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Common mistakes that make you fail your motorbike test

We asked instructors to give us some common errors that novice riders make which causes them to fail their test.

Like with the car exam, failure to arrive prepared with the right documentation and enough fuel to complete the test, or arriving late, will cause you to forfeit your test fee.

Lack of awareness

Motorbike riders need to be more aware of unfolding situations and what’s around them than car riders. Scanning is important – making sure you are looking at what’s happening 10-15 seconds up the road as well as what’s happening right in front of you, and anticipating danger. Plus, you will need to be doing your head checks/lifesaver checks (making sure you check over your shoulder when changing lanes or turning). Not checking your mirrors before you slow down increases your risk of being rear-ended, too, so maintain your spatial awareness of traffic at all times.

Moving away from danger

If you are scanning and anticipating danger then you will be adjusting your lane position to minimise your risk. For example, when riding past a line of parked cars you will have a much different road position than when riding along a narrow rural road. This kind of riding becomes quite subconscious if you have had enough practise with a qualified instructor. You will automatically find yourself adopting a line that makes you the most visible to other vehicles and gives yourself the best possible escape routes.

Moving away from danger also means keeping a good following distance – at least two seconds in dry weather. This means you’ll have good time to react to traffic situations unfurling ahead.

Cutting right hand turns

This applies on both the open road and for junctions.

On the open road you should maintain a fairly wide line around the corner so that you can see further around it. This also gives you some buffer if another vehicle veers across the centre line.

If you are riding on a main road and turning into a side road then you will be giving way to traffic coming towards you. If you try to beat any traffic then you can end up cutting the corner and that puts you in danger of hitting another vehicle that’s approaching the junction that are turning right out of the side road (or a larger vehicle that’s turning left but needs to take a wider line). Often riders become so intent on beating the traffic that they forget to look right before they turn and can miss traffic approaching in the side road.

Where are you looking?

If you don’t have your head up then you can’t properly anticipate and detect situations, and your balance will be worse. Keep your head up so that you can see further, and when you are riding through corners, try to look as far around the corner as possible. Remember that you have a lot of peripheral vision downwards and not much upwards so by keeping your head up you will still see what’s going on in front of your bike; if you keep your head down, you can’t see what’s happening ahead of you.

Riders also need to look where they want to steer the bike for more accurate steering control. Avoid target fixation – where you look at the thing you want to avoid.

As motorcycles usually travel in the right-hand wheel track of the vehicle in front, if you are turning left then you must check your left mirror and do a lifesaver over your left shoulder because a vehicle behind you, which might assume you are going straight ahead, could have accelerated into the gap.

Putting your right foot down when stopping

Your right foot is for controlling your rear brake and you should be using your rear brake when stopping, therefore it’s your left foot that goes down so that you can keep pressure on the rear brake. It helps you control the bike when slowing down and makes sure that you’ve changed down through your gears early enough. This is especially important for hill starts.


If other traffic is speeding then there’s the tendency for peer pressure to push your speed up. Stick below the speed limit and keep checking your speedo. Downhill stretches are areas where your speed can creep up without you noticing. Change down a gear or two to help the bike stay under the speed limit

Stop signs

Stop signs are easy to miss. They are compulsory, though. If you fail to stop, you will fail the test.

Failure to use the correct sequence of motorbike control

If you fail to use the mirror-signal-lifesaver sequence when you are changing lanes or merging will earn you a fail.

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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