Moving to the UK

Getting a Motorcycle Licence in the UK – Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)

Earlier this year I wrote a post about getting a driver’s licence in the UK and thought I’d follow it up with an explanation of how to get a motorcycle licence.

In the UK, the first step in being able to ride a motorcycle or scooter is completing Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) – a training course which upon completion will allow you ride a 125 cc bike for up to 2 years. You don’t need to have any prior experience riding a motorcycle to do the CBT but you do need to be able to at least ride a bicycle first.

In London, the CBT will normally cost around £120 (unlike a car licence there’s no set cost and it varies slightly between different training bodies). Since I’d never ridden a motorbike or scooter before I was hesitant to pay this money upfront in case I ended up hating it or I was just really bad at it! After doing some research online I found out about the Get On campaign which offers a free 1 hour taster lesson. If you don’t like it then there’s no obligation to continue with lessons. I found a training centre offering the Get On free ride close to home so I made a booking.

My free ride ended up being a complete disaster! I was the only one doing the free ride and they grouped me with three other people who were there to do their CBT and all had prior riding experience – I was the only one who was a complete newbie. After a safety introduction I had a go on the bike and it was awful. I just couldn’t get the hang of it, the training area was very small so there wasn’t much room to manoeuvre and I ended up riding into a fence. The instructor didn’t give me much constructive feedback, only telling me to try again without pointing out what I was doing wrong and how to correct it. I left the lesson feeling pretty dejected and thinking that I wasn’t cut out for riding a scooter.

My boyfriend (who had already completed his CBT) managed to convince me that maybe I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was and just needed better instruction, so I decided to give the CBT a go. I was still hesitant about paying the course fee and most training bodies won’t offer a refund if you don’t pass. After researching lots of training centres across London I found CAM Rider who for an additional £30 will offer a 100% guarantee, so if you can’t pass after taking all the training they will refund 100% of your CBT fee. They also had a photo of their training area on the website and it was so much bigger than the area where I’d done the free ride so that helped put me at ease a little.

The CBT started out in the same way as the free ride – we all got kitted up in gloves, jacket and waterproof trousers, went through the safety introduction and then the instructors took us around the bikes and explained all the controls. It was then time to have a go on the bikes and there was such a big difference between this and my first lesson. The instructors at CAM Rider were fantastic and I was getting the hang of things much better than the previous attempt. I didn’t master all the maneuvers straight away and was pretty nervous whenever I had to pick up a bit of speed, so the instructors didn’t feel that I was ready complete the CBT that day. They were very encouraging though and reassured me that I was almost there. Since I had booked the guarantee option all I had to do was book in another session and only had to pay the cost of the bike hire for the second attempt (£49).

Two weeks later I was back again for my second CBT attempt. I completed the maneuvers in the training area and this time I made it through to the second part of the CBT which is the on-road riding. You go out on the road with the instructor wearing an ear piece so they can give you instructions on where to go and what maneuvers they want you to do. You spend about 2 hours on the road but you aren’t riding solidly the whole time, you stop a few times along the way. I made a few silly mistakes while out on the road but nothing major and I passed!

The CBT is only the first step – you have to pass the full motorcycle test within 2 years otherwise you need to do the CBT again. In addition to being restricted to 125 cc engine, you also can’t ride on motorways or carry a pillion passenger until you get the full motorcycle licence.

I’ve had my scooter for a few months now and I love the freedom it gives me. I definitely want to gain some more riding experience before I attempt the full motorcycle test but I’ve still got plenty of time.

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