In our last article; “How to get a motorcycle license in Ireland – Part One” our expert, Gillian Dunlop of GDL Drivers, walked you through the first of many steps to getting your license. Now, in Part Two she shares tips on how to choose your first motorcycle, how to apply for your motorcycle test and what steps to take after you pass so you can put that new license to good use.


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


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.

These are Gillian’s tips for:

How to get your motorcycle license in Ireland – Part Two

One important thing we should approach after all your hard work in getting your Irish motorcycle license (or any for that matter).. looking for and buying your first motorcycle!

This is a very exciting time in your life and I’m sure you’re dying to rush out and buy your dream bike.

However, read on for a few tips that will keep both you and your hard earned money protected from dangerous and expensive mistakes.

Don’t count the days, make the days count
Muhammad Ali

Preparing for your motorcycle test:

How to choose your first motorcycle

Patience will be a virtue at this stage – take your time!

Search websites are a great place to eye up lots of styles of motorbikes (selling both privately and thru dealerships) – but the choice can be daunting.

Make a list of machines you like the look of, but do check that they match your Learner Permit category (cc, kw output weight). There is a list of “Representative vehicles for motorcycle test” on the RSA website which will show you if your preferred bike is corerct for your type of license.

Plan ahead for the motorcycle test

Plan ahead. It is much easier, and probably cheaper, to do your test on your own familiar bike than have to hire from the motorcycle training school for pre-test and test lessons. Bear in mind that the larger the engine, the more valuable the bike. The more “racer” style it is, the more difficult it will be to insure for a newbie, especially younger bikers.

Check with your local dealership

Make contact with your local motorcycle dealership – tell them your needs. Do you want a bike for commuting around town or city or for Sunday morning spins?

They often are “in the know” within the local biking community and have heard if a customer is selling a bike. Ask about their warranty system and what exactly is covered.

Buying new is great of course, extras such as gear, luggage, heated grips, free servicing etc are often offered to tempt you.

Ask for advice when choosing your first motorcycle

Ask for the opinions and help of experienced biker friends or friends of friends – most motorcyclists are delighted to talk about bikes they have owned, pros and cons of each. They too are in the “grapevine” of bikes for sale.

If you decide to buy privately, bring a Full Licence holder or better still a mechanic to test ride and inspect the bike.

Buying a restricted A2 motorcycle

IMPORTANT: If you are buying an A2 bike which is “restricted”, you must get the original certificate as you will need to show this to the RSA tester along with the Registration Document to prove the bike is in the correct Category.

photo courtesy of GDL Drivers

Practise for your motorcycle test in Ireland

First Solo Ride as a Learner

Whew! Assuming you now have your pride and joy, fully insured and taxed, L tabard on and you are ready for your first solo ride!

It’s a big moment and worth planning properly. If possible, your first route should be on familiar roads – remember this bike is bound to feel different from the school bike and it might be a while since you’ve ridden.

Go through your usual technical and pre-ride checks. Take it easy at first and give yourself time especially moving off, slowing down and stopping – you will probably still have your instructor’s advice ringing through your ears!

Important Note

It’s important to note for those of you buying pre-owned motorcycles that there is no NCT for motorcycles in Ireland at present.

If you are a little nervous, do ask an experienced biker pal or even your instructor to accompany you once or twice. As you get used to your bike and improve your skills, you will relax and enjoy it more and more.

L-Tabard (Learner Vest)

Most Learners will want to shed the L Tabard as quickly as possible. There is the 6 month minimum waiting period for 1st Learner Permit, but you will need that time to build up experience.

The Full License gives you lower insurance premiums and permits you to ride a bike abroad (and that includes Northern Ireland and Isle of Man if you’re thinking of NW200 or TT races!).

If you have fully absorbed and put into practice your IBT skills every time you ride, the test shouldn’t be a problem.

Refresh for the motorcycle test

If you are not sure if you are “test ready”, get back in touch with your instructor for a refresher and fault assessment lesson. S/he will quickly point out both your strengths and weaknesses.

Also practice around the areas close to your chosen Test Centre – don’t get too hung up on routes as these are subject to regular change and you should feel confident on all types of roads and junctions anyway.

Don’t let cold and wet weather put you off – your test may only be cancelled in Amber or Red weather warnings!

How to apply for the full motorcycle test

Apply for your test using the RSA website here, the cost is €85.

Waiting times vary depending how often motorcycle testing is done at your Test Centre. Unless you apply for a short notice cancellation, you usually get 4 weeks notice of test date and time.

If for any reason you don’t feel ready, you may postpone and reschedule giving at least 10 days notice (unless for illness or other emergency).

Pre-test checks

Check well in advance that your documentation is valid:

  • Learner Permit,
  • Motor Tax,
  • Registration Document,
  • Restriction Cert if applicable.

Check your motorcycle is roadworthy:

  • tyre tread depth,
  • brake lights,
  • indicators,
  • correct size number plate

These are visually inspected by the Tester and if there are any faults, your test will not be conducted.

During the Practical Motorcycle Test

Inside the Test Centre

So, what exactly does the practical motorcycle test involve? Time-wise, from arrival to the Test Centre at least 10 minutes before your test time, to when you get your result, about 45 – 50 minutes.

The Tester will ask you for your documents and ask you a few questions similar to those of the Theory Test. S/he will fit you with a radio earpiece and check it works.

Outside the Test Centre

Then you will go out to the motorbike and will be asked to identify random controls (eg front brake, gear selector) and describe some technical checks (eg brake fluid, chain care).

Function of brake light for both front and back brakes and both indicators are checked. If your Test Centre has a compound for truck tests, the next section may take place there, otherwise on-road.

You will be asked to demonstrate use of the stand (side is ok, even if mainstand is fitted) and to push the bike along a few metres without the engine (Walk alongside). For the Slow Ride and U-Turn exercises, you must move off using mirrors, signal and Lifesaver and have good balance and control of the motorcycle. Handsignals are often asked at this stage also.


On the road during your motorcycle test

When you’re on the road, the Tester may follow you in a car or on a bike. It is important to listen carefully to their instructions – do check your mirrors frequently to also see how s/he is indicating coming up to junctions.

Otherwise, ride as if you are alone. Do not wait for the Tester unless they ask you – you might wait for a longer gap in traffic with your biker mates, but in a test, it can be seen as “Lack of Progress”.

The routes will be mainly urban, but National and rural roads are possible depending on the location. There will be a lot of variation with right and left turns, T junctions, crossroads, slip lanes, one-way systems, traffic lights and arrows, pedestrian crossings etc. A hill start, emergency adjustment of speed (braking assertively from 60 to 30 km/hr approx.) and an obstacle avoidance (swerve) manouevre are also included.

At the end of your motorcycle test in Ireland

When you return to the Test Centre, park your bike and follow the Tester into the office for your result and any feedback – even those who Pass can have a few faults to keep working on!

How is the Test marked? Basically, there are Grade 1, 2 and 3 faults. Grade 1 are minor and do not affect the result of your test. Yet, Grade 2 are moderate and overall you are allowed up to 8 .

However, under a Heading for example Position, you can only have up to 5. And under a subheading for example Position – Right Turn, you can only have up to 3. Grade 3 faults are serious and therefore, even 1 is a fail.

A note about the motorcycle test in Ireland and nerves

It is perfectly normal for test applicants to feel nervous before the Test and Testers do try to account for this and try to put you at ease.

Remember, they want to see that you are a safe motorcyclist both for yourself and other road users. Good preparation and practise will help your confidence and improve your skills.

It’s important to remember that once your Test begins, you should simply enjoy riding your bike! This is your choice, your investment, it’s what you have been working towards for a long time!

If you know you have made a mistake, do not dwell on it – you cannot change it. Keep concentrating on what you are doing and about to do – it’s never over until it’s over!

When you pass your motorcycle test in Ireland

If you pass, happy days of safe biking ahead! Let the adventures begin.

Remember to go to your local NDLS office to apply for your Full License and then inform your insurance company for a better rate.

If this is the first Category of vehicle you have passed a test on, you will have to wear an N (Novice) Tabard for two years  Or, if you are still completing your two years of Category B car as a Novice driver.

Should you fail the motorcycle test first time, try not to be disheartened. Listen carefully to the feedback, contact your instructor for further lessons, keep practising and try again as soon as possible.


And finally, the last nugget of info….

What if you have passed your Test in AM, A1 or A2 and then want to ride a bigger bike?

If you hold the Full License for 2 yrs, you may apply for a Learner Permit for the bigger Category and complete IBT Module 5 only.
The instructor signs the Log Book and IBT certificate and then you may get the Full License for bigger bike without doing another Test.

This is called Progression and may only be done once – it is best to speak to either your instructor or the RSA to clarify individual cases.

Got your full motorcycle license? What’s next?

Here at Motowitch we are huge advocates of education and self-improvement, especially when it comes to riding motorcycles.

No matter how many months, years or decades you’ve been riding, there is always something to be gained by honing your skills.

We’ve included some advanced courses below where you can continue to improve:

Advanced Motorcycle Training in Ireland

  • RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)

RoSPA-IART training uses the Police system of motorcycle control, a proven system of motorcycle control developed over many years.

The RoSPA Advanced Riding Test is regarded as the most comprehensive and challenging available to the public. Testing standards are monitored and approved by the Driving Standards Agency in the UK.

The aims and objectives of the Institute of Advanced Motorists are very simple:

  1. To improve the standards of driving and riding on the roads.
  2. Advance road safety.
  3. Administer a nationally recognised advanced test.

What amazing advanced riding course have you found?

Let us know about them in the comments below. 


1 Comment

  1. Dillon

    Great Blog, Thanks!


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Gillian Dunlop

Gillian Dunlop

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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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