UK Motorcycle Licence Law – 33 bhp (25 kW) Restriction

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

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

[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.

- MB

Some disclaimers:

  • 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.

Posted in: Motorcycles,Rants by Matt Bearman on 21st July 2009 at 4:02 pm
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17 Responses to “UK Motorcycle Licence Law – 33 bhp (25 kW) Restriction” - (Leave a comment)

  1. Other variant is possible also

    Comment by Hemeguigeby on 3rd November 2009 at 12:17 am

  2. Never underestimate the effectiveness of a straight cash bribe.

    Comment by Virginie on 12th November 2009 at 5:13 pm

  3. Just get hold of a second hand restrictor kit with a certificate but never fit the kit to your bike! If the fuzz pull you over and query the bikes power, just show them the certificate! The average bobby wont be able to tell if you have the restrictor kit fitted or not and theyre not likely to seize your bike, let alone test it, unless youve done some drastic road traffic offence for them to take it from you.

    Comment by YammyB on 14th November 2009 at 11:44 pm

  4. To do that the certificate would have to be ‘adjusted’ as they contain the bike’s details including VIN and engine numbers. Although the point of the original post wasn’t to help people avoid restricting their bike when they legally should, it was just to stop people paying ridiculous amounts for a few washers.

    Comment by Matt Bearman on 15th November 2009 at 4:25 pm

  5. Matt, the other ambiguity is with where the measurement is made. Measuring at the crank is prohibitively impossible and all restriction kits are calibrated according to the rear wheel Bhp measurement.

    It is possible to buy a bike that produces MORE than 33bhp advertised by the manufacturers at the crank, but which ONLY produces 33bhp at the rear wheel. This bike would still be legal under current legislation. A bike producing about 40hp at the crank will produce about 33bhp as an estimate, at the rear wheel.

    How would you prove this? A dyno print out of your bike is not a legal verification – meaning perhaps your bike could be taken?

    Matt, do you know the law of police powers of seizure? Apart from the obvious, (pulling wheelies/excessive speed) what would count as reasonable grounds to take a bike?

    I’m in the same position – being older than 21 but on a restricted licence – out of choice. Which is fine, and was a personal choice. My current bike produces less than 33bhp at the rear wheel – so i am fully legal.

    Comment by julian bates on 27th January 2010 at 5:14 pm

  6. i have been riding a gsxr600 on a 33bhp licence and it is not restricted and i have been pulled so many times and have never been asked if it is restricted

    Comment by josh s on 12th March 2010 at 4:26 pm

  7. If you do fit a kit yourself, surely there is nothing stopping you taking your bike to a rolling road and getting the BHP tested… then you can show the nice constable exactly what BHP your bike is making across it’s rev range, and it should even have the date and where you had it done on the paper so My Plod could verify it he wants… and that’ll cost you loads less than £200…

    Comment by Tony on 16th March 2010 at 11:41 am

  8. @Julian Bates – I would have thought as the law states 33 bph that the kits would restrict the hp to 33 at the crank, as that’s what bhp means. Having said that I think even if your bike was seized, the police aren’t likely to dismantle the bike down to the engine to measure the bhp, they’ll just put it on a rolling road.

    As for powers of seizure, riding a bike over 33bhp on a restricted licence is tantamount to riding without a licence or insurance, so if the police have reasonable grounds to suspect you, they can take your bike.

    @Josh – We’re all real proud of you…

    @Tony – To be honest I wouldn’t even waste the money on getting the bike tested on a dyno, if you’ve got the restrictor in, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Check out this article on MCN, it basically confirms my suspicions that the restriction certificates aren’t worth anything.

    Comment by Matt Bearman on 16th March 2010 at 12:06 pm

  9. I am under 21 .. 20 in september and took my test just after i turned 18. I first kept riding my cbr 125 for a few months until i upgraded to an aprilia RS 125 which produced 33 bhp. The engine in that malfunctioned so i got rid of it and bought myself a CBR 400 ( NC23 ). This produced 55 bhp and i had every intention of getting the bike restricted.. that was until I looked on FI international and saw the ridiculous prices for 4 cheaply made washers ( I could probably make them in the CNC machine at my university for less than £6 ). I rode around on that for about 8 months unresricted which takes me up to now. The engine blew when a con rod snapped and came through the crankcase so after fitting a cheap engine i got rid of it and have just purchased a GSXR 750. I have only a few months left on my restricted license and have no intention of having my beautiful GSXR siezed by the fuzz. This is my solution to the problem. find the diameter of your carb outlet ( take into account that the washer must fill the carb thouroughly to avoid being sucked into the engine destroying your cams / valves) cut out of the bottom of a heinz tin a circle measuring the diameter of your carb. Do some research and find out the diameter of the washer hole for your specific bike, drill a hole through your self made washer measuring the correct diameter and pop it into your carb outlet. Keep an eye on the washer as i dont know if the tin will rust while in your carb as the FI international ones are made from stainless steel… if you want you could probably cover the washer in some kind of sealant to prevent this ( if anyone has any good ideas as what to to seal it with let us know ). get the bike dyno’d if you want to be sure its at 33bhp and keep the certificate. Not only are you safe and legal but you are sticking it to the man that is FI international without breaking any regulations. The certificate is not actually a legal document so DO NOT BUY IT !! you are being rinsed of your money for something you dont want or need.
    Stay Safe everyone
    Keep it shiny side up

    Comment by Ben on 23rd March 2010 at 9:15 pm

  10. Keep an eye on ebay, there’s currently a set of GSXR 600 restrictors on there for £20, I’m sure a set for a 750 will come up eventually. I wouldn’t recommend making them out of bean cans though, if you don’t make them all exactly the same your carbs will be un-balanced, which will ruin the performance.

    Definitely don’t buy the certificate, you’re right in saying say are completely worthless, and not at all legally binding.

    Also, how do you mange to wreck so many engines? :p

    – Matt

    Comment by Matt Bearman on 24th March 2010 at 9:42 am

  11. According to an article published in MCN there is no requirement in law to have a certificate to prove restriction. In the same article Carol Nash insurers say insurance companies don’t require a certificate either.

    But…. it’s a good idea to have proof, by way of a receipt from a mechanic, that the kit has been fitted. That could save a lot of hassle, especially if you have to make an insurance claim.

    Comment by Tim Woodcock on 1st June 2010 at 11:20 am

  12. Thanks for a really interesting discussion. I’d like to throw a couple of other things into the pot. First, the restrictor kit for my Triumph TT600 (really fitted!) gives a power output of 34bhp and so is technically illegal – I wonder if the same applies for the Fi kits? Second, the ECU on the TT600 has been doing a very good job of countering the restrictor and giving the bike a lot more power than it should have, at the cost of fuel economy. I guess, this also makes it technically illegal. The legislation is poor for all the reasons that others have given – vague, ambiguous, unenforceable, unenforced – and is really a waste of everyone’s time. Anyway, the restrictor comes off this weekend and then all I’ll have to worry about is DVLA getting the transition from A2 to A right – fingers crossed.

    Comment by Bob Berryman on 23rd September 2010 at 11:04 pm

  13. Hi Matt, interesting reading, do not know if this blog is dead or not as there has been no posts for quite a while, all the same I am Phil from Northumberland and have been looking for info on the totally confusing MC laws these days compared to when I was a young idiot tearing up the roads on my 250cc on L plates (yes Im an old fart at 49 years old) still riding every day for the past 20 years on unrestricted 50cc scooters as a full licence holder via car licence, I have now got rid of the family car due to the ridiculous costs of keeping it on the road and the kids have flown the nest YES PEACE AT LAST! the Mrs happily rides pillion with me anyway, here in the UK on the little scoot, a 250cc when I worked in Greece and a 175cc in Cyprus which is all going to stop due to the dreaded EU regs, so its time to take the test says the better half! I have read and read the new laws and regs and they are beyond a joke giving the training and testing centres a licence to steal your hard earned cash.
    After all my years on the roads as a MIDAS qualified health service driver and on a two wheeler every day they still try to insist I need a weeks worth of training and take my (direct access) on a 500cc! NOT A CHANCE! I will go down the restricted A2 125cc route like yourself as I have no need for a licence to ride a 900cc plastic fantastic road rocket (being cynical lol) I will be happy with an old Honda CB twin cylinder thumper plodder well under 33bhp to commute about on and if they dont like it I will phone another training centre (two down! many more to go lol) they all say tailored to you needs but its more like tailored to boost their bank balance!
    Have you started the 33BHP bike list? as I would be interested to see it.

    Comment by Phil on 4th July 2011 at 7:49 pm

  14. Hi Phil,

    I’m afraid I never got round to finishing the 33bhp bike list, and now I’m on a full licence I can’t see myself finishing it, sorry about that.

    If you google 33bhp bikes, there are a few existing lists, unfortuately most are grey imports.

    Like you say, a honda CB250 is a great choice at 20bhp, or if you can get hold of an old CB250n Superdream, they were 27bhp. Most 4 stroke 250′s are under 33bhp.

    Comment by Matt Bearman on 27th July 2011 at 5:23 pm

  15. HI on my driving licence i have a provisonal A , entitlement . What bike can i ride with this ?

    Comment by Rachel Higins on 6th September 2011 at 7:28 pm

  16. I have a full licence and am a borm again biker riding a BMW 1150 RS. I recently persuaded my wife to get her licence and she has done so on a restricted licence. We have just bought a Yamaha 535 Virago and loooked into getting it restricted (we are both of a conservative nature and are reluctant to break the law) however the bike is one that F1 cannot supply a kit for. I had it Dyno’ed at he weekend end and it comes out at 25.7 (Blast). however the place I got it tested say they can restrict it and dyno it to test. The Insurance company she is with asks for no proof of restriction and probably the only time the fact may have relevance is if the bike is tested for the insurance company and then you would have no insurance and if the police become involved they can seize the bike and destroy it.

    Comment by Tony Hawes on 12th September 2011 at 3:53 pm

  17. Just at the end of my two-year restricted licence and have stumbled across this thread.

    Slightly tangential to the main point of the thread, do I need to have my licence upgraded by the DVLA, or have I already got all I need on my licence – i.e. proof that I have had the standard A category for two years? Thanks in advance for your advice.


    Comment by Michael on 6th October 2011 at 7:34 am

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