The UK motorcycle test keeps getting more complicated, more expensive and, some would argue, more irrelevant to a lot of riders. Over the years, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have called for inclusion of a section of off-road riding in the UK Motorcycle test, or even a bit of track riding, and plenty of them have made a fairly strong case. Here’s what I think…
This is something I’ve put a lot of thought into, over the years, and the more thought I put into it, the more benefits I tend to see. At the time of writing, the UK motorcycle test consists of four main parts. First you do your CBT (Compulsory Basic Training), which is mainly just riding round cones. Then your theory test where you answer 50 questions on a screen followed by a hazard perception test. Then Module 1 and Module 2. Module 1 is more riding round cones. Module 2 is where you’re let loose on the street, with an examiner following you and scrutinising every move you make.
You could argue that the CBT is a bit of a waste of time; it’s not actually a test, rather a bit of very simple training. And if you ask me, it can’t be used as evidence that someone can ride a bike (a chimp could complete the CBT). It can only really be used to prove someone can’t ride a bike. It means kids can get on two wheels at 16 though, and grownups can dip their toe into the two-wheeled world without shelling out for a full bike test.
I’m not saying we should scrap the CBT, I just think it should be tweaked. Rather than ‘Compulsory Basic Training’, let’s have ‘Circuit Based Training’. You learn more about what your bike’s capable of doing in a single day on track than you might in a full year on the road. It doesn’t have to be Silverstone or Brands Hatch, an old kart track would do. Getting out your comfort zone, and being able to push a bike that little bit further in a safe(ish) environment will definitely make every new rider a better rider.
Too many bike crashes are caused by people running into corners ‘a bit hot’ and not having the confidence to just throw it in. Nine times out of ten, you’ll make it round without any issues, but that’s easier said than done. Especially when you’re panicking. And someone with a bit of experience on track is much less likely to panic. That’s my theory, anyway.
And speaking of ‘theory’ the theory test is a great way for the government to make a load of money from all of us, so that’s not going to change, which leaves Mod 1 and Mod 2. I don’t have a problem with Mod 2. There’s a lot going on, on the roads today, so I think it’s fair enough that we all have to get signed off as proficient when it comes to negotiating junctions, roundabouts and other road users whilst on our bikes.
Mod 1 (the riding round the carpark bit), in its current form, seems like a complete waste of time to me. How much bike skill can you demonstrate by slaloming round some traffic bollards at a snail’s pace. Not a whole lot, I would wager. No, Mod 1 needs a shakeup. A big dirty shakeup. Let’s make Mod 1 the off-road section.
And before you tell me how 90% of the motorcycling population have no intention of ever going off road, let me stop you, because that’s not what it’s all about. I’m not talking about forcing newbie bikers up Daker style sand dunes or signing them up for Weston beach race in order to pass their UK motorcycle test. It’s about learning a few simple skills and building the confidence to control a bike should either one of the wheels, for whatever reason, loose traction. And we all know that there are a million reasons why that can happen on the UK roads. We’ve all encountered gravel, mud, diesel, horse shit and all sorts getting between our tyres and the tarmac, and it’s usually when we least expect it. What do most people do when that happens? They panic. What happens when they panic? They crash.
Almost every skill that you learn when riding off-road, from body position, to throttle control, would benefit a road rider, especially when conditions are less than ideal. Having the confidence to ‘go with the flow’ and let the bike do its thing underneath you without grabbing a handful of front brake, or just panicking and throwing the thing on the floor, will, without a shadow of a doubt, make you a safer rider. And one that enjoys his bike a lot more, too.
I’m not sure if the Secretary of State for Transport, the Right Honourable Grant Shapps MP, is a regular 44teeth.com visitor, but if he is, and he’s found the time in his busy schedule to get balls-deep in this post, hopefully it’s given him some food for thought. Come on Shappsy, do the right thing, mate.
What a rant with no real understanding. Read what Conner says in the comments to learn. Please
Can the adults read what Boothy says before he puts it up.
I think the issue with this article as it doesn’t address some things and makes a few assumptions:
Personally, I believe the core of the issues with our licensing laws is they do not address the needs of motorcyclists in this country, primarily the A1 license. At this time, the A1 provides little benefit over sticking with a CBT, the benefits it does provide are questionable at best. I’m not overly keen on taking a 125cc motorcycle on a motorway and I don’t believe a motorcycle of that capacity is suitable for taking a pillion passenger. Being a CBT instructor, more than a fair few people do their CBT as a cheap form of transportation. But they’re also being asked to come back every two years for re-training, what’s the point? I believe the A1 needs to be changed to a form of “CBT Pro.” Ditch the L plates, keep the pillion off, possibly allow motorway access (not sure on that one) and make it like other licenses, have no short term expiry date, whilst keeping them on a motorcycle that does not exceed a capacity of 125cc. If this can be provided at a reasonable cost, say £200 all in, you’re only spending £75 more over a CBT that costs £125, but you get the benefit of not having to retake your CBT and keeping costs low. Having a barrier to entry of a recurring licensing cost for what is supposed to be cheap transportation seems like a bit of an oversight.
Secondly, the whole A2/A license thing. I don’t necessarily disagree with the concept of progressive licensing, as being able to afford truly hypercar levels of performance is more achievable that affording an actual hypercar. The execution, however, needs some work. I passed my test, fortunately, on the old system that allowed automatic progression to derestriction, no additional tests taken. I liked that system, but I’ve also got a bias because I directly benefitted from that system. But the new system is also pretty bullshit. Why would I take exactly the same test, on exactly the same bike, except the restrictor is taken out? If it were in the form of only taking a mod 2 to assess their roadcraft and giving the big green tick or suggesting further training is the right way to go I believe.
As for adding additional requirements to the test, what is it achieving exactly? This would require more facilities, more training, more cost, more barriers to entry. We’re already in a climate where people question why they studied Pythagoras Theorem in school when they never use it in the real world, why are motorcycle tests any different? The test is intended to get a rider to a minimum standard. We all know that when we really learn how to ride a motorcycle is after passing the actual test, regardless of what the DVSA say the test is for. Rather than bake it in to the actual test itself, encourage people to take further training beyond the test. IAM and RoSPA are both road safety charities that provide excellent courses on making you a faster, smoother, safer rider. Why aren’t we pushing for that instead? THAT is a way to improve rider safety, getting them to take training that is WAY beyond the scope of the standard motorcycle test.
And the CBT? Take what I say with a pinch of salt as I teach them, but we are taking people who have never touched a motorcycle before and getting them to a stage where they can use our public roads safely unaccompanied. Do you know how stressful it is trying to get someone used to clutch control, knowing that they need to be able to get them using it semi-proficiently in Portsmouth? Sure, it’s annoying for returning riders, but I believe it is absolutely necessary for new riders. Adding any more to it would increase costs, increase time needed to teach, increase barriers to entry. Not to mention that motorcyclists don’t have the benefit of easily carrying someone else on the same vehicle to assess their driving ability, so having someone be able to ride unaccompanied is required, hence the need for the training in the first place.
We need to make the licenses easier to understand, tailored to what people actually need those licenses for (low capacity commuters vs people who WANT to ride a bike), and a lower barrier to entry. At the same time, we need to push for people to take additional training beyond the standard test. That’s how we get more people on two wheels, and that’s how we improve rider safety.
This article presents two goals that are opposed to each other: making it more accessible as well as making the burden of getting your motorcycle license higher. Unfortunately, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, you need to balance one with the other.
My Daughter did her CBT last year, £125, got her first bike at the same time, a little CB125r, she would like to do her MOD1/2 at the age of 19, but her CBT and theory will have expired by then, fair enough, so another £125 to refresh her CBT & £25/30 to re-do her theory, when shes been riding on the road for 2 year by then, then its MOD1/2 time, another £300/400 of training and test (if she’s lucky) but the kicker that gets me, when shes already paid for her MOD1/2 is after 2 years, to get the re-sticker removed, its the hole re-test and training, then by this time, she has in theory been riding 5 years. Piss take is what it is, definitely agree with a little off road training, but the whole bike test process is very expensive.
The whole thing is an absolute joke for sure. CBT… waste of time and £125.
Mod1 waste of time showing you can go forward 10ft and stop without tipping over (like being clipped into a bicycle)
They should definitely involve a closed track of some sort as from experience you learn far more in one track day than a couple years on the road. (I’m no pro on bikes, just gave more confidence back from the bike)
I don’t understand their thinking behind restricting someone to a bike that can still do 100 plus (gsr for an example) then making you re take the test.
They may aswell let car drivers have a test for all cars up to 2.0L then re take if you want a Ferrari or super car.
Best / worst part is that insurances only ask if you have a licence or CBT.. no A1 or A2 option, System is a joke. Sorry. Rant over. Touches a nerve.
P.S love you guys. Keep the great work up.
Love you too xx
Personally I don’t think we need an off road section to the test. BUT maybe make MOD1 a little harder? Wet the ground for a few maneuvers just to show some wet weather control? Or alike. Scrap the A1 – A2 – A Bollocks. Just have, CBT (with a lot more policing of the training instructors) 16-19 up to 125cc. 19y/o onwards – Full license, no restrictions.
100% agree that it needs a shake up. I’m 24 now, and missed the age for the old A2 licence. So I have done 2 CBTs, a Theory, A MOD1 & MOD2 … and I have to pay out to do another MOD1 & MOD2 for an “Unrestricted” licence. I’ve been riding now for 8 years and have well over 50+ Thousand miles under my belt. It seems stupid to have to do yet more tests. Add to that, if you don’t have your own bike, the test schools only do “Training packages” which are £700+ just for MOD1 & MOD2 … so it will have cost me approx. £2,100 to get a bike licence (Passing all tests first time).
Is this a serious article? A quick estimate of the cost of this to new riders would be how-many-thousand pounds? Could it be completed in less than a week full-time?
The current testing gives the rider is familiarity with controls. That’s about all, but the variation of riders and previous experience has to be accounted for somehow. In the 1970s, it was a matter of filling in a form at the post office and grabbing they keys of a 250 2-stroke without having thrown your leg over a bike before that day. That WAS nuts.
Its easier to ride a bike at 50mph is easier than 5mph. The idea of the testing system relies on the rider building his/her skills in their own time. There’s an onus on the rider not to go too quick too early, but thank christ there’s something we’re allowed to do without someone marking and assessing us.
There are things that a rider will learn 3 months, 1 year, 5 years etc. down the line. That’s how it is, and we all experienced that.
What Boothy is probably closer to advocating here is that all riders have a black box fitted to the bike (this already happens for car insurance), and that he/she accumulates credits with experience/mileage. That would be a nightmare, but it’s far more likely than expecting an army of skilled motorcylists being employed to mentor new riders.
I’m sold. Make it so number Booth
Just to confirm, you want to take new riders, replace the basic, slow speed days training that they normal experience, which includes a practical introduction to road riding and replace it by sending said new and inexperienced folk around a race track to see what their bike is capable off (read – right off their shiny new 125 and destroy any shred of confidence they currently have). The cost would have to increase massively, presumably track riding would require leathers and the hire cost of said track pushing the cost of a CBT plus your gear well over £500.
Secondly the theory test includes the testing of one’s commulated knowledge of road signs and its laws and regulations, certainly important information for road riding, if not perhaps the road racing / enduroing extravaganza you promote.
The mod 1 skills are basic because the test is not supposed to demonstrate advanced skill, merely basic bike control in situations people are likely to meet, eg emergency stops, u turns, manual handling and slow riding. Forcing people to ride off road will just put them off, as will the inevitable broken legs when the fresh faced new biker drops the training schools sv on his leg trying to negotiate a hill climb. Why not insist on 5+ years of motocross too whilst we’re at it.
The tests are already expensive, adding the complexity you describe will likely triple those costs, pricing out a large portion of the population. Let people ride, and instigate their own further training if they wish.
I have done 2 CBT’s, 1st when I was 16 and had a 50cc twist and go, which lasted about 4 months before I started my driving lessons, then 2nd when I was about 19 when the car was too much to insure and I wanted to get into bikes. The CBT’s are a piece of piss and like you said, a chimp could pass one of them, which is why there is so many dickhead youths on them today thinking their Rossy 😅 but I did my A2 (stupidly) as I was too impatient to wait to do my DAS which I regretted, had a ninja 300 thy was lovely but seeing my mates get bandits and r6’s, I felt like a spanner, the sheer cost of “training” to do my Mod1/Mod2 again after already passing them, has put me completely off getting my A. I just ride a bandit now myself that is “restricted” *wink wink*
I’m in a similar boat mate. Did 2 x CBTs, my A2 licence and now they want £800 for a MOD1 & MOD2 test which is just plain bonkers. Need to borrows a mates bike to do it, but that’s a big ask, and it would cost them a day just hanging around a test centre.
riding off road made me the god I truly am!
The UK licensing and testing strategy is a mess. Overly complicated in some areas and inadequate in others. The AM, A1, A2 & A License progression is silly. Repeating the same tests of different size bikes only confirms the basic handling of those vehicles. I think that having scalable levels of test would be a reasonable aspect with track elements being needed for bikes at a certain power point or offroad elements to prove that you are a better rider. Cornering on gravel or wet should be something that is also considered.
I passed my test about 8 years ago with the mod1/2 method, and it wasn’t until a few months after when I ran into a corner and locked my arms up, ran wide and just about kept it on the road that I went home and did some research and found countersteering and twist of the wrist… When I had some knowledge my next ride was mind blowing! In hindsight, I had been taught how to ride a bike (just) but I hadn’t been taught how to understand what was going on, the physics and the inputs required etc. I reckon working heavily on some key basics until its known not just as an answer to a question, but as a reaction in a physical scenario is a vital thing to implement.
I completed my DAS last year, from September to December with a few interruptions due to lockdowns. The CBT is too easy, need more substance. The theory is fairly pointless, but I have been driving for years. MOD1 is okay, but the exercises need changed for sure. MOD2 I think needs to be a bit longer with less emphasis on 5000 shoulder checks. I think the ideas posted would put people off and viewed from the outside as difficult. I think they would be fairly sound for improving bike handling. I feel really sorry for people being shafted over their CBTs at the moment.
On a serious note lock Down has shafted allot of potential future riders who were either part way or about to complete their tests
Agree with a lot of what was said. Also instead of taking all tests on nice new bikes with all the modern benefits ABS, traction control etc, why not sit a slightly longer training period on an older machine, learn progressive breaking not just grabbing a handful and letting the ABS make up for the lack of skill.
I spent my first 18 months on a 20year old banger and honestly think I have better control/understanding of the mechanics because of it.
Have you seen some of the states of bikes some of these bike testing centres have. Not good enough for the scrap haha
I guess the issues would come down to cost or relevance of the training.
People have the option currently to up rate thair skills if they are willing to learn or fork out the cash to do so.
I would suggest that track riding in the rest would fall under the same catsgory as off road, in that people would say
“well I’m never going to race so why should I do that?”
It may put people off doing the test as it would take longer to get the license or involve a considerable increase in cost.
Who provides the bikes and insurance too for these track/off road sessions because if imagine trainers and schools would be reluctant to do so.
By the way I’m all for training and improving skill and have done a few things to improve mine and only past my test 3 years ago.
Riding in now seen as an expensive hobby and not everyone had the funds to throw more money at it just to be able to achieve it if these elements were added. (bike, kit, insurance etc.)
Agree with everything. I done my cbt a few years ago and never done anything with it. Now at the grand young age of 30 was looking back into it and seems an absolute fortune to get going… especially in these times. DAS coming in at close to a grand just for the license. Then comes the buying of safety gear, bike, insurance.
Really missed what is the most insane part for me. A re test after 2 years on a restricted license. I have no problem with starting out with 47bhp (more than enough to get into trouble) but after thousands of miles and a tour of Scotland I found my self doing figure of eights in a car park again. What are you testing for? That I can handle 100bhp figure of eights?
Just a way to extract more money out of your pocket, that’s all really
Definitely wasn’t a fan of doing the mod 1. Failed it once for going 1km (not sure it was measured in km rather than mph like) under the target on the final task despite no other issues. The best part is they then let you jump back on said bike and ride back to the bike school. Theory test seems a bit of a waste if you already have a car license cause I think there was only 2 questions related to bikes!
What really needs to be done is making it so that your licence is automatically upgraded from A2 to A when you’re old enough. Because I did my test aged 23 and not 24, I’m forever restricted to 47 BHP until I fork out to do the exact same tests again on a slightly more powerful bike. Obviously, I’d ride straight into a brick wall if I dared throw my leg over an MT-07 without an instructors supervision. Even though I’ve got way more experience than a 24 year old who’s just done a CBT. Obviously I’m a danger to myself.
Surely it would be better to teach actual roadcraft rather than what they teach now, which is to turn left, turn right, and do roundabouts. That’s basically it. Teaching riders to read the road and to control their machines on the road is where the test should be. Not on the track, not off road, not just bimbling around in town or on dual carriageways.
Hard to disagree with any of that. I’ve been riding for 33 years and still my biggest fear (other than a moron pulling out in front of me), is hitting that unexpected patch of diesel/gravel etc. It’s happened to me before and I always slip straight into ‘fuuuuuuuck meeeeee’ mode – all luck and no skill has kept me upright. Learning proper bike control cannot be anything but a good thing!
I’d like to see higher levels of training for riders and also drivers. However as soon as you do so the prices go up and people will complain about being priced off the road.