to keep riding. Those upgrading from one full motorcycle licence category to another (e.g., A1 to A2) do not need to take their CBT again.
|Motorbikes you can ride with a CBT + provisional or full car licence|
|Age 16 when you get your CBT||Low-power moped up to 50cc (maximum speed 28mph)|
|Age 17+ when you get your CBT||Motorcycle up to 125cc (with a maximum speed of 60mph)|
How do I learn to ride a motorcycle without owning one?
It makes sense to learn how to ride a motorcycle before deciding which one to buy. Luckily those who want to learn to ride a motorcycle without owning one can hire a motorcycle from a training centre as part of a course—it’s quite a common thing to do. Most training centres hire out motorbikes for both training and test taking. Once you're ready to buy, you can either get a new bike or buy a used one, for example from Autotrader.
Whether or not you own your own motorbike, do you need a special motorcycle licence to get started and on the road? The rules are different if you want to ride a moped (50cc and under) or a bigger motorbike (125cc and over), and also depend on your age and whether or not you have your full car driving test (and when you passed it). Let’s take a look at the rules.
Moped & Motorcycle Licence Requirements for Learners
If you are new to riding a motorcycle, you might like to start on a 50cc scooter, to get used to riding and handling a two-wheeled vehicle (they're also cheaper to insure than what you'll pay for motorcycle insurance on a bigger bike). The first question many people ask is 'Can ride a scooter if I have a full UK driving licence?'. This used to be the case, but now it depends on when you passed your car test. And in addition to riding scooters on your car licence, you may be able to ride a 125cc motorcycle.
What scooter or motorcycle can I ride with a full car licence?
If you passed your full car driving test before 2001, you can ride a moped of 50cc or lower without taking your CBT or any motorbike tests (however it is still recommended to take your CBT as it will help you ride more safely and confidently). You can even ride with a pillion passenger, and you don't need to display L plates. (To ride a 125cc motorbike, however, you’d need your CBT and to display L plates until you get a full A1, A2 or A licence.)
If you passed your driving test after 2001, you must take a CBT test which will allow you to ride mopeds and motorcycles up to 125cc. You will still have to display L plates once you pass the CBT course until you take your full test.
Learning to ride a moped or scooter with no car licence
What if you don't hold a full UK drivers' licence, but want to ride a motorbike or scooter?
The first step is to order a provisional licence from the DVLA. Although you can’t ride until you’re 16, you can apply for the provisional licence as soon as you reach 15 years and 9 months old. With a provisional licence you take your CBT and drive on L plates (up to 50cc if you’re 16, 125cc if you’re 17 or older).
There is just one annoying catch, which is that your CBT is only valid for two years. After two years, you must either progress to a moped (AM) or motorbike (A1, A2 or A) licence or take your CBT all over again (to keep riding a motorbike no more than 125cc with your L plates and restrictions like no motorway driving).
|Licence requirements when you're learning to ride a moped or motorcycle by age|
|16 years old|
|17 years old+ without a car licence|
|17 years old+ with a car driving licence (test passed after 2001)|
|17 years old+ with a car driving licence (test passed before 2001)|
CBT In summary:
- If you are 16, you can only ride a 50cc or lower, restricted to 28mph and you will need to take a CBT before you do so. You will also need a provisional licence and L plates.
- If you are 17+ with no car licence, you can ride a moped or bike up to 125CC, provided you have a valid CBT certificate, a provisional licence and L plates.
- If you have a car licence, you do not need L plates or a CBT certificate to ride a 50cc moped if you passed your car test before Feb 1st 2001 (however the CBT is still recommended)—to ride a 125cc, you will need a CBT certificate and L plates. If you passed after Feb 1st 2001 you’ll need a CBT and L plates to ride a moped or bike up to 125cc.
- When you’re riding on your CBT (before you get your full A1, A2 or A motorcycle licence) you’re not allowed to ride on the motorway.
Regardless of your age when you learn, be sure to arrange for a motorcycle insurance policy before you hit the road!