I’ve recently been inundated with questions about the UK’s motorcycle licencing laws, and I can totally understand why. The system isn’t particularly straightforward, and it can be intimidating for newcomers. But don't worry, girls! Below is a quick(ish) guide to help you understand all the different licence options. So, if you’re interested in getting started on two wheels, keep reading!
Getting your DL196 certificate is a quick and easy way to start your motorcycling journey and is the route that I personally recommend to those looking to get a taste of biking (without the commitment of getting your full motorcycle licence straight away).
Once you’ve successfully completed your CBT*, you’ll receive the DL196 certificate which is valid for two years. If you’re 16 years old, you’ll be entitled to ride a moped up to 50cc with a power output of up to 4kw, with L plates. If you’re over of 16, you’ll be entitled to ride a moped or motorcycle up to 125cc with a power output of up to 11kw, with L plates. However regardless of your age, you’re not allowed to ride on motorways or carry passengers.
Before your DL196 certificate expires, you can decide between taking the CBT course again and receiving a new DL196 certificate (valid for another two years) or booking additional training to undertake your theory and practical exams for a full motorcycle or moped licence.
*CBT (compulsory basic training) is a mandatory requirement you must have before you ride any moped, scooter or motorcycle on the road. You must also hold a provisional Category A licence. For further details check out my CBT blog post:
The AM licence is a great option for younger riders that want to ride small capacity motorcycles or mopeds without those pesky L plates.
To get yourself an AM Licence, you must complete a theory test and a two-part practical test. These can be taken from the age of 16, after you have completed your CBT. With an AM licence, you can ride mopeds with a speed range of between 15.5mph and 28mph. In addition to not needing to display L plates on your bike, you may also carry a passenger (although I’m not sure you’d want to with a max speed of 28mph!)
Now we’ll be moving on to the different types of ‘A’ category licences (btw, did I mention this can get confusing?)
Firstly, let me start by saying that the tests for these ‘A’ licences are all the same, the only difference is the capacity (or engine size) of the bike you’ll be taking the tests on. There's also some rules surrounding your age and how long you’ve been riding motorcycles for, just to make things a bit more complicated… 🤦
A1 licence tests are taken on a 120cc to 125cc motorcycle, which may go up to 55mph or have an 11kw maximum output, and you must be at least 17 years old. You also need to have taken your CBT and passed the motorcycle theory test.
As an A1 licence holder, you can ride motorcycles up to 125cc, with an 11kw maximum output. You can ride without L plates, carry passengers, and travel on motorways without restriction. Once you’ve held your A1 Licence for two years, you can opt to take your practical test in order to obtain an A2 licence.
The A2 licence provides a lot more freedom when compared to the A1, although it isn’t completely unrestricted. This licence is perfect for those who aren’t old enough to apply for an A licence or prefer riding a smaller to medium capacity motorcycle.
To apply for an A2 licence you must:
be at least 19 years old
have held an A1 licence for two years OR
have a valid DL196 certificate and passed the motorcycle theory test
The A2 tests must be completed on a minimum 245cc motorcycle with a power output of between 20kw (27bhp) and 35kw (47bhp). Once you’ve gained your A2 licence, you can actually ride a motorcycle of any cc, however it must be restricted to no more than 35kw (47bhp).
A major benefit to getting the A2 licence is that is speeds up the process of gaining your full unrestricted A licence, because once you’ve held your A2 license for two years, you can immediately go for your full category A license without needing to wait until you turn 24.
The final boss of motorcycle licences, the A licence is the full, completely unrestricted motorcycle licence here in the UK. Just like the A2 licence, there are two ways to get yourself an A licence dependant on your riding experience.
You can undergo what’s known as ‘Direct Access’ which is a four-stage process. Pass your CBT, motorcycle theory test and Module 1 and Module 2 practical tests and you’ll bag yourself an A licence. However, you must be at least 24 years old and pass the practical tests on at least a 40kw or 54bhp motorcycle that’s above 595cc.
Alternatively, if you’ve been riding on an A2 licence for more than two years you can take the practical test for an A licence without having to sit the theory test again. Unlike Direct Access, this route allows for 21-year-olds to hold this licence, but you’ll still need to pass the practical test on at least a 40kw or 54bhp motorcycle that is above 595cc.
Once you’ve been awarded an A licence, you can ride motorcycles of any capacity. This can be with a pillion passenger or sidecar, and gives you access to motorways. Heck, you can even ride a trike if that’s your thing!
Still confused about which licence is right for you? If that’s the case, let me give you my opinion...
Regardless of your age, if you’re interested in getting into motorcycling I highly recommend taking the CBT course and obtaining your DL196 certificate to begin with. It’s by far, the quickest and easiest way to get into biking and costs a fraction of the price when compared to the other options.
And yes, I know that means you can only ride up to a 125cc bike, but getting your chops on a little bike is sooooo FUN! Take it from me, I loved my 125 and having a bike that’s lightweight and gets seriously good MPG is a bonus too. Plus, if/when you decide to apply for an A licence, you shouldn’t need as many hours of tuition to get up to test standard as you’ll already be used to riding and the rules of the road.
Now, is that to say that you shouldn’t dive straight in and apply for that full A licence? Hell no! What I want you guys to take away from this post is that you should go for whatever you feel comfortable with. If you think you’ve got what it takes to go from zero to full licence holder, then go for the Direct Access route. If you’re between the ages of 17 and 24, check out the other options listed above and decide what’s best for you depending on the type of motorcycle you want to ride.
Lastly before I go, I realise that I’ve kinda skimmed over the tests here. However, I’ve already written four different blog posts covering CBT, the motorcycle theory test, Module 1 and Module 2. These posts cover all the different elements of these tests and how to prepare for them (so check out the links down below!)
As always, any comments or suggestions I would love to hear so please pop them down below.
Stay safe and happy riding!