motorbikes and scooters learning to ride

so you want to ride a motorcycle or scooter?

We check out everything you need to know to get a licence and get started.

It always looks easy enough and fun too. It's also economical, environmentally-friendly and hugely convenient for all kinds of people. How you get started largely depends on your age and what you want to ride so here's a rundown of the basics.

In this day and age you can't just swing your leg over a 1,000cc sportsbike and launch yourself into next week. In fairness, you've never been allowed to do that but the point is that things have been tightened up in recent years to ensure all riders are trained and safe on the bike or scooter they're on. The starting point, as you may well be aware, is a little thing called Compulsory Basic Training (CBT).

The tuition involved in completing the CBT can be, and indeed is normally, done in a single day. The good news is that most training agencies run courses on Saturdays. After a basic eyesight test - reading a standard number plate at 20.5m - you take to your bike on an enclosed training area. The training ground is used to allow you to familiarise yourself with the bike's controls and low speed manoeuvrability, away from the hassles of impatient motorists.

Once that's out of the way, it's time to go into the classroom to learn the correct motorcycle road protocol. The final part of the day is an actual road riding session. This will last at least two hours and for the whole time you'll be followed by an instructor, who'll be in contact via a helmet mounted radio. All you have to do is remember everything you've been told over the day and you'll pass.

As far as who can ride what is concerned, once you are 16 you can ride a 50cc moped or motorcycle (Not all 50cc machines are twist'n'go mopeds, and as such you are not limited to just mopeds) that is not capable of more than 28mph, on a CBT. The "old" licensing was much the same, but the machine could be capable of 32mph. As such, all older scooters are effectively off limits to new riders. This has been much criticized by the motorcycling community as being hugely stupid, as it means new young riders will have to buy new/nearly new machines rather than used, at least for the next couple of years.

Once you reach 17 the options for motorcycling begin to open up. The CBT is still a necessary requirement, but the real advantage of waiting that extra year is the wider choice of machines you are able to ride. At the age of 17 up to 19, you can ride a machine up to 125cc, not capable of making more than 14.6hp / 11kW of power. This is the "new" A1 category. Unlike the old regulations, you cannot ride a 33hp /25kW machine. You cannot ride anything bigger until you turn 19.

When you turn 19 you can take and pay for another licence and test. This is the "new" A2 category. This lets you ride any machine with a power output of up to 47bhp / 35kW. Like the old 33bhp licence, there is no limit of the cubic capacity of the machine, merely the power output. This mean you can take a more powerful bike and restrict its power output to a lower level. Unlike the old licence however, this machine cannot have a power output exceeding 100hp in its unrestricted form. So this means most Sportsbikes are off limits, even if you have it restricted.

When you turn 21 you can again take and again pay for another licence and test. This is the "new" A category. Once you gain this licence, you can ride any machine.

Whereas you used to be able to do Direct Access (DAS) at the age of 21, and ride any machine as on an A category, you must now be 24 or older to do Direct Access.

To get your motorcycle licence through Direct Access you have to complete the CBT. Though a great many riders who choose this option take an intensive course which also includes this necessary element. The only way to legally practise on a machine of this size is to be accompanied by a qualified instructor who is in radio contact. This is one of the reasons why intensive courses are so popular; you get the hire of a bike, radios and, of course, an instructor all for a flat fee.

For further details on getting started in the world of motorcycles and scooters, just contact your local testing centre or the Driving Standards Agency. The number of the DSA is 0300 200 1122 and their website is at