Green lane rules for motorbikes

You don’t need a road to have fun on a motorbike. Get out into the countryside and have a blast but make sure you know the green lane rules for motorbikes, so you don’t spoil things for others.

One of the greatest pleasures in the biking world is riding a green lane – an unsurfaced countryside road – especially that moment when suddenly the roadway opens out to offer you a view rarely seen from a Tarmac road; complete countryside with no other visible signs of mankind except yourself and your bike.

To dip your toes in, you don’t need a trials, scrambler, adventurer or some other type of off-road bike – people ride anything from nakeds to Honda Cub 90’s off-road and indeed I tried it on a Superbike once (I wouldn’t really recommend that in the wet though…).

As long as you’re prepared for the prospect of damage and a lot of potential dirt, you could get away with a commuter bike with more knobbly tyres, on easy tracks.

“This isn’t actually my C90, so I’ve gotta look after it.”
“You don’t need a big expensive off-road bike to do greenlaning”

That said, until you do have a dirt bike you shouldn’t get too adventurous. If you do get into proper greenlaning, you’ll be looking at something like a 250/400 (you need a lighter machine rather a heavy GS or Tiger).

King of the hill is the Honda XR400 or to go lighter, the Honda CRF250 has a range of motocross and enduro models.

Whatever bike you ride, it does have to be road legal: MOT’d, taxed and insured.


You can ride more paths and roads than you might think

The rules around the use of motorised vehicles on green lanes are split into two areas; Public Rights of Way and Other Public Access.

On Public Rights of Way routes, you are legally allowed to use a Byway Open to all Traffic, known as BOATS. On an Ordnance Survey map key, BOATS are shown as a series of green pluses. Other maps may use a different symbol.

You are also allowed to use Unclassified Country Roads (UCR’s) which on an Ordnance Survey map comes under ‘Other routes with public access’ and are a line of widely-spaced green dots on their maps. These lanes and paths are not classed as Public Rights of Way so any restrictions need to be checked with a local authority, but there would normally be a sign indicating if types of vehicle are banned.

The Ministry of Defence, (MOD) also allows some of its property to be used by off-roaders. These are often firing ranges, like the gigantic Salisbury Plain Training Area, and they can be closed so check before planning a ride by calling the MOD Firing Times on 01980 674763.

Map symbols green lane use UK

©️ Ordnance Survey

In Scotland, there is additional legislation, called the Right to Roam which gives the public the right to be on any land for recreational, educational and certain other purposes but it only applies to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Motorised vehicles are specifically excluded.


Can you ride a motorbike on bridleways?

Ah, the classic question. To which the answer is a clear: No you can’t.

You can’t ride your motorbike, quad or another motorised vehicle (I’m guessing that covers Segways too?) on a Bridleway, a Footpath or a Restricted Byway. If you find yourself in an argument with an old-timer in the pub, tell them the law changed back in 2006

On BOAT’s you will encounter horse riders and they should respect your right-of-way and if you are considerate to them and their horse (i.e., don’t rev near the horse, potentially frightening it and putting both the horse and rider in danger), you should receive a considerate response. Perhaps pulling over and idling your engine giving them a good time to pass is the best policy.

You may also get grief from walkers. Let’s face it, you are tearing around, to them, beautiful unspoilt countryside on a noisy and potentially smokey (if it’s a two-stroke) machine that has no place among the sheep and butterflies. Like the horse riders, showing mutual respect, perhaps stopping to let them walk past safely, are going to help your cause. Angrily defending your rights of access is only going to take up time that could be spent riding.

If you are riding on MOD land, if a man in a tank asks you to, ‘Halt! Who goes there?!’ you need to behave and do what he says. He always has the legal right of way over you.

Join the gang

If you haven’t been greenlaning before and are nervous of meeting unwelcome opposition that could ruin your ride, track down a route or area, like Salisbury Plain, that is well-known for motorised use. This should build up your confidence before you tackle other routes that may not be used as much by riders and the 4×4’ers.

Once you have discovered the abundance of green lanes out there in the UK then

Get yourself sorted:

Get an Ordnance Survey map for the area you want to ride and familiarise yourself with a route you know will offer you public or approved access. Keeping the map in a waterproof bag is also a top idea…


Previous post

First Time Biker: Part 1 - Starting out

Next post

This is why you need to use two disc locks every time

The Author

Norm Deplume

Norm Deplume

Norm! Big bloke on a big bike.

Loves an adventure, takes no prisoners, takes no drugs (anymore).

He likes to keep things mysterious, mainly because he already has another job and his employer might not approve...