What do you need to know about getting your motorcycle license in the US?
Driving a motorcycle through the American countryside is an exhilarating experience that can make you feel liberated as you navigate mountain passes, river bluffs, and some of the most beautiful National Parks that this country has to offer. Motorcycle riding is an American pastime that has been passed down from generation to generation since the early 1900s, and as a result, motorcycles and motorcycle culture have been ingrained into the very fabric of American identity. But before you can jump up on that motorbike and take off on your first country ride, there are many things that you need to know about getting your motorcycle license in the US. Let us take a look at the basic steps to getting your motorcycle license in the US.
- Pass the written exam: The first step you must complete before you actually get on a motorcycle is you must pass a written exam to receive your motorcycle learner’s permit. The motorcycle written exam may include questions about motorcycle laws, techniques, and terminology. Your state’s department of motor vehicles should be able to provide you with all the materials you will need to study to pass the exam. Alternatively, studying online is a popular option for many new motorcyclists. Once you think you are properly prepared to pass the written exam, you can then schedule your exam either online or at a DMV location, depending on the state. The main focus of the exam may include the rules of the road, specific state motorcycle laws, safety best practices, some motorcycle terminology, and some basic motorcycle techniques like making a quick stop in a straight line or a quick stop on a curve.
- Practice – Practice – Practice: Once you pass the written exam and receive your motorcycle learner’s permit, many states will require that you complete a minimum number of hours of practice riding. Since you are not fully licensed and you are practicing under a learner’s permit, all your practice hours need to be supervised by a licensed motorcyclist. This licensed motorcyclist must remain within a quarter-mile of the permitted motorcyclist at all times. In addition to being constantly supervised, you may have some additional restrictions that you must abide by. For example, you may only be allowed during certain hours of the day, typically daylight hours only. Other restrictions may prohibit you from having passengers on your motorbike or from having a single drop of alcohol before riding. If you are a permitted motorcycle driver, you cannot blow any BAC level 0%. If you do, you could lose your motorcycle learner’s permit, face DUI charges, and face other severe consequences including jail time and fines. One more note to add, before you begin practice riding your motorcycle with your learner’s permit, you must obtain proper motorcycle insurance coverage. For more specifics about what kind of motorcycle learner’s permit driving restrictions your state may have, feel free to contact your nearest department of motor vehicles office.
- Attend a motorcycle skills class: Some states require that you complete a two-to-four day motorcycle skills class whereas other states may make it optional. Either way, if you are a new motorcycle driver, then these classes can be extremely beneficial. Some of the benefits of attending one of these classes are that you can learn basic and advanced techniques, learn how to complete emergency stops, learn how to safely avoid obstacles that appear on the road, and many more basic and advanced skills that can help you be a more confident and safe motorcyclist. As exciting as driving a motorcycle is, the truth is that operating a motorcycle can be quite dangerous. These courses are designed to offer video, written, oral, and on-the-bike instruction to keep you safe on the road. Other benefits of attending a motorcycle skills class include the fact that some states waive the motorcycle exam, skills test, or both after successful completion of the course. Also, some insurance companies offer hefty discounts on motorcycle insurance premiums for completing the course.
- Pass the motorcycle skills test: Once you have logged enough practice hours or the waiting period has passed, and/or you have successfully completed the motorcycle skills training, you can then take your motorcycle skills test. You need to bring your own motorcycle. These tests vary by state, however, there are some basics that seem to be the same nationwide. Your state may require you to be observed on a closed course and/or on the road. For the closed course portion of the motorcycle skills test, your test facilitator will want to supervise you while you demonstrate some basic motorcycle skills. They may have a course set up for you that includes cones and other obstacles. You may need to demonstrate to the test facilitator that you have the ability to maneuver your motorcycle whether you are in motion or you are sitting at an idle. They want to see that you can properly support the weight of the bike and that you know what you are doing. They may want you to accelerate, brake, take controlled turns as well as complete a number of test maneuvers. Test maneuvers like cone weave, normal stops, turn from a stop, proper U-turns, quick stops, and how to safely swerve to avoid obstacles. After the closed course portion of the motorcycle skills test, your state may require you to demonstrate your skills on the open road to see how you interact with other vehicles. For this, typically you may be required to bring someone with you to follow you in a separate vehicle where the examiner can ride along as a passenger and observe you as you drive.
- Receive your motorcycle license: The last step is to receive your motorcycle license. Once you have successfully obtained your learner’s permit, logged enough hours of supervised practice driving, completed a motorcycle skills course, and passed the motorcycle skills test, you will at first receive a temporary paper motorcycle license as you wait for your hard copy to arrive in the mail.
Although these are the basic steps to getting your motorcycle license in the US, it is important to note that the process may include additional steps for drivers under the age of 21. Depending on the state, a driver between the ages of 15 and 18 may need to complete a regular driver’s education course as if they were obtaining a conventional driver’s license for a motor vehicle. Also, the time that they must have a learner’s permit before taking the skills test may be 6-months or longer, depending on the state.
For motorcycle drivers between the ages of 18 and 21, they may not be required to attend a driver’s education course, however, they to may need to have their learner’s permit for a minimum of 6-months before taking the skills test, and they may be required to complete the two to four-day motorcycle rider-training course.