Licence Types & Age Limits To Legally Ride UK Motorcycles

There are no age restrictions or age limits on the bikes that older riders (i.e., the old folks) can ride with a full UK category ‘A’ (unrestricted) motorcycle licence.

In short, if you have passed age 16 and are fit enough to ‘safely’ undertake the motorcycle theory and practical tests, then you can begin legally riding at a time of your choice.

image of older motorcycle rider and child motorcycle rider side by side

However, if you’re 16 years old (i.e. a young folk), then a compulsory basic training (CBT) course will legally allow you to ride up to a 50cc. That said, if you’re 17 years old or above, then undertaking the same CBT will permit you to ride up to a 125cc (with 11kW of power).

At age 19 you can then apply (i.e. undertake a theory and practical test) for an ‘A2 licence’, which will allow you to ride motorcycles producing a maximum of 35 kW and 47hp (i.e., 395cc to 650cc bikes). Then, at age 24, you can undertake the test for a full unrestricted ‘category A’ licence. But, this same age restriction is reduced from 24 to instead the age of 21 for those that have specifically held an ‘A2 licence’ for at least 2 years.

I believe asking “can you ride”, is much different to asking, “should you ride”, which is why we’ll explore both avenues. This post will also cover the appropriate bikes to ride at varying ages, experience levels, and physical capabilities.

Let’s Rev up and Dive in! I mean…ride in!


Age Restrictions For UK Motorcycle Licences By Category

The following section will provide you with information on the various age restrictions for obtaining each of the 4 types of motorcycle licences listed.

The” Key Guide” below will provide you with a summary of the abbreviations used in the table

Key Guide

  • CBT = Compulsory Basic Training (Must hold a UK provisional driving licence or full UK driving licence to undertake this 1-day training course)
  • AM = Moped licence
  • A1 = Light Motorcycle Licence (max power 11kW)
  • A2 = Restricted Licence (max power 25kW)
  • A = Unrestricted Licence (can be through DAS or progress access)
Sidenote: The CBT is not a pass or fail training, as it's purpose is to ensure you can safely ride on the roads until you take your full motorcyle test (i.e., category AM, A1, A2, A)

The table below contains a breakdown of age limitations for obtaining various motorcycle licences and has been organised in sequential order (i.e., starting from beginner going up to full unrestricted licence).

Licence Category (type)Minimum AgeTest RequirementsAdditional InformationNotes
AM 16+Must pass the CBT, or undertake motorcycle practical test for AM licence (validates licence until your age 70)With CBT alone you must display L plates, and not carry a passenger or travel on motorways. CBT will last for a maximum of 2 years before you have to retake or progress to another category of licence
A117+Must obtain a CBT licence first, then pass a motorcycle theory & practical test Can ride without L plates and carry a passengerAfter 2 years of holding this licence, you can retake your practical tests on a bigger bike to obtain the ‘A2’ licence at age 19+.
A2 19+Must pass the CBT, then pass motorcycle theory & practical test on 395cc+ (power 25kW – 35kW) motorcycle. Can ride without L plates and carry a passenger After 2 years of holding this licence, you can retake your practical tests on a bigger bike to obtain Full Unrestricted (category A) licence at age 21+.
A 21 (progressive access) or 24 (via Direct Access scheme)Via progressive access route – Must have held the ‘A2’ for at least 2 years, then undertake a practical motorcycle test.

Via Direct access scheme route – Must pass CBT, then undertake motorcycle theory and practical test
You can ride with no L plates and carry a passenger. You are not required to take CBT when you have held an ‘A2’ licence for at least 2 years.
Data obtained from https://www.gov.uk/ (motorcycle ages & Licences)

Car Drivers Provisional And Full UK Licence holders Allowances

Trying to make sense of the ‘.Gov.Uk’ website’s information about driver’s licence allowances is no easy task, which is why I’ve simplified the jargon into a straightforward table.

Allowances For Full Uk Drivers Licence Holders

According to ‘.Gov.Uk’, if you’re 17 years old (or above) and passed your Full UK Drivers licence test before the ‘1st February 2001’, you are legally allowed to ride up to a 50cc motorcycle (without having to display L plates). And yes! You’re also allowed to carry a pillion passenger.

But if you passed ‘on’ or ‘after’ the ‘1st February 2001’, then you must first undertake the CBT before you can legally ride. This will allow you to ride up to 125cc (with a maximum power output of 11kW).

The table below provides a synopsis of the types of motorcycles you can ride with a UK provisional and full driver’s licence.

Licence Type Date You PassedMinimum AgeRestrictionsAdditional Information
Full UK Drivers Licence (Category B)“Before” 1st February 200117+Can ride a 50cc motorcycle Can carry a passenger and ride without L plates
Full UK Drivers Licence (Category B)“On or After” 1st February 200117+ Not permitted to ride any motorcycles on the roads Must undertake CBT which will allow you to ride up to a 125cc (with a max power output of 11kW)
Full UK Drivers Licence (Category B)N/A21+Can ride a ‘Trike (motor tricycle)’ or quad bike of any power rating in the ‘UK only’ (not including the EU)Can carry a passenger if the vehicle has been manufactured to do so
Provisional Driver’s Licence (Category B) N/A17+Not allowed to ride motorcycles on the road To ride on a provisional car licence, you must complete the CBT
Sidenote: Learn more about riding motorcyles with a car drivers licence on the .Gov.Uk website (in the legalities of riding motor tricycles and restrictions for riding quad bikes sections). 

The Progressive Access And Direct Access Scheme (DAS) Explained

This section will expand on the avenues a rider can take to obtain their full unrestricted ‘category A’ motorcycle licence.

What is The ‘Direct Access’ Course?

The ‘Direct Access Scheme’ is a motorcycle theory and practical test that riders of age 24 and above can take, to acquire a full unrestricted (category A) motorcycle licence. This means you can legally ride any motorcycle, of any engine capacity, without restrictions.

Requirements to Undertake the DAS (for Riders Aged 24 and Above)

The DAS requires riders to have completed the CBT, be of age 24 and above, and undergo the test on a motorcycle with a power output of at least 50kW (595cc) and 54hp.

Sidenote: The correct motorcycle (with the correct power output) is provided to you on the day of the test. But if you have a disability and require to use your own modified bike, then you can take the test on this too. 

What is Progressive Access? (For Riders Aged 21 Who have held an A2 licence for 2 years+)

The Progressive access process is designed for riders with existing riding experience (i.e., held a category A2 licence for a minimum of two years) to acquire the category A licence by re-taking only the practical parts of the category ‘A2 licence’ test (i.e., Module 1 & Module 2) to upgrade their motorcycle licence.

Requirements For The Progressive Access Process

To undertake the DAS unrestricted motorcycle practical test (to obtain a category A licence), you must be of age 21 or above, completed the CBT, and held an A2 licence for at least a minimum of two years prior.

Legally required licences For Riding various Engines Sizes (i.e. Power Output)

Below is a list of engine capacities alongside their associated power outputs and legal age requirements, for the licences that riders must first obtain to ride them. This will provide you with an overview of the varying age restrictions for particular engine sizes.

The data in this table is from Wikipedia’s list of engine types (i.e. single cylinder, split single, two-cylinder, three-cylinder, four-cylinder all the way up to 8 cylinder engines).

Sidenote: Of course, this data is totally based around averages, only! And please note, the majority or dyno tests carried out has determined engine power (i.e., Horsepower) @ 7000 - 12000RPM. 

Motorbike Specifications and The Required Licence To Ride

(slide the table to the left to reveal the additional columns on the right)

Maximum Engine Size (cc)Brand/ ModelNo. Of CylindersPower Output (kW)HPTop Speed (mph)Licence Required Minimum AgeRequirements
50ccAprilia RS50Single2 kW3 hp31 mph (restricted)AM16+ L plates, no pillion passenger
125ccHonda Grom MSXSingle7.5 kW10 hp 73 mphA117+CBT, theory test, practical test
200ccKTM Duke 200Single19 kW24.67 hp 87 mph A219+(Direct)theory, practical. (Progressive)2 years on A1 + practical
300ccKawasaki Z300Two-cylinder29 kW38.9 hp 113 mphA219+(Direct)theory, practical. (Progressive)2 years on A1 + practical
400ccYamaha SR400Single 17.1 kW27 hp80 mphA219+(Direct)theory, practical. (Progressive)2 years on A1 + practical
500ccHonda XBR500Single32.8 kW44 hp106.3 mphA219+(Direct)theory, practical. (Progressive)2 years on A1 + practical
600ccTriumph TT600Four-cylinder80.2 kW108 hp155 mphA24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)None
800ccBMW F800GTTwo-cylinder (straight twin)66 kW89 hp124 mphA24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)None
900ccYamaha TDM850Two-cylinder (straight twin)
57 kW
77 hp130 mph A24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)None
1000ccSuzuki TL1000RTwo-cylinder (Longitudinal)101 kW135 hp 165 mph A24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)None
1100ccHonda CB1100Four-cylinder (transverse)66 kW88.5 hp130 mphA24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)None
1200ccLaverda 1200Three-cylinder (straight three)54 kW73 hp133.3 mphA24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)None

Physical Capabilities That Are Necessary For Safely Riding A Motorcycle

Hearing, vision and balance are all interconnected and play major roles in a rider’s ability to safely operate a motorcycle and navigate the road ahead.

Here’s how each of the senses relates to riding:

Vision 

Being able to see oncoming danger is certainly one of the most useful tools a rider can have. But unfortunately, with old age also comes deteriorating eyesight.

So it’s best to get regular checks and immediately report, then seek professional help in the event that you become aware of your eyesight getting worse.

I saw this super fun video on YouTube that tests your eyesight. Try it yourself:

Disclaimer: Please note, this is not an official eye test or method of determining wether you meet the criteria for standards of vision to ride a motorycle on the roads. To acquire such information, see a professional eye specialist. 

Hearing 

With EVs (electric vehicles) taking over the car industry, it’s now far less important to rely on hearing as an accurate gauge on the road. However, with that being said, hearing is still one of the most effective ways for identifying oncoming dangers and hazards.

A lack of hearing will not always prevent you from riding, so do not let the condition deter you from reporting your condition to the DVLA.

Normal hearing limits are within ‘0–25 dB’ and measured through a pure tone audiometry test.

Sidenote: Many riders with reduced hearing still take part in rallies, regular commutes to work and long rides for pleasure. 

Balance 

Bad hearing almost always equals, impaired balance… here’s why!

The anatomy of a human ear is typically divided into three main areas:

  1. The outer ear
  2. The middle ear
  3. The inner ear

The outer ear is everything you see on the surface, (i.e., cartilage and ear canal).

Inside the ear canal (i.e., semicircular canal) are miniature sensory cells called “hair cells” that detect movement of the head when going up, down, left, right, or rotating. Other organs such as the ‘utricle’ and ‘saccule’ also contain hair cells, but additionally have calcium crystals that specialise in detecting acceleration.

This is then converted into nerve impulses and combined with other motion-related information (I.e., where your eyes are focused, how far particular limbs are extended, or the positioning of the body before being sent to the brain).

Unfortunately, all of these sensory systems break down as you get older, and result in conflicting information being passed to the brain, resulting in nausea, dizziness, lapses of judgment, and you guessed it…”imbalance”.

Mobility (getting on and off) 

Good mobility involves a lot more than just getting on and off your bike, as it also plays a part in injury recovery, corner taking, neck rotation, wrist mobility, and hip mobility too.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to still legally ride on the roads, regardless of your mobility. There are also driving mobility centres that assess if your inability to freely move will affect your ability to safely ride a motorcycle.

Reflex (i.e., “quick thinking”)

The faster you go, the less time you have to think… or react. And unfortunately, these exact processes begin to slow down with old age, which leads to lapses in judgement, anxiety, overwhelm, and general discomfort while riding.

Reflexes are doubly as important for gauging hazards ahead, as even crossing the road on foot in a busy environment is dangerous on good days.

Remember: It’s usually the “other drivers” on the roads that you must watch out for. So having a good reflex will likely prove to be more useful than anticipated.

Conscious state

Anxiety, high blood pressure, anaemia, and irregular heartbeats are just a few obvious causes of fainting. Panic attacks, extreme coughing, and dehydration are also as bad and will lead to a loss of oxygen while riding.

So while you may not have a medical condition that directly causes you to faint, you may still in fact have a condition that causes one of the above, and then indirectly leads to fainting.

This is why it is imperative that you are honest about how you feel when riding, so you can avoid endangering yourself or others on the roads.

Age-Related health conditions that Can Affect Your ability to ride (or obtain a Motorcycle licence)

It’s your duty to immediately report any medical conditions or health-related issues that affect your driving to the DVLA, as failing to do so can result in a fine of up to £1000.

If you’ve become aware of a medical condition that may affect you’re riding, head over to the ‘.Gov.Uk’ website for further information about riding motorcycles with health conditions (this page also leads to the relevant forms for reporting specific medical conditions too).

Below is a list of commonly reported medical conditions that can affect the safe riding of a motorcycle on the roads.

Health Condition Affect On Riding Capability
DiabetesThis can lead to fainting, loss of hearing, reduced vision
Anxiety or panic attacksThis can lead to fainting
Chronic lung disease (such as emphysema)This can lead to fainting
AtherosclerosisThis can lead to fainting
OtosclerosisCauses a loss of hearing
Sexually transmitted diseasesCan lead to a loss of hearing when left untreated
MumpsCauses a loss of hearing
MeaslesCauses a loss of hearing
Meniere’s diseaseCauses a loss of hearing
Stroke This can lead to a loss of hearing, loss of eyesight, fainting
Tumour This can lead to a loss of hearing, fainting
ShinglesCan impair vision
Liver DiseaseCan impair vision
Sickle Cell DiseaseCan impair vision
Autoimmune ConditionsCan impair vision
Lyme DiseaseCan impair vision
High blood pressureThis can lead to loss of hearing, impaired vision, fainting
Heart attacksCan cause fainting
Parkinson’s diseaseCan cause fainting
ThyroidsCan impair vision, cause hearing loss, fainting

I’ll vouch for the oldies and say that getting older is not all “doom and gloom”. In fact, there are many pros to being an older rider which I will cover in the following sections.

Benefits Of Being An Older Rider

Older riders are likely to take fewer risks, have more experience on the roads and have a larger amount of money to invest in a new bike over younger riders.

More Experience And safer On the roads

“Well-seasoned” (i.e., more-experienced) users of the roads are likely much safer from being more aware of the potential hazards while riding. As a result, novice mistakes are less likely to take place and reflect in cheaper quotes for insurance.

Cheaper Insurance Quotes

Insurance companies love older riders and are willing to take the plunge on providing you with a cheaper quote as the probability of a claim coming from your way is close to non-existent.

Sidenote: In my personal experience, I was far more the daredevil in my early teens to mid-twenties opposed to now in my early 30s. 

more cash to invest

Treat yourself to a new toy!

The older you get, the more likely you’ll have access to a large sum of cash which allows you access to a larger pool of options (which may be more reliable, but more expensive).

For example, the Harley Softail and Triumph Tiger 1200 are no child’s-play and will set you north of £10,000. But if you can manage the maintenance and insurance costs, these are some of the most fun and best-looking machines money can buy.

How Can you Legally Ride If you’re Under Age?

Riding motorcycles as an underaged rider is essentially limited to motocross (track), enduro, trail riding or private land in the UK.

For children below the age of 4, it’s best to start out on private land or a track area where they can practice for long periods with two adults at no cost.

Conversely, if you have a child of 4 years+, then your little one can begin to compete in motocross events where they will take part in 30-minute races with other similar ages riders.

>> Check out my list of locations where under-aged riders can legally ride here!

My Top Recommended Beginner Motorcycles ‘By Age’

I’m no expert, but I do know the bikes I’d get on if I was just getting started…So, here’s my recommended list of bikes for beginners based on age.

Kid Riders (4 – 10 Years Old)

  • Yamaha PW50 (50cc)
  • KTM 50 SX (50cc)
  • Honda CRF50F (50cc)
  • Yamaha TTR-50 (50cc)
  • Husqvarna TC50 (50cc)
  • M2R Racing 50R Pitbike (50cc)

Young Riders (11 – 18 Years Old)

The list of bikes below will average around 45mph

  • Kuberg Trial Hero (electric bike) top speed 17mph
  • Husqvarna TC 85 (85cc)
  • KTM 85 SX 19/16 (85cc)
  • KTM 85 SX 17/14 (85cc)
  • KTM 65 SX (65cc)
  • Yamaha TT-R110E (110cc)
  • Honda CRF125F (125cc)
  • Kawasaki KLX110 (110cc)
  • Gilera 50 (50cc) – Road-legal bike

Adult Riders (18+)

  • Yamaha XSR125 (125cc) – 70s Inspired
  • Caballero Scrambler 125 (125cc)
  • Honda Monkey (125cc)
  • AJS 71 Desert Scrambler 125 (125cc)
  • Gilera Runner 125 (125cc) – superfast beginner bike and road legal too!
  • Aprilia RS 125 (125cc) – I also had one of these back in the day, very good bike
  • Yamaha YZF-R125 (125cc) – very reliable and road legal
  • Yamaha MT125 (125cc)
  • Honda CB125R (125cc)
  • Lexmoto LXR125 (125cc)
  • Aprilia RX 125 (125cc)
  • Sinnis 125 Terrain (125cc)
  • KTM 125 Duke (125cc)
  • Honda MSX125 (125cc)
  • Benelli BN 125(125cc)
  • Rieju MRT 125 Trophy

Older Aged & Returning Riders

  • Yamaha V Star 250 Raven
  • Honda CMX500 Rebel
  • Honda CB300R
  • Yamaha SR400
  • Harley Davidson Road King
  • Kawasaki Z900RS/Z650RS
  • Kawasaki KLX300SM
  • Kawasaki Ninja 400
  • Mutt GT SS 250
  • Triumph Speed Twin (Bonneville)
  • BMW G 310 GS
  • KTM 390 Adventure
  • KTM Duke 200
  • Husqvarna Vitpilen 401

Frequently Asked Questions

Got questions? We have answers! As trying to understand this topic is no walk in the park. That’s why I’ve listed a few of the most common questions and answers that I found relevant to this post.

Category AM, A1, A2 and A motorcycle licences will legally permit riders to ride motorcycles of their associated restrictions for as long as they keep renewing the licence every 10 years until they are 70 years old, whereby you must self-certify to continue riding (link to .Gov) every minimum of 3years thereafter.

To use a quad bike on UK public roads, you must have a full UK driver’s licence (category B) or a category B1 (issued before January 1997) along with valid insurance and M.O.T.

Once you have passed, (as an optional extra) you can reduce the cost of insurance by undertaking the DVSA Enhanced Rider Scheme (link to the directory of local centres) which is an assessment by the instructor who will teach you a series of advanced techniques (i.e., defensive riding, hazard awareness, overtaking, bends and cornering, slow control etc) to ensure safer riding. Once completed, you are awarded a DVSA certificate of competence.


Conclusion

The long and short is that you can ride a motorcycle no matter your age if you plan to get started off-road. If you’re fit enough and capable enough to handle the craziness of the roads, then there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t ride.

To my knowledge, a motorcycle licence will last until you are age 70 when you will then have to retake a test every 3 years to ensure you are still fit enough to continue riding on the roads.

Aside from that, I’ll say that motorcycle riding is great for escaping the busyness of life, getting some alone time, learning new skills and meeting other like-minded individuals.

No lie, I’ll surely be riding into my older age, provided I have good health of course, so if this is just a thought of yours right now, then I would encourage you to get started!

Picture of Leon Angus

Leon Angus

I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I also love cars, planes and boats too! I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and love to smell petrol in my spare time! A true petrol head at heart. This website is my path back into the motor industry and the place where I can shell fuel for fanatics along the way. Learn More about the mission here

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Picture of Leon Angus

Leon Angus

I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I also love cars, planes and boats too! I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and love to smell petrol in my spare time! A true petrol head at heart. This website is my path back into the motor industry and the place where I can shell fuel for fanatics along the way. Learn More about the mission here

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