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A Beginners Guide to the Motorcycle Licence | RideTo


James B · January 30, 2017

How to finally get your motorcycle licence and get on the road. Advice from a biker who has just been through the process - and then started Rideto.com

In August 2016 I finally got around to doing what I’d been talking about for 2 years. Booking my CBT motorcycle training. In other words, my certificate of Compulsory Basic Training. A day's worth of training which would allow me to ride the bike of my dreams - A 2014 Piaggio Vespa Primavera 125cc. Here she is modelled by our designer Anna:

Anna on her vespa

My journey to getting on 2 wheels was far more expensive, time consuming and stressful than I had ever anticipated. If you’re reading this, you may well feel the same right now... But do not despair! This guide and this website are here to make that process easier....

Through this guide, I aim to talk you through the entire process of getting onto the road. The things to consider and the steps to take to easily get onto 2 wheels, hopefully with some practical tips from my experience. One thing I promise to do is to lay the information out, simply and clearly.

The steps I went through...

  1. What the hell is a CBT!?
  2. Do I need one?
  3. What can I ride with a CBT?
  4. Where do I get a CBT?
  5. How much does it cost?
  6. How do I 'pass’?
  7. What to expect on the day
  8. I’ve got my CBT! Now what?

Step 1 - What the hell is a CBT?

Well, you aren’t the first person to ask that question. And no it’s not something to do with psychotherapy or computers, not today!

CBT which is short for ‘compulsory basic training’ was introduced by the Government in December 1990. It’s not technically a test and there isn't a pass or fail. HOWEVER, if your instructors feel you are unsafe to go out on the roads, they will ask you to return for further training. If you can ride a bicycle comfortably and have a good understanding of the highway code, you should complete the training relatively easily in one day, and be on track to get your motorcycle licence

Step 2 - Do you need a CBT to ride?


The Government state the following:

“You don’t have to take CBT if you:

  • want to ride a moped (up to 50cc) and you passed your car driving test before 1 February 2001
  • want to ride a motorcycle and have a full moped licence from passing a moped test since 1 December 1990
  • have a full motorcycle licence for one category and want to upgrade to another”


So if you are anyone other than the above, you need a CBT to get on 2 wheels. Even if you have a driving licence! For example I passed my driving test in 2007, had been driving on and off for 8 years but when I decided to get my Vespa in 2016 I had to take my CBT and then my A1 licence. More on A1’s and other licences later..

If you don’t have a driving licence, you must ensure you have a provisional licence to take your CBT.

Book Your CBT

Step 3 - what can I ride on a CBT licence?

So the interesting bits; what can you ride on a CBT!?

Like everything in life, it depends on your age!

Check out our full article on beginner bikes here.

In short...

If you are 16:

You are restricted to 50cc moped, limited to 28mph.

A few of our favourite mopeds include:

Primavera 50cc

A stylish classic. Not cheap, but truly reliable and so comfy to ride.

Primavera 50cc

Honda Vision 50cc

Cheap and reliable, a staple favourite amongst delivery drivers and commuters alike.

Honda perfect for CBT licence and training

Yamaha Aerox R 50cc

Sporty and fun, good motorbike to start your riding career on and for nipping around town.

Yamaha CBT scooter

If you have a CBT and are 17 and older:

You can ride a scooter or motorbike up to 125cc, geared or automatic up to an engine power of 11kW.

Some of favourite 125’s to ride on a CBT include:

Honda CBF 125

One of the most popular 125cc motorcycles on the market and for good reason. Cheap, reliable and a great learner bike. If you take your CBT on a 125cc manual it’s likely to be one of these. On the road brand new for £2,699, you can’t say fairer than that.

Honda 125 CBT Licence

KTM 125 Duke

The first 125cc back in 2013 to have ABS, the Duke is a leading motorcycle in the 125cc range. Fuel injected, 6 speed engine it’s a seriously fun bike. The more upright riding position makes it a good bike for city riding and dodging those traffic jams. Brand new for around £3,999.

KTM full motorcycle licence and CBT licence eligible

Check out this article for our top 10 bikes to ride on a CBT licence.

*Remember with a CBT, you are required to display L plates and are unable to carry pillion passengers.

Step 4 - Where do I get a CBT?

As I mentioned in the introduction, my journey to 2 wheels took far longer than planned. This was pretty much all down to the amount of research and comparison I had to do when booking my various training sessions and the frustration which gave birth to this website. Hopefully you’ll agree with us that this site makes your search a little bit easier!

Our advice on things to look for in a training school:

We have written more in depth articles on this, but here are the basic things to look at:

Location - If you don’t currently have your own means of transport, then a place close to public transport links is vital. You'll be surprised at how many training schools are off the beaten track. Also consider what the local roads are like, are they very busy or quiet backroads. Schools will always have their planned routes, but it’s important you feel comfortable riding in the area.

Reviews - One of the most useful bits of information you can get when buying anything is the experience of other customers. Any good training school knows the value of customer reviews and will have lots of them on google or similar. (You’ll find these all in one place when you search through us.) Your experience will hugely be down to the quality of an instructor, reviews which mention great instructors is always a good sign.

Equipment - What bikes do the school use, can you see pictures or are they mentioned in the reviews? It’s vital that you’re using safe equipment which will be comfortable for a day’s riding.

Price - These can vary more than you’d expect, anything from £80 - £150 for a CBT licence. Some schools include bike hire and equipment as standard and some charge extra. For us price is not the most important thing, but knowing what you are getting for your money is.

Availability - During spring and summer, the number of people taking CBTs almost doubles compared to the winter. If you live in a busy area such as London or somewhere where there are few schools, some of the more popular training schools can have several week long waiting lists. So if you’re dreaming of summer days spent on the bike, I’d recommend to start booking tests and training around March. It will take you longer than you think!

We have a simple process for finding the best school for you, just drop your location into our homepage if you want to have a look what's on offer in your area.

Book Your CBT

Step 5 - How much does a CBT cost?

As mentioned above, pricing can vary massively depending any number of factors including: location, day of week, time of year, your experience, local competition from other schools. Our main piece of advice is to find out what you are getting for your money. If you want to know the total costs of riding a motorcycle we've done the maths on that too.

Questions to ask:

  • The cost to hire a bike, gloves and a helmet - do these come included or are they an expensive add on?
  • Is insurance and a collision damage waiver included or not with bike hire?
  • If you need additional training, how much is it?
  • Is the price of the CBT certificate included?

On average you can expect to pay £100 - £150 for a CBT either with bike hire included or for an extra £15 - £25. Do search for yourself on our homepage as locations can vary a lot.

I personally took my CBT on a Saturday in west London and paid £135 with bike and helmet hire which was an extra £20.

Worth noting that weekends are usually 10-20% more expensive and some schools only do first time CBTs at the weekend.

Step 6 - How do you pass your CBT?

The CBT is not a test and therefore you can’t fail. However if your bike handling skills aren’t up to scratch during the off-road training, the instructor can recommend you come back for further training before going out on the road. Some schools offer ‘guaranteed pass’ CBTs at a higher price, which if you are comfortable riding a bike and know the highway code (which you should be if you’re taking your CBT) then are completely unnecessary.

Step 7 - What to expect from your CBT training on the day?

The basics:

  1. A full day training session - usually 9am until c.4pm with a break lunch
  2. Typically based in carparks or off road large concrete areas
  3. You’ll be in a group of no more than 4 people per instructor for off road training and 2 people per instructor on the road

5 parts of the CBT course:

We've written about this extensively in our 5 parts to a CBT article. But here is a quick rundown:

1. Introduction and eye test

An intro from the instructor on what to expect from the day and you’ll need to read a number plate standing from 20 meters away.

2. Onsite training

Your CBT instructors will talk you through the setup and controls of a motorcycle, what equipment to use and how to ride. Should take around 45 minutes.

3. Onsite riding

The fun begins, lot’s of various exercises to work on your control and riding skills. Pulling away, stopping, gear changes and clutch control if you are on a manual motorcycle. Will last around 2 - 3 hours.

4. On-road training

Back to the whiteboard/classroom to discuss the highway code, best practice for riding on roads and how to be safe. Lasts for around 45 minutes.

5. On-road riding

2 hours minimum riding on the roads with 2 students to one instructor. Covering roundabout, junctions, different road types, traffic lights and other scenarios. You’ll be fitted with a helmet radio to follow directions with you instructor. Providing you ride to an adequate standard, the formal training will now be over and you’ll be given for CBT certificate.

Step 8 - I’ve got my CBT! Now what?

Enjoy the freedom! Life on the road with 2 wheels is like nothing else. If you're 16, you need to wait a year before upgrading to a 125cc. If you're 17 you’ll need to ride for 2 years before you can train for any further licences. If you're 19+ you can start training for other licences right away.

Either way, it’s worth remembering a CBT expires after 2 years. If you plan to stay on L plates or take longer than 2 years to progress to another motorcycle licence you’ll need to renew your CBT licence after this time.

So next steps; time to look at buying a moped, scooter or motorbike and the other costs and headaches which come with it.. Check out our blog on the easy steps to getting your bike.

What we learned from the experience of taking your CBT:

  • It will take longer than you think! - I booked and passed my CBT within about 2 weeks, but I spent a week before booking working out what I needed. I was fortunate to find a bargain with my Vespa and bought it locally on Gumtree the same day as my CBT! We've got some great tips on the best ways to save money looking for a used motorcycle. However getting my A1 licence and being able to take passengers and remove my L plates took another 2 months. More of that in Part 2...
  • Prepare before you get there - Something I didn’t do very well.. Read up on your highway code and if you aren't really used to riding on 2 wheels, borrow a bicycle and start practicing your balance and control. If your eyesight is not great like mine, make sure you can read a number plate at 20 meters or take some glasses. Any preparation you can do in advance will make the day go smoother. It’s an intense and tiring day, so make sure you get an early night before the day!

new rider package  2.1

  • Shop around - As I’ve shared in my story, I spent a crazy amount of time trying to find some useful information and compare different training providers. Hopefully this website makes your search and comparison a lot quicker and easier. Have a look at motorcycle training schools near you on our homepage, read the reviews and compare prices. If you’d like some independent advice, feel free to contact us anytime.
  • Have a plan - Why are you taking your CBT, what do you hope to get out of it? Will you be able to meet your expectations; riding the bike you want when you pass. I went into my CBT with little research and presumed I’d be able to take passengers. Obviously now that’s not the case, but it meant I had to spend much more time and money then I had imagined in my head.
  • Have fun! For me it was great fun having a day in the sunshine, learning a new skill and meeting some interesting people. It’s not everyday you get to spend a few hours weaving between cones on a motorbike and seeing a new part of town on two wheels. It will be your first experience of the freedom a motorbike can offer, enjoy it!

Are you ready to get started? Click here and we'll get you booked in and match you up to a great local school.

Book Your CBT

This information is given to you as a guide to support you in your choice of licence and RideTo has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided about motorcycle licence and training requirements. However, RideTo cannot guarantee the information is up to date, correct and complete and is therefore provided on an "as is" basis only. RideTo accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever arising. We recommend that you verify the current licence and training requirements by checking the DVSA website.