Although there are no legal restrictions on driving quad bikes over private land and a blanket ban on driving them – or any vehicle – over public land such as parks and commons, the law applying to driving quad bikes on the open road is a little more complicated.
The law is broken down into two main areas: that which applies to the riders and that which applies to the bikes themselves.
In regard to the riders, it is a little ironic that, despite quad bikes making their first appearance back in the late 1960s as an innovative motorcycle adaptation by Honda, UK law today views a quad bike not as a motorbike but as a light vehicle.
It is therefore imperative that those intending to take a quad out on the road hold not just a motorcycle licence but a standard car driving licence for which of course a driving test must be passed.
Holders of such a licence will need to be at least 17 years old, unless they receive higher level Disability Living Allowance mobility awards, in which case the minimum age is lowered to 16.
Interestingly, although the wearing of protective clothing and a motorcycle helmet is strongly recommended in order to safeguard against possible injury, there is no legal requirement to do so at the time of writing.
Regarding the quads themselves, the law recognises two types: category 1.6e and category 1.7e.
Category 1.6e – ‘light’ – these must have a maximum unladen weight of 350 kilos; a maximum 50cc or 4 kilowatt engine; and a maximum speed of 45 km per hour.
Category 1.7e quads on the other hand need to have a maximum unladen weight of 550 kilos (or 440 kilos if the quad is not designed to carry goods); and a maximum net engine power of 15 kilowatts.
In order to be driven on a public road, all quad bikes must meet official European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) environmental and safety standards. An ECWVTA certificate will usually have already been obtained by the bike manufacturer and presented to the owner upon purchase. If this is not the case a certificate can be applied for. Enquiries should be made in the first instance to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Once they have been type approved, all quad bikes taken out on the public highway must, like any other vehicle on the road, be registered with the DVLA; be properly insured; and of course be covered by a road fund licence (in other words, taxed).
The 1988 Road Traffic Act also specifies that all quads on the road must, like any other vehicle, be fitted with front and rear registration number plates; lights and directional indicators; legally prescribed tyres; a speedometer; and a warning horn.
Any quad over three years old must also be tested regularly in order to receive an official valid MOT certificate. Unlike most other vehicles however, quads are not required to undergo emissions tests.
This is just a short summary of the UK law on road legal quad bikes at the time of writing but check the current law before you ride on public roads. Whatever you do, enjoy your quad bike and take every precaution to stay safe.