Essentials for riding a motorbike

A range of useful information which could help to save lives.

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  • Learning and test information

  • Helmets and equipment

  • Key safety tips

  • Info on the new rules

The best way to ride a motorbike is safely

Motorcyclists are vulnerable to serious or even fatal injuries if involved in a collision on our roads. Whether it’s learning, choosing equipment or riding on the road – safety has to be at the heart of everything you do.

What you need to know

  • The law has changed priorities for road users – including motorcycle riders
  • With motorbikes, the level of learning and testing varies
  • The right equipment is essential
  • Riding safely on the road can save lives
  • Further training can be useful

Important new rules

  • There’s now a new hierarchy of road users
  • Those who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility
  • Drivers and riders have to give way to pedestrians crossing a road
  • Pedestrians and cyclists have priority when turning in and out of junctions
  • Drivers and riders need to give plenty of space when passing others. At least:
    • 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at up to 30mph
    • 2 metres and under 10mph for horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles
    • 2 metres and a low speed when passing pedestrians walking on a road
  • Cyclists can ride in the centre of the lane, or two side-by-side for their own safety
  • In a vehicle, the door should be opened with the hand furthest from the door, helping to make drivers look over their shoulder to see cyclists or pedestrians nearby

What kind of motorbike can you ride?

  • You’ll need a provisional entitlement for motorcycles or mopeds on your licence
  • Different licences let you ride certain machines
Licence Category Minimum Age Type of Bike
AM 16  Moped (25km/h to 45 km/h)
A1 17 Motorcycle up to 11kw / 125cc
A2 19 Motorcycle up to 35kw
A 24 or 21 if Unrestricted Motorcycle

Progressive access
Read more about riding a motorcycle, moped or motor tricycle and licence

Learning to ride a motorbike or moped

  • You usually need to take Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) to ride a moped or motorcycle
  • This gives you experience and practice for your moped or motorbike test
  • You don’t pass or fail CBT
  • A trainer will assess your competence to ride safely

How CBT works

There are five parts to the module.

  • Introduction and eyesight check

  • On-site training

  • On-site riding

  • On-road training

  • On-road riding

When you don’t need CBT

You can still ride without basic training if you:

  • Want to ride a moped (up to 50cc) and passed your car driving test before 1 February 2001
  • Want to ride a motorbike and have a full moped licence from a test since 1 December 1990
  • Have a full motorcycle licence for one category and want to upgrade to another
  • Live and ride on some offshore islands

The theory test

You’ll need a provisional motorcycle licence to book your test. Here are the key facts on the theory test

  • It costs £23
  • The test’s made up of 50 multiple choice questions to be answered in 57 minutes
  • You need 43/50 to pass
  • It includes a Hazard Perception Test – where you have to spot developing hazards in 14 different scenarios
  • The pass mark for this part is 44/75
  • You’ll need to pass both sections to get your theory certificate
  • This is valid for two years, during which time you need to pass your practical motorcycle tests
  • If you don’t, you’ll have to pass your theory again
  • If you have a reading difficulty, disability or health condition, let the booking agent know when you book the test


You’ll have to take a theory test, unless you passed a moped test after 1 July 1996, and want to:
Take the motorcycle test on a category A1 small motorcycle
Upgrade your motorcycle licence under the ‘progressive access’ rules.

The practical test

This two-part test can be booked at the same time, or separately. However, if you book at the same time and fail Module 1, you can’t go on and do the Module 2 test.

Module 1

  • Costs £15.50 and takes place in an off-road area
  • You’ll do various exercises which last around 20 minutes
  • No major faults and 5 or less minors will be enough to pass and progress to Module 2

Module 2

  • Costs £75, take place on-road and the test last around 40 minutes
  • It’ll include an an eyesight test and two ‘show me, tell me’ questions
  • You’ll get directions via a radio with the examiner following on a motorbike or car
  • On the road you’ll be asked to carry out various exercises
  • You’ll have 10 minutes of independent riding

Motorbike helmets save lives

Make sure your helmet meets British safety standards.

Remember, there are different helmets to suit various styles of riding. When buying one, you should:

  • Always try before you buy
  • Get the right fit and make sure it’s comfortable
  • Make your choice based on safety
  • Vibrant colours help to make you more conspicuous
  • Make sure you are aware of the latest helmet safety ratings

Helmet care

  • Looking after your motorbike helmet is vital
  • They have an average life of around 5 years, even without serious damage
  • Regularly clean it using the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Keep it in a helmet bag – somewhere it won’t be knocked or dropped
  • Visors should be cleaned regularly too
  • And replaced if they become scratched
  • Tinted visors of up to 50% are fine during the day
  • Take a clear visor too, in case the light conditions change

The right clothes matter

Wearing the proper clothing helps protect you against the elements and can also reduce the severity of some injuries in the event that you come off your bike. Different materials offer a choice to suit your style and the conditions.

Here are some items you’ll need:

  • Motorcycle boots or sturdy footwear that gives support and ankle protection
  • Heavy denim or leather motorbike trousers
  • A textile or leather motorbike jacket in a bright colour
  • A heated jacket can help to increase rider comfort in winter
  • A heavy denim jacket with layers can be an option
  • For greater protection, you can buy clothes with in-built armour
  • Plus, some items now come with built-in airbag technology
  • Motorcycle gloves can be heavier for winter and lighter for summer

Riding safely

Riding a motorbike can be exhilarating but, it can be more risky as you naturally have less protection than in a car. Here are some tips to help you enjoy riding safely.

  • Ride within your capabilities and never too fast for the conditions
  • Avoid harsh acceleration and excessive braking
  • Try to anticipate other road users actions
  • Look out for hazards like loose gravel, fuel spills or potholes
  • Position your bike for the best view around left and right hand bends
  • Only overtake if you can see ahead and it’s safe
  • When filtering through traffic, keep your speed low and expect other vehicles to move in front of you without looking properly

Take your skills to the next level

Further training can seriously improve your riding skills. You can start with an enhanced training course. Or become even more advanced with specialist courses. Here are some options.

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