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How to Get Your Dirt Bike Licence in the UK

Vic Womersley November 16, 2023

Imagine the thrill of flashing through rugged terrain on two wheels with your adrenaline pumping and mud flying. It’s an adventure many are keen to begin. But the trail to off-road exploration can seem as twisted and tangled as the gnarly track you’re keen to tackle. So, do you need a dirt bike licence in the UK to chase that exhilarating rush?

The answer is as varied as the off-road terrain you’re keen to explore. UK motorcycle licencing laws can be tricky to follow. When it comes to riding off-road, those laws can seem even trickier. The rules, age requirements, and even the power limitations seem to twist and turn with switchbacks and unexpected hurdles along the way.

This blog untangles the mystery of getting your UK dirt bike licence. We’ll set you straight on the differences between a UK dirt bike licence and its on-road counterpart. By the time we’re done, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to confidently embark on your off-road journey, all while staying firmly within the bounds of the law. Ready to rev up your excitement? 

Do you need a licence for dirt biking in the UK?

The quick answer is probably. And in most cases, that probably will turn into a definite yes. Just like there are several different routes to getting a UK motorcycle licence, there are a few different ways to legally ride off-road on a dirt bike.

If you’re riding on private land without access to public roads and with no intention of going anywhere near the many Green Lanes, public paths or roads, you’re allowed to ride without a licence. Of course, you MUST have the permission of the landowner before you start kicking up the dirt on their property! If you’ve got that, a bike you can handle, and the right safety gear, you’ll be good to go.

UK dirt bike racing licence requirements

Fancy racing around a motocross track or trying an enduro challenge? You’ll likely need a licence from the Auto-Cycle Union (ACU). You can be as young as six to get an ACU licence. It doesn’t let you legally ride on UK roads and there are some other restrictions too.

If you don’t want to race, you may be able to ride on the ACU tracks without a licence. In most cases, you’ll need to have a membership for the track or club or pay an event fee for the day.

Dirt bike licence vs. motorcycle licence UK

A dirt bike licence in the UK is the same as a motorcycle licence for the road. There is no off-road motorcycle licence that allows you to legally ride on all off-road trails but not public roads. This is because off-road trails – the BOATs and Green Lanes around the UK are considered to be public highways, they’re just not paved or maintained. The chart below shows on and off-road licence requirements.

Type of road/trailMinimum licence
Private land without public road accessNo licence 
Motocross racing trackACU licence or membership
ACU enduro trail (racing)ACU licence or membership
ACU tracks and trails (not racing)ACU membership or event ticket
Green Lanes (BOATs), B roads and A roadsCBT certificate (125cc) or A2 licence for 250cc)
All UK public roads including motorwaysA1 licence (125cc) or A2 licence for 250cc

Is a CBT necessary for a dirt bike licence in the UK?

Because there is no specific dirt-bike-only licence, the first step to legally riding on all of the UK’s Green Lanes is getting your Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) certificate.

The youngest you can be to train for your CBT certificate is 16 years. This certificate allows you to carry on improving your motorcycling skills — on or off-road — for two years. Once those two years are up, you’ll need to either re-take your CBT certificate training or train for a higher-level motorcycle licence. See below table

Can the police take your dirt bike?

To ride on any public road in the UK, you need to have a valid licence for the vehicle or machine you’re in control of. In some cases, you can legally ride a dirt bike on private land without a licence, but you need to be super careful. For example, if you were riding unlicensed on private land and rode your dirt bike across a public road to access a different private field, you’d technically be breaking the law. In a situation like this, you could be charged for unlicenced riding and the police may seize your dirt bike.

To avoid having your dirt bike confiscated, or breaking the UK road and licencing laws, it’s important to make sure you have the correct level of licence for the machine you are riding in the area you are riding it.

What are the UK dirt bike licence restrictions?

Because there are no specific UK dirt bike licences, the age and power restrictions are exactly the same as motorcycle licence restrictions. Below you can see which kind of bike you can ride, depending on your age and the motorcycle licence you hold.

Motorcycle licence levels, ages and power restrictions



Licence Type


Minimum Age

Size of training bike


Licence requirements
Size of bike you can ride after passing training

CBT

16

Up to 125cc

Provisional or full UK driving licence

Up to 125cc
AM16+50ccCompulsory Basic Training (CBT), theory test, practical test on an all powered 2-wheeled moped.50cc
A117 to 19+125ccCompulsory Basic Training (CBT), theory test, practical test125cc
A219 to 24+500ccCompulsory Basic Training (CBT), theory test, practical test on an all-powered 2-wheeled moped.35Kw (approx. 550 – 600cc)
A (full motorcycle licence)24 + (or after holding an A2 licence for a minimum of 2 years)600 ccTheory and practical test (CBT must have already been obtained to complete these tests) or 2 years’ experience on A1 motorbike and a practical testAny sized bike

Getting a UK motorcycle licence for dirt biking

It’s the same process to get a licence to ride off-road as it is for riding on the road. If you’re starting out at 16 years of age, you’ll get your CBT certificate. The course lasts for about a day and you’ll be able to ride a 50cc motorcycle or scooter on all UK roads (except for motorways) once you’re certified. 125cc if over 17

If you’d like to level up the power, you need to wait for your 19th birthday. Then you can test for a restricted A2 motorcycle licence. As you get a little older, you’ll be able to train and test for an unrestricted motorcycle licence that lets you ride more powerful machines.

Starting your motorcycle or dirt bike journey when you’re a little older, makes the process a little faster. You’ll still start by gaining your CBT certification. Once you have that, you can take a Direct Access Scheme (DAS) training day. That teaches you to control the highest powered motorcycle possible for your age. So if you’re 24 years old, or older, you’ll be able to go straight from a CBT certificate to a full unrestricted A-level licence.

The thrill of riding a motorcycle on the road is quite different to riding off-road. We encourage riders to start their off-road journey with a trail riding day. Phoenix Trails takes riders with A2 or full unrestricted motorcycle licences and teaches them the skills they need for a great day on some of the UK’s best dirt biking trails.

To chase the thrill of an off-road adventure and feel the exhilaration of rounding out your motorcycling skills with an off-road experience, book a day with Phoenix Trails and unleash your inner adventurer! It’s a great way to add some dirt bike credibility to your UK motorcycle licence.

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