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Age and power restrictions for UK motorcycle licences

Jas Murphy November 26, 2020

Getting a motorcycle licence can seem a complicated process. Particularly when compared to a driving licence for a car. Whether you choose the progressive route and start by getting your CBT at age 16, or go with a Direct Access course when you’re a little older, the licence level you achieve will affect the power of the bike you can legally ride. Today, we’re going to dive into the age and power restrictions for UK motorcycle licences. You’ll also find some details on what you can expect from each power category.

Compulsory basic training (CBT) – Where it all begins

Most people need to start with their compulsory basic training. This certifies that they know enough of the basics to keep practising their motorcycle skills on the road. Riding on motorways and carrying pillion passengers are not allowed. The youngest you can take this training and be let loose on public roads is 15 years and 9 months of age. You’ll also need a provisional driving licence or higher. Power restrictions for 16 – 17 year olds who have their DL196 certificate are the lowest of all. You’ll be looking for a motorbike that has a top speed of roughly 28mph and a power rating of 50cc.

If you’re older than 17 and have your DL196 certificate, you can ride a slightly higher powered motorcycle or moped – 125cc’s is the limit. Most motorcyclists would advise looking for a second-hand motorbike for your first set of wheels. There are some pretty nice lower powered bikes out there whether the moped or motorcycle is new or pre-loved.

Level up – A1 motorcycle licence age and power restrictions

After riding for a year or so on your DL196 certificate or taking some advanced courses to improve your skill faster, your next step on the progressive route is the A1 licence. Older riders, and by that we mean 24 years or more, can skip straight to a full A level licence. The earliest you can sit the test for the A1 motorcycle licence is 17 years of age. With this licence level, you can ditch the L plates, use the motorways and carry a pillion. If choosing to do the latter, it’s worth taking a course before you take someone’s life in your hands. Power restrictions sit at 125cc, ages for this licence range from 17 to 19 years old. You’ll find the top speed for these bikes is somewhere around 70mph and acceleration is pretty snappy too. There’s a fairly wide choice for style, 125cc’s come in sports, cruisers and street bikes.

A2 motorcycle licences

If you’re in your early twenties and decided to take up riding a motorbike, it’s likely you’ll be aiming for an A2 licence. Similar to the above mentioned A1 licence, you’ll have the freedom to take to the motorway and carry a friend along too. We’d still recommend learning the ins and outs of carrying a pillion passenger as it’s a big responsibility. With age comes a little more freedom and this licence level is no different. You’ll be looking for motorbikes that are somewhere around the 550 – 600cc mark. Your test will be taken on a bike that is no less than 395cc. It’s a big jump and the range of bikes available can be a little confusing. Especially as it’s not just about the power; it’s the power to weight ratio. In this case, that’s no more than 0.2Kw of power per kilo.

The peak of motorcycle licencing – the A licence

If you’ve been stepping up the motorcycle licence levels since you were almost 16, you can go for your full unrestricted motorcycle licence at the age of 21. The rest of us who were a little slow to realise we were made for two wheels must be 24 or older. Tests for full licences are carried out on motorbikes with a minimum power level of 595cc’s. It’s also worth noting here that while you can’t test on a lower-powered motorbike, neither can you practice on a bike with this much grunt unless you are accompanied by a qualified and DSA approved motorcycle instructor. Once you hold a full unrestricted motorcycle licence, the world of motorbikes is your oyster. If you’ve always dreamed of riding a classic 1200cc Harley, this is the licence you’ll need to do it.

A higher-powered bike doesn’t necessarily mean more fun. Lots of us get our A2 licence, or even an A1, and are happy with our motorbikes. There is no obligation to climb the motorcycle licence ladder as you get older. If the bike you’re riding meets your needs and gets you efficiently from A to B there’s no shame with sticking where you are. The best bikes aren’t the fastest or the most powerful, they’re the ones that give you the most pleasure and are reliable, cost-effective machines.

Do I have to progress through the different motorcycle licence levels as I age?

No. Once you have achieved any level of motorcycle licence, you are able to continue riding on that licence and sticking to the relevant powered motorcycle or moped as long as you keep your licence valid with regular renewals (every ten years until you are 70 years old and then you must self-certify your fitness to still ride every 3 years after the age of 70).


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