As of the 19th January 2013, changes were made in accordance with new EU rulings to the way learners attain different categories of their motorbike licence. These changes have resulted in a mess of names and restrictions that can be utterly confusing to someone just starting out on their path to motorcycling. This page will clear up terms like Accelerated and Progressive Access and make the different categories of motorbike licence and their associated requirements and restrictions easier to understand.

The Four Motorbike Licence Categories

As discussed on the previous page, as soon as you receive your provisional licence (or have your full driving licence) and have completed your CBT you are entitled to ride a motorcycle of up to 125cc and 15bhp(50cc if you are 16 years old). While riding on a provisional licence you must display L-plates and are restricted in the other ways discussed in “Starting your journey – The Provisional Licence”.

Certain restrictions are lifted when you gain your full licence and the more categories you obtain on your full licence, the less restrictions you have.

There are four motorbike licence categories, each one available at a different ages. They are:

  • AM – This is the moped category, formerly shown as a ‘p’ on your licence. Under the moped category, you are restricted to a motorcycle with an engine capacity of 50cc or less and limited to 28mph. At 16, you can take a theory and practical test to gain a full AM licence, lifting the provisional licence restrictions.
  •  A1 – This is the light motorcycle category and entitles the holder to ride a motorcycle of up to 125cc and 15bhp. The A1 test can be taken at 17 years of age to obtain a full A1 licence, lifting the provisional licence restrictions.
  •  A2 – This is the medium motorcycle category and allows the holder to ride a motorcycle with power limited to 46.6bhp and a power-to-weight ratio of no more than 0.26bhp per kg. The A2 test can be taken at two years after obtaining the A1 licence, or at 19 years old, which ever comes first.
  •  A – This is the full, unrestricted licence and is available through the Direct Access Scheme at age 24, or the Progressive Access Scheme after holding an A2 licence for two years or more. This means that if you obtain your A2 licence at 19, you may take your DAS practical test at 21. With the ‘A’ category licence, you are allowed to ride any motorcycle you want!


The Recent Changes

Before the 19th January 2013, obtaining your full motorbike licence was a much simpler process. You would simply learn with a provisional licence on a 125cc bike, take your tests, and if you pass, would be granted an A2 licence restricted to 33bhp. After two years, the A2 licence would automatically upgrade to an A licence, lifting the 33bhp restriction.

With the introduction of the 3rd EU Driving Licence Directive in January 2013, the process for obtaining an unrestricted licence has become more progressive and the licence no longer automatically upgrades after two years; instead you must retake your practical tests on  a larger bike to earn the next licence category up.


The Access Schemes Explained

With the introduction of the Progressive Access Scheme, there are now three different routes you can take to getting your full category A licence:

  • Accelerated Access – Introduced in 1997, the Accelerated Access scheme is now obsolete, and has been superseded by the Progressive Access Scheme. While still available from some riding schools, it offers no advantages and is generally advisable to just go for the Progressive Access Scheme instead.
  • Progressive Access Scheme– The Progressive Access Scheme is now the standard route that someone under the age of 24 would take to gain their full category A licence. Where you start on this route depends on your age and will be explained below.
  • Direct Access Scheme – Otherwise known as DAS, is available to anyone over the age of 24 and allows a learner to take a practical test to get their full category A unrestricted licence after completing their CBT and Theory test, effectively bypassing the AM, A1 and A2 stages.


Which route should I take?

The route you should take to your licence depends on your age. The following routes assume you have completed your CBT and Theory test.

16 – At this age, you can only ride mopeds. As soon as you have your provisional licence, you can technically take your AM practical tests, however this is inadvisable as you’ll gain very little from having a full AM licence, while costing you allot of money for lessons and a practical test. The cost effective option would be to ride on a provisional licence until you turn 17, then go for an A1 practical test, entitling you to ride a 125cc bike.


17-18 – At 17, you’re eligible to take the A1 practical test. The A1 test is essentially just a formalisation of your CBT, meaning you won’t have to do it again after two years. Once you turn 19, you will then be eligible to upgrade to an A2 licence by retaking your practical test on a bigger bike through the Progressive Access Scheme.

You do not have to retake your Theory test if you are upgrading through the Progressive Access Scheme.

If you are 18 when you take your CBT, you can save money on a test by waiting until you turn 19 then going straight for an A2 category licence.


19 – Once you turn 19, you may take an A2 practical test, bypassing the A1 category. If you pass your test at 19, you may then go for your Category A practical test two years later at 21 through Progressive Access. If you pass at 20, you may take the CatA test at 22, and so on.


24+ – If you are over 24, you may skip the AM, A1 and A2 categories altogether and go straight for the Category A practical test on a motorcycle of 600cc or more through the Direct Access Scheme. Once the DAS is completed and you have passed your practical tests, you will be allowed to ride any motorcycle, unrestricted.

Before you take any practical test, you must pass your Theory test which will be covered later on in this guide.

Now you know about the provisional licence and the route you will be taking, it’s time to get started! On the next page you will learn about the CBT, what it is, whether or not you need it (there are some exceptions!) and how you apply for one.

Compulsory Basic Training – Mastering the Basics >