"This is a somewhat complex subject but I will endeavour to keep it as simple as possible.
As of January 19th 2013 the laws governing motorcycle licensing have gone through some sweeping changes. In the main, these changes will affect young people under the age of 24.
People wishing to ride trikes, who did not already hold a full licence prior to January 19th 2013, will also be affected.
Compulsory Basic Training:
The rules on the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course remain relatively unchanged.
As before the changes, people with a provisional motorcycle licence must complete a CBT course before they can take a moped or motorcycle onto the road. (As of 19th January 2013 this now also applies to trikes).
The CBT certificate will still be valid for two years. If after two years the rider is still on a provisional licence they must complete the CBT again.
This has not really changed. At the minimum age of 16 you can take a test on a solo moped with a maximum capacity of 50cc and top design speed of 30mph.
On passing the test you can only ride mopeds with a maximum capacity of 50cc but you can take off the L-plates and carry a passenger.
Then we move on to the new ‘Staged Access’ test categories.
A1 (Light Motorcycle):
At the minimum age of 17 you can take a test on a motorcycle with a minimum capacity of 120cc and a maximum capacity of 125cc with a power output maximum of 14.6bhp. It but must also be capable of a speed of at least 55mph. (A theory test must be passed before applying for the practical test).
On passing the category A1 test you can only ride motorcycles with a maximum capacity of 125cc and 14.6bhp for a minimum of 2 years but you can take off the L-plates and carry a passenger and ride on the motorway.
A2 (Standard Motorcycle):
At the minimum age of 19, after holding A1 licence for a minimum of 2 years, you can take a test on a solo motorcycle with a capacity of at least 395cc with a power output between 33bhp and 46.6bhp with a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.2kW per kg.
(Any motorcycle with the power output up to 93bhp (70KW) can be used if it has been restricted to a power output between 33bhp and 46.6bhp with a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.2kW per kg). On passing the category A2 test you can only ride motorcycles with a maximum power output of 47bhp for a minimum of 2 years.
A (Unrestricted Motorcycle):
At the minimum age of 21, after holding A2 licence for a minimum of 2 years, you can take a test on a solo motorcycle with a capacity of at least 595cc with a power output of at least 40kW (approx 54bhp).
On passing the category A test you can ride any motorcycle you choose.
To take the category A test before the age of 24 you must have completed the theory test, then the category A1 test, followed by a minimum two year gap, then the category A2 test followed by another two year gap.
NB. There is no requirement to pass a moped test in the staged access system.
You cannot take a Direct Access test below the age of 24. The Direct Access test allows you to gain an unrestricted licence without having to take the staged access tests.
At the minimum age of 24 you can take a direct access test on a solo motorcycle with a capacity of at least 595cc with a power output of at least 54bhp (40kW).
(A theory test must be passed before applying for the Direct Access test).
On passing the Direct Access test you can ride any motorcycle you choose.
Trikes: (Please read all of this section as there are various dispensations and more recent developments detailed in the latter parts)
On January 19th 2013, with the implementation of the 3rd European Licensing Directive, all trikes became part of the ‘Category A’ (motorcycle) licencing regulations. (Previously they had fallen within the ‘Category B’ (car) licencing regulations).
Under European legislation, to ride a trike you will first have to pass a test on a solo motorcycle.
Thanks to the intervention and involvement of the NABD during the formulation of this European legislation, there is a dispensation built-in that permits people with disabilities to ride trikes on a provisional licence and to take a test which will qualify them for a Category A licence restricted to ‘Trikes Only’.
For people who pass the full ‘Category A’ test on a solo motorcycle, either via staged access or direct access, irrespective of disability; you can then ride any size or type of trike you like.
Contrary to popular misconception, it doesn’t matter if a trike has a car engine or a bike engine. Nor does the weight of a trike make any difference to licensing; throughout Europe all trikes will now fall into the Category A licence.
NB. Just to complicate matters Trikes weighing no more than 450kg (unladen) are tax class 50 for VED but trikes weighing more than 450kg (unladen) must be taxed in the PLG class. This does not affect licensing because the current licence system is based on European law but the Vehicle Excise Duty system is based on British Law.
So, to put it plainly for new licence holders, you cannot ride a trike on a provisional licence unless you have a disability/disabilities and you cannot take a test on a trike unless you have a disability/disabilities (‘having a disability/disabilities’ in this case also means you must notify the DVLA of the nature of your disability/disabilities). The correct form for notifying the DVLA of a disability is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/519406/g1-confidential-medical-information.pdf.
If you require more information about how to inform the DVLA about your disability/disabilities, see the ‘Licensing & Disabled Motorcyclists’ section on this web site.
These changes only affect people who did not hold a full car or bike licence prior to January 19th 2013. If you passed a full category B (car) licence test prior to January 19th 2013, you can still ride any trike you like (under what is commonly called ‘Grandfather rights’) because your legal licenced status pre-dates the change of category for trikes.
Also, if you hold a full Category A motorcycle licence, irrespective of when you passed the test you can now, by default, ride any trike you like.
The DVLA policy people have also confirmed that people who hold a current (issued prior to 2013) provisional licence which states B, or B1 do in fact have ‘grandfather rights’ on their provisional status but only for the duration of that license.
Entitlements given on the old paper licenses last until the age of 70 but photo licenses last just 10 years before requiring renewal and we are informed by the DVLA that upon renewal this ‘grandfather rights’ entitlement may be lost.
So to put it in a nutshell: People with a pre 19/01/2013 provisional licence which states B, or B1 are not required to complete a CBT course to ride a trike on L-Plates.
Additional UK Legislation regarding trikes that has only recently come to our attention in 2017:
All of this information above relates to the 3rd European Licensing Directive, which came into force on January 19th 2013.
However, in late November 2017 we were informed that a piece of UK legislation had been implemented on 10/04/2014, which allows any person over the age of 21 who holds a full Category B (car) licence (irrespective of disabilities or what year they passed the full Category B test)) can ride any size of trike within UK territory.
NB. It should be stressed that this legislation is only valid within UK territories. Elsewhere in Europe the 3rd Directive rules apply as implemented on 19/01/ 2013.
Quite why the NABD were not informed of this piece of legislation after us being so heavily involved the European legislative change, is a mystery to us. Perhaps the fact that this legislation was implemented at the same time as VOSA being wound-up and/or amalgamated with the DSA to form the DVLA has something to do with this terrible lack of communication and courtesy from the authorities we have always endeavoured to work with in the past.
Our thanks go to Anthony Cummings of Trikes UK Ltd (formerly Boom Trikes) for bringing this important piece of legislation to light and bringing it to our attention.
Disabled People and Trikes:
Thanks in great part to the work carried out by the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD) with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), people with disabilities who cannot ride adapted solo motorcycles will still be able to ride a trike on a provisional licence and take a test on a trike.
However, as this will now need a provisional motorcycle licence, a CBT course must be completed before going on the road, and that CBT will last just two years. (The motorcycle CBT course may be adjusted slightly for trikes). Before taking a practical trike test, a motorcycle theory test must be taken.
On passing a test on a trike a disabled person would have a category A licence restricted to ‘trikes only’. (The motorcycle test may also be adjusted slightly for trikes).
This dispensation for disabled people also applies to the use of motorcycle/sidecar combinations being used for training and tests. A test taken on a motorcycle/sidecar combination would result in a Category A licence that is restricted to the use of motorcycles fitted with sidecars.
I hope this article clears up some of the confusion on this subject.
What the Future May Hold:
As we steadily approach the time when the UK officially leaves the European Union, many questions remain unanswered and it is impossible to guess what changes may occur once we no-longer have to adhere to European legislation but rest-assured the NABD will be fully involved in the formulation of any legislative changes that might have an effect on the right of people with disabilities to ride motorcycles, trikes and/or sidecar combinations.
As Chairman of the NABD I am regularly involved in consultations with licensing authorities and I have recently been invited to join a working group at the Department for Transport to look at possible changes to UK licensing categories.
If you are a disabled person who had been worrying about your freedom to ride a trike or motorcycle/sidecar outfit, you should remember that it was the NABD who made this exemption possible and if you are not an NABD member, perhaps you should be?
If you would like an NABD information pack, contact the NABD office on 0844 415 4849 or via firstname.lastname@example.org or you can join on-line via www.nabd.org.uk
The NABD welcomes all bikers into its membership. You don’t have to be disabled to support the world’s leading support group for disabled motorcyclists".
Rick Hulse NABD Chairman