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The issue of rider licensing is still causing alarm among motorcyclists. I have been contacted by riders and businesses who are concerned about the complications that the European Union has introduced to the British motorcycle licence through unwelcome directives.

This issue is important because as well as being a great leisure and tourism activity, more and more people are using bikes to get to work as a cheaper form of transport than trains or buses, plus of course motorcycles are often great at getting through congested traffic. The main problem is that instead of there being one type of motorcycle licence, the EU has introduced three under the ‘Third Driving Licence Directive’, with each having different rules attached to licence acquisition. Many of these rules relate to minimum ages and how riders upgrade from smaller bikes to larger ones.

In summary, the categories are:

  • AM (mopeds) age 16
  • A1 (125cc) age 17
  • A2 (medium powered bikes) from age 19
  • A (all bikes from 21)

The dealer Doble have published Honda’s visual guide here. You can see the system is non-trivial.

To ‘upgrade’ from an ‘A1’ to an ‘A’ licence, riders will have to repeat the same motorcycle test at each stage, with a two year delay before progressing to the next stage. I am at a loss to understanding what repeating the same test will achieve for road safety: good quality rider training should open the door to each licensing category.

It used to be the case that over 21s could gain ‘direct access’ to the largest category via a single training and testing route, but this has now risen to age 24. My main concern is that the system has become very complicated for young people who really need the kind of cost effective and practical transport that biking represents. In my view this discriminates against young people, who deserve freedom of choice in meeting their transport needs. I am calling for a small simplification of the system which would reduce the costs and bureaucracy of getting a larger bike licence.

This would be to replace the requirement for additional motorcycle tests with a requirement for a rider training course which would bring a qualification for licence upgrade. I feel that this would be better for road safety and would be more useful to motorcyclists than the ‘hurdle’ of a repeated test.

When the Euro licence was introduced, against the wishes of our Government, the Department for Transprt did say that it would introduce an option for riders to take a training upgrade between each licensing stage, after an initial full test had been passed in either A1 or A2 – once it had made some changes to how motorcycle trainers were registered and accredited. I hear that work is progressing in this area but I feel it’s now time for the Government to set in train the steps needed to fulfil its commitment to the training, rather than testing, route.

I have therefore tabled the following question to the Secretary of State:

If he will replace the requirement for novice motorcycle riders to take more than one full motorcycle test to pass through rider licensing stages with a training requirement for licensing progression through each stage after an initial full motorcycle test has been taken and if he will make a statement

Ultimately, this is yet another example of bureaucratic excess from the EU. Rider and driver licensing is an area which should be part of our EU renegotiation so we can get on with simple and effective testing and training.


  1. Whilst this is an admirable cause Steve, I am more and more coming to the view that the main purpose of Parliament is to legislate against the activities of one group due to the vocal wishes of another who simply wish to stifle the freedoms of others.

    It is my view that Parliament simply upholds (gives in to / panders to/ submits to) the demands of protest organisations who have largely organised themselves into well funded and structured groups, fueled by the gutter press and celebrities with far too much influence to ,bit by little bit, remove the rights of “unpopular” groups such as bikers.

    It is as a direct result of these groups that this legislation was ordained in the first place.

    Make no mistake, I believe you are wasting your time on this.

    I would prefer to see a “Just belt up, it’s not your business” law to stop these pressure groups bringing things to the table just for the victory, not the cause.


    • Fair points Gavin but despair isn’t productive. I came into Parliament in the hope, which may be in vain, that it may be possible to create a free and prosperous society out of the increasingly authoritarian, stagnant and ideologically-confused political mess which has grown up as a consequence of people’s legitmate desire to live in security.

      • I see no despair in his comment, I simply see a realistic view of the way this country is run.

        And I see nothing from you but a ‘Disgusted of Wycombe’ Steve, you present your disgust without presenting a concrete alternative other than ‘training’.

        You fail to mention who should provide this training, will you be seeking to stretch over worked Police motorcyclists even more ?

        Or will you create an arms length system with licensed training locations which will lack oversight and supervision ? And how much will this cost the motorcyclist, because every time you change the rules like this a whole new wave of costs and consultants fees piles up and it’s then the motorcyclist who ends up footing the bill.

        You might want to start instead by asking for more funding for basic road repairs to make the motorways of the UK safe to be ridden on in all weathers.

      • Well said Steve, What can “we” do to help


  2. I feel this unwanted directive comes from un-elected bureaucrats who have no idea about motoring let alone motorcycling.

    If the aim is to make things safer for younger riders, the opposite has been achieved.

    Under powered, under braked 125’s will continue to be car fodder.

    I would expect the 85% car driver fault ratio to increase.

    What would be the reason for anybody to pass their test on a 125? Would you be happy on a 125 on the motorway? I did it once, 2 up, to pick up another bike, never again. (Only got pushed onto hard shoulder twice)

    A far better proposal would be a max power to weight ratio and a minimum weight (larger bikes being more stable).

    More important to do something about safety, The American “look once, look twice, save a life” campaign is a good idea.

    Rider protection from Armco being another.

    Finally whilst I cannot remember the directive. The anti-roll legislation for cars has caused a 50-75% increase in “lane change” accidents. (due to increased size of windscreen/door pillar supports.
    A. something needs to be done.
    B. Has anybody got a figure for the increase in deaths / serious injury’s due to this?

    Roy Heslop

  3. The new licensing system is another nail in the motorcycling industries coffin. The government should be promoting & helping us not hindering us by introducing a ridiculous staggered licence. The under 24’s will now not bother taking their full test I’ve not had one single person under 24 requesting training to take their test since the new law was introduced. This means more people will be riding around on L plates with just cbt qualification and this is bound to increase the accident rates for the young inexperienced riders who could have taken training and gained a full licence if the old system (which worked!) was still in place.

    This government yet again has bowed down to the Eu and let the people of this country down. Raising the age of the licence WON’T reduce accident rates amongst motorcyclists. Training for riders at an early age and educating other road users is the only sensible and logical way forward.

  4. The requirement for a test at each stage is rediculous. The purpose of the staged licencing is so that the rider can gain experience of controling the bike on a lower powered bike before moving up to the next level of power. All that is necessary is a minimum period of riding at each stage.

  5. Ok, I understand bikes are dangerous, I am a biker. I use my bike everyday. I see people do the most dumbass things one can not even attempt to make up. As an IAM member I try my best to anticipate. Specially the even dumber people using their phones, putting on make-up, eating and the myriad of other things car drivers can do, because theirs cars are fitted with these different devices. What I dont understand though is that motorcyclists are always at the short end. Why not introduce at least the same system for car drivers? Nothing prevents mister 18 year to get his license, daddy to buy him a top of the range audi or other fast car, and take to the road with all that inexperience behind him?

    If that question can be satisfactorily answered, I would advocate that, with experience comes more skill and accept the new license rules, but until then: Someone is making money and that would be the only explanation.

    Why do I say that? Well look at high-viz. It means nothing. If a car driver is not concentrating, high viz means as much as a cigarette lighter in hell.

  6. Lee Anderton

    I totally agree with Kobus that if the EU brings this in for riders it should bring it in for car drivers especially after walking through Tesco yesterday at 1230pm in Dereham Norfolk and hearing a young male member of staff bragging to a colleague how he cannot wait to pass his car test as he knows he will have an accident within the first year because the way he intends to drive it. That crash could be him hitting me as I ride my bike so perhaps the EU might like to thing about that.

  7. There is no such scheme in relation to car driving. Why should there be any such scheme in relation to motorcycling. There obviously is an agenda somewhere along the line. Be it money making, dislike of motorcycles or just plain change for change sake. The whole subject stinks. More should be done to educate the Nations bad drivers, four wheels and two wheels.

  8. Considering that nobody asked for a Third Driving License Directive, I would be interested to hear why one was drafted and implemented. It is ridiculous to make motorcyclists resit the same test in order to ride a larger bike, when they will have gained two years of experience riding on the public highway. Experience cannot be taught. It is only by riding every day that all the necessary survival skills can be aquired and built upon.

    As a member of the generation who were required to ride 12bhp 125cc bikes, I can well remember the problems caused by riding such a low-powered machine. Overtaking slower vehicles was very difficult, and the behaviour of car drivers was often downright dangerous. Where is the sense in passing a motorcycle test, only to be forced to ride a 125cc machine with a maximum speed of just 65mph, simply because you are 17 years old? It would appear to be discriminatory behaviour, simply because a motorcycle has a superior power-to-weight ratio than most cars, certainly those bought by the majority of 17 year olds.

    I see no reason why a young rider shouldn’t be able to graduate to a full A2 licence once he or she has passed their full motorcycle test aged 17. Two years experience on such a machine will be safer and more enjoyable than time spent on a restricted 125cc bike. Making someone wait until they are 19 may well result in fewer young bikers on the roads… or is that the ulterior motive behind the lastest legislation? There will still be people aged 24 and over who will be able to pass their Direct Access test, and then ride whatever machine they choose, despite having only a week or two of riding experience. How will this situation be solved by restricting younger riders, who often ride bikes as their only means of transport?

    There are people out there who passed a Direct Access test, bought a superbike, and have never ridden except on sunny Sundays. Their roadcraft is poor, while their speeds are often far too high for the road conditions, yet they are free to buy such machines and ride this way because of their age. Most of my generation (early ’40s) passed their tests on a 125, graduated to machines with 40-60bhp when we passed our tests, and gained valuable experience before were were in a position to afford a big, powerful bike. Penalising younger riders isn’t helpful when accident rates among newly-qualified older riders and younger DRIVERS are so high.

  9. Stephen Harris

    Are tbey going to be suggesting a similar policy to car drivers? As of now a 17 year old can take their lessons in say a fiat 500 pass their test in the same car then next day drive a high performance car, without any set skills of handling and performance

  10. Brilliant, common sense. Thanks for the effort Steve. Stay optimistic. Ian Mutch Motorcycle Action Group President

    • These laws amount to sex discrimination.
      As a vertically challenged female, I need to retake my tests on a 500/600 to get a full licence or I am stuck on my 125 for eternity. But I can’t get on them! My feet don’t touch the floor. I wanted a 250, which I can ride comfortably, but now because of these stupid rules I can’t ride it unless I retest on a 500/600. where is the logic in that?

    • Dave Rodger

      Hi, Ian
      Has your group got any figures on the number of us that have been screwed over by the DVLA that have “lost” their m/bike licence entitlement when their licence was at Swansea for changes, and been returned minus groups, or with unearned groups added.
      I have been trying to get my entitlment back for years without success and stonewalled by the reply “We have no record of your having passed a m/cycle test, so are unable to add this group to your licence”.
      How many pre 1973 records are available to the DVLA as one lady told me during one of my numerous phone calls to them that “we have no written records prior to 73 and thousands of such records were never added when the system was computerised”.
      My 1998 FLSTS Heritage Springer has ben an ornament in my shed and untill I caved in and did a CBT 2 years ago and bought a 125 I have IMO wrongly been deprived of my enjoyment I should have experienced over these many years.
      It really adds insult to injury when I am told I have no other recourse than to pay (again)the now extortionate costs of these “courses” to be entitled to regain what I allready have, all because of this self regulating monster that is allowed to cover up it’s own obvious errors.
      At 63 years I have no objection to a FREE assesment of my riding ability, but it pee’s me off to add these financial penalties to the years of riding enjoyment I have lost out on.
      Best regards Dave.

  11. Excellent article, and well written. The new license system is completely absurd, being another perfect example of the EU fuelling its own bureaucracy.

    However, as someone who has already long ago passed, I find more worrying the future plans for regulation of bike modification, mandatory using of high-vis vests, etc.