If you live in the UK the quickest and easiest way to get yourself onto two wheels is by taking what’s known as ‘Compulsory Basic Training’ (or CBT for short). The CBT course is a one day training programme which covers elements of theory but mainly focuses on teaching you how to ride and control a motorcycle and how to ride safely on the road.
The CBT isn’t a test as such, however at the end of the course the instructor will award you with a certificate of completion and they will only do so if they feel that you aren’t going to be a potential danger on the road. Once you’ve completed the CBT and received your certificate it will allow you to ride up to a 125cc/11KW/14.7 BHP motorcycle on the road with L plates for two years. When it expires you either retake the CBT or you might decide to take your A1 or A2 tests which will allow you to ride more powerful motorbikes.
If you’re interested in learning how to ride a motorcycle (but aren’t 100% sure if it’s going to be right for you in the long run) the CBT course is a great option as it’s relatively simple and inexpensive costing around £130. Although it’s designed for beginners and your instructor probably won’t have any expectations about your knowledge or skill level, it’s always a good idea to do a little bit of research beforehand so that you’re well prepared and feeling confident on the day. So let’s run through what you’ll be doing during your CBT and my tips and tricks to help you get that certificate first time around.
If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before I would highly recommend that you go for at least one lesson at a reputable riding school before taking your CBT. Even though the course is designed for newbies I have heard stories from people that have not received their certificate at the end of the training, all of which have come from people that had never ridden a motorcycle before.
During the lesson the instructor should take you through all the important parts of the bike and how they work. These questions will come up during the CBT so it’s a really good start if you already know a few of the answers. Understanding how to control the clutch and change gears is probably one of the trickiest parts about learning to ride so if you know you’ve got that down before you go for your CBT you’ll feel way more confident and it’ll probably take a bit of the pressure off too.
As someone that suffers from pretty severe exam anxiety I decided to do this and within the first hour of the lesson I was riding around the training centre, changing gears and having the time of my life (seriously my cheeks hurt from smiling the whole time, I must have looked insane). The instructor told me after that I would be ready to take the CBT straight away and the whole experience made me feel ten times more confident so it was definitely a good investment.
I’m the type that doesn’t really enjoy surprises and I wanted to know exactly what to expect on the day so I watched a lot of content on YouTube of people taking their CBT in preparation. There are some great videos out there showing you the whole process and these really helped to put my mind at ease so I’ll link some of my favourites at the end of this post for you.
In terms of riding gear (helmet/gloves/jacket etc.) the school that delivers your training should be able to lend all of these to you; however I personally preferred to use my own as I decided to purchase everything beforehand. They won’t necessarily expect you have armoured trousers and riding boots, but they will ask that you wear sensible trousers and sturdy shoes(some jeans and Dr.Martens style boots should be fine). The school I used actually sent me a list of what to (and what not to) wear so I’m sure if you ask yours they’ll be more than happy to advise you.
If you do decide to buy some gear before taking your CBT make sure to check out my helmet buying guide and shopping for women’s motorcycle gear posts for some advice!
On the Day
The CBT takes between five and eight hours to complete so it’s a wise idea to make sure you get a good night’s sleep and avoid using alcohol or drugs the night before. Have a decent breakfast and make sure to bring plenty of food and water with you as the school you go to might not have a café or canteen on site.
If you’re taking your CBT in the summertime make sure to apply plenty of sunscreen and bring it with you so you can reapply (I did my CBT last July and got horrendously sunburnt even though I was wearing factor 50 so trust me on this one). Likewise if you’re doing it in the colder months ensure to layer up so you don’t get too chilly. Finally, make sure to bring all the required documents (like your provisional licence) with you. Again, the school you use should tell you what you need to bring and if you’re unsure just ask them.
How the CBT Works
The CBT is split into five sections. The first section is a check to make sure you have correct licence, a quick eye test (you’ll be asked to read a number plate from 20.5 metres) and then you’ll have a chat with the instructor about motorcycle clothing including the legal requirements.
The second section is an introduction to the motorcycle. You’ll be shown the controls and their functions and learn how to twist the throttle, pull the clutch and brake levers and how to change gears with your foot. It feels a little weird at first, but once you’ve got it it’s easy peasy (I promise).
You’ll also learn how to manoeuvre the bike around safely, how to put it on and off the stand and starting and stopping the engine. Finally you’ll go through some basic regular safety checks such as checking the chain and sprockets, brakes, engine oil level, lights, tyres and steering.
The third section will get you riding off road in a safe, controlled environment (usually riding schools have a plot that’s cordoned off from the general public for you to practice on) . They’ll show you how to set off and slow down, change gears, steer and stop. If you’ve been to a lesson beforehand then you’ll have probably had a go at this already but either way it shouldn’t take you too long to pick it up. If you can ride a bicycle then you’re already half way there!
During the third section the instructor will set up some cones and ask you do figure of eights and slaloms around them until you’re confident. They’ll then set some mock junctions and show you how to deal with these safely and effectively. The instructor will ask you to practice these a few times until they are happy with your riding.
For the fourth section of the CBT you’ll go back to the classroom for a short session which covers identifying and dealing with hazards before you head out on to public roads. Once you have completed sections one to four and the instructor is satisfied that you’re ready you’ll move onto the final section of the CBT which is the on-road lesson (part 5).
The on-road section of the CBT lasts for a minimum of two hours and you’ll be using a radio to keep in contact with your instructor. You’ll be provided with some headphones and the instructor will give you instructions throughout the ride (don’t worry they won’t be able to hear you, it’s just so they can tell you where you’re going and anything they want you to do). Usually the instructor will start off by taking you around some quiet residential roads to build up your confidence a bit before heading out towards busier and more built up areas.
The ride covers all common types of roads and is designed to encounter different hazards so expect to do a hill start, some U-turns, various speed limits, roundabouts, traffic lights and junctions. You’ll begin by following the instructor and eventually they’ll ask you to move in front of them and lead the way. They’ll probably ask you to change positions a few times as you’ll be taking the CBT in a group (there’s normally between two and four students) and they need to give everyone a chance to go in front.
Something important to remember here is that this isn’t like the driving test or the tests you’ll need to do to get your full motorcycle licence. It’s okay if you make mistakes and you aren’t going to be marked down or given a minor if you do something wrong. The purpose of the CBT is really to ensure that you aren’t going to put yourself or others in danger, so if you stall or take a wrong turn you aren’t going to fail.
During my CBT I got separated from my group as I took a wrong turn, then I panicked and parked up on some double yellows as I didn’t know where else to go. The instructor circled back round to find me, explained where I’d gone wrong and what to do next time and that was it, no big deal!
At the end of the day you’ll head back to the school and the instructor will let you know if they’re going to award you with your CBT certificate. If you're successful the instructor will need to fill out a few forms but you’ll then be able to leave with your certificate in hand and start riding straight away. A quick side note, the CBT certificate allows you to ride on public roads however you can’t carry passengers or use motorways until you pass your full test (dual carriageways are okay though).
Personally I felt very lucky as the instructor I had for my CBT was absolutely amazing (Sue if you’re reading this you’re the best!) She made me feel really comfortable and gave me a lot of reassurance on the day, she told me stories about taking her test and how nervous she was. She just had a great attitude and was really calm and patient with us, and I could tell that she wanted us to pass. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
I understand that some of you might feel more comfortable with a female instructor and although they may be a little harder to come by they are definitely out there so don’t be afraid to ask your school if there’s one available. If you decide to go for a lesson beforehand and you like the instructor you had you can always ask if you can book the CBT with them too, at the end of the day it’s your money and if it’s going to make you feel more confident then why not?!
And there we have it! CBT? Completed it mate.
If you do have any questions please leave a comment down below or drop me an email and I’ll be more than happy to answer them.
As always keep safe and happy riding!
P.S here are some CBT videos that I found helpful 😊