The UK’s confusing new motorcycle license process explained

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The routes to your motorcycle licence

Already composed of tiers based on age, capacity and testing, getting a motorcycle license in the United Kingdom is far more complicated than it is here in the US. This year, that process gets even more convoluted. Just follow this six-page flow chart using the handy video guide and you’ll be well on your way to riding a motorbike.

If you need to read more, the Gov.Uk website is full of Monty Python-esque help.

  • Sergei Petrov

    so you mean they can’t just get a 1000cc as a first bike because they’d outgrow a 600 in a week?

    • Khali

      According to the video they can if they are older than 24

  • KeithB

    Or better yet, show up to the training course an a 1000cc bike, with a learners permit, and then fail the course on their 250cc bike and ride home on yours!

  • Troy Rank

    I’ve had an ST1300 since I was 22. I toured the US when I was 23 and 24 putting 20k on. I still own it today at 27. I can’t imagine not being allowed to ride it at that age.

    To the UKers: Is it common to see people riding out of their license class?

    • Daan Van De Westelaken

      Don’t know about the uk but over here in the netherlands it’s not very common. Your insurance isn’t valid when you ride outside your class, essentially you should look at it as being three different licenses. So when you ride outside of your class you aren’t in possesion of a valid drivers license.

      Also I’m very happy I got my license before this new overhaul.

      • Troy Rank

        It seems pretty common for young riders to ride illegally on their “permit”. The irony is that it is brutally easy to get your license here in New York State. I have respect for the level of attention the UK has given to graduating the process so as to foster healthy motorbike culture, but it seems a bit overly restricting.

        • Daan Van De Westelaken

          I think it all went a bit to far, it’s a good idea to force new riders to start out on somewhat slower bikes. But these are ridiculously slow.
          At highway speeds they take away your option to avoid a dangerous situation by using the throttle.

          • Khali

            It is usual to remove the power restriction of your bike here (Spain). Everyone does it. So say you started on a Street Triple (95cv version) limited to 47cv according to your A2 license…mostly everyone removes the limiter in less than 6 months, instead of waiting the 2 full years. The problem is that if you have an accident and the police detects that you removed the limiter, your insurance doesnt cover anything and you are impounded for riding a motorcycle without license.Still, mostly everyone does it.

  • James Foley

    No matter how you feel about graduated licensing, there is no excuse for how complicated this is.

  • Khali

    Why stay with the old 25kw tier when all the rest of europe is changing to the new 35kw tier?

  • JB

    This is likely part of the measures the UK government is using to cut spending. The provides healthcare to all citizens of the UK, including young motorcyclists. Young people, say 18-24, rarely have an illness or injury that requires hospitalization. But 18-24 year olds on motorcycles get injured far more often, and far worse, than 18-24 year olds without motorcycles, so the group is well above the statistical mean in terms of injuries and potential cost to the country’s healthcare system. The government can mitigate the costs incurred by squid riders by making helmets and safety gear compulsory, or, as they have in this case, it can ban young or inexperienced riders from riding high powered machines. The extra money spent in administrative costs to create and enforce this licensing set-up is small to what is saved in health care costs to injured, young riders.

    This may seem like kind of a reach, but health economics play a substantial role in the structure of motoring laws. Additionally, please don’t respond to this post with an argument on the merits of universal healthcare. I’m simply trying to add perspective, not start a political debate.

    • KeithB

      I am all in favour of this type of graduated system and while we have a graduated system here in Canada, I don’t think it has gone far enough.

      BTW…The problem of rising cost applies with the universal healthcare system as well.

    • Shea O’Connell

      It’s actually part of the UK law homogenization with the EU, specifically the EU licencing directive. It’s aim is to have the same tiered, if a little overzealous, system all over the EU.

    • Greg Coombe

      Is there a correlation between cc’s and injury? I had a Ford Taurus when I was in high school and I drove that like a maniac. Seems like a 125cc is just as bad in the hands of a immature kid as a liter bike.

  • Lawrences

    A flow chart explaining all the categories & niches of bikes/riders/bike styles/rider gear styles/hangout styles/what’s cool/ what’s totally badass would be kinda handy these days….

  • Ben Wipperman

    My favorite part of the helpful diagram is how they went overboard with the arrows. One box pointing to one other has three separate arrows to indicate progression.

    Maybe the goal was to make a visual mess to reinforce the actual mess of the process. If so, well done!

  • Gregory Eaves

    We should all keep young men off motorcycles. I was a fool on my two-stroke Suzuki TS 90. Only G-d knows how I survived that, and in the Philippines, too. Young men and bikes are a dangerous concoction.

    The problem with motorcycle safety is not the motorcycle per se. It’s the young man. Adjust your data for a young male’s regular problems (testosterone, violence, et cetera) and I’d wager that motorbikes aren’t really that much more dangerous than a normal person’s transportation method. The danger lies in our demographic.

    As a 37-year-old male, I ride much more maturely now. I can’t really envision an accident, though I’m an ATGATT type of guy. Also, I ride a slow (low horsepower) bike. I’m not gonna get into a crash tomorrow morning. And if I do, I got my Bohn Body armour to help with lessening the pain.

    Accidents– mostly single-vehicle, I think, according to the Hurt Report– happen in corners with inexperienced riders.