Have you always wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle? Perhaps you’ve been putting it off because you weren’t sure where to start? Are you making plans to live life to the fullest after Covid Lockdown? Do you find the many steps to getting your motorcycle license in Ireland overwhelming?

Well, we got you. With this new series of “How to get your motorcycle license in insert country“, we aim to take the guess work out of it. We’re bringing the experts right to your screen. First up, our home country; Ireland.


Gillian Dunlop, owner of GDL DRIVERS is an Approved Driving instructor, registered with RSA. She is also an IBT (Initial Basic Training) Trainer, RoSPA Advanced Diploma, DIA member and Fetac Level 5 Trainer in Ireland.

With a plethora of qualifications under her belt her mission is to get new riders (and car drivers) on the road as safely as possible.

ADI RSA Quality Approved Driving Instructor, IBT Trainer, RoSPA Advanced Diploma, DIA member, Fetac Level 5 Trainer


Gillian has mapped out the steps required to get your motorcycle license in Ireland.

For those of you outside of Ireland, this will be an interesting read in terms of seeing how much training we Irish riders must have before we can take to the roads.

Running a driving school and motorcycle training in Wexford, I am used to taking all sorts of enquiries from prospective pupils. However, if it is a motorbike query, I know it will be a longer call or text!
I sometimes have to break it gently that they can’t just hop up on the bike and ride away – there are a few hoops to negotiate first.

The “road” from raw beginner to a Full Irish License in Category A Motorcycle may sound, at first a little more complicated than that for a Category B car. But with the information, enthusiasm and determination, you can do it!

These are Gillian’s steps for:

How to get a motorcycle license in Ireland – Part One

There is no passion in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than you are capable of living
Nelson Mandela

STEP 1 in getting a motorcycle license in Ireland:

The Motorcycle Theory Test

The first step is to book a Category A motorcycle theory test. See www.theorytest.ie for ordering study materials (book, CD Rom and Apps available from €20-40), how to book and to order the study materials.

You will need certain forms of ID both to book and to produce on the day of the test which must be done in person at a Prometric test centre.

The motorcycle theory test does have different questions from the Cat B car, so do study up! You must get at least 35/40 multiple choice questions correct…. Some are a bit tricky!

IMPORTANT: Check the address of Prometric test centre (I have seen people show up at RSA practical driving test centres!!) and bring correct ID or you may lose your €45 fee ( that will be the price of a good pair of gloves)!

STEP 2 in getting your motorbike license in Ireland:

Get your Learner Permit

Assuming you have passed the Theory Test with flying colours, the next step is to apply for your Learner Permit with the National Driver Licensing Sercice.

See www.ndls.ie for information on your local office, opening hours, making appointments and what documents to bring.

Generally you will need photographic ID, an eyesight test done in last 30 days, proof of current address, your Theory Test certificate and €35 – other documents may also be required, check the website carefully.

IMPORTANT: Now comes the interesting part! There are 3 different types of motorcycle Learner Permit/License – why? Approximately 10 years ago a Graduated Driver Licensing system was introduced in Ireland. Basically, to stop young people jumping into cars or up on big bikes with no training and injuring themselves and others.

Different types of motorcycle license in Ireland

Assuming you are completely new to biking and to simplify as much as possible

  • The AM/A1 category are mopeds, scooters or motorcycles of 125cc (or less) with 11 kw power output. You must be at least 16yrs of age for this category.
  • The A2 category is bikes of at least 400cc which have between 20-35 kw power output. You must be at least 18yrs of age for this category.
  • The A category is bikes of at least 600cc which have at least 50kw power output and that weigh at least 180kg. You must be at least 24yrs of age for this category.
  • The A2 category sometimes confuses people as some bikes have more ccs but because of their weight, still fit the kw output. Other bigger cc can be mechanically “restricted” to give the 20-35kw power.
photo courtesy of Morrigan MCC
The NDLS will give you the maximum category according to your age anyway – it will be up to your instructor and yourself to decide which size of bike is best for you according to your stature and ability during your lessons.

Assuming all your documentation is in order, you will get a receipt and your Learner Permit will be posted to you in about 8 working days.

photo courtesy of GDL Drivers

STEP 3 for getting a motorcycle license in Ireland

Initial Basic Training (IBT)

Your next step is to make contact with a local RSA registered motorcycle instructor to book your Initial Basic Training or IBT. A full list of instructors nationwide is on www.rsa.ie.

To prevent further delay (as by now, you will be itching to get started!), I ask pupils to provisionally book their first session of IBT in 2 week’s time approximately, giving time for the Learner Permit to arrive.

If you are doing Category AM/A1, it is a 16hr course and then for A2/A, it is 18 hrs. On your first session, your instructor will issue with your IBT Log Book which records your training progress. You will see that it has 5 Modules. A1/AM pupils do 1,2,3 and 4; A2 and A pupils do 1, 3 and 5.

What does the IBT cover?

These Modules cover Classroom/Theory, Compound and On-Road elements. While the RSA permit groups of up to 12 for Classroom and 2:1 or 1:1 for Compound/On-Road, I prefer to do 1:1. It is much easier to schedule and the pupil gets my undivided attention at all times which means training is paced to the individual’s needs.

The sessions may be done over the course of days or weeks according to the availability of both pupil and instructor. Of course, shorter winter days and weather will affect scheduling.

 I find that sessions between 3-5 hours are more than enough for most beginner’s stamina and concentration – remember, most car driving lessons are only 1hr!

But, do bear in mind that you will not be riding the bike non-stop – there are rest breaks, time for questions & answers, fuel stops and of course, the paperwork.

What gear will you need for the IBT?

As I write this article, we are in the middle of the Covid 19 restrictions. Under normal circumstances, when complete beginner pupils arrive first time, they do not have any PPE – bike gear to wear. Like most motorcycle training schools, I have some equipment to borrow – at least average sizes.
However, it is likely that when training recommences, the most personal items such as helmets, gloves and boots will have to be provided by the pupil for health and safety reasons.
Indeed, your local motorcycle shop will be happy to help with fitting and most give discounts when you buy multiple items.

What motorcycle will you learn on?

So, what about the motorbikes? As a beginner, you are highly unlikely to get a quote for insurance without having first completed IBT.
Therefore, your instructor will provide the correct category of bike for your needs. An instructor can advise you during IBT of the make and model of motorcycle to suit your needs and reputable dealers – no point rushing in and making an expensive mistake!

What happens during the IBT?

What exactly is covered in IBT you may wonder? The full syllabus is available on the RSA website but briefly:

  • PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
  • Motorcycle controls (location and function) and basic technical checks
  • Use of side and main stands and walking the motorcycle along
  • Pre-ride checks , starting and stopping the engine
  • Rules and regulations – categories, Learner Permit, L tabard, no pillions for Learners, Motor tax and insurance
  • In compound – Slow Ride exercises, Figure 8s, Slaloms, U turn
  • Road position on straight, bends, turns L and R, roundabouts, within lanes etc
  • Observation and use of mirrors and Lifesaver/Shoulder Check
  • Emergency reduction of speed and Obstacle avoidance exercise
  • Hazard awareness – weather, road surface, other road users
    And much, much more!
photo courtesy of Becky Burke

Riding the motorcycle during IBT

First thing to remember is that it’s normal to feel a little apprehensive during practice in the compound. Your instructor will help you get your balance gradually and make sure you can fully control the bike using throttle, clutch, gears, front and back brakes.

Many exercises are done to get you confident and comfortable with the bike. Only when both instructor and pupil are happy does the first on-road journey take place. A radio set is used to allow the instructor to communicate instructions and directions (and encouragement!) to the pupil.

Most instructors will make the first routes as straightforward as possible, though as the RSA says “Expect the Unexpected!” As the pupil progresses, on road training should include (depending on location) a mix of rural, National and urban roads, so the Learner Rider is prepared to cope with all eventualities when riding alone.

Here, the sunny South East of Ireland, there are many scenic areas, challenging roads and busy towns to enjoy, giving the Learner rider a taste of adventures to come!

STEP 4 Completing the Initial Basic Training

Next, when the IBT course is complete, the instructor will complete any remaining sections in the Log Book. Additionally, they will issue the very important IBT certificate at this point. S/he will now inform the RSA that your IBT is complete. This means you are now entitled to ride a motorcycle unaccompanied. It is valid for 2 years, during which time you should wear your Learner vest, get as much practice as possible and pass the practical RSA motorcycle test.

If for any reason, you do not gain your Full License within 2yrs, you may have to do more training! You will also need to produce a copy or scan of the IBT certificate to get insurance. Some instructors are on the list of registered assessors with AXA and/or Liberty – they may also include an insurance assessment.

Depending on the grade you achieve, this assessment certificate may help reduce your insurance premium. You should of course contact the 2 other companies for quotes, Carole Nash and Principal – as always, shopping around can save you money!

How much does learning to ride a motorcycle in Ireland cost ?

Talking of money, how much can you expect to pay for IBT ?

Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of instructor/training school. You may have a personal recommendation or like a website. With that said, always get a clear price before you commit.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Ask what exactly is included in the price – group or 1:1 tuition, bike and/or PPE hire, insurance, fuel, Log Book, Insurance assessment etc. Consider convenience too – how far do you have to travel for several sessions? Do you have to pay upfront or Pay-as-you-go? Roughly, expect to pay anything between €350 – €700

How to pick your first motorcycle?

In conclusion, after you complete your IBT you’ll have your IBT certificate, your Learner License and your L vest in hand. You will be well on your way to getting your motorcycle license in Ireland. However, you will now be able to buy your own bike and get it insured.

How will you know what bike is right for you?

How will you choose a bike you can master and use for your full license test in 6+ months time?

Stay tuned for part two of Gillian Dunlop’s expert advice on how to choose your first motorcycle.

Sign up to our Mailing List below to be certain you don’t miss out.

photo courtesy of Harley Davidson

Check out Gillian’s article

“How to get a motorcycle license in Ireland – PART TWO” now 

Do you have some useful words of advice for new riders?

Say hi in the comments below. 



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Gillian Dunlop

Gillian Dunlop

Driving and Motorcycle Instructor at GDL Drivers

Gillian is a Road Safety Authority approved driving and motorcycle instructor (ADI), with her own business GDL Drivers & Riders in Wexford for almost 10 years.  ADIs must adhere to the RSA Code of Practice and undergo a “Check Test” every 2 years. There are additional regulations for being an Trainer and Centre Provider for Initial Basic Training (IBT).
Her first experience on motorbikes was riding pillion on a Moto Guzzi in Naples, Italy  and a few years later she found an instructor and got very thorough training.

She returned to Ireland but bikes took a back seat for many years while raising a family and moving from Dublin to Wexford for the country life. After her father died quite suddenly aged only 70, Gillian got back into bikes. Some people thought she had gone a bit mad but motorcycling helped her to grieve, to grow as a person and meet new friends.

She was encouraged by an instructor to try the RoSPA advanced test and was proud to get Silver on first attempt. One thing led to another and Gillian found herself going thru the ADI exam process, passing each stage and qualifying as an instructor in both cars and bikes in 2010. She gained her RoSPA Diploma in Advanced Motorcycle Instruction and Gold award in 2012. Gillian redoes the RoSPA every 3 years to update her skills.

So what started as a hobby has ended up being her job – she loves teaching people to drive cars and ride motorbikes. The challenges of being a self-employed sole trader are outweighed by the reward of helping pupils achieve their goals both in cars and on bikes.

And just in case you are wondering, no, Gillian Dunlop is not related to the famous motorcycling dynasty in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland although she does hail from Co Down!


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