Motorcycle rider training sector trends

Yellow motorcycle rider driving round three orange and white cones

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the motorcycle rider training industry

The motorcycle rider training industry is well established, with a steadily increasing demand for training and a slowly increasing number of approved training bodies and instructors being appointed to meet the demand. (Although the new EU motorcycle test rules introduced from January 2013 caused a quite significant reduction in the number of motorcycle tests taken, it seems like this was just a temporary blip. Figures for 2014/15 to 2016/17 show that the number of tests taken has largely recovered.)

The demand for training

In 2009, the format of the test was changed to a two module test. To become fully licensed, a new rider must take both tests. There is some evidence to show that it was the uncertainty about the new test and the negative press reports in the months following its introduction that resulted in the fall in the number of tests taken. The prolonged downturn in the economy, however, led people to look for more economical forms of transport and the number of tests taken then increased annually until by 2012/13 there were over 130,000 Module One and Module Two tests taken, split almost exactly 50:50.

After a substantial fall in 2013/14 due to new EU test rules, the number of tests then recovered and continued to rise each year to 2016/17 as the economy started to recover. The vote in 2016 to leave the EU led to a great deal of economic uncertainty. Inflation rose because of a fall in the value of the pound and real term wages fell below the level of inflation. Consumer confidence fell towards the end of 2016 and remained low in 2017 and 2018. The position is not expected to change much in 2019. The renewed slump in the economy and the fall in the number of new motorcycles bought during 2017 saw a fall in the number tests being taken in 2018. Larger bikes are usually used primarily for leisure and purchases of large machines is usually affected when consumers' disposable income levels come under pressure.

Changes to the licensing requirements for new riders have had an effect on demand for training. In particular, the introduction of CBT for all new riders in 1990 and the introduction of the Direct Access scheme in 1997 (qualifying riders to ride a large motorcycle immediately) both increased demand for training but, as noted above, the raising of the age at which people can ride bikes of any power output from 21 to 24 at the start of 2013 caused quite a dramatic reduction in demand, with the number of tests taken falling by over 45% between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

In February 2007 the government launched the Register of Post-Test Motorcycle Trainers (RPMT). This allows motorcycle instructors who offer post-test training to be accredited and to offer the enhanced rider training scheme.

The number of businesses offering training services

According to the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCIA) the rider training industry is worth some £170 million, with around 600 Approved Training Bodies (ATBs) which have 4,000 instructors working for them. These are made up of 2,700 or so registered instructors and around 1,300 'down trained' CBT-only instructors. (Registered instructors are allowed to down train a maximum of ten CBT instructors.)

Changes to the licensing and training system

Proposals to overhaul the motorcycle licensing and training system were implemented from 30 March 2009. The revised motorcycle training involves more off road tests in the first module which can only be carried out at designated test centres. Because there are so few centres, many learners have to travel significant distances to take their first module. Following initial criticism of the two-part test, the government consulted on ways in which it could be amended to improve safety, with one option being to carry out the Module 1 manoeuvres on the road instead of at an off road centre. However, after considering the alternatives for a number of years, the government finally decided against making any changes and to leave the two module test as it is.

In January 2013, new EU rules for motorcycle tests and licences were introduced. The main changes resulting from this are:

  • riders under 19 being restricted to bikes of no more than 125cc and a power output of no more than 11kW
  • riders aged 19 to 21 being restricted to bikes with a power output of no more than 35kW and a power to weight ratio of 0.2kW per kg
  • the minimum age for Direct Access is raised to 24 - up from 21 - although riders aged 21 to 23 who have held an A2 licence for a minimum of two years can re-take the practical test on a large bike of at least 595cc and 40kW and then ride a machine of any size

A route to the motorcycle licence, setting out the age and qualification requirements for riding different types of motorcycles under the new rules is available on the website.

In December 2017 the DVSA introduced changes to align the ADI qualification process with the standards check, removing the pre-set test format and role-play element from the part 3 test of instructional ability. Instead, the instructor will need to bring another person (for example a friend, relative or colleague) to take the role of the learner while they deliver a lesson while the DVSA examiner observes their skills.

Keep up to date with developments

Various bodies represent or control the activities of motorcycle rider training businesses in the UK and can help you to keep up to date with developments.

The Motor Cycle Industry Association accredits motorcycle rider trainers and organisations involved in all types of motorcycle training, including off-road and track days. Members must comply with the MCIA RIDE standards that are designed to ensure a consistent level of safety, service and training quality. Visit the MCIA website for more information.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is an executive agency of the Department for Transport and is responsible for conducting motorcycle tests (practical and theory) and for overseeing the Compulsory Basic Training Scheme. Compulsory Basic Training and training for the full motorcycle licence may only be offered by DVSA-approved training bodies. The DVSA also assesses motorcycle instructors. The website includes a guide to the rules on setting up and running an approved training body (ATB).

In addition there are various other organisations involved in promoting motorcycling and road safety in the UK. These can be a valuable source of information about motorcycling matters in general and training, licensing and road safety issues in particular. Organisations include the Motorcycle Industry Association, the British Motorcyclists Federation, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG).

Trade shows

You will be able to obtain a lot of useful information if you go to a trade show for the motorcycle industry. You will be able to meet suppliers and importers of motorbikes, clothing, crash helmets, two way radios and so on. Visiting an exhibition will also help you to keep informed about current trends in the sector and make contact with potential customers. Information about forthcoming trade shows can be found on the exhibitions website.

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