Planning a motorcycle trip to the UK? Live in the UK but want to know more about where to go with your motorcycle and the rules? Here’s everything you need to know about motorcycling in the UK, including some of the best routes to visit.
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Motorcycling in the UK
Motorcycling in the UK is a lot of fun. There are so many fantastic roads and places to explore. Plus, there’s also a great ‘biker culture’, with plenty of cafes having biker meetups and biker breakfasts. Sunday is the normal ‘biker’ day but many towns have meetups during the summer on scheduled nights of the week.
Tips for planning a UK Motorcycle Trip
Planning a UK Motorcycle tour can be a little daunting. With so many route options and possibilities, how are you supposed to narrow it down? (If you want some tips on getting started motorcycle touring, this post will help)
The trick is just to start SOMEWHERE and slowly meander your way around. One of the best things about exploring on a motorcycle is that you’ll discover places you never even knew existed.
Our first motorcycle trip was up to Scotland, where we explored the Isle of Skye, went up to John o’Groats and went across to Orkney, which was a totally unplanned excursion which we made up as we went due to awful weather in Skye.
This is something to really take into account when planning UK motorbike travel- even in summer, you can expect rain at least once a week.
On the plus side, everyone speaks English, which makes it a little easier to connect with people during rest stops. Don’t miss out on local knowledge- ask where the best motorcycling roads are in the area or good rest stops and cafes to visit.
Where can you go with a motorcycle in the UK?
There are very few restrictions on motorcycle routes or noise restricted areas in the UK, although there are certainly places that I would recommend NOT going- we avoid big cities and motorways as much as possible, opting instead for the prettier but slower routes.
There are plenty of places to stay overnight as well to suit your budget and requirements: campsites, B & Bs and hotels. There are many which are accepting of bikers and many who actively encourage us to visit!
Greeting other bikers
Firstly, remember we drive on the LEFT in the UK. Which means you can’t give a European/ US hand signal to another biker. Instead, we nod our heads. Some bikers do this, others will wait and see what you do. Don’t take it personally.
Motorbike travel- finding Fuel
Fuel stations are common almost everywhere- beware if you are motorcycling in Scotland as some places are very remote, so fill up as often as you can. Most motorways have regular service stations and fuel stops, and most big supermarkets have fuel which is often cheaper than the big brands. If you have a motorcycle sat nav, you might find it tells you the nearest fuel station if you need it to.
There are WAY too many of these to list, but some of the most famous ones we’ve visited include:
- Harry’s Cafe (Fowlers of Bristol)- Bath Road, Bristol, BS4 3DR
- Loomies- Alton Rd, West Meon, Hampshire, GU32 1JX
- Super Sausage Cafe- 35 Watling Street, Northamptonshire, NN12 7QD
- The Chequered Flag- A38, Plymouth Road, Liskeard, Cornwall PL14 3PG
- The Steel Horse Cafe- Abergavenny, NP7 9AY
- Penny Garth Cafe- Hawes, North Yorkshire, DL8 3RD
- The Bike Shed- Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT
- Rykas Café – Box Hill, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6BY
Best motorcycle routes in the UK
We are blessed with some fantastic motorcycling roads in the UK. This is the subject of a MUCH larger blog post (coming soon!) but here’s a little taste of some of the best roads to ride.
- NC500 Scotland. This is one of the most famous routes in the UK and for good reason- the scenery is INCREDIBLE. But remember what I said about preparing for bad weather and remember midge season (April- October). It’s not an issue with your motorcycle gear on but they’re horrible at the end of the day!
- Horseshoe Pass and Pen Y Pass, Wales: We were lucky enough to ride these roads on gloriously sunny days and the views are absolutely breathtaking. There’s a cafe at the top of Horseshoe Pass which is usually full of bikers taking photos of their bikes. 🙂
- North Devon coastal route: My parents live in Devon and we ride the road from Clovelly to Minehead over Exmoor a lot. The views out over the sea and coast are spectacular on a nice day. You can also detour up to Woolacombe and ride all the way along the coast to Bridgwater.
- Trans European Trail: This is actually part of a 2100 mile route all over Europe- all off-road. In the UK it goes from Newhaven (East Sussex) up to North Shields. Definitely a job for the Scramblers.
- Rivington Pike: My husband grew up not far from here and this is the road he learnt to ride like a
crazy idiotspeed demon on. We went up there last year and the surface isn’t great, but the bends are a lot of fun- just expect to need to avoid pot holes and the odd wandering sheep.
Motorcycle route planner UK
If you’d like to know more about UK motorbike travel and the best motorcycling UK roads, these are the best books to check (they also make perfect gifts for motorbikers!)
Essential rules for motorcycling in the UK
There are some rules you must abide by when riding a motorocycle or moped in the UK. Most of these are common sense, but let’s set them out so we all know where we’re at.
- You MUST wear a protective helmet at all times when riding a motorbike, scooter, moped or quadbike. This helmet must comply with regulations AND be securely fastened. This includes to pillions but currently is not enforced for Sikhs wearing a turban.
- It is your responsibility to clean the helmet before riding and check it is fit for use.
- Eye protectors and protective clothing are advised but not mandatory (yes that’s a stupid lack of a rule. WHY would you not wear appropriate protective clothing?!?!)
- You can only carry one pillion and they must be on a proper seat, with both feet on the footrests. You cannot carry a pillion on any motorcycle which is not designed to do so.
- Provisional licence holders must NOT carry a pillion.
Rules for riding a motorcycle during daylight hours
- Dipped headlights are NOT mandatory but are advised.
- It is also advised to make yourself as visible as possible, using a bright helmet, clothing or fluorescent strips.
- Use mirrors if they are fitted and position yourself so drivers can see you in their mirrors.
Is filtering allowed in the UK?
Yes, you can filter on a motorcycle, scooter or moped in the UK in slow moving traffic, but it is not mandatory for other vehicles to move out of the way for you. Beware of idiots who don’t know the law trying to block you.
Rules for motorcycle riding during dark
- Headlight(s) must be used, clean and operational
- It is NOT mandatory to wear reflective clothing, but it is advised
Age restrictions for motorcycling in the UK
You MUST pass a CBT (or your countries equivalent) before riding a motorcycle in the UK. Once this is done you can:
- At 16, you can ride a moped (with L plates or D plates in Wales) up to 50cc, max speed 45mph
- At 17, you can ride up to a 125cc (with L plates or D plates in Wales)
You CANNOT ride on a motorway or carry a pillion
From there, you have 4 choices of licence- AM (Moped only), A1, A2 and A (full)
- AM allows you to remove the ‘L’ plates on your moped or scooter, but you are still restricted to 50cc and 45mph
- A1- the only option for 17-19 year olds. You can ride up to 125cc. You must hold this licence for 2 years before you upgrade to A2 (unless you are over 19, in which case you can go straight to A2)
- A2- Best for ages up to 24. Once you pass your A2, you can ride any size bike (yes, even a 1000cc), but it will be capped at 47bhp (35kw). You can upgrade to ‘A’ after 2 years on an A2 licence.
- A (often called Direct Access). You must take this test on a machine at least 595cc. Once you’ve passed, you can ride any machine you like.