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California Motorcycle Licensing Requirements

California motorcycle drivers licenseIf you want to ride a motorcycle in California you will have to obtain a motorcycle license. State law mandates that you satisfy certain age, knowledge, and skill requirements before it will issue a license.

Riding without a license is not only a crime, it is dangerous, as well. Make sure that you keep California roads safe by obtaining a valid license. Here’s what you need to know if you want to operate a motorcycle in the state.

Types of Motorcycle Licenses in California

California issues two types of motorcycle licenses: M1 and M2. The type of license you obtain will affect the types of motorized vehicles you can legally operate in the state.

M1 Motorcycle License

M1 licenses allow riders to operate any of the following vehicles:

  • Two-wheel motorcycle
  • Motor-driven cycle
  • Motorized scooter
  • Motorized bicycle, and
  • Moped.

M2 Motorcycle License

M2 licenses limit the types of vehicles that a rider can legally operate. Riders holding an M2 License are only permitted to operate a:

  • Motorized bicycle
  • Motorized scooter, or
  • Moped.

Both M1 and M2 licenses can be issued with certain restrictions (e.g., prohibitions on passengers, driving at night, or operating a vehicle on the freeway), when necessary.

Basic Motorcycle Licensing Requirements

The process for obtaining a California motorcycle license will depend on your age.

Riders Age 21 & Over

If you are at least 21 years old, you must complete the following steps in order to successfully obtain a California motorcycle operator’s license:

  • Complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application
  • Fingerprinting
  • Have your photograph taken
  • Pay any required fees
  • Pass vision, knowledge, and skills tests

Riders Between the Ages of 18 & 20

If you are between the ages of 18 and 20, California requires you to complete all of the previously mentioned steps and:

  • Provide Certificates of Completion of Mandatory California Motorcycle Training, and
  • Hold an instructional permit for at least 6 months prior to securing a license.

Riders Between the Ages of 15½ and 17

If you are between the ages of 18 and 20, California requires you to complete all of the previously mentioned steps and:

  • Complete a driver education course
  • Complete behind-the-wheel driver training, and
  • Secure the signature of a parent or guardian.

Motorcycle Skills & Knowledge Testing Requirements

All riders must successfully complete motorcycle knowledge and skills test before they can be awarded a California motorcycle license. These tests are designed to assess whether an applicant is fully capable of operating a motorcycle safely.

Skills Test

The skills test is a pass/fail examination that helps the state determine whether an applicant has the “ability to maneuver in normal traffic situations.” During your motorcycle skills test, you will be asked to identify various parts of your vehicle and perform the following maneuvers:

  • Riding in the tracking paths
  • Serpentine ride
  • Circle ride
  • Gear shift ride, and
  • Slow ride.

If you have never held a motor vehicle license before, or if you are only applying for a motorcycle license, you will also be required to complete an observation test. During this live road test, a state official will watch you ride a motorcycle and assess your skills.

Knowledge Test

You must pass a basic motorcycle knowledge test before you will be eligible to receive a license. Questions will be administered by the state and based directly on information contained in the California Motorcycle Handbook.

Motorcycle Rider Safety Courses

If you are thinking about applying for a California motorcycle license, you should consider enrolling in a basic motorcycle rider safety course. In fact, if you are under the age of 21, the state requires the successful completion of a safety course before you can be licensed.

The safety course provides helpful information for beginner and intermediate-level motorcycle riders. Inexperienced and novice motorcycle riders put themselves and others at risk when they hit the open road without proper training. Enrolling in and completing a safety course can provide you with tools that are essential for your safety and protection.

There are also other benefits of completing a California motorcycle rider safety course:

  1. The state of California may waive your skills test requirements; and
  2. Insurance companies may offer discounts.

Motorcycle Insurance & Reporting Requirements

If you hold a valid California motorcycle license you have an obligation to purchase a vehicle insurance policy. This policy is maintained to cover the costs of any accidents, damage, or injuries.

California law also requires all motorcyclists report an accident to the DMV when the crash:

  • Causes $750 in property damages, or
  • Causes any personal injury, so matter how slight.

Failure to report an injury-causing accident will result in the suspension of your license.

The Type of Motorcycles That Require a License to Operate

California motorcycle license can be obtained to ride a variety of two and three-wheeled motor vehicles. Each type of bike is specifically defined by California state law.

Motorcycle: A motor vehicle designed to travel on no more than three wheels containing a seat or saddle for the rider.

Motor-Driven Cycle: Any motorcycle with a motor smaller than 150 cc.

Motorized Bicycle/Moped: A vehicle with two or three wheels that cannot exceed a speed of 30 MPH on level ground. Mopeds must contain the following features:

  • Fully-functioning pedals, unless fully operated by electrical energy, and
  • A motor with automatic transmission and less than 4 gross brake horsepower.

Electric Bicycle: A bicycle with an electric motor (750 watts or less) and functional pedals.

Motorized Scooter: Any two-wheeled vehicle with a motor, handlebars, and floorboard suitable for standing on while the device is in motion. Motorized scooters may also have a driver’s seat (that does not interfere with the ability to stand) and pedals.

Need More Help?

Even if you are incredibly cautious on the road, you may still be involved in a California motorcycle crash. As an accident victim, you may have the right to recover compensation for your injuries. The California motorcycle accident attorneys at Citywide Law Group can help maximize the award you receive. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with our skilled legal team.