Advice for UK Trike Laws
This Page is chronographical and laid out so as new legislation is passed we will offer it as advice only! Some legalities may contradict others as new laws are passed however we suggest you contact the relevant authorities for individual questions.
New Motorcycle Test (3rd European Directive) & TrikesThere have been lots of enquiries on this subject so I thought I’d better clarify the situation. As of January 19th 2013 the new ‘staged’ licensing system comes into affect.(I will do a more involved report on how it affects motorcycle tests later).
How will it affect trikes?
As of January 19th 2013 Trikes will become part of the Motorcycle licence category. (Currently they come within the Car Category).For people with existing full car licenses prior to January 19th 2013, nothing changes. (New licensing rules cannot be backdated).
After January 19th 2013 only people with disabilities will be permitted to take a test on a trike.(This dispensation is greatly due to consultations between the NABD and the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) including the submission of a very detailed report by the NABD Chairman relating to the use of trikes and sidecar outfits by disabled people).
For disabled people wishing to take a test on a trike after January 19th 2013 they will have to take a CBT (slightly amended to suit trikes). They will also have to do the motorcycle theory test and the practical tests (Mod 1 test is also slightly adapted to suit trikes; i.e. less cones and no avoidance manoeuvre etc.)
The B1 category of licence is to be scrapped. A disabled person riding a trike on a provisional car licence before January 19th will have to apply for a provisional motorcycle licence and do a CBT course after the 19th before they can ride on the road again.
A disabled person taking a test on a trike will qualify for a licence restricted to trikes. It will not qualify them to ride solo motorcycles or drive cars.
Able-bodied people who don’t hold a full car licence prior to January 19th 2013 will have to pass a motorcycle test, on a motorcycle, before they can ride a trike. (Those who already hold a motorcycle licence will by default be able to ride trikes).
Able-bodied people who are currently riding trikes on L-Plates must successfully pass a test before January 19th 2013. After that date they can only ride a trike if they successfully pass a motorcycle test on a motorcycle first.
There is no change to the dispensation that allows disabled people to use a motorcycle and sidecar combination to take a motorcycle test, though this would also result in a licence restricted to motorcycles fitted with sidecars.
Trikes and motorcycle/sidecar combinations used for CBT, training and tests are not subject to the power output or power to weight ratio restrictions detailed in motorcycle tests.
Rick Hulse NABD Chairman
Are There Different Types Of Trike?
Yes, but in a nutshell, there are only two types of trike that you really need to know about, bike engined and car engined. Having said that, it isn’t the engine type that finally influences the decision of what type of trike you’re going to ride, it’s the weight of the trike, and what you are actually licensed to ride; any type of trike can be built or bought to suit disabled needs. These can realistically vary from a humble 250cc bike engined trike, all the way up to a growling, car engined V12 monster.
Is A Trike Classed As A Motorcycle Or A Motorcar?
Now this is where it gets complicated. In this section, I will deal with vehicle classification, driving license groups, MOT testing classes, and vehicle excise license. These four different categories, when used in conjunction with each other, help determine what type of trike you’ve got, or are thinking of buying/building, and indeed, whether you are actually licensed to ride it or not. Please note that you will see several weights and figures which, logically speaking, should be the same in different categories, but they aren’t.
I’ll start with vehicle classification :-
A mechanically propelled vehicle that is used, adapted or intended for use on the road, is classified under a series of groups according to its use, weight and design. A trike can be in a number of classifications, and depending on which one it’s in, makes for some pretty fundamental differences when applying road traffic law. The groups are as follows …
1. Invalid carriage – Not exceeding 254 kg – Designed for sole use by the disabled.
2. Motorcycle – Not exceeding 410kg – Not more than three wheels.
Recently, the DVLA have started to split this category for trikes that fall into it. The word “Tricycle”, or phrase “3-Wheeled Tricycle”, is more likely to appear on your vehicle registration documents, rather than “Bicycle” as has been used in the past. Maybe someone showed them the third wheel, eh?
3.Motorcar – Not exceeding 3050kg – Passenger carrying with no more than 7 seats excluding the driver.
 If a trike was built solely for a disabled person, and was adapted as such, it could be classified as an invalid carriage. It would be prohibited from using a motorway, would require only a “K” driving license group, and would be excluded from road tax if under 10cwt unladen weight.
What your trike is classified as, will denote which driving license you will require, and what vehicle excise license your trike will require.
Driving Licence Groups
So, now you’ve worked out what your trike is classified as, you need to make sure that you are licensed to drive the vehicle. Unfortunately, license groups don’t match vehicle classifications exactly, so here we go …
1. Motorcycle – New license holders are limited to 25kw/33bhp for the first two years of their licence, unless they take the large motorcycle test (Direct Access). Less than 410kg unladen weight.
2. Motorvehicle – Not exceeding 3500kg, and not more than 8 seats excluding the driver; basically the “car” group. The entitlement to drive a vehicle not exceeding 7.5tonnes, for those who passed a test prior to 1/1/97, is covered under group “C1”.
3. Quadracycle (licence group B1) – 3 or 4 wheel motor vehicles not exceeding 550kg unladen weight, but exceeding 50kmph and 50cc. This is a relatively unknown group that brings the UK more in line with Europe. If these type of vehicles exceed 550kg, they then fall into the motor vehicle group.
If you’ve passed a full motorcycle test, you will have group “B1” on your licence, although if you haven’t passed a car test, you won’t have group “B”. This creates a bit of an anomaly as your motorcycle can’t exceed 410kg, but you could ride a trike up to 550kg, because of your “B1” entitlement. This is worth knowing, as there are quite a few riders who limit themselves to a trike under 410kg without realising.
Changes to B1 Entitlement.
Currently, a person who passes a motorcycle test is granted a full sub-category B1 license (lightweight car, motor quadricycle, motor tricycle) as an additional entitlement with the full A (motorcycle) licence. The Driving Standards Agency, in their ‘Safer Motorcycling’ consultation, had proposed that in future successful motorcycle test candidates would be issued with a provisional rather than a full B1 licence. 49 of the 57 consultees who commented on the issue were in favour of this proposal, including safety, police and training interests. There were representations against from companies selling lightweight cars, the National Trike Register and MAG UK, suggesting that riders might want to use their license to ride tricycles. There were suggestions that separate license categories should be introduced, but changes to motor vehicle license categories would require a change to EU law. Ministers have decided to implement the proposal, which would affect very few motorcyclists as over 90% hold a full car license (which will continue to give full sub-category B1 entitlement). Nor will it affect anybody already holding a full motorcycle licence, who will retain full B1 entitlement. The changes are expected to be implemented during October 2000. What the above does mean though is that if you haven’t got a full car or bike license before October and wish to either trike your bike or buy one in the future you will have to apply for a provisional car license and if you wish to carry passengers then pass the test. This is very unfair as a car driver with no experience of bikes can get straight onto certain types of trike, with passengers, and ride away. Also if you’re forced onto a trike due to a disability or a smash you’ll have to apply for a provisional license even though you’ve been on the road for years.
You can ride a trike on a provisional licence, ie. with “L” plates, but you must be 17 (or 16 if you are getting Disability Living Allowance at the higher rate for the mobility component) and the trike must have only one seat; the rider’s seat. If you do wish to carry passengers, your trike can have extra seats, but you must carry a qualified bike or car license holder with you at all times; this is also dependant, of course, on which sort of trike your accompanying full license holder is qualified to ride.
MOT Testing Classes
Just to make things even more complicated, and having worked out your trike’s classification, *and* ensured you are licensed to ride it … what MOT group is it in? It could make a difference when it comes to MOT time, and you suddenly find out that your local bike workshop isn’t entitled to test it. The requirement for an MOT test is the same for all vehicles, including trikes, but excluding HGVs and PSVs.
Class 1 – Motorcycles – With or without sidecars up to 200cc.
Class 2 – All motorcycles, including class l with or without sidecars.
Class 3 – 3 wheeled vehicles, not exceeding more than 450kg unladen weight.
Class 4 – Cars, including motor caravans, dual purpose vehicles, and goods vehicles not exceeding 3000kg.
If you’re wondering why I’ve included this table, then look again at class 3. Say for example, you’ve got a trike of between 450kg and 550kg (B1 license maximum), it will need to be tested at a class 4 MOT centre. So, your trike could be classed as a motorcar, yet you’re riding it under a Quadra cycle licence, but you need to get it tested at a car MOT centre. Got it? Good!
And finally in this section :-
Vehicle Excise license
Just to make sure it doesn’t get too easy for you, your trike will be taxed under one of three classes. Where as previously your trike would have been taxed as either a PLG vehicle (private light goods), or a motorcycle, a new rate was introduced on 1/6/99, as a concession for smaller engines …
Part 1 – General rate – (PLG).
Part 1 : Concession – PLG not exceeding 1100cc.
Part 2 – Motorcycles up to 450kg unladen weight.
As with the vehicle registration, the “Tricycle” class has been introduced here too, or rather re-introduced; it’s actually existed years, but hardly been used.
Expect to see “Tricycle” instead of “Bicycle” on your tax disc, if your trike falls into the relevant class [Part 2].
Spot the anomaly again. Say for example, you’ve got a trike weighing 420kg, it’s not a motorcycle under vehicle classifications, it’s a motorcar, but you’re riding it under a “B1” (Quadra cycle) licence. It’s tested at a class 3 MOT centre, but it qualifies as a motorcycle for vehicle excise licence.
Do I Need To Wear A Helmet When Riding A Trike?
In a word, “No”, neither for bike engined nor car engined trikes. Helmets are only compulsory for motor bicycles, not motor tricycles. On the other hand, you may wish to wear a helmet, say on a long journey, to protect your head from the weather, flying debris etc, etc; it’s up to you. As a word of warning, should you be unfortunate enough to have an accident on your trike, some insurance companies may try to use against you, the fact that you weren’t wearing a helmet should you wish to make a claim for damages, especially if you sustained head injuries.
As far as ‘the boys in blue’ are concerned, do no more than to print this next piece out, and carry it with you. If you get pulled and quizzed about your lack of lid, just show this to them. Do not alter it in any way, as it is an official police document and will be recognised as such.
Motor Cycles (Protective Helmets) Regulations 1988.
Statutory Instrument 1998 No 1807:-
1. Citation and Commencement – Omitted.
2. Revocation – Omitted.
In these Regulations:-
a. EEA state mean a state which is a contracting party to the agreement on the European Economic Area signed 2nd May 1992.
b. A reference to a numbered regulation is a reference to the regulation so numbered in these regulations.
c. A reference to a numbered paragraph is a reference to the paragraph so numbered in these regulations.
[as to the area of the European economic area see further the editorial note to regulation 3820/85].
4. Protective Headgear.
(1) Save as provided in paragraph (2) every person driving or riding (Otherwise than in a sidecar) on a motor bicycle when on a road shall wear protective headgear.
(2) Nothing in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person driving or riding on a motor bicycle if –
a. it is a mowing machine.
b. it is for the time being propelled by a person on foot.
(3) In this regulation “motor bicycle “means a two wheeled motorcycle, whether or not having a sidecar attached, and for the purposes of this definition where the distance measured between the areas of contact with the road surface of any two wheels of a motorcycle is less than 460mm those wheels shall be counted as one wheel.
“protective headgear” means a helmet which:-
(a) either –
(i) bears a mark applied by it’s manufacturer indicating compliance with the specifications contained in one of the British Standards (whether or not as modified by any amendment) mentioned in schedule 2 to these regulations.
(ii) is of a type manufactured for use by persons on motorcycles which by virtue of it’s shape, material and construction could reasonably be expected to afford the wearer a degree of protection from accidental injury similar to or greater than that provided by a prescribed under regulation 5.
(b) If worn with a chin cup attached to or held in position by the strap, provided with an additional strap (to be fastened under the wearers jaw) for securing the helmet to the head ; and
(b) is securely fastened to the head by means of straps provided for that purpose and “strap” includes any fastening device.
Do I Need Seatbelts Fitted To My Trike?
This is the definitive guide to seatbelt requirements for trikes; except no imitations! This took some serious research, and a few arguments with the Vehicle Inspectorate, but they agree this is totally correct.
Vehicles first used before 1 April 1987.
Seatbelts are required for three wheelers that fall into the following categories:
1. With an unladen weight over 410Kg first used on or after 1 January 1965.
2. With an unladen weight over 255kg if first used on or after 1 September 1970.
Less than 410kg unladen equipped with a driving seat of a type that requires the driver to sit astride it and where that vehicle was constructed or assembled by a person not ordinarily engaged in the trade or business of constructing those sort of vehicles.
Vehicle first used before 1 April 1981:-
Drivers – A belt that restrains the upper body. (but need not include a lap belt)
Forward facing rear seats – no requirement.
Vehicle first used after 31 March 1981:-
Drivers – a 3 point (lap/diagonal) belt. 
Forward facing rear seats – no requirements.
Vehicles first used after 31 March 1987:-
Seatbelts are not required for trikes that either …
1. Have an unladen weight of less than 255kg.
2. With an unladen weight of more than 255kg but less than 410kg which are equipped with a drivers seat requiring the driver to sit astride it and where its been constructed or assembled by a person not ordinarily engaged in the trade or business of manufacturing vehicles of that type.
Drivers – three point belts
Forward facing rear seats …
If not more than 2 rear seats then either:-
1. A 3 point inertia belt for at least one seat.
2. A 3 point belt, lap belt, disabled persons belt or child restraint for each seat.
Vehicles with more than 2 rear seats then either:-
1. A 3 point inertia reel belt on an outboard seat and a 3 point static or inertia reel belt, lap belt, disabled persons belt or child restraint for at one other seat
2. A static 3 point belt for one seat and a disabled persons belt or child restraint for at least one other seat.
3. A 3 point belt, lap belt, disabled persons belt or child restraint for each seat.
 A 3 point belt means a seat belt that …
1. restrains the upper and lower parts of the torso.
2. includes a lap belt.
3. is anchored at not less than three points.
4. is designed for use by an adult.
My trike’s feature a tried and tested independent rear suspension Design. Handles beautifully – one hand steering. So comfortable, sticks to the road like something off a blanket, makes you feel confident, safe and secure. The chain drive diff works very well. It works really well with O ring Heavy Duty chains. You’ll throw a party if you have to adjust the chains from one month to the next. Very strong – last ages.
We are developing wide-glide stainless steel girder forks. We are just doing a trike with them on for R&D and they will be in the magazines soon.
Robin and I designed this style of backend a few years ago now. We were wondering how to mount the shocks. We were sat up Robin’s house watching qualifying for a formula 1 Grand Prix when Damon Hill came into the pits. They took off a front cover. We both pointed at the screen at the same time and shouted that’s it – we’ll lay them down, working off the A’frame – so we did. The rest is everyone else’s history