• Compulsory Basic Training overhauled for the first time in over 15 years
  • Motorcyclists could need to complete theory test before taking the CBT
  • Improvements to the quality and simplicity of the training

What is the new CBT?

Compulsory Basic Training has been the same since its introduction in 1990.  Anyone who rides on two wheels will fondly remember their first CBT experience: a single day of training on scooter or manual bike, a jot of classroom theory, off-road training and - blimey! - actual on-road riding.

Now, for the first time, the government has set out plans for an overhaul of the test, focused on improving the skill and safety levels of riders who pass. There's no planned date for the proposed changes to take effect, but in the meantime, here are the most important alterations:

  • Simplifying the CBT course syllabus into four parts instead of five
  • Preventing riders who pass on an automatic, like a twist-and-go scooter, from being able to ride bikes with a manual transmission
  • Considering introducing a theory test before or during the CBT course
  • Reinforcing good behaviour by stripping riders of their CBT licence if they get a total of six penalty points

Does this mean the CBT will be harder?

There's no need to quake in your biking boots just yet. It looks like the CBT might become a more rigorous challenge in the future, but this can only be a good thing. Guiding riders through a simplified day of training with four distinct parts to the syllabus could allow them to focus more on picking up riding skills. The four proposed 'elements' are:

  • Element A: eyesight test/aims of CBT and the importance of having the right equipment
  • Element B: practical on-site training
  • Element C: motorcycle theory
  • Element D: on-road practical riding

Testing riders on theory will drive them to learn and understand the rules of the road more clearly. Harsher penalties should reduce the amount of what the government is calling 'careless or dangerous riding' and should give motorcyclists a better reputation in the eyes of other road users - which is good news for everyone.

Last but not least, the government is acknowledging that riding a manual motorcycle requires a whole new skill over and above using an automatic. Yes, the test might become more challenging but, on the plus side, new motorcyclists will be able to tell experienced bikers that it definitely wasn't harder in their day.

This acknowledgement comes in the form of a certificate, which could also affect riders who have already passed their CBT. If they completed the CBT on an automatic, it could encourage them to take further training on a manual motorcycle.

All the gear, right idea

Steering is one of those hard-to-define parts of riding a bike, but now it could be taught as a specific skill. This teaching would be both practical and theoretical, alongside a new introduction to the art of filtering - driving between lanes of slow-moving traffic on a motorway or dual carriageway.

CBT trainers will also deliver a course with renewed focus on using equipment and the importance of safety clothing. They'll encourage riders to wear the best gear they can afford and make sure trainees are dressed appropriately for the course.

The old maxim, 'all the gear, no idea' doesn't hold true in motorcycling: riders should be as well protected as possible and safety always comes first. If this knowledge starts with the CBT, it should filter through the motorcycling community as a whole, helping to educate all riders on the importance of the right equipment.

What else is the government proposing?

It's not just CBT that might be overhauled by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency; the DVSA's Mark Winn has also outlined a few more proposals that could have a wider impact. The first would introduce a training course for riders looking to move from an A2 licence to the unrestricted A category. The course would replace the current 40-minute on-road test and last a minimum of seven hours.

This means that earning your way to riding a more powerful motorcycle would be done in a less stressful and high-pressure environment, where riders could focus on learning how to control bigger capacity machines.

The second proposal might be the most important one of all: improving the quality of training and trainers, and making sure that all learner riders are taught by the best teachers.

The present motorcycle licence categories explained

The multi-part motorcycle licence system might be difficult to understand at first, so we've put together a quick table to make it as simple as possible. 

Other rules for riding a motorbike

Don't forget that, by law, you must always wear a helmet when riding a bike, whether you're in control or just a passenger. The helmet must meet British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI kitemark, or carry the European equivalent, ECE22.05.

A good fit is vital to make sure that your new helmet protects your head properly - you should visit a local motorcycle clothing dealer so they can help you buy a lid that fits you perfectly. LV= motorbike insurance covers your helmet and leathers, so don’t be put off buying safer gear by the price.

It might also be tempting to buy a helmet that costs a little less but still carries the standards required by law. Try and buy the safest helmet you can afford. A good way of checking how safe a helmet will be is to look up its SHARP rating - five stars means your lid's got the highest rating possible. If the helmet you're thinking of buying doesn't advertise its SHARP rating, you can find it out easily at the SHARP website.

The proposed changes to the motorcycle Compulsory Basic Training should help better prepare bikers for the road. Safer and more confident novice bikers could help improve the perception of all motorcyclists, which can only be a good thing, and safer training might also encourage more people to take to two wheels.
 
Follow Benjamin Lindley on Twitter @BenjaminLindley for more motoring tips and news.