In February 2009 I passed my motorbike test (first time with two minors, thank you very much), and now I’m on a two year restricted licence. If you are unfamiliar with motorcycle licensing law in the UK, I envy you, it’s a complete shambles of unintelligible nonsense, but I’ll do my best to explain:
The following are the four different types of full licence, not including provisional, ‘L plate’ licenses (adapted from direct.gov.uk):
P – Moped licence – Mopeds with an engine capacity not exceeding 50cc and a maximum design speed not exceeding 50km/h, minimum age 16.
A1 – Light motorcycle licence – Light motorcycles with a cubic capacity not exceeding 125cc and a power output not exceeding 11kW (14.6bhp), minimum age 17.
A2 – Full (restricted) licence – Motorcycles up to 25kW (33bhp) and a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.16kW/kg. Motorcycle combination with a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.16kW/kg, minimum age 17.
A – Full licence – Any size motorcycle with or without a sidecar, minimum age 21.
Even though I’m over 21, I chose to take the A2 route, simply because it’s a lot cheaper to do, this leaves me with a restricted licence, meaning until February 2011 I can only ride a motorcycle up to 33bhp (25kW). This seems pretty straight forward, but when you look deeper you’ll find it’s a very ill-defined, ambiguous law.
If you go out and buy a motorcycle that produces 33 bhp or less, then you’ve got nothing to worry about, the problem comes with restriction. It’s perfectly legal for somone with an A2 licence to ride a big bike, as long as that bike has been restricted to 33 bhp (25kw).
A company known as Fi International supplies restriction kits for pretty much any motorcycle, these kits work in the following ways, some washers that fit between the carburetor and the engine, restricting the flow of air/fuel mixture, and/or a throttle stop, that simply wont allow you to fully open the throttle. Both have essentially the same effect and both are blindingly simple bits of kit, yet some how they’ll cost you between £150 and £250! Why? Partly because Fi International are the sole UK importer of these restriction kits, and partly because people believe that to ride legally on a restricted licence, you need one of these kits and a bit of paper to prove you have one. Fi International seem to have us over a barrel.
But let’s look at the law (quoted from direct.gov.uk):
[Law MV(DL)R regs 42(1) & 69(1)]
Light motorcycle licence (A1): you take a test on a motorcycle of between 75 and 125 cc. If you pass you may ride a motorcycle up to 125 cc with power output up to 11 kW.
Standard motorcycle licence (A): if your test vehicle is between 120 and 125 cc and capable of more than 100 km/h you will be given a standard (A) licence. You will then be restricted to motorcycles of up to 25 kW for two years. After two years you may ride any size machine.
Direct or Accelerated Access enables riders over the age of 21, or those who reach 21 before their two-year restriction ends, to ride larger motorcycles sooner. To obtain a licence to do so they are required to
- have successfully completed a CBT course
- pass a theory test, if they are required to do so
- pass a practical test on a machine with power output of at least 35 kW
To practise, they can ride larger motorcycles, with L plates (and/or D plates in Wales), on public roads, but only when accompanied by an approved instructor on another motorcycle in radio contact.
You MUST NOT carry a pillion passenger or pull a trailer until you have passed your test.
I’ve put the important part in italics, notice all it says is You will then be restricted to motorcycles of up to 25 kW for two years. Nothing about restriction certificates, nothing even about how to restrict your bike, in short, paying £200 to have your motorcycle restricted is a complete farce.
But that’s not the end, there is still the matter of proof, if you don’t have one of those overpriced certificates from Fi International, how can you prove your bike is within the power limits if you get pulled over by the police? You can’t, that’s how. But that isn’t a problem, as the law quoted above also doesn’t say anything about being able to prove your bike is restricted, so if the police really think your bike is too powerful, they’ll have to confiscate it and test it.
So maybe it’s worth shelling out for the certificate after all, just to avoid that situation? Personally I don’t think so, firstly, I can’t find anything, anywhere, not even on Fi International’s website, that states their certificates are enough for the police to believe your motorcycle is restricted. Secondly, I don’t know of anyone who’s ever been pulled over and had to prove their bike is under 33 bhp, and can you really imagine the police going to all that trouble over quite possibly the vaguest piece of legislation known to man?
So as far as I can tell the best bet is to simply buy a used restrcition kit from somewhere like ebay, and fit it your self. These are quite easy to find, and will usually set you back about £25-£30, bargain! If I choose to buy a big bike that’s definitely the method I’ll be taking.
Of course another option is to buy a bike that produces as near to 33 bhp with out going over as possible, I’m currently compiling a database of motorcycles that fit this criterion, which I will be posting soon.
- I am NOT a lawyer, and have zero qualifications relating to law. All I’ve done is research the best I can and use some common sense.
- I am NOT condoning riding a motorcycle that produces more than 33 bhp when you have a restricted licence, in fact I’m saying you SHOULD have your bike restricted, just don’t get ripped off by Fi International.
Copyright © Matt Bearman 2009 – Reproduction with out permission is strictly prohibited.