The most accurate source of information on this topic is probably to be found from; "Riding motorcycles and mopeds" on the UK 'Directgov' website. But it is often difficult to follow! What is offered here, is then for guidance.
There are two KINDS of UK Licence, a 'Provisional' Licence or 'Learner-Licence' and a 'Full' Licence.
Any-One 16 or over may hold a Provisional licence. (Each entitlement 'category' though has its own age eligibility. You may only really ride a moped at 16 years old. At 17 you may have either motorbike or car. You don't need to pass any tests, just fill in the forms and send some pass-port photo's and payment to DVLA and they send it back.
This is issued to allow you to 'Practice' for tests. Once you have passed a DSA Driving qualification, be it for a moped, a motorcycle, a car or a tractor even, you send off your test-pass certificate and are awarded a Full UK Driving licence. BUT it is ONLY a 'full' licence for THAT category of vehicle you have passed tests. It REMAINS a 'Provisional' licence for all categories you have NOT qualified for. (Ie: If you hold a Full licence, for a car, you shouldn't need to apply for another licence to ride a motorcycle!)
The Provisional Licence, however doesn't really let you drive or ride very much. Provided so you may 'practice' for tests, it imposes a lot of restrictions on where and when you may drive or ride. And the main one is that until you have passed the DSA Test, you may ONLY ride or drive while under supervision of qualified instructor.
There is but ONE exception to this, and that is for motorcyclists, who, due to legacy laws from the days when supervising a learner rider by radio was not practical, are allowed to ride either a moped, or a 'Restricted; Learner-Legal' motorcycle up to 125cc and 14.5bhp, whilst displaying L-Plates; but you must not carry passengers (pillions) nor use motorways. AND provisional Entitlement has to be 'Validated' by completing an approved CBT course and obtaining the completion certificate.
What is CBT?
CBT is Compulsory Basic Training. TRAINING, it is not, repeat, NOT a 'Test'. Simply means you have had the FIRST LESSON!
It is NOT a riding qualification; it doesn't mean you have 'earned' your 'learner-licence', it doesn't mean you are a competent rider, and it does NOT teach you 'everything' you may need to know to be able to pass the actual licence tests!
At the end of it, IF you have reached a 'satisfactory' (very low!) standard of competence throughout the course, you are awarded your DL196, or CBT (Completion) Certificate, that validates the provisional entitlement of your licence, that lets you START riding on the roads, unsupervised, on a 'Learner-Legal' Motorcycle, for up to two years.
I go into a lot more about CBT & what you do, and how it is organised, in Tell me more about CBT?, so keeping it brief, here. The Course is designed so that an average student ought to be able to complete the course in a day, and be able to start riding, RELATIVELY safely. (Though depending on how much you have to learn, and how long it takes to master the exercises, SOME students may have to come back for 'further' training. They do NOT 'fail' CBT, they merely do not 'complete' the course to satisfactory standard)
IT'S YOUR FIRST LESSON
As such, before you invest ANY money in a bike, or gear, or 'anything', its a very good way to have a go, and see if you actually LIKE riding a bike. It ISN'T something for every-one, and some people struggle, and decide after that biking really isn't for them. Though, MOST I have to say, usually leave their CBT fired with enthusiasm and even more eager than when they started.
IT'S NOT A TEST
So, you DO NOT have to practice for it; you do NOT have to do ANYTHING much before hand; just turn up and do, and if you have any questions; ASK THEM! That is what the course is for. It is your introduction to biking.
Its a Day-Out, doing a new thing. When you book, you ought to be given some advice on what you'll need. Some schools will provide pretty much everything; bike, helmet, gloves, water-proofs. Some even offer lunch! However, 'School' rider-wear is often not that err... 'nice'... and most people prefer to buy and bring their own 'kit' before hand. Again, I offer advice on this in Tell me more about CBT?, but potted version is talk to the school, ASK what you should bring. Probably, "Crash-Helmet, Gloves, Lunch, Common sense, and wear 'sensible' out-door clothing, and check the weather forecast before you dress!
CBT is to help you get a bit clued up, and we TRY and make it fun. So DON'T worry about it. Its just a day out, playing with motorbikes. Your first lesson; You don't NEED to know anything about them before you begin, and it WONT make you an expert in a day, but it will give you a good start.
DO I Have to Do CBT?
OK, actually, there are a few exceptions. BUT WHAT THE HECK! If you have to ask, then YES YOU DO!
Generally ANY new rider will have to complete a CBT course to gain their DL196 form, to validate the entitlement of their provisional licence to ride on the road.
If you check the Directgov website; there are some confusing exceptions and exemptions; some drivers have exemptions under what are known as 'Granddad-Rights' because they gained provisional entitlement before CBT was 'invented' (circa 1990 ISTR). There is a raft of convolutions around moped licences for car licence holders that get quite confusing too.
BUT, ultimately, if you want to ride a powered-two-wheeler.. that's instructor speak for a moped, motorbike or scooter, by the way, on the roads... JUST do the ruddy course!
If you DON'T by dint of one of these wonderful 'exemptions' ACTUALLY need the Certificate? Well, what the heck. Damn site better to have the form and NOT need it, than have to argue about it with some half clued up beurocrat that expects to see it!
Meanwhile JUST for the sake of; the course IS a good start, and it WILL teach you something, and that 'something' could just be the one thing that saves your life, OR points on your licence, OR a painful and or expensive accident!
I used to teach CBT courses, I ought to 'Know it all' you would hope! Well, I sat in on my Girlfreind's CBT course last year, and it wasn't SUCH a vital detail, but I picked up some hints and tips on motorcycle maintenance, an easier way to do something, and some suggestions about looking after my crash-helmet and avoiding 'glare' on the visor. We can ALL learn something new!
Its a VERY worth-While course, for ANY-ONE starting out riding a motorbike, or coming back to riding one after some years break.
So JUST 'do-It'!
I don't see the point in getting a licence; why should I bother?
The Provisional Licence Validated by CBT is NOT a 'Licence-to-Ride' its a 'learner's permit', a chance to get some practice so you can take the tests and get the 'Proper' Licence.
Every OTHER motorised road-user HAS to pass their tests BEFORE they are allowed on the road, unsupervised. Fact that motorcycles are the exception is actually rather bizarre, given that motorcycles are the mort dangerous form of motorised transport, and unsupervised L-Platers the MOST likely to crash!
The FULL Motorcycle Licence is your PASSPORT to ALL biking has to offer & ONCE you have it, you have it for LIFE!
Well, with the qualification, that during the first two years, under the new drivers act, you don't get it revoked, or after that, suspended by being an arse! Other than that; once you have the entitlement its ON your licence as long as you hold it. JOB DONE. And....
it is a FULL Licence, NOT a 'Big-Bike' Licence!
No-One is going to take it off you, if you don't go out and buy a bike over 200cc within six months of getting it or anything! You can ride a 'Small' bike on a Full-Licence same as you can a big one!
And, OK, you may have a hundred and one reasons NOT to think it's IMPORTANT enough to do as LONG as you can get out and ride a 125 on L-Plates without it, WHY bother? Just keep repeating CBT every two years.
I have heard EVERY single excuse for 'perpetual L-Plating' from perpetual L-Platers they can think of, and there is NO real valid reason for it. End of the day, boils down to Laziness, and ignorance. Or possibly JUST laziness, not being bothered to go find out the facts!
BUT, Lets hear a few of them out?
- I only want a scooter to get to work. I don't want a big-bike. So why waste money on paying for tests?
- I'm 18, I cant afford to insure a car, so I only want a bike, until I can afford to buy a car?
- I only ride for fun, got an RS125 'full-power', and that's expensive enough to keep on the road; If I did tests I'd want an R6 or something, and I cant afford that, not for the miles I do!
- I'm over 21, I cant afford to 'Do-DAS'
Yeah! an ALL to common attitude, amongst scooter riders. You buy a scooter because its CHEAP, so why spend money you DON'T have to! Tests cost money, and if you can get to work without them, why buy'em? Same with riding as a stop-gap until affording a car, and the more bizarre notion of a 'cheap' week-end 'Toy' bike. Almost all of them MONEY is a big part of the argument.
Well, IF you can afford to ride a bike, ANY bike, you can bludy well afford to take the sodding tests, mate!
The tests cost a mere £121.50 (as 2012) over and above CBT to let you wobble about an UNQUALIFIED hazard on the roads. Elsewhere I go into the costs of getting on the road, and if you can get a Learner-Legal Motorcycle, taxed, tested and road-worthy, afford to buy a helmet, insurance, and stick petrol in the ruddy thing, you will be doing damn well, to do so for under £1000. More realistically you will be looking at having to spend, £1500 - £2500 'all in'. £121.50 in THAT greater scheme of stuff is PEANUTS. And if you cant budget THAT right at the start, DON'T BOTHER even trying!
If you don't pass the bike tests within the first two years provided by your first CBT certificate? Well, you will have to repeat the CBT to extend your licence entitlement to carry on riding. THAT can be as expensive as simply doing the tests!
But WHY would you NOT take the tests? Either you are too lazy OR you don't think you are good enough to pass.
If you don't think you are good-enough to pass, WHAT THE FRIGG are you doing on the road?!?!?!?
Tests are there to set a basic level of competence, if you haven't got that, then you shouldn't be there. You are a DANGER to yourself and others!
Many DO seem to think that the tests are 'Very-Hard', but really, what they are asking you to show them is that you can ride around a few cones without falling over, and can ride on the road, in real traffic for forty minutes, not break any laws, or hurt any-one! If you are riding to and from work or college every day, you are PROBABLY already doing 90% of what they expect!
I only want a scooter to get to work. I don't want a big-bike. So why waste money on paying for tests?
See: I Only want a 'little' bike, It's not THAT dangerous, is it? Its NOT like I'm jumping straight on a loonie-big-bike!. You are not 'protected' in anyway, pretending to be a learner, riding a lightweight. Its JUST as dangerous, AND your economic argument's DO NOT hold water.
Repeating CBT every two years, is as expensive as doing the tests.
The Idea that a 'Learner-Legal' HAS to be 'Cheap' is also a fallacy. Yes they CAN return very good mpg, BUT; the actual bike is a LOT more expensive than it needs be JUST because it's learner legal. With a FULL licence you have access to the whole panoply of motorcycles, and where you will struggle to find a 'good' Learner-Legal for under £1000, you can get any number of VERY good bigger bikes for the same money.
BUT, for the super-tight economy-commuter, there is a very big 'bargain basement' of machines in the 'forgotten' capacity class from 150cc to 400cc; machines that often have hardly any more performance than a Learner-Legal, but only Full-Licence holders, most of whom having qualification to have a much more interesting machine, simply DON'T WANT!
These bikes, are often half the price or LESS than a similar 'Learner-Legal' machine, AND frequently an AWFUL lot less to insure. They cost no more to run, and frequently return as good mpg, sometimes even better.
So, idea that staying on L-Plates is saving you money is a fallacy. IF you wanted super-cheap wheels, the FULL-LICENCE, Is the pass-port NOT just to bigger, more powerful and more exiting motorcycles, but to ones that can save you EVEN more money.
I'm 18, I cant afford to insure a car, so I only want a bike, until I can afford to buy a car?
So TAKE the ruddy tests and EARN your road-space like any-one else then! As the Scooter-Commuter; you aren't saving any money wobbling about on L-Plates. Use some of that 'saving' you are making to get the ruddy tests! Its just LAZINESS not bothering, and laziness on a bike is NOT a good way to survive.
I'm over 21, I cant afford to 'Do-DAS'
So? Why do you THINK that because you're re over 21 you HAVE do 'Do-DAS'? MORE why do you think that to 'Do-DAS' you HAVE to spend some ridiculous amount of money on an 'Intensive DAS' Course?
This is shear ignorance. You DO NOT have to do a DAS course just because you are over 21. Go read the sections: What is 'DAS'? & Intensive DAS Courses' What's the score?
I only ride for fun, got an RS125 'full-power', and that's expensive enough to keep on the road; If I did tests I'd want an R6 or something, and I cant afford that, not for miles I do!
If you have a 'Full-Power' sports 125, you DON'T have a licence to ride the frigging thing to start with!
The Provisional Licence allows you to ride a bike up to 125cc and 14.5bhp. A Full-Power 'Sports' 125 probably makes something like 25bhp (though undoubtedly you will be convinced it HAS to make 33), and riding one, without a Full-Licence is NO DIFFERENT to riding a 250, or 400, 600 or 1000, you equally DON'T have the entitlement to ride!
It is NOT some bit of criminal 'genius'; it's not what 'every-one' does. Its not 'all part of biking', its certainly not 'expected'.
IT IS ILLEGAL
Got insurance on it? Well, implying that it is learner legal when it isn't, is insurance fraud. You are breaking MORE laws riding a 'cheat' 125 as you would be riding an R6 or whatever you really want, also without Licence or Insurance.....
If you are happy to break these laws, for the sake of the few pennies you probably aren't saving, given that Sports 125's often cost MORE to run than 600's or 750's..... Well, MORE fools logic. You may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, WHY bother, for the sake of maybe 10-15mph more illegal speed! These bikes may be impressive compared to a 65mph commuter 125, but compared to a 160mph 600? They are STILL not 'quick' or impressive machines to ANY-ONe who knows what they are looking at!
GET THE LICENCE and you can ride that 125 LEGALLY, you could ride the bike you REALLY WANT, LEGALLY, and it will probably be 'Cheaper'! If not, certainly be other bikes that will be!
THE EXCUSES KEEP COMING - But the answer always remains the same. If you want to ride a motorbike, then GET A LICENCE!
All of the excuses get blown away eventually, and it boils down to laziness and ignorance. Its not saving you anything, and the 'Learner-Restrictions' are ENTIRELY self imposed.
If you are OLD ENOUGH to ride a motorbike, if you can AFFORD to ride a motorbike; you are old enough and rich enough to take the tests and have ANY bike you want and can afford, NOT merely a Learner-Legal!
ALL for the sake of taking the tests and getting the PROPER licence.
The Motorcycle Test, Licence Categories & Age Restrictions
To gain a FULL moped or motorcycle licence, there are three tests.
Motorcycle Theory/Hazard Perception
Module 1 'Off-Road' practical test
Module 2 'On-Road' practical test.
These tests are conducted by the Driving Standards Agency, not the school you did CBT with. But the School may offer training to help you pass them.
As from January 19th 2013, there are three 'test schemes'; one for each category of motorcycle licence entitlement, to be applied to the two practical tests, Mod 1 & Mod 2. Plus one for moped entitlement. (Both Practical Tests Mods1 & Mod 2 must be taken on the same class of motorcycle.)
Category AM = Moped
You must be at least 16 years to ride a moped, and to take the full moped licence tests.
You may, upon completion of CBT ride a moped on provisional licence entitlement, without supervision, before passing the full motorcycle tests, though you must display L-Plates and may not carry a pillion passenger.
Test requires a vehicle conforming to the legal specifications of a 'Moped' (see:- What is a Moped?), briefly a 50cc motorcycle, that says 'Moped' on the Registration document! It may be any style of powered two wheeler, like a scooter or a sports-bike, it may be twist & go automatic or have gears; but it must be less than 50cc and not be capable of more than about 35mph.
Both tests must be taken, as for the motorcycle test, and The tests are identical to the motorcycle tests, though allowances are made for the lower performance of the vehicle; eg during the Mod 1 exercises, that normally require a serve and e-stop manoeuvre above proscribed speeds that a moped would not be expected to achieve.
Passing tests under this scheme is awarded with Full Category P licence entitlement, that allows you to ride a moped, which must still conform to moped power, speed and weight restrictions. But without L-Plates and you may carry pillion passengers. Note:- Mopeds may NOT use motorways, irrespective of whether the rider has a full licence of any category. (See also What Can I ride When I have Passed my Tests?)
Category A1 = 'Light Motorcycle'
You must be at least 17 years to ride an A1 category 'Light Motorcycle', and to take motorcycle tests under the A1 test scheme.
You may, upon completion of CBT, ride an A1 / Learner-Legal motorcycle on provisional licence entitlement, without supervision, before passing the full motorcycle tests, though you must display L-Plates and may not carry a pillion passenger, or use motorways.
Test requires a vehicle conforming to the 'Learner-Legal' Motorcycle ( see:- What is a 'Learner-Legal' Motorcycle?), Briefly a machine up to 125cc, with no more than 11Kw/14.5bhp power, but with minimum performance requirements for test; the machine must be over 120cc capacity and capable of 62mph. Again, the machine may be of any style; a scooter, commuter-bike, sports-bike, cruiser etc, and again, may have a twist & go automatic transmission or manual gears.
Passing tests under this scheme is awarded with Full Catagory A1 licence entitlement, that allows you to ride a motorcycle of the same performance specification as is 'Learner-Legal' essentially still an 11Kw/14.5bhp 125cc machine, but without L-Plates. You may also carry pillion passengers, and if you wish, use motorways. (See also What Can I ride When I have Passed my Tests?)
Category AM (moped) entitlement is automatically awarded with A1 entitlement, if not already held.
Catagory A2 = 'Middleweight Motorcycle' / Restricted Licence
You must be at least 19 years to ride an A2 category 'Middleweight Motorcycle', and to take motorcycle tests under the A2 test scheme.
Provisional-Licence entitlement remains that you may, upon completion of CBT, ride an A1 / Learner-Legal motorcycle, without supervision, before passing the full motorcycle tests, though you must display L-Plates and may not carry a pillion passenger, or use motorways.
You may, NOT however ride ANY motorcycle other machine, unsupervised, ahead of passing the full motorcycle test for higher groups (A2 or A3/Full A)
However, you MAY ride a machine compliant with A2 restrictions, on provisional entitlement, IF you are under supervision of a DSA approved Motorcycle Instructor, or DSA Motorcycle Examiner, whilst training or taking tests. (There is NO exemption to this to ride an A2 machine unsupervised to a motorcycle test)
Test requires a vehicle. of at least 395cc with a power output between 25 and 35 kW (33bhp and 46.6 bhp). No upper engine size limit, but the power to weight ratio must not exceed 0.2kW/kg and it must not be derived from a motorcycle of more than double its power. Again, the machine may be of any style; a scooter, commuter-bike, sports-bike, cruiser etc, and again, may have a twist & go automatic transmission or manual gears.
Passing tests under this scheme is awarded with Full Catagory A2 licence entitlement, that allows you to ride a motorcycle of ANY engine capacity, but no more than 35Kw (approx 47bhp.) And may not have a power to weight ratio higher than 0.2Kw per Kg. The machine may be restricted from a model that manufacturers standard specifications claims more than 35Kw, but the standard model may not male more than 2 times the power required for restriction. (See also What Can I ride When I have Passed my Tests?)
After Passing tests, you do not need to display L-Plates. You may also carry pillion passengers, and if you wish, use motorways.
Category AM (moped) entitlement, and Category A1 (125 Only Motorcycle) entitlement, is automatically awarded with A2 entitlement, if not already held.
Category A or A3 = Unrestricted Motorcycle / Direct Access Scheme (DAS)
You must be at least 24 years to ride an unrestricted A category Motorcycle and to take motorcycle tests under the A3 / DAS test scheme. OR you must have held an A2 category licence for a minimum of 2 years. (So, if you pass A2 tests when you are 19-21, you can test again for DAS before you are 24, as long as you have held A2 at least 2 years)
Provisional-Licence entitlement remains that you may, upon completion of CBT, ride an A1 / Learner-Legal motorcycle, without supervision, before passing the full motorcycle tests, though you must display L-Plates and may not carry a pillion passenger, or use motorways.
You may, NOT however ride ANY motorcycle other machine, unsupervised, ahead of passing the full motorcycle test for that group.
However, you MAY ride any machine on provisional entitlement, IF you are under supervision of a DSA approved Motorcycle Instructor, or DSA Motorcycle Examiner, whilst training or taking tests. (There is NO exemption to this to ride an A2 machine unsupervised to a motorcycle test)
Test requires a vehicle over 595cc with a power output of at least 40kw or (53.6bhp). From the end of 2013 the power output will change to at least 50 kW. A minimum weight of 180 kg will also apply. Again, the machine may be of any style; a scooter, commuter-bike, sports-bike, cruiser etc, and again, may have a twist & go automatic transmission or manual gears.
Passing tests under this scheme is awarded with Full Category A / A3 licence entitlement, that allows you to ride a motorcycle of ANY engine capacity or engine power output. This does not necessarily mean that you have to, or that it is a good idea, to jump on the biggest, fastest piece of machinery you can find! (See also What Can I ride When I have Passed my Tests?)
After Passing tests, you do not need to display L-Plates. You may also carry pillion passengers, and if you wish, use motorways.
Category AM (moped) entitlement, Category A1 (125 Only Motorcycle) entitlement, and Category A2 (33Kw or 47bhp 'restricted motorcycle) entitlement, is automatically awarded with full A / A3 entitlement, if not already held.
Automatic Transmission Restrictions
Pretty simple; you may test under any of the above test schemes, on a qualifying bike or scooter. Doesn't matter if it has a manual gear-box, or an automatic transmission, provided it meets other test requirements of engine displacement etc.
However IF you choose to use a machine that has an Automatic Transmission, for your tests, then again, you must use an auto for both Mod 1 and Mod 2 tests, AND if you pass both tests, your licence entitlement will be 'endorsed' with a restriction "Automatics Only", and you may NOT ride a geared machine.
Worth noting; The popular Honda C90 'Step-Through' commuter bike, has a three speed 'crunch' gear-box, and an automatic centrifugal clutch like a twist-and-go, and a number of contemporary motorcycles have engines derived from the old C90 motor, and retain the centrifugal clutch. Many now have a four speed gearbox, and have been bored out to a full A2 complient 125cc. The Honda Inova, is basically the successor to the C90 and has the 125cc 4-speed centrifugal clutch engine; but that engine & transmission is also used in many monkey-bikes, and pit-bikes, which are all A2 test compliant, if road-legal. However without a 'manual-clutch', a little digging with the DSA has revealed they are classed as 'Semi-Automatic' and hence testing on one will gain Auto-Only restriction, the same as testing on a twist & go. Bit of a pity that, as they DO have gears, but still.
When I gained my licence back in 1992, there was only one test scheme; you took the test on any 'learner-legal' motorcycle, up to 125cc that wasn't a moped, and you gained, straight away, a full unrestricted, ride what you like licence. They changed that, and until this year, you had to use a bike between 120 & 125cc, and do all three tests; and if you passed you got a restricted licence, that limited you to 33bhp machines for two years. But either way, it WAS possible to take tests on a 'Twist & Go' Automatic scooter, and gain a Full unrestricted ride what you like motorcycle licence with Auto-Only restriction... which was nie on useless; as there are almost NO automatic motorcycles over 125cc!
Actually, I can name, err... four. All built briefly in the 1970's and failing to gain market acceptance, any survivors probably hoarded 'collectors' items living on plinths in museums! The Moto-Guzzi 1000cc 'Convert'; The Honda CB750 'Four' Auto and the Honda CB400 'Auto', and a Hausquavana 500 two stroke Enduro bike!
So if you wanted a motorbike, an Auto-Only licence was significantly useless, and limited you to basically riding twist and go Learner-Legal scooters. And significantly, probably still does.
However, the popularity of the scooter has been rising in the last decade, seeing the genre creep out of the sub 125cc learner-legal bracket, back into the 250 class that some used to occupy back in the 'Mods & Rockers' era, and beyond, with the innovation of the 'Super-Scooter' that can be as big as a large motorcycle and have an engine as big as I believe 800cc these days, but still with a twist and go automatic transmission.
There are a few modern motorcycles with sophisticated 'automated' and usually selectable transmissions. Mostly from Honda. Electronically controlled, the ratio's shifted mechanically by electronic servos controlled by a micro-processor, the gears may be selected entirely by the micro-processor in a 'fully-auto' mode, or manually by the rider, in 'manual' mode, either by switches on a gear lever that mimic a traditional mechanical gear linkage, or by hand operated push-buttons. Strictly, I believe that these are classed as having a 'manual' transmission, and to be able to ride one on a licence with Auto-Only restriction would require any 'manual' mode to be disabled.... but I think that this remains something of a grey area, and an area of uncertainty for all concerned.
More conventionally, the Auto-Only restriction essentially limits riders to twist and go scooters, or whatever capacity licence entitlement provides; though with few 600+cc super scooters; gaining a Full Unrestricted A licence with Auto-Only restriction remains very unlikely. It may be possible to gain an A2 class licence on a 400-500cc super-scooter, and it would seem that manufacturers are designing more recent models to meet this licence requirement, and this may become more popular. But it remains that the Auto-Only restriction will probably remain most common for people riding A2 compliant Learner-Legal scooters.
The new three category licence system, does however raise a couple of questions with regard to auto-only restrictions. Mainly, if you take tests for one category on a geared machine, and another on an auto... what happens?
Well, up until now, if you took your Moped test and gained moped entitlement on a twist & go moped, you would have got the Auto-Only restriction against the entitlement. If you then took your motorcycle tests on a geared 125 or DAS bike, that would provide moped entitlement without automatic only restriction, so it should have been lifted form the licence, passing test at a higher category level superseding the lower entitlement. this 'precedent' I believe remains.
So, if you take, say the A1 test on a 125cc 'Twist & Go' scooter, and wish to take the A2 or A3 tests and do so on a geared bike, then you would gain A2 or A3 entitlement without Auto-Restriction, lifting that restriction from A1 entitlement.
However, what if you took your A1 licence test on a geared 125 and then took the A2 on a twist & go super-scooter?
Well, if you have gained a licence entitlement, then they cant really take it off you again, or impose a restriction on it. So if you had A1 entitlement without Auto-Only restriction, that would remain. BUT the auto-only restriction would be endorsed along side the higher group; so you would still be able to ride a geared 125, but anything bigger, would have to be an Auto to remain within the entitlements of your licence.
It is 'Best' if you can, to test on a geared machine. You can ride an auto on a licence without auto-only restriction, but you cant ride a geared bike on one with!
One amusing anomaly to ponder though; IF you took your A1 test on a twist and go 125 scooter; you would gain full A1 licence entitlement, but with Auto-Only restriction. And could then, obviousely ride a twist and go 125 without displaying L-'s and could carry a pillion and use a motorway. However, you still have Provisional entitlement provided for 'all other groups', SO you could still ride an A1 125 with gears..... but you would have to put the L-Plates back on, not carry pillions or use motorways! Now THAT is one to confuse your insurance company!
Side-Cars, Three-Wheeler's, Trikes & Quads
I feel I REALLY ought to mention these automotive anomalies..... yeah... there you go, I have. That ought to be enough! No? Well Oh-Kay then, fine.
These are automotive anomalies. Less than 5% of UK Road-Vehicle registrations are 'Motorcycles' or 'Mopeds'. Probably less than 5% of THEM have more than two wheels! This should NOT effect an awful lot of people! AND its such a godawful MESS where even the DVLA and DSA often don't know the answers, I'm sure as heck not able to!
So what I DO know! Well....
You may no longer take a motorcycle test on a motorcycle outfit, three wheeler or trike, unless you have a registered disability that prohibits you riding a solo machine, and any licence entitlement gained will be endorsed with restriction to the type of machine on which you took the tests. Ie if tested on a trike under disability dispensation, you couldn't ride a solo after without retesting.
Beyond that, it starts getting murky.
I believe that you MAY still be able to ride a motorcycle and side car 'outfit', unsupervised, on a provisional motorcycle licence, AND that if you do, the 125cc engine displacement restriction does not apply. You DO have to have a valid CBT certificate though, and the out-fit may NOT have a power to weight ratio higher than that permitted for a Learner-Legal 125 (o.1Kw per Kilo). Also you may NOT carry either a pillion passenger, nor a passenger in the side car. L-Plates must still be displayed, and you may not use motorways. You don't have to be disabled, to ride an outfit on L's, though you do if you want to take tests on it!
Then we are into the mire; because the same applies to trikes, BUT there is a rather impertinent set of questions over reverse gears, and vehicle classifications, dependent on weight and length and such. When is a trike Not a trike? When is a Side-Car outfit not a side car outfit? Even VOSA who's job it is to classify vehicles can struggle with this; DIY constructors of such oddities certainly do! (But I think they often find that half the fun!)
And ultimately, if you are interested in such automotive anathma's.... you have come to the wrong place! Best advice I can give, is if you want to ride a trike or outfit; do your conventional motorcycle tests, get the full motorcycle licence. Then go do the conventional car tests and get the full car licence as WELL, and with a bit of shot-gun marksmanship, you ought to cover the appropriate licence entitlement to ride one!
What Will I need to take to my Tests? How long is each valid for?
OK, Lets run through a Check-list of what you will need to ultimately get a Full-Licence.
A current UK 'Photo-Card' Driving Licence, Full for another group of vehicle, or complete provisional.
A Valid CBT Certificate or DL196 Form (To Validate Provisional Motorcycle Entitlement of Licence)
MOTORCYCLE Theory Test Pass Certificate
Module 1 Test Pass Certificate
Module 2 Test Pass Certificate
Those are the official bits of paper.
I'll deal with CBT in much more detail in:- Tell me more about CBT?. Paperwork wise you don't really need anything apart from your Licence, to do your CBT course. You will however need a motorbike. Most people choose to use a 'school' bike to do their CBT on its easier and simpler. You get a lift to the school and just do what you are told all day, then go home. You MAY choose to do the course on your own machine though, but then you will probably have to provide the documents to show that the machine is legal to be used on the road, and you are insured to do so. Again, I'll deal with these later, Tell me more about CBT?
The CBT Certificate is normally valid for two years from the date of completing the course.
Motorcycle Theory/Hazard Perception Exam
You don't need a motorbike or anything to do the Theory/Hazard perception exam. This is a class-room exercise, you do on a computer. And you don't HAVE to have completed and obtained your CBT Certificate before you take the Theory Exam. You will however be required to show your Driving Licence.
It is important to note that there are a number of different Theory/Hazard perception tests for different vehicle groups. For a motorcycle (or Moped) you MUST pass the one specifically for motorcycles. A normal or 'car' Theory/hazard pass certificate will NOT be accepted towards the motorcycle qualification.
The Theory / Hazard Perception Pass Certificate, is Normally Valid for Two Years.
Module 1 'Off-Road' Practical Test
To take the Module 1 'off-road' practical motorcycle test; you will need to show your:-
Validating CBT Certificate
Theory/Hazard Test Pass Certificate.
You will also need a motorcycle, meeting requirements for test scheme you have booked test under. See:- The Motorcycle Test, Licence Categories & Age Restrictions
Note: The DSA Do NOT provide you with a motorcycle to take your test on. Nor will they 'hire' one to you.
You are responsible for ensuring you have a suitable vehicle to take the test. This may be your own, or hired, possibly via a training school.
You will be required to sign a declaration that the machine you have provided is road-worthy, and legal for you to ride. You MAY be requested to provide proof of this. For example, if you are using your own motorcycle, you may be asked to show the examiner a valid MOT Certificate. If you are using a School machine, you may be required to show a 'Waiver' provided by the school declaring that they have ensured the machine is roadworthy and legal for you to ride.
You will also be required to wear 'suitable' motorcycle attire. The DSA provide guidelines on what they deem and do not deem suitable motorcycle apparel. This means that apart from the legally required safety helmet, they expect you to be wearing 'sensible' protective footwear and gloves, and sensible out-door clothing that covers exposed flesh on arms and legs. They also suggest auxiliary Hi-Vis belt or bib, and take a dim view of trainers and track-suits, and warn that if the examiner is not convinced you are 'suitably' dressed that he may refuse to conduct test, without refund of test-fee.
Module 1 Test Pass Certificate is normally valid until the SAME date as the Theory / Hazard Perception Pass Certificate, that was in force when it was issued. (Ie: if you pass Mod 1 the day after your Theory/Hazard, its valid for almost two years. If you take it a week before your Theory Hazard is due to expire, its only valid for a week!)
Module 2 'On-Road' Practical Test
To take the Module 2 'on-road' practical motorcycle test; you will need to show your:-
Validating CBT Certificate
Theory/Hazard Test Pass Certificate.
Module 1 Test Pass Certificate
NOTE: BOTH Module 1 And Module 2 tests MUST be taken under the SAME test scheme. (See:- The Motorcycle Test, Licence Categories & Age Restrictions.)
Eg: You cant take Mod 1 test on a Moped and the Mod 2 on a 600+cc DAS bike; nor take Mod 1 on a 500cc A2 machine and Mod 2 on an A1 125!
As Mod 1, you will also need a motorcycle, meeting requirements for test scheme you have booked test under. (See:- The Motorcycle Test, Licence Categories & Age Restrictions) And advice with regards documentation pertaining to it. As the test is conducted on public roads, a Certificate of Insurance is likely to be requested.
DSA guidelines and warnings on suitable apparel, again apply, as with the Module 1 Test.
Module 2 Test Pass Certificate is normally valid until your Full Driving Licence is issued, or re-issued showing the new group entitlement.
What Can I ride When I pass Tests?
See:- The Motorcycle Test, Licence Categories & Age Restrictions. What you will be allowed to ride on public roads after passing tests, will depend on which category of licence entitlement you have obtained, and that will depend on the 'test-scheme' you qualified under, basically what sort of bike you did your tests on.
Category AM = Moped
See:- What is a Moped?. The performance limitations imposed by law for a moped are pretty stringent. And loosely, the vehicle cannot have an engine more than 50cc and cant have a top speed more than about 35mph.
Before taking and passing tests you are allowed to ride a Moped on L-Plates, provided you don't carry a pillion passenger.
After Passing tests, you can remove the L-Plates... and that is about ALL.
Mopeds are not allowed on Motorways, whether you have a full moped licence or not. You may, if you have passed moped tests, carry a pillion, but with maybe only three and a half horse-power, at best, you probably wont want to carry one very far or very often!
Worth Noting, that many people seem to think that if you pass moped tests or gain moped entitlement via passing the car test, you can ride a 'De-Restricted' moped. Unfortunately not. The performance limitations set down in law for a moped are exactly that, and if a powered-two-wheeler can achieve more, either by being 'De-Restricted' or conventionally 'tuned'... then it no longer meets legal requirements to be classed as a moped, and cannot be ridden on moped entitlement. See Also:- What's NOT a moped! and De-Restricted Danger.
See Also: - Is it worth taking tests for a moped licence, 125-Only licence, or even A2 'Restricted' licence?
Category A1 = 'Light Motorcycle'
See:- What is a 'Learner-Legal' Motorcycle?. The Capacity & Performance limitations defining an A1 category motorcycle are exactly the same as those for a Learner-Legal motorcycle. Briefly, a machine up to 125cc and less than 11Kw or 14.5bhp, and with a power to weight ratio no higher than 0.1Kw per Kg.
Before taking and passing tests you are allowed to ride an A1 / Learner-Legal motorcycle on L-Plates, provided you don't carry a pillion passenger, or use motorways.
After Passing tests, you can remove the L-Plates... Carry a pillion passenger, and if you wish, use Motorways. Otherwise you are limited to bikes you might have ridden before you passed test.
Category AM (moped) entitlement is automatically awarded with A1 entitlement, if not already held.
Again, worth looking at De-Restricted Danger. The A1 licence is often referred to as a "125-Only" licence, and its often presumed that that means you an ride any 125 irrespective of the power or power to weight limits applied to learner legals. It's a presumption that is likely to be re-enforced by inaccurate re-counting of the 'old' licensing system that awarded a 'restricted A' group licence for testing on a 125, that permitted a machine up to 25Kw or 33bhp, a limit into which many 'Full-Power' or de-restricted sports 125's conveniently fell.
See Also: - Is it worth taking tests for a moped licence, 125-Only licence, or even A2 'Restricted' licence?
Category A2 = 'Middleweight Motorcycle' / Restricted Licence
This is probably the one you are most interested in.... and are likely to be rather frustrated with complicated and half answers... sorry, that's the way it is! Lets see if I can make it reasonably clear though.
When I was 19 years old, 47bhp was nothing to be sneezed at and a 'respectable' amount of power for an 'every-day' useable sports bike, that had to get you too and from work, do the shopping, pick up the girlfriend and still be a bit of fun on the week-end. Its enough to make a motorcycle genuinely capable of a comfortable 110mph; that may only be as 'fast' as a hum-drum modern every day people-mover; BUT, its also still fast enough to loose your newly acquired licence readily enough! And its performance you can use very easily, in a motorbike which can exploit its power to weight ratio for very-high-performance car beating acceleration, as well as its manoeuvrability to keep up a higher average speed, hustling along a twisty road or through snarled traffic.
Its not amazing, but it is still as much as most of us are ever going to really 'need' from a road vehicle, and its a 'reasonable' performance level for a new rider to build up their experience with. In fact, its actually quite a GOOD set of limitations, steering newer riders towards bike that don't deliver instant thrills, without the skills... but steers you towards bikes that as a new rider will encourage you to progress and progress more easily from new rider to experienced rider, learning how bikes behave and how to get the best out of them, that will stand you in good stead for more interesting machines, both gaining the skill to use them, as well as the experience to appreciate them.
So, talking generalities, of what sort of bikes you could have, well, probably easier to bound that with what you almost certainly cant have! The basic limitations are as follows:-
you may ride a motorcycle of ANY engine capacity, but no more than 35Kw (approx 46.5bhp.)
does not not have a power to weight ratio higher than 0.2Kw per Kg.
is not restricted from a 'standard' model developing more than twice the power required for 'restriction'
It's suspected that there may be a few more motorcycles made to meet the A2 licence regulations, 'as standard', and if a bike has a quoted power-output less than 47bhp chances are it is.
At the moment though, if you go through the buyers guides looking for what may or may not be A2 compliant, its a bit depressing. You have ancient 250's from the days when they were Learner-Legal, before 1982, and a rather meagre selection of generally unloved and frequently sore-used 200-400cc 'commuter-bikes' like the Honda CD200 or Honda CB 'Two-Fifty', the Kawasaki GPz305, and some 250 Cruisers, frequently all in the bargain basement of the market; then something of a 'gap' where you would expect to find more inspiring or more tidy machines in the mid-range used market, until you get to brand new, and 'new' used, bikes, up to around five years old, usually commanding rather strong prices for what the bikes are. This includes machines like the Honda CBR250 and the Kawasaki 250 Ninja, and possibly the rare Yamaha YBR250, that were conceived for this licence group when introduced in other euro regions.
Probably the most common A2-Complient as standard bikes is in the area of on-off road machines. Here smaller displacements, fewer cylinders and lower power-outputs are positive benefits to make a light-weight machine for use on unmade surfaces, and I have to say, that if I was 19 again and on a restricted licence, faced with restrictions that seriously discourage a more sporting road-based motorcycle; idea of utilising what performance an A2 licence allows for some off road adventure would be rather more inspiring than the mundanety of a Honda CB Two-Fifty or the frustration of a sports-bike with its interesting bits removed! However, with 'dirt-bikes' while power output is less likely to exceed limits, you do need to pay heed to the weight, as they can easily exceed the power to weight limits, even at quite modest power outputs!
Which brings us to the matter of restriction, and if you don't want or cant find a suitable A2-Complient as standard machine, what could you 'restrict' to BE A2 compliant?
If you like sports-bikes, I'm afraid it doesn't look good!
As a rough reckoner, count the features below.
Engine over 600cc
Engine with more than two cylinders
Engine with water-cooling
Made this Millennium
More than one front brake disc
If you answer 'Yes' to more than three out of the five, the chances are its NOT restrictable!
Working it out is pretty complicated, BUT, basically anything over 93bhp cant possibly be made A2 Compliant, because its over 2x the 47bhp maximum restricted power limit, and you cant restrict a bike by more than half its 'standard' quoted power output.
This then disqualifies almost all modern 'Super-Sports' bikes, from 600cc up. Bikes like the Kawasaki ZX6R 'Ninja' were developing 100bhp as early as 1997, so you are probably going to struggle to find a 600-Sports under the restrict able 93bhp limit, that's been made this century... and even if you did.... you still have to worry about the power to weight limits.... and with bikes like the R6 tipping the scales at a fly-weight 160Kg or so, they would have to be restricted to about 32Kw to be compliant with the 0.2Kw per Kg minimum power to weight limit; ie even less than the 35Kw allowed, and an even bigger proportion of their original standard power out-put.
If a 600-Super-Sports of this millennium wont restrict to A2 compliance, then there is little chance that a litre-Super-Sport will either, so you can take them off the list too.
What about the 400's? Oh yes. NOT a category of machines I am particularly fond of, and few are still in current or even recent manufacturers catalogues. The 'sports 400's are to all extents and purposes 'regulation beating' 600's from the late 80's and early 90's. Japanese domestic licence and taxation regulations was really the only reason they were built, because on their home market, buyers could not have a 600 or bigger machine very easily, and costing as much to manufacture as a full 600, they were often more expensive than their bigger stable mates. A lot were brought in to the UK second hand from Japan in the 1990's to meet demand for second hand middle-weight sports bikes that were in short supply and had strong prices and were sold as a 'Poor-Mans' substitute for the 600's, and consequently often did not get well treated.
Older and smaller in displacement, typical 'standard' power figures for these bikes is in the 50-60bhp range. This is within that which might reasonably be restricted, though they may have to be restricted beneath maximum permissible 47bhp to meet the power to weight limits.
IF 'Modern' Sports-Bikes are your 'bag'; then you are likely to have to accept one of the more 'sporty style' commuters, such as a Honda CBR250, or the Kawasaki 250 Ninja. These machines have been designed expressly it seems for this licence category, and while they probably wont set the world on fire with their statistics, they are a pretty good choice for a new-rider. They have the sporty styling, and as much power as the licence category allows, which can be more than three times that allowed on a 125-Only licence or L-Plates... its certainly enough to be useful and entertaining. It may be a little disappointing that they don't have the 'awesome' performance statistics of the real-deal four-cylinder sports-bikes... but they also don't tend to have the running costs, or compromises to JUST be fast round a race track.
So we have taken most four-cylinder sports bikes out of the frame, and significantly 600+cc sports. If you go back to Kawasaki's 1984 GPz900R, that made over 110bhp, its twice the restriction limit, its a non starter. The 1984 GPz600R that launched the class, that quotes 75bhp & 217Kg... hard to imagine now that we considered this 'light' and 'powerful' when it was new! But anyway. Those numbers make the bike just about restrictable. 75bhp is about 53Kw. You'd have to clip 18Kw off the top or restrict by about 30% of quoted power to get it inside limits, but you wouldn't have to over-restrict it to meet the power-to-weight limit, that starts to effect machines if over 175Kg. Yamaha's FZ750 of 1985? Nope.209Kg, it would be OK on power-to-weight, but at 105bhp, over 2x original power rule. So going back into the 'Modern classics'; Some very early 600 Sports might restrict. But 750's are probably not going to, and litre class bikes almost certainly not.
Go back a bit further, we get back to the old 'Muscle-Bikes' of the late 70's and early 80's... 'real' classics... which may appeal, but, with even the 1980 Honda CB900 making 95bhp, Kawasaki's big Zeds even more... they aren't going to be on the cards either.
So, going forwards again, we start looking at 'standard' bikes, street-bikes, 'retro' bikes or 'naked' class machines. Looking for one to bench-mark from, Yamaha's long running XJ900, leaps out, and again, a 95bhp power output suggests that even that is probably going to be on the limit of what might be restricted.
Tourers? Again, Honda ST1100 Pan-European was designed to be 100bhp Euro compliant, when some countries has a 100bhp maximum power limit. Its NOT looking good for big displacement bikes, or four cylinder machines in general.
Four cylinder bikes that could be restricted, like the popular Suzuki 600 Bandit, or Yamaha XJ600 Diversion, that develop around 70bhp or so, are probably restrict able, but going back again into the classics, even a 1977 Honda CB550, developed 50bhp and would need 'some' restriction. More modern 'Naked' 600's like the Honda CB600 'Hornet' develop over 100bhp, so like sports 600's not on the menu.
This leaves the most likely machines to be single or twin cylinder machines; motorcycles like the long-running Kawasaki GPz500s, its 'naked' stable mate the ER5, Suzukis' popular sporty-twin SV650 and more utilitarian GS500 stable-mate, and the Honda CB500, that have all been 'popular' choices for restriction to the 'old' 25Kw / 33bhp licence limits, and would be even 'better' restricted less to meet A2 licence limitations.
The Kawasaki GPz500s is one of the longest running in this company, launched in 1987 to popular acclaim, with a quoted power output of 60bhp. The less sophisticated Suzuki GS500 has usually been the least powerful of the selection, though quoted power has varied over the model years, around the 50bhp mark, so most probably needing a bit of restriction to meet A2 limits.
Category A or A3 = Unrestricted Motorcycle / Direct Access Scheme (DAS)
Its an unrestricted Ride What you like licence. That means, you can PRETTY MUCH 'Ride what you like'! Almost any bike is game. Pick as much as your balls or bank-balance can stand!
DOESN'T mean that picking the most awesome Sports-Bike you can afford, however is a GOOD IDEA!
It increases your choices; BUT, take the hint. The A2 licence category was introduced expressly to discourage people from leaping straight onto high-performance motorcycles with little experience or appreciation of them, and getting 'all the thrills, without the skills, until it kills'. Biggest death-rate on the roads, is amongst sub 3 year DAS obtained full licence holders. Who think that because the DSA say they 'can' ride what they like, take that to mean that they CAN ride what they like! As though the qualification, means they must have the 'skill'!
And 'trouble' with a lot of modern machinery is that it is SO easy to ride. And sports-bikes in particular. Often suggested that a New Rider on something like an R6 'Will Kill Himself'. The unfortunate thing about these bikes though is they often don't! Very focused on doing one thing, they do that one thing incredibly well, and that one thing is "FAST". Its about all that kind of bike do. They aren't wonderfully comfy, sticking a pillion on the back ruins the balance, and they are cramped enough without trying to strap luggage to them. Its ALL they do. FAST. And they make it EASY. The new rider doesn't have to be a good rider, and doesn't have to work to do 'fast', and the bikes are so incredibly capable they will tolerate an awful lot of clumsiness and lack of precision and deliver a LOT of fast. And its the only sensation of reward you get from riding one.... going blindingly fast, so to get more of it, riders ride faster, and faster and faster, and get to BELIEVE that they are some sort of riding godd, because they are seeing super-stupid speeds on the dial from the bike, and are still alive to tell the tale, ergo the bike that every-one said would kill them, HASN'T..... and that must mean that they are some sort of virtuoso, who has the natural talent and ability to have "mastered the beast"..... accidents happen when confidence out-balances competence.
If they are lucky, the typical DAS qualifying rider, will be a fair-weather leisure rider, and riding few miles on a few sunny days a year, will limit their exposure to risk long enough that they survive to get some better experience, or their new found enthusiasm will fade, fairly fast and within a season or three, they have found other things to thrill them, and move on to something else.
BUT there are FAR too many 'unlucky ones' who often truly believe that they are good and sensible riders, have 'all the gear' and use it 'all the time' and that what they are doing is merely a 'little spirited' riding, not being an utter loonatic.
So if you have some sense, while you MAY be allowed to ride anything you like, as a new rider, respect the fact that you are still an early-learner until you have between three and five years good experience behind you, and more 'boring' bikes, can be a lot more rewarding to ride. Look at what you might ride on an A2 licence, and think hard about what you can really live with. Plenty of bikes that could be restricted to A2 are good friendly useful every-day machines, and as said, sort of bikes IF we were honest that offer 'as much' performance as we ever really 'need'. And on a full A or A3 licence, you merely have the luxury of not having to jump through hoops with insurance companies or any-one trying to get the bike restricted or proving its restricted, and MAY have that 'bit' extra available.
And 'less' can be more. I find modern super-sports bikes incredibly unrewarding to ride. All they do is 'fast', and they don't demand any effort from me as a rider to deliver it. Less capable, more all-round versatile machines, do more. I can stick a passenger on the back, and go places.... in some comfort! I can load it up with luggage and camping kit to do a week-end rally, without having to be a contortionist, or worrying about squeezing stuff into tiny bags or having to wear a ruck-sack. I can ride round town without getting a crick in my neck; AND I can indulge in a little spirited riding down a nice country road..... and experience 'fast'... at less licence threatening velocities, get a lot more riding 'sensation' from a less capable bike being pushed closer to the ragged edge, and a lot more reward and satisfaction having to work for it. All up, it delivers a HECK of a lot more all-round 'Fun'... and for a new rider, you get all that extra 'fun' and the fun of learning.
so while you might be allowed 'Any-Bike'... still good reason to choose something that's more newby-freindly. Learning don't stop when you loose the L-Plates! I've been at it thirty odd years, and I'm STILL learning stuff.
Is Formal Training REALLY worth the money?
Cost is immaterial. Passing tests a secondary consideration.
How much are you spending on a bike? Jacket? Hat? Any other biking related paraphernalia?
How long do you expect them to last? How much 'Value' do you expect to get from them?
- Is £140 for the aural sensation of an after market exhaust pipe that de-values your motorcycle, and increases insurance premiums 'good-value' in your scheme of things?
- Is a Dyno-Jet or Power-Commander kit that finds you an extra 4bhp, a worth while investment?
- Crash helmet, maybe £100-£400's worth is good for ONE crash.
- Set of leathers? £500's worth? Maybe two crashes worth of protection.
Race Can & power commander? 4bhp, maybe an extra 10mph more top end speed and a bit more acceleration if you are lucky.... few seconds of typical journey times. ONLY works as long as you have THAT one bike its fitted to.
Well, it makes you a BETTER rider, doesn't it.
Old adage at the track. Want this bike to go faster? Fit a better rider. Better rider goes faster, crashes less.
TRAINING makes you a better rider; all well and good having the first lesson of CBT and a bike, but without any more lessons to TEACH you anything more than the VERY basics covered in NOT a lot of depth in CBT, you can 'practice' to your hearts content, and all you will do is practice the basics or learn by making painful and costly mistakes.
Lessons; Well, you cant touch taste, smell or show off lessons, can you? Don't have anything physical to show for your money... and it seems a lot of dosh for not a lot of 'err, well what do you get? Words? & Talks cheap innit?
WRONG; you get WISDOM
Wisdom that tells you what to do RIGHT, right at the beginning, so you DON'T have to learn by falling off....
Wisdom that gives you stuff to practice and get right, early on.
Wisdom that will make you a BETTER RIDER....
A Rider that not ONLY can pass a riding test, but who will ride SAFER.... and NOT crash and NEED that fancy hat.... that's value you CANNOT put a price on!
A Rider who being safer and more highly skilled can manage their bike and get more speed out of it, WITHOUT bolt on extras.....
And THAT value goes onto every bike you will EVER ride
Gets better with experience, never looses value, never takes value off your bike, never puts your insurance prices up.....
Now, go away and look at all the fancy biking 'Stuff' you COULD buy with the money you might hope to save, by NOT having any lessons, and ask yourself IS this really 'good' value for money?
TRAINING IS FOR LIFE
What Training do I need before I take the tests?
NEED? Well, legally you don't 'NEED' any! (beyond CBT) But see above! Its damned useful stuff, and ideally passing tests should be a by-product of training to become a safe competent rider, NOT the goal!
the 'Ideal' way to train, in my opinion, is on your own (learner-Legal) bike. You do your CBT, then as SOON as you are ready to start out on the road on your own, you book some weekly lessons. Schools vary in what they will offer, but two hours a week, is about right.
Starting RIGHT at the start, you learn how to do it RIGHT. Saves learning by your own mistakes, which can be expensive and painful, why its called 'The School of Hard-Knocks!'. and saves you getting into bad-habits.
You do your CBT, ride for a week, have a lesson. Instructor checks your riding, picks up on any mistakes & corrects them, then gives you something 'new' to learn, gives you a chance to get the idea, then sends you home, and you have a whole week, where you can practice this to your hearts content and get it 'nailed'. Following week, you go back, instructor checks your riding, picks up on any mistakes & corrects them, sends you home with something ELSE to practice.
You learn in stages, with plenty of time to master what you are taught. You can learn at your own rate, and it ought to be pretty efficient, because you aren't letting bad habits or problems perpetuate, they are being picked up as you go along and corrected.
On such a course, a 'typical' newbie, could quite easily get to test standard in perhaps, six or eight weeks. Month and a half, two months, and be trained not just to test standard, but with experience gained while being 'mentored', be pretty well 'prepared' for post test riding.
I always say; every HOURS training, in the first month of riding is worth a DAY after a years riding. Many new riders do leave it THAT long by the time they get round to doing any post CBT training, and its often realisation that their CBT cert is about to expire that prompts them to 'cram'; and its often difficult, because they have got used to doing stuff their own way, and it can be three times as hard to get them to ride to the book, when they have never learned the 'right stuff' and their unsupervised L-Plate experience as often has NOT been good, and they have a LOT of bad habits, and often fears of doing stuff, learned from falling off or nearly falling off, when they have had no guidance.
But ultimately, it's a piece of string question, and as mentioned above in comment on What's CBT and below in 'is it any easier'; we ALL learn at different rates, and we start off with some pre-dispositions that might make it easier, others that can make it harder. So I cant say.
BUT, get some training booked, and your instructor should be able to judge to SOME degree how much work you need and where, to give better ideas.
From a standing start though, 16-20 hours of tuition is a good reckoner. , following my ideal model of weekly lessons, that's USUALLY enough to cover a lot of ground and lay down a pretty good foundation skill-set. People doing Intensive DAS courses, can often go from a standing start to getting a licence in that amount of training, though see below, I don't recommend 'Crash-Courses', and candidates will rarely get as MUCH preparation, for their money.
BUT, training to test standard is ONLY the beginning. Once you have that solid foundation skill-set; you are STILL going to be a learner for maybe three years of riding; and as you gain experience, there is a lot you might want to ask about or get advice or instruction on.
So REALLY the answer is, how much do you WANT?
I'm a car driver, so should be easy, just getting used to different controls, right?
It is true there are SOME 'transferable' skills from car driving to riding a motorbike. Yes, you know many of the road conventions, you have some idea of what a clutch does and 'stuff'. But sorry, a LOT of stuff you do in a car can be UNHELPFUL.
Teaching car drivers to ride motorbikes, I have been beleaguered with the same 'problems' over and over again. And the very FIRST one, is that the car driving student really DO think that they know it all already, and its GOING to be 'Easy'. Unresponsive to learning, they ignore advice, question advice, and in the worse cases it can deteriorate into a battle, where they convince themselves that the instructor is an 'idiot' and that not ONLY do they know it all already, they know BETTER than the instructor.
If you approach Motorcycle training with ANY such pre-conceptions, it WILL make learning harder for you, NOT easier. Thinking you know stuff, you will not pay attention when you think you are being told stuff you already know and WILL 'miss' the vital differences, and you will not 'engage' and will miss opportunities to ask questions, and learn more.
But even with the right attitude, some of the engrained 'habits' of driving a car will take a LOT of breaking.
Humorously, on the CBT play-ground, car driving students can go great guns. Knowing what a clutch is, having some empathy for the throttle, they will seem to pick things up pretty quickly. Then come the after-noon, we go out for the on-road element, and ride OFF the artificial environment of the play-ground, and at the very first junction, on real roads.... they fall over. JUST literally STOP and fall over!
Reason is, that while they are on the simulated and 'unusual' environment of the play-ground its all 'new' and they are learning, and they do as they are told, because they have nothing else suggesting what they should do.
But as SOON as they are on a real road, with houses, white lines, road-signs, parked cars, and the usual furniture of the 'road' they are used to, the ingrained 'instinct' of driving a car 'kicks in; and at that first junction, they STOP, and sit there, just like they would in a car.... I even had ONE student once reach down to put the hand-brake on before he toppled!
Because they have forgotten to put their foot down!
Most remember.... eventually... a few before bits of bike touch tarmac, but not all, and its something we can laugh about.
BUT, That is how ENGRAINED these 'reflexes' can be.
The complete newbie, has no such engrained reflexes, and learning 'fresh' has a much easier time, getting to grips with what they have to do, and doing it, consistently.
Here, on road training, the fresh newbie who is likely to have struggled on the play-ground CAN start to shine, while the Car-Driver REALLY starts to struggle.
For the instructor its often very frustrating, because the faults are repetitive. Common ones are remembering to cancel indicators. Bikes don't have self cancelling switches, rider HAS to positively switch them off after a manoeuvre. And we are constantly having to remind Car-Driving students.
Observations are another. In a car, surrounded by metal, drivers use mirrors, they rarely have to move their head and look to the side or behind them. On a bike we HAVE to make a lot MORE observations, and more of them NOT in the mirrors.
Teaching car drivers to ride; "Indicators!" and "Observations!" are reminders constantly worn out over the radio reminding the student to do stuff they have been thought and reminded a hundred times, while they BREAK those car-driving habits.
Other one is braking, engine braking and using the engine revs. Cars don't often have engines that rev as highly as motorbike engines. Particularly diesel cars and small motorbikes. The also don't make the same noises.
A lot of work is done in modern car design to make car cabin's 'quiet', and some I actually have to look at the rev-counter to know the engine is even running! Not so on a bike. They are often noisier to begin with because they are air-cooled and don't have a sound damping water-jacket around them, but then they don't have the metal box and car-board to baffle more sound. So you get it directly.
Then, little motorbike engine, even a fairly low-tuned commuter will probably rev to around 10-11ooo rpm. THAT can sound pretty tortured to some-one used to a Diesel engine that has a governor that limits the revs at maybe 4,500rpm.
But also, way that the engine responds, the way that power increases with revs, to get at the limited power of a small motorbike engine you HAVE to rev them. You need almost ALL of a 125 commuters 10bhp to go 65mph, and it ONLY has that power pretty much at peak revs.
If you 'short shift' changing up at maybe 5,000rpm, as MANY car drivers will, they will get to top gear before they are doing 40mph, but with only maybe 6bhp available at the lowly revs the engine is turning at that speed, it WONT accelerate and go any faster after.
Getting used to 'thrashing' a little engine to get at and USE the power and do speeds needed can again, be a struggle for car-drivers, who find it hard to change and get to grips with the way the engine sounds and pulls.
SO, if you THINK its going to be ANY easier, then you are probably NOT going to find it easy, and more than likely could end up NOT learning and getting frustrated by your 'idiot' instructor 'nagging' the whole time, to look over your shoulder and turn your indicators off, and trying to get you to BRAKE your bikes engine!
If approach learning to ride with an open mind, and DON'T presume to rely on pre-existing knowledge, you are likely to find it 'easier', but maybe NOT as 'easy' as a complete beginner.
Those 'Driver-Reflexes' can be a bitch to break.
We ALL learn differently, we all have pre-existing knowledge and different aptitudes. Having Driving Skills, changes what you need to learn, and how, and helps and it hinders. Its going to be no easier because of it, just different.
I've been riding off-road for years, going to be a walk in the park, isn't it?
See above. What we know before we start learning to ride on the road, makes it DIFFERENT. We cant RELY on it making anything any easier.
When I first started riding on the road, I had had maybe seven years or more dirt experience. I grew up on a farm, so I would come in from school and rather than sit and watch Kids TV, I'd go out and muck about on the bike. I had been competing in School boy trials, and riding along see-saws, over scrap cars, and up the sides of hills where mountain goats would fear to tread. At the age of 13, I was riding a 350 Suzuki and tail sliding it around a scramble-track, steering almost entirely on the throttle without either wheel actually going in the direction it was pointing.
Doing the cones of my 'Part 1' test? Be a doddle, wont it! Actually I FAILED... they don't like you standing up, apparently during a motorbike test, and they prefer BOTH wheels kept on the floor....
Again, you have some pre-existing transferable skills, and on CBT, you ought to more than familiar with the basic machine controls and early manoeuvres.
But once up to road riding, you have little or no advantage, and like a car driver quite a few disadvantages. Riding off-road, is very focussed, you are intent on the terrain ahead of you, picking a path across it, and machine control is almost innate, and devolved to reflex.
On the road, you have to concentrate on and think about a lot more things simultaneously, and be co-ordinated. When I started road riding I was forever fumbling the indicators and pressing the horn, because these were controls I had never had to use before. From trials, my observation was pretty good, but in trials you are looking at 30 yards of 'section' and concentrating on a patch of terrain five feet in front of the front wheel. I had to learn to shift this focus a LOT further up the road, and widen what I was looking at or for, and PREDICT an awful lot more, as in trials, trees don't tend to move very much.... traffic does!
And one of the more difficult habits I had to 'break' was looking at my front wheel, and learning to TRUST it was going where I wanted, without looking at it.
Off-Road riding does tend to develop some very good innate 'reflex' machine control, and this can be an advantage, but at a level that is really NOT all that important for starting out, learning to ride on the road, and passing tests.
I found after moving up to 'Big-Bikes'. riding buddies could get quite perturbed by how I would 'ride through' the bike breaking traction or weaving, wobbling or bouncing about on rougher roads, and remark on it when we stopped. And often they would think I was bull-shitting when I didn't know when or where they were talking about; they could not imagine that I didn't KNOW when the bike was to them, 'skidding'.... but I honestly didn't; couple of decades dirt riding, and reflexes just automatically 'deal with it'.
THIS is something to be aware of. Great to have that degree of innate control, and be able to contend and correct a slide or buck on tarmac without making a drama out of it.... but also VERY easy to ride literally 'on the ragged edge' and NOT even realise, and at some point, you wont pull it back.
On dirt, over cook it? Well, it'll hurt... had too many tumbles to deny it, but for the most part we get up and walk away from them, and nurse a few bruises. Breaking bones is not unheard of, but necks not so often. You CANNOT afford to be so 'blase' on tarmac, even less, PUBLIC tarmac.
Dirt riding is a WONDERFUL confidence builder for a road-rider; but accidents happen when confidence outstrips competence, and that innate 'machine control' is a dangerous bit of confidence to have too much off!
As with car drivers; its no 'easier', its just 'different' learning that will need to be done, and there are almost as many drawbacks to having dirt-experience or car experience as advantages.
What is 'DAS'?
DAS is the Direct Access Scheme. Direct Access, is often thought to be a 'Course' you do instead of the tests. Many Schools advertise these courses, and they can vary in price from a few hundred pounds to a few thousands. Usually conducted over maybe only a few days, these are what is known as 'Intensive' DAS courses. And they are FRAUGHT with perils! But I will come back to that, and explain DAS.
DAS is TWO rules within the testing processes described above. Basically, if you are old enough, 24 years or older, (It was 21 until January 2013, when new EEDirective rules came into force) you can get a full, unrestricted A-Group licence taking the 'Practical' motorcycle tests on an eligible DAS bike. AND in order to practice for those tests, you may, ONLY under supervision of qualified & approved instructor, ride such a machine on the road during lessons.
What DAS is NOT:
- It is NOT a licence.
- It is NOT a 'Course'
- Doing a DAS 'Course' DOES NOT guarantee a licence at the end of it
You DO NOT have to do a DAS course to get a motorbike licence. You CERTAINLY don't have to take an 'Intensive' DAS course to get a licence. Doing a Course is only 'Training', you STILL have to do the EXACT same TESTS as some-one testing on a moped, or a lightweight bike. You do NOT have to make a choice between 'getting a 125' and 'Doing-DAS' the two are NOT exclusive.
- you may PRACTICE for tests on a 'non' Learner-Legal' motorcycle IF supervised by a DAS qualified Instructor.
- you MAY take tests on eligible 'big' bike.
No more, no less.
(Entirely possible to qualify under DAS rules, training up and doing 90% of your practice on a 125, and, provided you can legally get a 'big-bike' to the test centre and provided you can get insurance to ride it, take the tests under DAS on it!)
'Intensive DAS Courses' What's the score?
OK, well, straight away, Rushing is a FAST way to get hurt riding a motorcycle, and modern 'Intensive DAS' courses, more often are conceived to pander to the impatient, looking for 'Quick-Thrills'. There's good reason these are often called 'Crash-Courses'!
HIGHEST DEATH RATE ON THE ROAD, is amongst newly DAS Qualified Riders. Frequently, having driven a car for over ten years, and believing that that experience, and three days, maybe fifteen hours saddle time, probably less than 500 miles riding a motorbike, with the guiding voice of an instructor telling them what to do through an ear-piece, prepares them to jump onto a 600 or 1000cc sports-bike, that would be hard for an experienced and expert rider to appreciate.
Intensive DAS qualified riders, come out of their three, four or five day course, often NO better prepared for the roads, than a CBT Newbie. I call them wun-week-wunders. And as often as not they are a danger to themselves, and every-one around them.
The CBT L-Plater; has one day of VERY basic training in preparation for the roads; but they are limited to a low-powered, light weight machine, and with passenger and motorway restrictions, that at least limit how quick they can get into trouble. But the wun-week-wunder is often hardly any more prepared, yet can get straight onto a bike that can get them into an AWFUL lot of trouble AWFULLY fast!
Big problem of a 'Crash-Course', you have a LOT to learn, and only a VERY short time to learn it, and not a lot of time to practice any of it; so 'Cramming', to get through the test, which is the main object of the courses, the course wont dwell very long on points of technique, or things that aren't essential for tests, and an awful lot will be covered almost by 'rote' without a lot of explanation for the whys and where-fors of what you are taught to do.
So, the DAS Newbie, is likely to come out of their course EITHER convinced that riding a motorbike is 'easy' and having done the course and got the licence, THAT is all there is to it, they know it all, OR they get out on the roads on their own, and bereft of those instructions whispered in their ear, have a mind-meltdown, unable to remember half of what they were taught on the course, or worse, unable to make sense of the half they can remember!
And you REALLY don't get a lot of training for your money on a DAS course. Prices vary hugely, but there is a lot to be packed into a DAS course.
To go from a completely standing start, during the course you HAVE to complete CBT before they can take you out on the road. Having done that, they need to repeat a lot of that, getting you familiar and comfortable and doing the CBT manoeuvres on the 'DAS-Bike'. a 'full' CBT is an eight hour course for a fast learner; many have to 'repeat' and come back for a second days training. Yet in a DAS-Crash-Course, the CBT & 'DAS conversion lessons will often be compressed into one day, to try and get you in the saddle on the big-bike as soon as possible. Then you are into the Road-Training.
I taught 10 week, 125 Test-Courses.. Each lesson approximately two and a half hours long. That's about twenty five hours of actual 'teaching'. But after lesson, candidate goes home. They can practice what has been covered in the lesson to their hearts content, on their own time, on their own bike. Maybe using the bike to go to and from work, or go on longer ride-outs; they have plenty of opportunity to gain a wider range of experience, and make 'sense' of what they are taught 'in' lessons, which offered in small, bite-sized chunks, can be assimilated and made sense of, with ALL that practice to be able to 'nail' points of technique. Its a VERY good way to learn.
On an intensive DAS course; that course is your ONLY ride-time. You have to cram all of your 'practice' into the time you have with the instructor watching you, fulfilling the legal requirement of supervision that lets you be on that bike, on the road. And THAT is probably the BIGGEST part of what you are paying for. An instructor and possibly hire of the DAS-Bike, JUST to let you practice riding.
As a rough reckoner. 1/3 teach-time, 2/3 ride-time, a 1:2 ratio. On 125-Training, We'd ride for ten or fifteen minutes, then have a five minute 'review' of what we'd done. During ride-time, as the instructor, I would be watching to see the student do what they were told, or see what they did on their own aptitude. Then during the review, tell them what they did good, what the did wrong, what they did bad, and what they need to work on & practice. And as they can go away and practice on their own time... onto the next exercise. During a DAS course, we would have to do that practice there and then.
Courses I taught were 10 weeks, or 20-25hours. And that is ALL Teach & Training time. If you have a 3-Day DAS course, you would struggle to get 8 hours a day of instructor time out of that. So you are not going to get the same quantity of imparted information. EVEN if, 'Crammed' you could take it all in THAT fast. Take out a 'Day' of that course to do CBT & DAS familiarisation, you are down to 16 hours of practical instruction. Take out another day for the tests? You are down to ONE DAY, 8hrs of actual useful 'teaching' into which you have to cram three times the 'learning' of a traditional course AND all the practice a student might do outside.
SOMETHING has to 'give' to get a student from a standing start to test standard in such a short space of time. It can get a student through tests and put a licence in their pocket, but it is VERY 'scant' preparation for riding a big bike.
And it is EXPENSIVE.
A Typical 3-Day DAS course would cost around £1000. There are plenty of people advertising courses cheaper, but bear with me.
For that you are renting, typically, a 500cc motorcycle for three days. Checking commercial hire companies, that's worth about £50 a day. That's £150 of your course fee straight away. Looking at commercial hire companies charges though, there's about an extra £10 a day supplemental insurance charge; and that's presuming a qualified rider. School has to pay a 'loaded' rate, any-one riding that bike is going to be a learner. So, £200 of your £1000, course cost 'reasonably' just to put the bike under your bum for it.
You then have to gain your CBT Certificate. I have lost track of DSA charges for these. When you pay for a CBT course, the DSA charge the school for the certificate and for the schools own approvals. Of a £75 CBT course (without bike hire) I think about £30 goes straight on DSA charges. And at the end you have the tests themselves. DSA charge £15.50 for a Mod 1 Test, £75 for a Mod 2. IF your course includes CBT & Tests, over £120 is DSA charges. So, bike and fees, 1/3 of your £1000 course cost.
So, How much is your instructor worth? Chap is a 'professional'; is he worth as much as a plumber? What's their hourly rate? £30 an hour? So, 8 hours, £240 a day.... err HANG ON.... £1000 course, £200 for the bike, £120 for the DSA charges, £720 for Instructor time.... That dont ad up!
No, it doesn't. Motorcycle Instruction is a HUGELY under valued occupation. And even expensive course costs often don't give very much 'margin' for a school to cover costs and overheads, and pay an instructor a living wage, given the overheads of the instructors bike, his DSA approvals and those of the school, and then the bike hire they offer.
When looking at DAS courses, you REALLY need to check the small-print and details to see what you are getting for your money.
Many 'Cheap' courses, you find don't cover the CBT, they don't include the DSA Test Fees, and the school may NOT even include bike hire or insurance in the advertised course price.
I have seen 3-Day DAS courses advertised for as little as £360, but when you dig into the detail' you find that the course doesn't include CBT or DAS conversion, nor the DSA tests at the end, nor does it include bike hire, or insurance; When you total it up, that 'Cheap' 3-day course, has become a five day course, costing nearer £2000.
I have seen other courses, which are 'all inclusive' advertised for maybe £600. Slightly less 'honest', they suggest that this includes the CBT & Test fees, as well as bike hire. BUT, the catch is that once you have booked the course, KNOWING that its a hugely ambitious remit to train some-one to test standard in such a short space of time, they will either 'stretch' the course, suggesting that the candidate isn't ready for test, and 'extra days' turn out to not have the discounted 'offer-price'. Or the school don't offer extra days, and if you don't pass tests first time round, you have to book an entire repeat course.
FAILING DAS can get VERY VERY expensive. And as said. The tests are administered by the DSA not the School, there is NO guarantee they will pass you.
A LOT of people are sold DAS courses convinced that because they are over 24 years old they HAVE to do DAS, or that some-how its a 'waste of time' training on a 125 and taking the 125 tests, because you don't get the same licence. OR naively believe that a DAS course will pay for itself, because they wont have to buy a 125.
IF you have been on the road, and learned to ride a 125 on L-Plates, and have maybe got two years RECENT experience under your belt, then an intensive DAS course MAY be a useful tool to get a licence. Its a little bit of 'Brushing Up' and getting a few test tips, and some familiarisation of the bigger bike. And gets you the unrestricted licence. BUT it costs, and IF you had that experience, you could probably get as MUCH 'Brushing Up' doing maybe just half a days training on your 125 and pass tests on that.
If you are coming in 'Cold'; having never ridden before, or ridden a 'bit' maybe many years ago, or in a different country. Well, best not to rely on any pre-existing knowledge. Three, even FIVE days of DAS-Crash-Course? Its NOT a lot to cover everything you need to, even JUST to pass tests, let alone prepare you for the kind of bikes you would be qualified to ride straight away. And it is very expensive. If you DON'T pick it up straight away and progress quickly, those costs will rapidly start escalating. Fail tests? They will escalate a HECK of a lot more.
Remember, Rushing is a FAST way to get hurt on a motorbike. If you know NOTHING, then 'Time on a tiddler is Rarely Wasted' (see 125's, Are they worth it?) . Idea that an Expensive DAS course saves 'wasting' money on a 125 is often fools economy.
125's hold their value well. If you buy one, you can usually sell on within a year for pretty much what you paid for it. Only costs you the Petrol & insurance, basically. THAT can be a LOT less than the hire fees for a DAS bike on a 3-Day course. And you can get as MUCH 'Practice' in on it as you like, working at your OWN rate, NOT having to pay to have an instructor do no more than watch you wobble, fulfilling legal requirement to supervise while you are on a DAS Bike.
It's cheap, its fun, and it takes away an AWFUL lot of the 'stress' of 'cramming' for the tests and taking it all in in one go. 125's are very good at helping new riders lay down a really good foundation skill-set of machine control, and you can do 90% of your learning on one, and IF you want to 'do-DAS' nothing stopping you. JUST because you have bought a 125 and used it maybe for some training, and practice, there is NOTHING that says you HAVE to take your tests on it.
You can STILL do an intensive DAS course after, and be MUCH more likely not to struggle on it, and more likely to pass tests. And you may not even need a full course. Just a conversion lesson, and maybe a familiarisation 'lesson' just before the tests themselves.
Book a DAS course straight off, though, very easy to spend the money that might have bought you a 125 and at the end of it, have neither bike, nor licence nor money.
DAS is NOT inherently evil; BUT, 'Intensive-DAS-Crash-Courses' are FRAUGHT with danger. CAN be useful, but you have to know what you are getting into and use them right and use them to your advantage, NOT your detriment.