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1985 motorbike gets ULEZ exemption with a NOx test

A Yamaha RD350 that was first registered in April 1985 has gained ULEZ exemption, thanks to its incredibly low NOx. It proves older motorcycles can easily meet ULEZ emissions requirements. Yet the owner still has to deal with a TfL bureaucratic nightmare.

If proof were ever needed that Transport for London’s ULEZ system is a complete farce when it comes to motorcycles, news comes of two bikes – one nearly 35 years old and another just short of 30 years old – that are both capable of producing far less pollution than TfL’s legal limits.

Read: TfL in chaos over ULEZ motorcycle exemptions


Steven Downer owns four bikes, three of which are so old you would automatically assume they would never be ULEZ compliant until they reached the age for historic vehicle exemption, which is 40 years.

Where he lives in London means Steven potentially faces a £12.50 each day he wants to jump on a bike. He told us, “I live inside the future expanded ULEZ, so it will cost me a fortune just to get them out of the garage.” If he wanted to ride two bikes in his collection in a single day that’s double the charge. As he owns a 1984 RD350 YPVS, a 1990 TDR250 YPVS and a 1994 TZR125 Belgarda YPVS – all two strokes – it became clear he might not be able to ride the Yamaha collection he has painstakingly rebuilt and restored himself (he also has a modern Tracer 900 GT).

Older motorcycles pass ULEZ test
© Steven Downer | Steven’s beautiful RD350
Older motorcycle test ULEZ
© Steven Downer | The RD350 on the test bench

In desperation, he took his RD350, first registered in April 1984, down to Riverbank Motorcycles, currently the only recognised NOx testing station for motorcycles in Greater London. It was a £175 gamble that paid off, as his bike’s NOx reading was just 0.02 g/km against the limit of 0.15 g/km.

Riverbank can inform TfL of the results of their test immediately, which they did. Unfortunately, TfL’s ULEZ Checker database doesn’t update automatically, so Steven – along with dozens of other London motorcyclists in the same position, has found that his bike is officially exempt, but not recorded as such when he uses TfL’s own online system to see if he is going to be charged.

Despite this, and encouraged by the results of the first test, Steven also had his 1990 TDR250 tested. This also passed, testing at 0.03 g/km. He said, ‘Whilst I resent paying the £179 fee, it’s nice that sense prevails.”

older motorcycles can pass the ULEZ test
© Steven Downer | What a cracking bike! Steven’s TDR250 YPVS

However, nearly one month on from the first test, neither bike is showing up on the ULEZ checker. TfL has so far ignored his requests for clarification, leaving Steven feeling he shouldn’t be held responsible for their administration failures. “I will not pay any fines received and will challenge them as required.”

It is, unfortunately, another sign that the Mayor for London and Transport for London really haven’t thought through ULEZ properly. As we constantly state, motorcycles are part of the solution, not the problem.

More help with ULEZ

If you are unsure of the ULEZ rules for motorcycles click here.
If you need to know more about exemptions from ULEZ charges click here.
See if a similar model to your bike has already been exempted from ULZ here.


Have you gained an exemption too?

Biker & Bike is currently compiling a list of pre-Euro 3 motorcycles that have gained exemption from ULEZ.

If you have gained exemption for a motorcycle that is not on the list please let us know by sending an email to editorial @ (removing the spaces either side of the @), using the subject line: ULEZ exempt motorcycle. Please tell us:

The model
The year of registration
The method (Certificate of Conformity, V5C [logbook] or NOx test)
The measured NOx reading, if known

Getting the list out there gives other owners the confidence to get their own bikes exempted. As we all know, motorcycles shouldn’t need to have to pay a pollution charge in the first place – bikes help reduce pollution. If more people used powered two-wheelers instead of cars and cabs we might not need ULEZ in the first place.

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The Author

Ian Malone

Ian Malone

Ian is the Editor and a co-founder of Biker & Bike.

He is obsessed about bikes to the point that he often starts conversations with new people by saying, "Please don't get me onto the subject of bikes. We'll be here all day."

Inevitably, the next question asked is nearly always, "What bike have you got, then?"

He's 'down' to three bikes at the moment:

'97 Triumph Daytona T595
'11 Triumph Tiger 800
'13 Triumph Speed Triple R

He's not even a huge Triumph fan, it just turns out that's how the stable is filled at the moment.

Having been on every continent except Antartica (as long as Cuba kind-of qualifies as South America) he is a big fan of travelling. However, to his deep but hopefully not eternal shame, he's only ever explored Europe on two-wheels and only started doing this a few years ago.

His main mission now is to explore as much of the world on two wheels as possible, at the same time as trying out as many new motorcycling experiences as he can and go on to inspire other bikers to do the same.