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Does my bike need an MOT?


Honda | Suzuki | Kawasaki | Yamaha | Triumph | Harley-Davidson | Royal Enfield




Substantially modified?


Generally speaking, if your motorcycle is more than 3 years old it needs an MOT certificate. However, if it's more than 40 years old and if it hasn't been substantially modified, it doesn't require an MOT.

It becomes exempt. But you'll still be required to keep it roadworthy.


"Substantially modified" is a loose term and subject to much legal scrutiny. It basically means that if the bike has been upgraded with a turbo charger or has a different capacity engine fitted, or if the frame/wheels/front fork has been significantly altered, then an MOT will be required.


Smaller changes like (slightly) altered brakes, or custom seats, or aftermarket indicators, or a change in colour might not make a difference. The basic principle is: Does the Norton or BMW or Ducati look/feel/ride/behave very differently to the way it left the manufacturer?


So who decides on the legality? Well that's a tricky one because there are many variables and the problem might not come to light unless and until the bike becomes involved in an accident or theft where the police and/or insurance company gets involved. They'll almost certainly check the vehicle's documents and status, and it's then that someone will decide if your motorcycle has fallen foul of the MOT regulations.


It's a worryingly ambiguous situation open to much interpretation. But that's how it is. Meanwhile, if you've got doubts about the legality of your bike, MOT-wise, we recommend that you take it to an MOT station and ask if those ape-hanger handlebars, or big bore kit, or high-level exhaust pipes or that inverted aftermarket fork has substantially modified your motorcycle.



Should I tell my insurance company?


Remember, however, that although the MOT tester will probably have a better idea of the rules and regulations than yourself, he or she also has to make a reasonable judgement. So they could be right or wrong. But either way, you'd be wise to tell your insurance company about any significant changes to your motorcycle.


Yes, your broker might add a charge to your insurance premium, or they might "let it ride". But if they feel that you've failed to tell them something significant about the condition or appearance or performance of the motorcycle, and if the bike is stolen or involved in a crash or similar, they might refuse to pay—in which case you'll have to take the insurance company to court if you want to get recompensed. Tip: Avoid litigation whenever possible. It's time consuming, stressful and expensive.


Note too that the 40 year rule is "rolling". Therefore, if your bike is 39 years old at the moment, it will need an MOT. But next year, if you've kept it reasonably stock/standard, it won't need an MOT. So any contemporary bike from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, BMW, Triumph or whoever will eventually become "MOT-free"—unless there's another rule change coming at us.


If someone tries to sell you a bike and tells you that it doesn't need an MOT, don't take their word for it. Check the age, and see if it differs substantially from standard.




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