Getting a Motorcycle License in the UK

Me riding my Honda CB600F Hornet

I don’t do many personal posts on my blog but I’m opening to the idea of adding some on the rare occasion that may help or be of interest to others, this is the first in that category.

Me riding my Honda CB600F Hornet
Me riding my ’05 Honda CB600F Hornet

The purpose of this post is to share my experience of achieving my motorcycle license in the UK. There are a few variables involved depending on your age and the timing at which you do each of the tests involved. I’m over 24 years of age and my experience is based upon this. I done all my training with Bike-It in Paisley, Renfrewshire. I completed the theory test at Clydebank, Glasgow and the MOD1/MOD2 at Shieldhall, Glasgow.

I’ve had my full/unrestricted license over one year now but prior to April 2019 I’d never sat on a motorbike. I opted to do my CBT and once completed and knowing I enjoyed riding a bike, I booked my Direct Access course (DAS) to get my full license. In essence there are four key parts to complete to achieve your full license;

  • Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)
  • Motorcycle Theory Test
  • Module 1 Off-Road Test (MOD1)
  • Module 2 On-Road Test (MOD2)

I’ll give a brief overview as to how I found each of these.

Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)

Unfortunately it was a rainy day in Paisley but everything else about the day was very positive. The first couple of hours were theory focussed touching on some key facts about riding a bike and some road knowledge we may have forgotten over the last 17 years of driving. Not everyone that does the CBT may have driving experience. This was followed by some slow riding of the bike within the training centre grounds on a Suzuki RV125 “VanVan”. After a break for lunch we were kitted out with radios and with the instructor in tow we went onto the roads and among the traffic. This didn’t go as well as I expected it would initially but we soon got the hang of things and we both completed the course successfully.

Motorcycle Theory Test

The longest part about the theory test was waiting for an available slot. If you enjoy your CBT and wish to start DAS, I’d recommend booking your theory test as soon as you can. It’s a good idea to do a little research and reading before doing your theory test, this consists of 50 multiple choice questions followed by a hazard perception test where you click a mouse button each time you recognise a developing hazard. This was passed with no issues.

Start of Direct Access

With the theory test complete I started my Direct Access course which was four days of three two hour lessons. Not everyone learns by DAS and each time I was out with the instructor I was riding with other people so got to meet a lot of others working towards their license. When I booked direct access, my practical tests were also booked at the same time.

Suzuki SFV650 Gladius

I had initially done a short lesson on a Keeway 125 bike (RKV 125?) to get familiar with riding a bike again but quickly progressed onto a Suzuki SFV650 Gladius. This was an experience I’ll not forget – the first time you accelerate a big bike is a memorable one. The following days consisted of me riding around the Paisley and Glasgow areas in different traffic situations and junctions. We’d also done a lot of practice for the MOD1 test. A lot of learning to ride a motorcycle is reading the road and performing effective and timely observations – you are tested to this effect.

Module 1 Off-Road Test (MOD1)

This is exactly as the title says, it’s an off-road test. It’s all very formal and under strict test conditions, when you are with your instructor there is some warmth and ongoing guidance but under the test conditions there is direct instruction and no advice or small talk. The MOD1 test consists of you riding into the compound, waiting for the gates to be closed and performing the 7 manoeuvres described below.

  • Manual Handling Exercise – Move the bike manually from one parking bay to another.
  • Riding a slalom between cones and completing two figure of eights between cones.
  • Riding slowly for a short distance, at walking speed.
  • Completing a U-Turn between two marked lines on the ground.
  • Cornering and completing a controlled stop.
  • Cornering and completing an emergency stop.
  • Cornering and completing a hazard avoidance.

Note that points 6 and 7 on the exercises above have to be completed at a minimum speed of 31mph which is measured by going through a speed gate. You’ll have no problem reaching this on a big bike, but you need to practice a few runs to become comfortable with hitting that speed and being able to perform the exercises within test conditions. On my test, the examiner let me know that I achieved the speed target on exercise 5 which helped, however on my hazard avoidance I went through at 29mph – I was allowed my single retry and came through at 35mph. The “scary” aspect of the MOD1 test is that you can practice and be perfect every time, but if you clip a single cone on the day you fail the test. You can have up to 5 minor faults on the test before you fail, or a single major which fails you. I had one minor for failing to hit 31mph on my first hazard avoidance.

Module 2 On-Road Test (MOD2)

Completing the MOD2 is much simpler. You go a ride with the examiner behind you giving you verbal instructions just like your instructor has been doing. Before you sit on the bike the examiner will ask some questions about bike maintenance and riding with a pillion – the instructor will prepare you for these in advance.

The strange thing about the MOD2 is that when on the road there is no small talk from the examiner, simple instructions like “At the end of the road go left” are all you hear. There is an element of the test called independent riding when the examiner will ask you to ride by following road signs. In my case the examiner got this out the way immediately by saying something like “Ok Chris, In your own time leave the test centre and follow signs for Renfrew”. In my case I found the examiner very friendly, whilst it’s very formal words like “buddy” or “mate” were used which I felt helped relax me.

Unfortunately during my MOD2 test I made a small mistake and whilst waiting to turn right at a junction, I didn’t check the exit road was clear and had to emergency stop for someone crossing on a red light. I seen a gap, went for it and found a woman crossing on a red man. I still completed the rest of the test, but failed on this mistake. I returned two weeks later (The shortest minimum time) and completed the MOD2 with no issues.

And from this point forward I’ve had the “A” entitlement on my driving license which allows me to ride any motorbike of any power. You can have an A1 & A2 license which allows you ride certain bikes with restrictions.

So, what’s next?

At this point (May 2019) I started looking and riding different bikes to see what I liked. In the end I settled on a Honda CB600 Hornet. I find it very comfortable to ride to ride in various situations. I’m currently working on a few upgrades to it also. For anyone interested the Hornet has a 600cc Inline-4 Cylinder engine outputting 96.5 BHP @ 12,000 RPM.

Learning to ride a bike has been one of the more exciting things I’ve done over the last few years. Not only have I enjoyed the hours on a bike but I’ve found it’s increased my skills as a road user in general, more observant of what is going on. Thanks to go the team at Bike-It who I really enjoyed spending my time (And money!) with. I’d highly recommend them to anyone in the area looking to learn.

How about you?

So that’s the end of my first personal post on the blog. What are your thoughts? You wouldn’t have stuck with me this long if you didn’t have some interest in bikes yourself, do you ride, what do you ride? How was your experience, or are you looking to learn? Please add a comment below and let me know. Note also the Reddit page in the resources below – I found the people on r/MotoUK very encouraging and supportive during my experience.


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