If you need any more information, your best bet is to join the club (if you haven't already), and then you will have access to a lot of experience and advice.
Obtaining a motorcycle license is a complex process. To start with there are three different types of licence:
In order to ride as a learner you will need:
provisional motorcycle license OR a full UK driving license.
Once you are able to ride as a learner, you can then learn to ride, either by yourself or with a training body, and then apply for your full test.
As a learner you may not:
a machine over 125cc (unless on a DAS).
If you are under 21, you have no choice but to take an 'A1 or a restricted 'A' licence. You are restricted to a machine of power output less than 25 kW, though it is usually possible to restrict a large bike to 25Kw by way of retarding the carburettor, this normally costs around £200 (though most insurance companies will not give a reduction for this...)
DAS - If you are over 21 though, you can take what is known as a Direct Access Scheme (or DAS). This is where you learn and take your test on a bike in excess of 35 kW (46.6 BHp), a GS500E or CB500 for example, and then you a free to ride any bike you like. If you have a restricted 'A' licence on your 21st birthday, you can take an Accelerated Access course in order to upgrade to an unrestricted license immediately.
When you are learning, you must hold a valid provisional licence. You can get an application form from any Post Office, which you complete and send off with a small cheque and the DVLA send you a licence. You should allow plenty of time to get your licence before you intend to ride (At least a month).
An ordinary provisional licence is valid for TWO years only. After this you must not ride for a further year. You then have another two years on, one off, and so on and so forth.
A full UK Driving license, however, gives you an provisional motorcycle licence with no time restrictions. (Don't forget that you still need a valid CBT certificate...).
When deciding which licence to go for, you will need to consider what you what you want to do with your bike. If you are under 21, you have the option of getting an A1 or a restricted A. To be totally honest, taking an A1 is not advisable, since you are then restricted for ever to 125cc (Unless you retake your test for an A, that is). There is little difference in cost (if any) between and A and an A1. On the other hand, if you are over 21, then you have a choice between a restricted and an unrestricted A licence. You will find that to take a DAS with cost a lot more than a to get a restricted licence, so unless you need (or have the money) to get on a 'Big' bike within the next two years, you might as well save yourself some of your hard earned cash. A 25kW (33 BHp) bike will be more than adequate for most purposes anyway, so long as you don't want to go at more than 80 MPH on a regular basis, or ride between London and Scotland every weekend.
For more information on Licensing, visit the DVLA.
In order to ride on the road for the first time (and this includes your test!) you will need to take Compulsory Basic Training (or CBT). This consists of a one day course where you ride about on some private land, dodging traffic cones and doing figures of eight etc. and then you are accompanied out onto the road for the afternoon. If the instructor is satisfied with your ability you will get a CBT certificate.
The CBT certificate is valid for three years, during which time you must pass your test (After the certificate expires, you may retake your CBT immediately if you wish).
A CBT course will typically cost from around £60 up to £90, depending on who you use and where you live.
The amount and variety of kit on offer can be daunting, especially as most of it is fairly expensive. The only legal requirement is a helmet.
A helmet must conform to British standards, and carry a Kite Mark. The price of a helmet varies from £45 up to £400 (if you want the latest Arai or Shoei).
At the end of the day, the fit of a helmet is the most important element. Always, when buying a helmet make sure you try it on before you buy (e.g., never buy mail order) and make sure that you try as many different helmets on as possible. Different makes may fit you better than others. All good shops will be able to give you advice on what is a good fit and what isn't. Oh, and one thing: A helmet should not be used after it has been crashed or dropped, so never buy second hand.
If you have any common sense, you will invest in some protective clothing. There are many modern synthetic (and expensive) materials to choose from these days, but most people prefer to stick with leather. A set of leathers is expensive because leather is a very hard material to work with, but you should not have to spend much more than £240 to get a good set, or less if you choose to buy second hand.
A good pair of gloves is vital. Gloves perform two functions, firstly protecting you hands in case of a fall, and secondly to prevent your hands from getting cold (This is very important since if you hands get numb, you have less control over the bike). It is not a bad idea to have two pairs since a glove will take around 24 hours to dry out if it been raining...
A pair of boots (Anything from a pair of hiking boots to a full pair of motorcycle boots) is needed if you want to keep your ankles in one piece. Trainers are not sufficient. Bear in mind that f you come off at 30 MPH, you lose 1 inch of flesh every second...
One big problem that you will encounter is a visor's ability to fog up at just the wrong time - many people swear by FogCity shields. These cost around £13 to £18 and simply stick to the inside of your visor to prevent it misting - easy.
It is difficult to put a price on the entire process of getting a bike, but here are a few ideas:
First the cheap bit, your license fees:
In terms of training, many people choose to take 1 week intensive courses, which include CBT and the final test. These can cost anywhere between £350 and £500 depending on who you choose and to what level you want to be taught.
The cost of a bike? - Take a look at LOOT.
The amount of 'Vehicle Excise Duty' (or tax) that you pay is dependant on the size of your bike:
Kit - you can spend anywhere between £50 and £500 for a set of kit, and a lot more than that if you're feeling rich.
If you don't have a CG125 (or similar) which is garaged in a small backwater in deepest Dorset, insurance will initially cost you a lot of money. For example, I own a CB250, which is kept in a locked walled yard in Wimbledon, it costs me £860 third party, fire and theft each year. The best advice I can give you is to think about the cost of insurance BEFORE you set your heart on a particular bike.
Don't forget that any No Claims Bonus that you hold on car insurance will NOT carry over to motorcycle insurance. You may, however, if you hold a clean driving licence get a small discount.
There are generally 3 levels of cover available:
You must shop around to find the best deal you can (Never believe what you read on an advert...). Also, don't always go for the cheapest policy available, check what your getting for your money; for example one particular company will give you £150 to cover damaged kit in the event of a crash, even on TPFT if it was your fault
A good hint, if you are going to be living in London, is to get your bike DataTagged. This is a kit that costs £50, and will give you reductions on your insurance. Check what reductions individual companies offer.