Is a bike license worth it?

More and more people are turning to the possibility of riding a motorcycle as fuel and insurance prices continue to rise. It is not only cheaper in terms of fuel economy, it is also cheaper to maintain than their four wheel cousins.

In the UK, the road license (Tax) for a motorcycle remains below £75.00 for a motorcycle over 600cc, you can get considerable lower insurance, and although the maintenance for a bike is more frequent (changing oil, tyres, etc) it will workout cheaper than maintaining a car.

Current Road License in the UK

Engine size (cc) 12 months rate 6 months rate
Not over 150 £16.00 Not available
151-400 £35.00 Not available
401-600 £53.00 £29.15
Over 600 £74.00 £40.70

Certainly the lower you choose in power terms the more miles to the gallon you are going to achieve – take the 2011 Honda CBR250R for example, you can get in the range of 76.4 miles-to-the-gallon.  You can even, get close to that with Honda’s 2011 600cc NC700X with 64 miles-to-the-gallon.  There is not a great deal of cars that can achieve that kind of fuel economy.

Other aspects to consider, motorcycles v cars:

  • You can fit multiple bikes into a single parking space that is made for one single car.
  • The majority of parking-lots DO NOT Charge for a motorcycle.
  • Motorcycles tend to out-perform cars, even with the lower end of the power train, bikes can out perform some cars.  Sure some more powerful cars can keep up with bikes, but tend to cost twenty times the cost.
  • It gets you out in the fresh air.  I think it is safe to say it is a bit different, riding a bike than driving a convertible.
  • Motorcycling develops your co-ordination and balance.  Using your hands for brake and clutch, whilst using your feet for brakes and shifting gears, is difficult at first, but feels much more of an achievement when you get it.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love cars, there are some really nice cars on today’s roads and some cars I will never be able to afford unless I win the lottery, but I have a massive appreciation for the motorcycle.

It is a good chance that if you do like bikes and appreciate their power as well as their aesthetics, you will most likely appreciate cars, trucks, boats and airplanes too.  There is certainly some really nice examples of cars around that will bring a smile to your face – I am certainly looking forward to my Super Car Experience day in early 2012, but really can appreciate the draw that motorcycles bring.

Motorcycling makes you feel part of a unique club.  Something that is small and something that only a select few belong to.  When you ride a motorcycle down the road, and you meet another rider coming towards you in the opposite direction, he/she will most certainly wave to you.  Not because he or she knows you, it is because he or she can appreciate what it is like to ride a motorcycle.

Motorcycle riders have often been given an unfair reputation as being reckless, risk takers, and generally disobeying traffic laws.  There is a select few among the motorcycling community that may fit into these categories, but generally these are unfounded, many of the statistics have shown that in the majority of the accidents it has been the fault of another driver and not that of the motorcyclist.

In the UK and most certainly around the world, this unfounded reputation has meant that car drivers fail to recognize motorcycles as part of traffic and therefore is a contributing factor in motorcycle accidents involving other vehicles.

The majority of collisions involving motorcycles and other vehicles, the excuses tend to be one of two “The driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision with the motorcycle either did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until it was too late to avoid the collision.”

These findings go to show that the motorcycle rider has unjustly received a bad reputation from both the general public and insurance companies.  Motorcycles are unfortunately prone to accidents caused by other drivers because their small size.

The truth is that most motorcycle riders are exceptionally good drivers and keep an eye out for other motorists who do not see them, and this awareness will often make you a much better driver in a car, making you more aware of what is going on around you and be more alert to other drivers.  You will also gain a better appreciation of other motorcyclists, giving them more room and being aware of where they are in relation to your car.

One of the main reasons for me writing this article was to make you aware of what the government is doing in relation to taking your motorcycle test.

Currently in the UK, in addition to taking and passing your CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) and Hazard Perception Test you are required to take a practical test which is split into two modules.

  • The Theory Test gauges your knowledge and understanding of riding on UK Roads.  Having a sound understanding of this theory is essential to better understanding of the practical riding skills.
  • The Hazard Perception Test – research has shown that, the more experienced you are at scanning and reading the road much further ahead, you are more likely to recognize much earlier clues of a hazardous situation, therefore taking action much earlier to avoid the hazard.  The Hazard Perception Test is in addition to the Theory Test and will be taken at the same time.

The Practical Test is split into two modules.  You must pass Module One before you can take Module Two.  Module One is taken at an off-road center (no it is not to test how you are at handling the bike off tarmac) – The test involves:

  • Manual Handling of the bike – taking the bike off the stand and reversing it from one parking bay to the next.
  • Slow Control Steering
  • Slow Riding
  • U-Turn
  • Circuit bend and bring the bike to a controlled stop
  • Cornering and Emergency Stop from a measured 32mph
  • Cornering and Avoidance of an obstacle, also measured from 32mph

After passing Module One, you progress onto Module Two which is On-Road Riding lasting around 40-minutes, through various road and traffic conditions, performing some, or even all of the following manoeuvres:

  • Pulling up on the left behind a parked vehicle
  • Left and Right Turns on to and off main roads
  • Round-a-bouts
  • Traffic Lights
  • Pedestrian Crossings
  • Hill Starts.

For more information, you can visit this link and it will give a much more detailed description.

One of the most common reasons for failure is:

  • Riding along a dual-carriageway and you overtake the vehicle in front, if the vehicle you’ve just passed brakes for any reason when you return to the left, it is an automatic failure.

In the UK currently, there are three types of full motorcycle license’s to aim for:

  • Category P – Moped/Scooter for those up to the age of 17.
  • Category A1 – Light motorcycle for ages between 17 and 21, you can only ride a bike with an engine size of no more than 125cc with a maximum power output of 14.6bhp.
  • Category A – Standard motorcycle license, also known as the Direct Access.  This license entitles you to ride a motorcycle of any engine size.  You will also need to be 21 and over to apply for this license.

This is all about to change in 2013, however.  If we discount the Category P license above the other two licenses will be replaced with the following:

  • A1 will essentially remain the same, meaning you can only ride up to a 125cc bike.  Ages 17 to 19 and you will have to wait 2 years before applying for anything beyond.
  • A2 will be restricted to bikes up to 46bhp.  You will need to be 19 to take this test and you will have to wait at least 2 years before applying for anything beyond.
  • A License will allow you to ride bikes beyond 46bhp – However, riders wishing to progress to this license will be required to take additional training and a further test, and the minimum age for taking the Direct Access test will rise from 21 to 24.

This has not yet been fully passed by the government, and no one at present knows what the new Direct Access Scheme License will entail, and if this will effect current license holders.  The A1 and A Licenses appear to remain the same as they are now, the only thing that changes is the length of time between you can take each category and the ages at which you can take these tests.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and despite the requirements need to gain a motorcycle license in the UK, has not put you off and think this is definitely worth it, then I say go for it, it is one of the best things you will ever do.

I would love to hear from you guys.  Let me have your thoughts on this article and what what the government is doing to change the tests.

Other Reading:

EU Proposals for Anti-Tampering Measures and ABS for all bikes over 125cc by 2013



2 thoughts on “Is a bike license worth it?”

  1. Sounds like you guys will be getting better licensing systems than we do down in New Zealand. At the moment the tests are a joke, which is sad. But motorcycles are definitely the way to go, just because they are so much more fun!!


    1. Hi Matt,

      Thank you for your comments. I am looking at moving to Australia in the very near future, and despite the fact I already have my license I would love to hear about the motorcycle tests and rules from New Zealand. I am not sure if my license will cover me completely and might have to take a test when I get to Oz.


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