Male on motor bike with black helmet on, visor up.

Bike beginners guide

Whether you want a motorbike to commute to work or you just want to experience the thrill of riding on the open road, there are many reasons to take up biking. As well as offering great deals on motorbike insurance, we've also put together a comprehensive guide to help you get started on the road.

What type of licence do I need to ride a motorbike?

To be eligible to drive a motorbike, you need to have a valid licence – you must be at least 17 years old (or 16 if you will be riding a moped) and have passed the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course.

A licence can be any of the following:

  1. A full moped licence and a CBT.
  2. A provisional motorbike licence and a CBT.
  3. A full car licence obtained prior to February 2001 will allow you to ride a 50cc moped.
  4. A full motorbike licence.

A provisional licence and a CBT will entitle you to ride any motorbike up to 125cc, that has a maximum power output of 11kW (that's 14.6 brake horsepower).

If riding a motorbike that exceeds 125cc with a provisional licence and CBT you must always be accompanied by an approved instructor or on another motorcycle in radio contact and have L-Plates (or D plates in Wales) clearly visible. While learning to ride your motorbike you are not permitted to ride on motorways or carry pillion passengers.

How do I get a provisional licence for motorbike riding?

There are a number of ways you can apply for a provisional licence. If you have internet access, you can apply online. Alternatively you can apply for your provisional driving licence by completing the D1 application form, available from the DVLA form ordering service or any Post Office® branch. You will need to enclose original documentation confirming your identity, a passport style colour photograph and the fee of £50.00.

What's the CBT (Compulsory Basic Training)?

Unless you obtained a full car licence before February 2001, you will need to complete a Compulsory Basic Training course if you want to ride a motorbike or moped. A moped is classed as any bike that is below 50cc and does not exceed 50kph (which is about 31 miles per hour).

The CBT course involves on-site training and riding as well as driving on the road with the help of a trained guide. Your motorbike instructor will take you through each stage once you have demonstrated basic safety skills at a level they are satisfied with.

Once these have been completed, you will be issued with a certificate (DL196). This will last for up to 2 years – if you do not pass your theory or practical motorbike test in this time you will need to re-take your CBT course.

How do I get a full motorbike licence?

There are two stages you need to complete to obtain a full motorbike licence — the theory test and the practical test. The theory test is made up of multiple choice questions and a hazard perception test. You have to pass both sections in order to be successful. If you fail one but pass the other, you will need to re-take both sections before you obtain your full motorbike licence.

Multiple choice test

The multiple choice test consists of 50 questions specific to motorbike riding that must be completed in just under an hour. Once the multiple choice test is completed you will be given your results straight away. If you don't pass on your first attempt, you can re-sit the test at a later time.

Books including the Highway Code are readily available both in bookstores and online and can help prepare you to pass the multiple choice test and obtain your motorbike licence.

The hazard perception test

The hazard perception test takes roughly 15 minutes and consists of short videos of motoring, filmed from the rider's angle. The clips contain a number of hazards which you must identify in order to pass the test, with the sooner a response is made the higher the score. There is a possible score of 75 and you need to score at least 44 in order to pass this portion of the test.

Good preparation is the key to passing this test – you can find materials and practice tests online to help aid studying.

Module 1 (off road manoeuvres)

After passing your theory test, you must pass2 modules before you will receive your full motorbike licence. Module 1 will take place in a test centre and you must be able to provide your CBT certificate (DL196), your pass certificate for your theory test and your provisional licence. Your motorbike or moped must have a valid MOT, be fitted with L plates and be fully insured.

You will be asked to complete a series of manoeuvres on your motorbike, such as riding slowly to demonstrate control and an emergency stop.

The off road test should last about half an hour and your examiner will tell you straight away if you have passed. If you fail, you have to wait a minimum of 3 working days before you can retake the test.

Module 2 (on road riding)

In Module 2 you will be riding your motorbike on real roads. Your examiner will fit you with a headset so he can communicate his directions during the test.

Before you start, your eyesight will be tested and you will be asked a couple of safety questions about your bike. You will then be taken out on your motorbike for approximately 40 minutes and asked to demonstrate a number of manoeuvres, such as a hill start or slow riding to show you have control of the motorbike.

You will not be expected to score 100%, however you're only allowed to make a number of minor faults to pass. The instructor will be looking for confident, safe riding where you comply with correct road procedure.

Once you are back at the test centre, your examiner will advise you if you have passed or failed and what steps to take from there. For further information about riding your motorbike, visit

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