If you want to beat the traffic and experience the freedom of the open road, getting a motorcycle makes a wise choice. There's just one thing you need to do first: get a motorcycle license. If you live in California, getting a motorcycle license is a straightforward matter. There are a few tests involved and a small fee to pay, but providing you can operate a motorcycle and know basic road safety rules, you shouldn't experience any issues. If you're ready to take the next step towards getting your license, here's what you need to know about applying for a motorcycle license in California.
What Types of Motorcycle Licence Does California Issue?
California issues two types of motorcycle licenses: M2 licenses, which can be used to operate a motorized bicycle, and M1 licenses, which can be used to operate any two-wheeled vehicles. If you already hold a regular driver's license, you can opt for a motorcycle endorsement. Going this route, you'll simply receive an updated driver's license that includes a motorcycle endorsement for the class of vehicle you're authorized to operate. If you don't have an existing driver's license, you'll receive a separate motorcycle license that authorizes you to operate a motorcycle only. The same licensing requirements apply regardless of whether you need an endorsement or a full license. However, you might need to take an observation skills test at the DMV in addition to the rest of the requirements if you don't currently hold a driver's license.
How to Get a Motorcycle Permit
For most riders, the first step in getting a motorcycle license is to apply for a permit. While a permit isn't a full license, it does allow you to legally operate a motorcycle under certain conditions. If you want to practice your riding skills before taking the skills test needed for your license application, a permit is invaluable. To apply for a permit, you'll need to be at least 15 and a half years old. Although a permit is optional for most riders, it's mandatory for anyone below the age of 21 years old. To start, you'll need to complete and submit a copy of the Driver License/Identification Application form. The form can be completed online. If you'd prefer, you can request that the DMV sends a copy of the form by mail. If you are under the age of 18 years old, the form will need to be signed by your parent or legal guardian.
Once you've completed the application form, visit a DMV office to complete the process. Be sure to bring along the following documents:
• Proof of your identity
• Proof of your California residency
• Social Security Number
Before the DMV approves your permit, you'll need to pass a knowledge test and pay an application fee. After that, the DMV will issue you an interim permit that you can use for up to 90 days. Your permanent permit will follow in the mail.
A permit is a great way of practicing your skills, but it doesn't offer the same rights as a full license. To avoid getting into any trouble, take the advice of DMV.org and bear in mind that your permit can not be used to:
• Carry passengers.
• Drive on the freeway.
• Ride before sunrise or after sunset.
California Motorcycle License Requirements
If you're ready to apply for your license, you'll first need to check you meet the eligibility requirements. As motorcyclelegalfoundation.com outlines, to get a license in California, you'll need to:
• Be aged 16 years old or older
• Already hold a California driver’s license OR have completed both driver’s education and driver’s training
If you're under the age of 21, you must complete an approved motorcycle rider training course given by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in addition to the above. You will also need to have held a permit for at least six months. If you're under 18 years old, you'll need to obtain permission from your parent or guardian to apply.
How to Get a Motorcycle License
To get your license, start by completing the Driver License/Identification Card Application. This can either be done online or you can request the DMV sends you a copy by mail. Once you've complete the form, you'll need to pay a visit to a DMV field office. Be sure to bring along:
• Identity document
• Proof of your Social Security Number
• Residency document
• Proof of your legal name if it is different from the name on your identity document
If you're under 21 years old, you'll also need to bring along form DL389 to confirm that you've completed the required motorcycle safety course. The form will be issued to you by the provider of the course. If you're under 18 years old, you'll also need to provide proof of permission from your parent or guardian.
Before you can get your license, you'll need to pass a vision screening and complete a written test and a skills test. Once you complete each element and pay an application fee, you'll receive a temporary license that's valid for 90 days. Your permanent license will follow by mail.
The written test required as part of your license application will be based on the California Motorcycle Manual. To give yourself the best chance of success, be sure to read the manual carefully beforehand. If you want to take a practice run, the DMV offers sample tests for you to familiarize yourself with the format.
As DMV.com notes, the skills test may be completed in either actual traffic or on an off-street course, depending on the location of the exam. To start, you'll need to correctly identify the different components of your bike. Next, you'll need to demonstrate basic motorcycle proficiency by completing a series of maneuvers. This includes maneuvering in a circle, riding between paths, navigating through cones, and shifting gears. If you fail the test, you can retake it after 14 days on payment of a retesting fee. If you fail the test on three consecutive occasions, you'll need to start the application process afresh.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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