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When you buy new or second-hand from a dealer, the law gives you protection. The bike must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for the purpose. However, if you buy a bike privately, the law only requires that the bike is 'as described'. The Road Traffic Act makes it illegal for anyone to sell an unroadworthy bike unless they make it clear it is only fit for scrap.
Buying the right bike for you
You should always check that the law lets you ride the bike you want. If, for instance, you're new to this, you will not be able to ride a bike with a bigger engine capacity than 50cc if you are 16 years old (125cc if you are 17 years old). You will need to work out the full cost of putting the bike on the road. You must have a helmet, licence and insurance. Protective clothing and other equipment are advisable, as well as undergoing motorcycle training. You will also need an MOT test certificate if the bike is over three years old.
Assuming you are allowed to ride a bike, other questions to consider include:
Mini-motos, quad bikes and off-road vehicles
Off-road vehicles such as mini-motorcycles (generally referred to as mini-motos), quad bikes and scooters, powered either by an internal combustion engine or electric motor have become popular recreational vehicles for children and adults. They can only be ridden legally on private land and with the consent of the landowner. They cannot, legally, be ridden on the public highway, nor can they be used on pavements, footpaths, cycle paths, on parkland, common land or wasteland. The vehicle must be safe, taking into account any instructions/labelling, and the type of people using it, e.g. children.