You’ve been thinking about it for awhile. Looking at used bikes. Stopped by the dealer. Budgeted it all out. Especially after the pandemic and the rising cost of gas. You can almost taste it—a summer hot wind and a long afternoon of nothing but riding and open road. You've picked out the bike even, but first, you have to get your license.
In the United States (for whom this information is applicable), motorcycle licensing laws vary from state by state. The first thing you will want to do is check your state's DMV
for specific regulations. But there are some guidelines that remain the same no matter where you are.
If You Know Nothing:
Either you haven't ridden since you were a kid on a minibike or maybe you've never even ridden at all. Don't let that stop you! In this scenario, the easiest solution is going to be a rider education class. There are several options: either offered by your DMV, MSF
, or dealerships like Harley Davidson which have their own riding academy
. These courses usually provide a beginner friendly bike and plenty of foundational instruction to get you comfortable, quickly and on the road with a solid foundation of skills to build on.
If You Know a Little, But It’s Been Awhile:
Maybe you've ridden in the past, but it's been awhile and you could use a refresher--especially before tackling a DMV skills course test. Rider education classes are still a great option! Sure, it’s possible to dick around in a parking lot until you're comfortable, but it'll be easier and faster to just commit to the few days of actual training.
If You Are Experienced:
If you've ridden before and your license just lapsed, or you've ridden on the track and/or dirt bikes and are looking to transition to the road, you probably only need to look over the information before scheduling your permit and skills test. The road awaits!
What Do I Need To Get Started:
First, you'll need your permit for most states. You can obtain this through your local DMV.
Second, you'll need your safety gear. Even on a borrowed training bike you'll need: a DOT approved helmet, eye protection, closed toe shoes (ideally with a heel you’d be surprised how quick your foot can slip off when shifting or slippery), gloves, long sleeve and long pants at the minimum, motorcycle jacket or thick jacket that'll withstand some wear and tear.
Finally, if you already have a bike you'll need registration and insurance
Getting a Permit:
A motorcycle permit is the same thing as the permit you got for your motor vehicle license, and in most cases the process is very similar. Most states even allow for the same minimum ages (yes, at 16 you can get a motorcycle license). You will want to look at any offered handbook information about your state's laws for riding, and you will be expected to pass a short, written test. (Often you can find practice tests online). Once you have passed, you can ride on the road. Each state has diffing limitations on what "riding" looks like with a permit. Most commonly, with a permit you cannot carry passengers, ride at night or ride on freeways. But when you're just learning to ride those aren't going to be your first adventure's anyway. Your state may also require you to have a minimum number of supervised riding hours before getting your license. Remember, permits do expire, so plan accordingly!
Going To A Class:
All educational classes are a bit different, but the three main providers (DMV, MSF, and Harley) offer classes where the skills test is administered at the end and you simply go to the DMV with the certificate that you passed to obtain your license. This can make it really simple, especially for a new rider.
Typically the classes are held over a few day period, and are mostly skills based. They'll start with something as simple and basic as pushing the bike back and forth and end with the state certified skills test (or something similar). They give you lot's of hands-on learning time and the cost is relatively cheap.
Here's a breakdown of what you can expect for the Harley Davidson course.
Getting Your License:
Obtaining your motorcycle license is the final step in the process and it gives unrestricted riding privileges (and the little M on your drivers licence). If you have chosen to complete the skills test through an education provider, you are often able to take your certificate of completion and simply stop by the DMV to update your card, no additional testing needed. Some states will require you to re-do the skills test, but again, if you've already completed one you'll feel confident in your ability to pass. If you have not done an education class, you will just schedule a skills test with the DMV and preform it there.
Remember! If you do your skills test with the DMV you will need a motorcycle with current registration, insurance and inspection (if applicable).
Once you have obtained your motorcycle license, it's really straightforward to maintain--allowing you an open road to riding and building your skills. One thing to keep in mind is that obtaining the skills to get your license is only the beginning. Here at EARPEACE, our riders love track days for improving our road skills. No matter how you grow, remember great riders are always learning.