Before you can hit the open road on your motorcycle you’ll have to obtain a license from the state. Your ordinary driver’s license won’t do. The state requires all motorcyclists to pass a series of tests and establish knowledge of how to operate a motorcycle safely. Once you’ve proven yourself, the state will grant you a motorcycle license. California motorcycle licensing requirements will depend on your age and the type of motorbike you want to ride.

Bikes Requiring a Motorcycle License

All motorcycles are the same, right? Wrong. There are many different types of two and three-wheeled motorcycles and motorized bikes. The type of motorcycle license you get will depend on the type of bike you want to ride. California law recognizes the following motorbike varieties:

  • Motorcycle: A two or three-wheeled vehicle with a seat or saddle for the operator.
  • Motor-Driven Cycle: A motorcycle equipped with a motor smaller than 150 cc.
  • Motorized Bicycle: A two or three-wheeled vehicle that cannot exceed 30 MPH.
  • Moped: A motorized bicycle with automatic transmission and less than 4 gross brake HP. Mopeds that do not have an electric battery or charger must have fully-functioning pedals.
  • Electric Bicycle: A bicycle with fully-functional pedals and an electric motor not exceeding 750 watts.
  • Motorized Scooter: A motorized vehicle with two wheels, handlebars, and a floorboard. A seat and pedals can be installed if they do not prevent the user from standing.

It is important to figure out which type of two or three-wheeled vehicle you’d like to use before you apply for a motorcycle license. Some of these vehicles do not require licensing, at all. Others require that you carry a specific type of permit. Riding certain motorized vehicles without a proper license can be incredibly dangerous.

Motorcycle Licenses Available in San Diego

There are two types of motorcycle licenses available in San Diego: Class M1 and Class M2. The type of motorcycle license you hold will dictate which motorized vehicles you are legally permitted to operate. Both the Class M1 and Class M2 licenses can be issued with certain restrictions, when necessary (e.g., limited riding hours, no passengers).

Class M1 License

If you want to ride a motorcycle in California you will have to get a Class M1 motorcycle license. With this license in hand, you will be allowed to operate any of the two or three-wheeled motorized vehicles discussed above. This includes the two-wheeled motorcycle.

Class M2 License

The Class M2 motorcycle license is much more restrictive. When you have the Class M2 license, you will only be allowed to ride a motorized scooter, motorized bicycle, or moped. If you think that you may be interested in riding a larger vehicle, including the traditional motorcycle, you may want to consider testing for the Class M1 license.

Motorcycle Safety Courses

Before you go through the process of getting your California motorcycle license, you may want to consider taking a safety course. Studies show that 8 out of 10 motorcycle accidents result in a serious or fatal injury to the rider. You can significantly reduce your risk of injury by learning how to ride your motorcycle safely.

Benefits of completing a motorcycle safety course include:

  • Understanding how to minimize the risk of an accident
  • Learning safe riding practices
  • Exposure to safety features and equipment
  • Learning motorcycle laws and regulations
  • Understanding your obligation to other motorists on the road, and
  • Understanding what to do in the event of an accident.

When you complete your California motorcycle safety course, you may also:

  • Enjoy discounts on your motorcycle insurance coverage, and
  • Be exempt from skills test requirements.

Getting Your California Motorcycle License

Now that you’ve decided you want to ride a motorcycle you’ll have to apply for a license. Here are the steps you will need to follow.

Age Requirements

Your age will play a large role in the process of getting your motorcycle license. If you’re at least 21 years of age at the time you apply, you will have to satisfy the following requirements:

  • Submit Driver License or Identification Card application
  • Complete necessary fingerprinting
  • Sit for DMV photo
  • Pay required licensing fees
  • Pass required skills, vision, and knowledge tests

License applicants under the age of 21 must complete a few additional steps before a license can be awarded:

Riders Between 18 and 20: In addition to completing the steps above, you must:

  • Have an instructional permit for at least 6 months; and
  • Mandatory completion of Motorcycle Safety Training.

Riders Between 15 ½ and 17: In addition to completing all other steps, you must also:

  • Complete a driver education course;
  • Complete a behind-the-wheel training program; and
  • Have a parent or guardian sign your paperwork.

Motorcycle Knowledge Test

You must take and successfully pass a basic motorcycle knowledge test before you can get your license. The best way to prepare for this test is by getting a copy of the California Motorcycle Handbook. All test questions, which will be administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles, will be based on information in this guide. Passing this test indicates that you have a basic level of understanding about how to safely operate a motorcycle.

Motorcycle Skills Test

The skills evaluation literally puts your ability to ride a motorcycle to the test. To pass, you must be able to identify certain parts of the bike and show off your riding skills. The purpose of this skills test is to assess whether or not you have the “ability to maneuver in normal traffic situations.” If you have never held a driver’s license before you will be required to complete a road test.

The motorcycle skills test may require you to demonstrate the following maneuvers:

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

Remember, the skills test requirement can be waived if you have completed a California motorcycle safety program.

Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

Getting your license is a great first step in hitting the open road. However, do not ride your motorcycle until you have secured an insurance policy. Think of your motorcycle as another car. It is illegal to ride your motorcycle in the state if it is not properly insured.

Your insurance will be important if you are ever involved in an accident. Completing a safety course can help you get discounts on the insurance coverage you purchase.

Motorcycle Accident Reporting Requirements

San Diego’s roads are incredibly congested. Sadly, the drivers of larger vehicles seem to be unwilling to share the road safely with motorcyclists. As a result, motorcycle accidents are fairly common across San Diego County. If you are ever involved in a crash it is in your best interest to report it immediately.

Certain motorcycle accidents must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles:

  • Property damage exceeding $750; or
  • Resulting in personal injury or death.

Your license can be suspended if you are involved in a motorcycle accident and fail to report it.

San Diego Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

Getting into a motorcycle accident can change your life forever. If someone else is to blame for the crash, you may be entitled to compensation. Our personal injury lawyers will fight to recover the compensation you deserve after your San Diego accident. We can even help you get money if you contributed to your own accident or injury. Call us today to schedule a free case assessment.

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