Motorcycle legal FAQ

Legal Requirements

We have compiled this information as a “guide only” as these are topics that we are regularly asked about at meetings or via email. To our knowledge the information at date of publication is completely correct for motorcycles and motorcyclists in the UK. The following information provided is, as stated, for guideline purposes only and does not commit either Northukbikers or the administrators / owners to any legal obligation or responsibility.


We are all aware that helmets are compulsory; indeed the Motorcycle Action Group was all started back in 1973 over this issue. At a time when over 80% of people wore a helmet voluntarily the government made it compulsory for us all. 

Nowadays, in the UK a helmet must be marked BS 6658 1985 or UN/ECE 22.05 to meet legal requirements. 

Pillion passengers must wear a helmet at all times

Sidecar passengers are not required to wear a helmet although the rider of the motorcycle it is attached to is

Depending on the classification of your Trike you may actually have to wear a helmet too. Most people think that Trike riders are completely exempt, in many cases they are not depending on what classification the DVLA give to your three-wheeler. 

On the mainland Dark Visors not offering up to 50% light transmittance are banned. Like the mainland visors in Northern Ireland must conform to BS 4110 and offer high-level penetration and scratch resistance. However it is our understanding that the legislation that bans dark visors on the mainland is not enforced here so long as they are used in daytime hours only. You could find yourself in a legal minefield if you are involved in an accident when daylight levels are low and you are wearing a dark visor. 

Ironically it is perfectly legal to wear sunglasses on a motorcycle throughout the United Kingdom.

Aftermarket Accessories

We all have, or are have been tempted by those little personalising items which sets your bike apart from the rest. But come MOT the question marks hang over those little modifications you made the previous year. Here we try to answer some of the questions which NUKB are regularly asked.

Number Plates

You know when it’s not acceptable! In recent years the Police in the UK have been quite tolerant of small plates but quite often, if you were caught “being a prat” on two wheels you may have found a £30 fine for your small plate was added to the list of penalties. 

The attitude is changing. Traffic cars are being fitted with Automatic Number Plate Readers (ANPR’s) to combat tax fraud and cut down on run around cars that in the long run costs us all money. Your number plate must conform to BS AU 145a or 145d by

Containing Black characters on a yellow background in the Arial Font 
Characters must be 64mm high 
Characters must be 44mm wide with the exclusion to the letter “I” or number “1” 
Characters must be 10mm apart with a 30mm gap between letters and number groups 
Plates must contain the plate makers name and/or ID marking PLUS the name and postcode of the dealer/franchise you bought the bike from. 
Custom riders – black plates with white or silver characters are illegal on models registered after 31 December 1972. If you had your bike before this chances are you’re ok! 
All plates should have an external margin of 11mm.

End Cans

Marked “Not for Road Use” means not for road use and chances are you’ll fail your MOT for keeping this can on for a number of different reasons. Replacement exhausts and silencers carry the following required markings that grant them road legality

An EU Mark - e11 or, 
An UNECE Mark - e11, AND 
An approval number or international marking such as any of the following – 
007, BS AU 193/T2, BS AU 193a: 1990/T2 or T3 or any other international marking certified to be of British Standard Equivalent by the importer and/or reputable vendor. 

Remember many aftermarket can manufacturers offer a road legal product such as those available from Micron and Blue Flame.


You are not legally required to have indicators on your motorcycle. However, once fitted it is a legal requirement that they work properly.

Other Legal Requirements & Information

Speedometers - Must be in mph or have a mph conversion insert set into the kph clock. Mph stick on screen conversions are also acceptable.

Headlights - Only white or yellow tint allowed. Blue, green, orange etc not legal in the UK. Maximum wattage per bulb is 55w. Twin lamps or more – 55w max per lamp. 

Tyres - Minimum tread across three quarters of the tyre is 1mm. (2mm for cars) 

Tax - Must be displayed on the left hand side of all vehicles in Northern Ireland. The fine for failure to display has increased from £100 to £200.If you are taxed the Police ANPR or DVLA camera system will identify this if you pass the cameras but legally you must display a valid tax disc at all times. You are exempt from Tax if the motorcycle was registered on or before 31 December 1972. 

Footpegs - legally required to transport a pillion rider who in turn must be able to reach both pegs comfortably. 

Pillion Riders - No legal age requirement in the UK. Use your common sense and remember children can fall asleep no matter the form of transport.

Protective wear - No legal requirements to wear body armour. Good practice standards for body armour identified with a CE number such as EN 1621.1. 

Protective Clothing - No legal requirement to wear protective clothing. However the standards for items you do wear must meet the following 

Gloves – Standards not published 
Clothing – BS EN 13595.1:2002 or EN 13595.1 
Boots – BS EN 13634:2002 or EN 13634

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