The types of UK Motorcycle Licences you can get

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Learning to ride a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience. You may have visions of flying down the carriageway, let alone across town, looking smart in your riding leathers and helmet, and showing off an equally smart-looking motorcycle. But before those visions can become a reality, you have to take the CBT course and pass the theory and practical tests, starting with a provisional licence, especially if you’re beginning at age 16.

Perhaps you are from the States, attending university at 18 or 19 years of age, and already have a full motorcycle licence issued from your home state. You might be surprised to learn there isn’t just one motorcycle licence for everyone. The licences in the UK are based on age and experience, from the AM to the A-level, and they also correspond to the size of engine you’re aiming to have.

For example, if your only goal is to simply ride a moped around town, the AM might be all you need, provided you’ve passed the CBT and have your learner’s certificate well in hand. For bigger adventures, however, you’ll want to aim a bit higher.

Have your CBT and certificate ready? Read on for the fuller picture:

1) AM.

This licence is intended for those aged 16 and over who want a full moped licence and no L (‘learner’) plates. That said, once you’ve passed the CBT, you can certainly ride a moped with L plates without getting a full licence if you wish. It’s simply recommended that you take more training to gain confidence and skill.

However, the full AM licence allows you to ride a moped, whether it’s a scooter or motorcycle-style, up to 50cc and have a top speed of 45 km/h (around 28 mph). You can also carry a passenger with this licence, so don’t feel like you can only ‘ride solo’ at this level.

2) A1.

Age range: 17+

The A1 is for people who want to go beyond mopeds, and start having a full-on motorcycle experience. Once you hit 17 years of age, you can take the practical test to get your A1 licence.

What the A1 offers or allows:

  • Riding a motorcycle or scooter up to 125 cc’s and max power of 11 KW.
  • Carrying a passenger.
  • Reduced insurance costs. (This is definitely a plus, so it could be worth your while to ‘graduate’ from moped to full motorcycle.)

Once you have the A1 and have ridden for two years, you can pass the practical test for the next level up.

3) A2.

Age range: 19+

This is where taking a motorcycle test gets interesting. There are two ways of acquiring the A2:

  • You have ridden with an A1 for two years (since the age of 17) and wish to take a practical test for the A2.
  • If you are already 19 at the time you decide a motorcycle is for you, and you take the Direct Access path to an A2, featuring the CBT, theory and practical tests.

What the A2 allows:

  • You can ride a motorcycle with an engine up to 500 cc’s (35 KW), or perhaps a restricted version of a more powerful model.
  • You can ride a motorcycle or scooter without L plates.
  • Carrying a passenger.

Even if you choose not to move up to the A-level licence, it’s definitely a good idea to keep going to training classes to improve experience and confidence.

4) A.

This is the last level, and it’s where many motorcycle riders want to be, as the licence is for those 21 and over, and you can ride any motorcycle or scooter of any size or power. Like the A2, you can qualify for the A-level licence in two ways:

  • Take the practical test once you hit the age of 21, after riding for two years with the A2.
  • If you are already 21 or over, you can take the Direct Access path to the A-level by completing the CBT, theory and practical tests.

As you can see, once you fully understand the requirements of each level, the path to a full motorcycle licence in the UK becomes a lot clearer than you might have originally thought.

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