Just about everywhere you look on the road, you’ll find motorcycle riders. It isn’t your imagination. There are more motorcycles in use in the US today than at any other time in the nation’s history, and there are almost eight million Americans that have a license to ride but don’t own a bike. Some of the reason for the surge in interest is due to the fact that motorcycles are an inexpensive form of transportation, but for the majority of riders, it’s due to the sheer thrill of riding.
That attraction is luring more people towards motorcycles than ever before, but they all have to start by obtaining a motorcycle license. Doing so isn’t all that different from getting a license to drive a car, but the process is a little more learning intensive because operating a motorcycle requires more skill and precision. If you’re among the many individuals interested in riding, here’s how to get your motorcycle license.
Check Your State Motorcycle Laws
If you want to get a motorcycle license, the first thing you’ll need to do is to take a look at the laws in your state that govern the process. In some states, you’ll need to apply for a learner’s permit before you can sign up for a training course, but in other states, it isn’t necessary. In general, you will also need to be 18 years of age or older to begin the process of obtaining a motorcycle license. There are some states that will allow riders as young as 15 years old to obtain a permit to ride a motorcycle, but they’re the exception and not the rule.
When applying for a permit, you will likely have to pay a fee and pass a written exam and an eye test. Most states require a minimum passing grade of 70% on their written exam, but the good news is that there are plenty of practice tests that you can find online to make the process easier. In most cases, you can even find a state-specific practice exam right on the state’s DMV website, which will contain combinations of the actual test questions you’ll face on the real exam.
Once you’re familiar with your state’s laws regarding motorcycle licenses (and have gotten a permit, if necessary), the next step is to sign up for a training course to learn how to ride. In most states, you can find a basic rider course offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which includes a mix of classroom and hands-on training in how to safely operate a motorcycle and ride in a variety of operating conditions. During the course, you’ll build up a comfort level when riding, which is a prerequisite to the safe operation of a motorcycle. Best of all, some states will allow a passing grade in the basic rider course as a substitute for taking a state-administered road test, so if you live in such a state you’ll face an easier path to getting your license.
Take Necessary Tests and Pay License Fees
If you live in a state that insists on new riders passing a state-administered road test, you’ll need to get through it before you may earn a license. To make sure that you do, take an appropriate amount of time to practice your riding skills before attempting to take the test, and make sure to find a properly registered and insured bike to use for the exam. When you arrive for the test, expect that you’ll have to:
- Identify parts of your motorcycle like its’ brakes, turn signals, clutch and gear shifter
- Pass a basic skills test in a closed area prior to getting out on the road
- Be ready to understand and absorb the examiner’s instructions on what they expect you to do on the road
When the road test begins, the examiner will follow you in a vehicle, and either relay instructions via radio or by using their vehicle’s horn. Be sure to follow all instructions carefully, and pay attention to all road signs and conditions. The examiner will grade your performance throughout the ride and will look for any deficiencies like a failure to signal, a failure to use mirrors and turn your head to check for other vehicles, and any traffic violations you commit. If you’re careful and remember your training, passing the test shouldn’t be difficult – just treat it like a casual ride.
Enjoy the Ride
It’s important to remember that getting your motorcycle license is the first step in becoming a solid motorcyclist. You’ll want to ride as much as possible to gain experience, always remembering to adhere to the safety principles you’ve learned in the licensing process. After a while, you’ll be ready to handle anything the road has to throw at you, and you can sit back and enjoy the ride!