How to Get Your Motorcycle License

a person riding a motorcycle

You’ve officially decided you want a motorcycle, but where do you begin? In our Motorcycling 101 series, we’ll help you navigate the road from permits and practice to riding gear and choosing a bike. Let’s begin with the most important parts of the process, training courses and getting your license.

Begin with a motorcycle safety course

A class will introduce you to the world of motorcycling, as well as teach you the most critical lesson of all: how to be a safe rider. Motorcycle riders who take safety classes are less likely to be in an accident than those who don’t. In fact,  an estimated 90% of motorcycle riders involved in a crash had no formal training, according to the Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE).

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation teaches courses across the country, so finding one in your area should be easy.

The Basic Rider Course offers beginners both classroom and hands-on training. You’ll also learn about motorcycle laws and rules of the road, proper riding gear and how to inspect your bike. In some states, completing an approved safety class may exempt you from taking a road test and may also make you eligible for discounted motorcycle insurance.

Here’s a preview of what to expect:

If you’re looking for other options, your local motorcycle dealer will likely know about training classes.

Find out your state’s motorcycle requirements

Once you’ve picked a course, contact your state department of motor vehicles to find out whether you need a motorcycle license or an endorsement. A motorcycle license is similar to a driver’s license, but meant only for motorcycles. An endorsement, however, is an addition to your current driver’s license that allows you to legally operate a motorcycle, as well as an automobile. Learn more about state-specific motorcycle requirements to know what steps to take to obtain a license in your state.

Make sure to answer to the following questions:

  • Age requirements What is the minimum age to obtain a motorcycle permit and a license?
  • Motorcycle training requirementsDo you need to take a motorcycle safety course? If so, does your state waive the road test for passing this course? (It’s always smart to take a motorcycle safety course even if it’s not required by your state.)
  • Motorcycle permit test requirementsAre permits mandatory?
  • Motorcycle license test requirementsWill you need to pass a written, vision and road test?

How to get your motorcycle license

While requirements vary by state, here’s a general overview of the process:

1. Obtain your motorcycle learner’s permit by passing a written test and eye exam at your local motor vehicle office. Most DMVs require a 70% passing grade. (You may improve your chances of passing by taking a practice test online). A permit typically lasts 6-18 months. Once you receive your permit, practice as much as possible:

  • Get comfortable with starting and stopping
  • Become familiar with using the clutch without wearing it out
  • Practice using turn signals and hand signals

2. You’ll then take a road skills test. As mentioned earlier, if you pass a beginners’ course, you may not need to take the road test.

3. Choose a motorcycle for your test. Cruiser models are generally recommended because of their low seating and low center of gravity. The bike you take your test on must have a valid license plate, registration and insurance. Learn more about buying a motorcycle.

4. After passing the necessary tests, you’ll likely pay a fee for the license or endorsement. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t pass on the first try. You may retake the test after a specific period of time set by your state.

Once you’ve received the proper education and license, you’re on your way to becoming a knowledgeable rider.  Look for the next edition of our series to find out what motorcycle riding gear you’ll need to keep you safe.

And remember, having the right insurance to protect you and your motorcycle is essential. Learn about Nationwide’s motorcycle insurance coverage options today.