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The Law

Before you can ride a motorcycle on the road you must comply with certain legal requirements which fall into two catagories

* Those with which YOU must comply
* Those with which your MOTORCYCLE must comply

The topics covered are

* Provisional driving licences
* Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)
* Types of full licence
* Vehicle documents
* Insurance
* Helmets


To ride a motorcycle on the road you must

* Be at least 17 years old (16 for a moped)
* Have a driving licence which allows you to ride motorcycles (category A)

That licence can be any of the following

* A provisional driving licence with motorcycle entitlement
* Full car licence. This automatically provides provisional motorcycle entitlement
* Full motorcycle licence
* Full moped licence. This provides automatic provisional motorcycle entitlement if you're aged 17 years or over

Provisional motorcycle entitlement

This entitles learners to ride a motorcycle

* Up to 125cc
* With a maximum power output of 11kW (14.6bhp)

Learners who wish to ride a side-car outfit can do so with a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.16kW/kg.

If you're not sure about any of this then you can get further advice from your motorcycle dealer or trainer.

With provisional motorcycle entitlement you must not

* Ride on motorways
* Carry a pillion passenger
* Ride without L-plates (or D-plates in Wales)

Two year limit

Provisional motorcycle licences used to have a life of 2 years. But as from 1st February 2001, motorcycle licensing rules were changed. All new provisional licences showing motorcycle entitlement issued from that date are valid until the holder's 70th birthday.

Holders of the old licences can apply to have the licence replaced with one that will include provisional motorcycle entitlement valid to age 70. Replacement licences should be applied for from DVLA using the normal application forms (available from Post Offices).

Existing motorcycle provisional licence holders who do not pass a motorcycle test before their provisional licence expires are NOT now subject to the 12 month wait before they can get new entitlement.

How to get a licence

If you don't already have a licence with provisional motorcycle entitlement then collect a D1 form ( driving licence application ) and a D750 form ( photocard application ) from a Post Office or from DVLA ( 0870 240 0009 ). Complete the forms and send them to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre ( DVLC ) at Swansea.

All provisional licences now automatically include motorcycle entitlement but many post offices are still issuing the old application forms on which you had to tick the 'with motorcycles' box to get learner motorcycle entitlement included.

If you want to ride a motorcycle you can ignore this section of the application form or you can tick the 'with motorcycles' box just to make sure.



All learner motorcyclists and moped riders must complete CBT before riding on the road unless they

* Passed a full moped test after 1 December 1990
* Live and ride on specified offshore islands
* Already hold a Certificate of Completion (DL196) obtained during a previous motorcycle entitlement or when riding a moped
* Intend to ride a moped and passed the car tests before 1st Feb 2001

When you've completed CBT you'll be given a DL196. You must produce this before you can take the practical motorcycle test.

A DL196 has a 2 year life. If you don't pass both your theory and practical tests in that time then you'll have to take the CBT course again.

A DL196 obtained on a moped is valid for a motorcycle when the rider reaches the age of 17.



There are three types of full motorcycle licences to aim for.

1. Category P - moped.

2. Category A1 - light motorcycle licence - to receive this you must take and pass your test on a motorcycle with

* an engine size over 75cc but not more than 125cc
* a power output of not more than 11kW (14.6 bph)
* a maximum speed of not more than 100 kph (62.5 mph)

You will now have full licence entitlement on any motorcycle up to 125cc and with a power output of up to 11kW (14.6 bhp). This licence is intended for riders of C90s and similar who don't intend to ride anything bigger. It will not become an unrestricted category A licence after two years. If you take a test on a C90 or similar then you will have to take another test to ride anything bigger than a 125cc, 11kW bike with a maximum speed of over 100kph (62.5mph).

3. Category A - standard motorcycle licence - (aka A2) - this is what you'll obtain if you pass your test on a motorcycle over 120cc but not over 125cc and is capable of more than 100 kph (62.5mph). With this licence you are entitled to ride a motorcycle up to 25kW (33 bhp) and a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.16kw/kg.

There is no restriction on engine size (cc) so you can now ride a bike bigger than a 125cc. There are plenty of bikes around in the 125cc to 400cc range that produce no more than 25kW (33bhp) - ask your local dealer. You can ride a bike with a power output over 25kW but you'll need a restrictor kit on it to restrict the power output to 25kW. Any good motorcycle mechanic will fit a restrictor for you and give you the necessary documentation. Your insurance will cost more though because insurance companies tend to disregard restrictors.

So does this mean that you're going to have to buy a 14.6bhp, 125cc bike to learn and practice and take your test on then sell it and buy a 33bhp, bigger than 125cc bike after passing the test to take full advantage of what you're allowed to ride? Well, some do and some don't. What most people do (the under 21 year olds usually) is one of the following two options

1. Do the CBT, buy a 14.6, 125cc bike (probably 2nd hand for about 500) and get a bit of practice on the roads with L plates, then go back to the training centre to do some pre-test training which is not compulsory but definitely advisable. Then they take take and pass (hopefully) the tests and sell or trade in their 125, 14.6 bike and get a 400cc (or any size they want), 33bhp bike or over 33bhp and have a restrictor kit put on it for about 150. After 2 years they can ride a bike over 33bhp.

2. They skip the practising on the roads with L plates bit. They just do CBT, pre-test training and test within a couple of weeks all on the training centre's bike. Then, if they pass the test first time, they buy a 400cc (or any size) bike up to 33bhp or over 33bhp and have a restrictor kit put on it. Most under 21s choose a 400cc rather than a 600cc or more as the insurance is much lower.

After two years you may ride any size and power of motorcycle without taking another test.

If you're 21 or over, or if you reach 21 within the 2 year period, there are quicker ways of obtaining entitlement to ride a more powerful bike. They are called the Direct Access Scheme (DAS) and the Accelerated Access Scheme (AAS). For information regarding these please go to "Further training".

If your practical test is passed on an automatic motorcycle the full licence gained will be restricted to automatic bikes only.



The Registration Document (VRD)

This contains details of your motorcycle

* Make and model
* Year of first registration
* Engine size and number

It also gives your name and address.

If you buy a new motorcycle the dealer will register it with the DVLA. A registration document will then be sent directly to you from the DVLA.

If you buy a second-hand one you'll receive the VRD from the seller. Fill in the "Change of ownership" section and send it to the DVLA at the address given on the document. You should do this immediately as it is an offence not to notify the DVLA.

Vehicle excise duty

Also known as the 'vehicle licence' or 'road tax'. You must display the 'tax disc' on the vehicle.

You can get the vehicle licence application form at any post office and most main post offices can accept your application.

The fee varies with engine size. The classes are

* Not over 150cc
* Over 150cc up to 400cc
* Over 400cc up to 600cc
* All other motorcycles

When you apply to renew your vehicle excise licence you must produce

* A vehicle test certificate (MOT) if your motorcycle is three years old and over
* A valid certificate of insurance
* An excise licence renewal form

Older motorcycles

Motorcycles over 25 years old don't have to pay vehicle excise duty but should display a 'nil' disc.

The vehicle test certificate (MOT)

The MOT test applies to all motorcycles, mopeds and scooters over 3 years old. The test must be carried out every year at an appointed vehicle testing station.

The purpose of the test is to check that your motorcycle is roadworthy. When your machine passes the test you'll be given a vehicle test certificate which you'll need to produce when you renew your vehicle excise licence.

If your motorcycle fails the test you must not ride it on the road unless you're taking it to have the faults corrected or unless you're taking it for an arranged retest.



It's illegal to ride without insurance.

Types of insurance

Third party. This is the cheapest and legal minimum type of insurance cover. The 'third party' is any person you might injure or property you might damage. You aren't covered for injury to yourself or damage to your motorcycle.

If you damage a car the owner could claim against you. Or, if someone damaged your motorcycle you could claim against them.

Third party fire and theft. The same as third party but it also covers you for your motorcycle being stolen or damaged by fire.

Comprehensive. This is the best, but most expensive insurance. Apart from covering other people and property from injury and damage this covers

* Damage to your machine
* Replacement of parts damaged in an accident
* Personal injury to yourself

Pillion passenger insurance. All policies used to automatically include cover for a pillion passenger but now you can decide whether to have that cover included or not. You can, apparently, save up to 10% by not taking out cover for a pillion passenger and, of course, never carrying one.

The cost of insurance. This varies with

* Your age - the younger you are, the more it will cost
* The make of your motorcycle
* The power and capacity of the engine
* Where you live

Engine-size groups for insurance purposes can vary from one insurer to another so it pays to shop around.

Exactly what is and what isn't insured can vary from company to company so read the small print and ask your insurer or broker.

You'll often have to pay the first 50 or 100 of any claim. This is called the 'excess'.

The certificate of insurance. This is a short and simple document which certifies

* Who is insured
* The type vehicle covered
* The kind of insurance cover
* The period of cover
* The main conditions

Sometimes a broker will give you a temporary certificate or 'cover note'. This is issued while you're waiting for your certificate and is proof of insurance.

Keep the cetificate safe and produce it

* If the police ask you
* When you apply to renew your vehicle excise licence

The policy document. This contains the full details of the contract between you and the insurance company. It's usually written in legal language. Ask your broker or the insurance company to explain any details which you don't understand.



By law, you must wear a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle on the road. All helmets sold in the UK must

* Carry a BSI kitemark
* Comply with British Standard BS 6658 or the newer UN ECE 22.05 mark of approval

More on helmets and clothing HERE


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