How to start motorcycle training!
Updated: Jan 17
How to start riding a motorcycle in the UK.
Navigating the processes and rules for learning to ride a motorcycle in the UK can be confusing so we thought we would write this post to try to make it as easy as possible for you. If you still need assistance then don’t hesitate to call us (0208 331 1103) or e-mail us (email@example.com) we will be more than happy to discuss your options with you!
Driving Licence Requirements
The minimum requirements are that you are 16 years old and hold a valid UK driving licence. A provisional driving licence is sufficient.
If you don’t have one then go to your local Post Office and request a driving licence application form. Complete the form, send it to the DVLA and you will receive your driving licence by post.
Alternatively you may do this online through the .gov website by following this link: https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence
You can apply for your licence when you are 15 years and 9 months old but to begin to train with us we do request that you are at least 16..
If you hold a full car licence it is still only a provisional motorcycle licence and that is sufficient for you to begin training on a motorcycle. If your full car licence was issued before 1 February 2001 you are entitled to ride a motorcycle or moped up to 50cc without L plates and without having to take a CBT course.
If you hold a foreign licence you can use the online tool to see if your licence is valid to drive in the UK and what you can do by following this link: https://www.gov.uk/driving-nongb-licence
What training do I need?
This depends on whether you have previous motorcycling experience or whether you have never even sat on a motorcycle before. Then you should decide what type of motorcycle you wish to ride, one with an automatic transmission or one with a manual transmission. We have a blog post comparing automatic motorcycles to manual transmission bikes coming up where we look at them in more detail.
Automatic bikes are the easiest to learn on. If you can ride a pedal cycle you will generally be able to master an automatic motorcycle. The brakes for example follow the same arrangement as on your bicycle, namely rear brake on your left hand and front brake on your right hand. There is no gearbox or clutch to master making the learning process much easier. We recommend this as the most cost effective option for an absolute beginner.
Manual motorcycles have a gearbox operated with a clutch and, whilst a clutch and gearbox offer the rider much more control over the motorcycle there is also much more to learn and it can take a little longer sometimes to master these additional controls.
If you have zero experience of using a clutch and gearbox or have never had any experience whatsoever of riding any form of motorcycle, and wish to ride one of these bikes, we would recommend an individual or taster one hour lesson to see how you get on with the manual bike before attempting your CBT course. Otherwise, struggling with these controls could result in not being able to complete the CBT course in one day and would incur the additional expense of further training.
Best to try things first, measure twice cut once my dad used to say. We can arrange for your taster session to have both types of bike available if you wish allowing you to make a more informed choice when it comes to arranging your training.
If you do have previous experience of using a clutch and gearbox, maybe you drive a manual car, you may have a higher chance of success at CBT if you choose a manual bike.
You may book a taster or one hour lesson with us by completing this form on our website. Hourly lessons of this type cost £30.00. All our courses are explained here on our website: https://www.acbt.london/book-online
Compulsory Basic Training
Once you have decided on the motorcycle option that best suits your needs, your entry into the world of motorcycling in the UK is a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course.
The government introduced this course in December 1990 to try to alleviate the large numbers of motorcycle casualties. Up to that point it was possible to go to a dealership, purchase a motorcycle and ride off without any training. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why there were so many casualties! Whilst the CBT course has evolved over the years it remains true to the original idea. Rider safety. Everything in the course is about safety.
By law the courses must be delivered by personnel authorised by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) the government department responsible for administering the course and everything to do with driver and vehicle standards. Our instructor Joe is DVSA approved and whilst we think he is a terrific instructor don’t take our word for it. Have a look at our growing number of reviews on Google or Trustpilot. Additionally, only last week he was assessed by the DVSA and scored 48 points out of a possible 51! You can “meet” Joe on our introductory blog post.
The CBT course
A CBT training course is a one day course. Our courses start at 0800. There is no set finish time, the course ends once the trainee has covered all the elements of the course. We do not put pressure on trainees and go at your pace however the usual finish time is between 1500-1600 hours. We recommend bringing some snacks and/or refreshment with you.
There are five elements or lessons to the training course and we refer to them as elements a-e. The trainee must demonstrate competency in each of the elements to attain the certificate. This will allow the rider to drive a motorcycle up to 125cc for a period of two year allowing time to pass the full motorcycle test. If the trainee doesn’t pass the test, after two years they will have to re-take CBT. The elements work as follows:
Element A: This is a classroom element and is all about safety equipment and clothing. You will learn why we wear our equipment, how it works, and what to look for so you are able to make more informed purchase and wearing choices.
Element B: This is completed on the training area. In this element we will introduce you to the controls of the motorcycle so you know where they are and what they do. We show you how to use them and how/when not to use them. You will also learn to perform various maintenance tasks to ensure your motorcycle is safe to use. You will also get physical with the bike learning how to use the prop stands.
Element C: This is completed on the training area. You will learn how to push the bike safely in straight lines and in turns. We then teach you how to sit on the bike, turn the engine on/off and engage gear. You will learn to pull away and stop and complete basic exercises such as left and right turns. Once this is achieved we move on to some exercises to enhance your control of the machine before moving on to exercises simulating techniques you will be using on the road.
Elelement D: This is a classroom element. We will discuss something called the Highway Code and how this is important and other issues things that will affect your safety, such as awareness of how alcohol/drugs have an adverse effect. We will also map some scenarios of situations that you will come across on the road.
Element E: This is a practical on road exercise. We begin with a briefing explaining how the road ride works, communication and how we will practice what we have learned during the day but in a live traffic scenario. Your instructor will accompany you on the road and you will be in constant radio contact as you ride on a variety of roads. This element is to give you first hand experience of being on the road and lasts for a minimum of two hours.
It is incredibly important that you have this time to practice. Should you ever complete a CBT where this time is cut short please report the matter to the DVSA. Cutting down the content of the course is cutting down your safety and we treat this with the utmost seriousness. We want you to be on a motorcycle but we want you to be safe.
Successful completion of each of the five elements of the course will result in you obtaining your CBT certificate (DL196). This demonstrates and confirms that you have a: attended the compulsory training session and b: you are considered to be a safe and competent rider by a DVSA qualified instructor. Our instructor is one of the best in the business and he will do everything possible to ensure your success during the day. If you do not complete each of the elements to the required standard you will need to re-take your CBT course.
The DVSA have produced a simple video to explain how CBT works. Have a look here: https://youtu.be/HN2XS0gCKd8
To book your CBT with us, simply head over to our website: https://www.acbt.london/book-online
The Highway Code
If you looked at the DVSA video you will notice the very first ting the video shows on the very first screen is “You need good knowledge of the highway code and traffic signs before the course” This is emphasised with large capital letters… for a reason.
This doesn’t mean you need to pass your theory test prior to CBT but it does mean that you must have studied it before attending your course. If you do not know the Highway Code you cannot be considered to be both safe and competent your instructor cannot sign a certificate saying you are.
If you have never heard of the Highway Code you need to make this a priority before booking your training. If the last time you read it was years ago when you passed your test you need to refresh your knowledge. As a driving licence holder you have a duty to keep updated with changes in driving regulations. Our instructor is very adept at proving that you don’t know the code as well as you think so make sure to study it before attending! This is not to catch you out but to re-inforce the need to refresh our knowledge.
A copy of the current version may be obtained here: Official Highway Code 2022
The next stage after your CBT is to pass your motorcycle test. We have a dedicated blog post on how the DAS (Direct Access Scheme) works. You may read it here.
There are quite a few urban myths surrounding the CBT course. These do nothing but confuse and misinform people so we thought we’d list some common ones for you.
1: Compulsory Basic Training is easy: Like anything else in life, CBT is easy if you are skilled. If you are not then it may not be as easy as people say. It is not difficult but we wouldn’t label is as easy either as this is a subjective term. What one person considers to be easy may not be the same as another. Riding a motorcycle is a skill involving lots of different factors and like any skill it needs to be learned and practiced. Each person is an individual and each individual processes and assimilates information in a different way. If you have any condition or specific learning needs please advise us in advance and we may be able to adapt our teaching to help you.
2: You cannot fail at CBT: In a sense this is true. CBT is a training course, not a test so, technically, there is no such thing as a formal pass/fail, as in your driving test. As opposed to a test we have a continual assessment process. As long as you achieve the standard required throughout your training you will achieve your certificate at the end of the day, it is completed by your instructor and you leave with it on your way home.
3: You’ll be done in a couple of hours: This is not so and can be an unpleasant surprise if you have made important arrangements, like being at work at a certain time for example. You should allow a full day for your CBT training. Our courses start at 0800 and usually finish between 1500-1600 hours. This is not something unique to us, it is standard industry practice.
4: I need a short renewal CBT: There is no such thing as a “renewal CBT”. Some trainees have heard that a renewal cbt is short and will only take a couple of hours. This is not the case. The DVSA video explains that if you don’t pass your test within the two year term of your certificate you must take CBT again. This means going through the CBT training course. However, as an experienced rider you should be able to demonstrate competency much more easily than a beginner which ultimately means your day will be shorter but you must still allow a full day for your course.
5: I’ve been riding for years, can’t I just give you a few quid and you give me a certificate? Absolutely not. This is against the law. You must complete the CBT training as a matter of course and law.
6: Pass your test. Renewing CBT every two years is a waste of time and money: This is a commonly held view by some companies trying to encourage riders to move onto a DAS course as soon as possible. It is true that CBT was never envisaged as a renewal tool allowing a rider to keep riding indefinitely .
It just suits some riders to do so. Some simply don’t feel the need to pass their test and are quite happy on their 125 motorcycle or scooter. For others the expense of DAS training is not achievable. Others still find the prospect of completing the theory test an aggravation they can do without.
There are however very specific benefits to renewing the CBT every two years. Once someone passes their test that could be the last training they ever do whereas a person renewing their CBT is undergoing refresher training on a regular basis which can help to make a better rider. They have an opportunity to brush up on skills or remove bad habits and even become aware of changes to laws and/or Highway Code so in our opinion if you are happy to return after two years for some more training we are more than happy to have you back.
We hope the above is useful for you and helps you to make informed decisions as to the level of training you need. As stated above don’t hesitate to contact us if you need assistance!
Thought of another CBT myth? Let us know in the comments field!
Next week: A beginner's guide to Automatic v Manual motorcycles. Read post.
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ACBT London Rider Training
0208 331 1103
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