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Motorcycle Handbook License Requirements

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License Requirements

California issues the following DL classes for two-wheel vehicle operation:

  • Class M1-You may operate any two-wheel motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized scooter and all vehicles listed under Class M2.

NOTE: The permit and DL requirements in this handbook pertain to two-wheel vehicles and are referenced in CVC §12804.9.

  • Class M2-You may operate any motorized bicycle, moped, or motorized scooter.

NOTE: Class C licensees may operate a motorcycle with a side car attached, three-wheel motorcycle, or motorized scooter.


Earning Your License

Safe riding requires knowledge and skill. Testing two-wheel vehicle operators is the best measurement of the skills necessary to operate safely in traffic because people often overestimate their own abilities. DMV's licensing tests are designed to be scored objectively.

You may apply for a Class M1 or M2 DL at any DMV field office which provides DL services. To obtain your DL, refer to the Requirements for a Motorcycle M1 or M2 License section (see page 5). You will be required to pass the driver knowledge test, motorcycle knowledge test, knowledge test(s) for any other license class(es) requested, and pass a motorcycle skills test or obtain a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) as defined in the California Motorcyclist Safety Program Training Course section (see page 6).

Knowledge test questions are based on information in this handbook and the California Driver Handbook. The motorcycle skills test is conducted in either an actual traffic environment or in a controlled off-street area.

NOTE: The DL 389 is valid for 12 months from the issue date. To locate a DMV field office that offers the motorcycle skills test and/or to schedule an appointment, visit www.dmv.ca.gov or call 1-800-777-0133.

MOTORCYCLE TYPE—LICENSE CLASS CHART

TYPE OF VEHICLE

CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE SECTIONS (§§)

TYPE OF LICENSE

VEHICLE DEFINITION

EXAMPLE

Motorcycle

§400,
12804.9(b)(4)

M1 A motorcycle is a motor vehicle with a seat or saddle for the rider and is designed to travel on not more than three wheels.

Motor-driven cycle

§405,
 12804.9(b)(4)

M1* A motor-driven cycle is a motorcycle with 149 cc or less motor size*. A motor-driven cycle does not include motorized bicycle.

Motorized bicycle or moped
(capable of no more
than 30 mph)

406(a),
12804.9(b)(5)(A)(i)

Any class of license ** A two- or three-wheeled device, capable of no more than 30 mph on level ground, and equipped with fully operative pedals for human propulsion or having no pedals if powered solely by electrical energy, a motor producing less than four gross brake horsepower, and an automatic transmission.
Electric bicycle

312.5(a),
12804.9(b)(5)(A)(i)

Not required

A bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts. There are three electric bicycle classes:
Class 1 and 2 are capable of speeds of no more than 20 mph. Class 3 is capable of speeds of no more than
28 mph.

Motorized scooter


Note: Cannot be used for a skills test.

§407.5, 12804.9(b) Any class of license *** A motorized scooter is defined as any two-wheeled device with an electric motor, handlebars, a floorboard for standing on when riding, and the option of having a driver seat which cannot interfere with the operator's ability to stand and ride and/or the ability to be powered by human propulsion.

* Motor vehicles with a 149 cc or less motor size do not have the engine capability to be safely driven on a freeway or expressway.
** A person holding a valid California driver license of any class may operate a short-term (48 hours or less) rental motorized bicycle without taking any special examination for the operation of a motorized bicycle, and without having a class M2 endorsement on that driver license.
*** A person holding a valid driver license of any class may operate a motorized scooter.


Requirements for a Motorcycle M1 or M2 License

To Obtain an M1 or M2 License

REQUIREMENTS MINORS AGE
15½ to 17

(See NOTE 1)
ADULTS AGE
18 to 20

(See NOTE 2)
ADULTS AGE
21 and OVER

(See NOTE 3)
Driver education and
behind-the-wheel driver training certificates of completion
X N/A N/A
Certificates of Completion of Motorcycle Training
(DL 389)
X X N/A
Complete a Driver License or Identification Card  Application (DL44 or DL44C) X X X
Complete a Driver License or Identification Card  Application (DL44 or DL44C) X N/A N/A
Parent(s) or guardian(s) signature (if a minor) X X X
Pass a vision exam X X X
Fingerprint(s) X X X
Pay required fees X X X
Have your photograph taken X X X
*Pass the applicable knowledge and skills tests X X X
Have an instruction permit for at least 6 months X X N/A
Permit restrictions (See NOTE 4) (See NOTE 4) (See NOTE 4)

*Tests include at least the driver knowledge, motorcycle knowledge, and motorcycle skills. An observation road test is required for applicants who have never been licensed for any class of motor vehicle and apply for a motorcycle only license.

NOTE 1: Minors 15½ years old or older, but under 17½ years old, must submit a DL 389, bring proof of completion of both driver education and driver training or have a Class C driver license, and pass both the driver knowledge and the motorcycle driver knowledge test.
NOTE 2: Applicants 18 years old or older, but under 21 years old, must submit a DL 389, and pass both the driver knowledge and the motorcycle driver knowledge test.
NOTE 3: While not a requirement, motorcycle license applicants 21 years old or older, are encouraged to enroll in the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) training course.  
NOTE 4: The Class M1/M2 instruction permit includes the following restrictions:

  • No carrying passengers.
  • No freeway driving.
  • No nighttime driving.

California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) Training Course

Motorcycle applicants under 21 years old are required to complete a CMSP training course before receiving a motorcycle instruction permit.

Motorcycle applicants 21 years old and older are encouraged to enroll in the CMSP training course. The CMSP training course provides hands-on motorcycle knowledge and skill training for beginner and experienced riders. The DMV motorcycle skills test may be waived upon completion of the CMSP training course and submission of the Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389). DMV will not waive the motorcycle skills test based on an out-of-state motorcycle training program or in-state/out-of-state course completion card for insurance purposes. For more information, contact CMSP at 1-877-RIDE-411 or visit www.ca-msp.org.

NOTE: The DL 389 is valid for 12 months from the issue date.


Cheating

The use of testing aids is strictly prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to: the California Motorcycle Handbook, California Driver Handbook, cheat sheets, or electronic communication devices such as a cell phone, computer, tablet, etc. If any testing aid(s) are used during the written test, the written test will be marked as a "failure." An action may also be taken by DMV against your driving privilege or the driving privilege of anyone who assists you in cheating during the examination process.


Motorcycle Skills Test

Basic vehicle control skills are included in the motorcycle skills test to determine your ability to maneuver in normal traffic situations. The skills test may be waived for a person presenting a valid Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389); however, you may be required to perform an observation test when applying for a motorcycle-only (Class M1/M2) license. The DL 389 is valid for 12 months from the issue date.

The motorcycle skills test allows the rider to demonstrate his or her ability to control the motorcycle through several skills. Applicants taking the motorcycle skills test should consider the size of the motorcycle they plan to operate. The motorcycle skills test is a pass/fail test.

The motorcycle skills test includes the following:

Pre-trip Inspection - You will be asked to identify the following items on your motorcycle:

  • Starter
  • Kill switch
  • Clutch (if equipped)
  • Throttle
  • Gear selector
  • Headlight dimmer switch
  • Brakes
  • Turn signals
  • Horn

You will be asked to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Riding in the tracking paths (the area within and including the tracking lines).
  • Serpentine Ride–Beginning on the right of the first cone, you will weave through a row of five traffic cones. At the end of the row of cones, begin the circle ride.
  • Circle Ride–Ride around the circle twice in a clockwise direction keeping the front wheel within the tracking path, and weaving once more through the row of five cones as you return to the starting point.
  • Slow Ride–Ride slowly between two parallel lines keeping the front tire within the tracking path. At the end of the tracking path, begin the circle ride twice in a counterclockwise direction.
  • Gear Shift Ride–Ride in a straight path, shift gears up and then down, complete a U-turn and return, shift gears up and then down, and end in a smooth stop at the starting point. This is only performed on motorcycles with a clutch and gears.
    A. The width inside of the parallel ride lane is one foot.
    B. The width inside the circle ride lane is two feet.
    C. The diameter of the outside circle is twenty-four feet.
    D. The cones are spaced twelve feet apart. The width of the area for the cones is eight feet.
  • Observation Test (if applying for a motorcycle only license)–An observation road test is required for applicants who have never been licensed for any class of motor vehicle and who apply for a motorcycle only license. The examiner will observe you operating the motorcycle from a preselected vantage point, usually on the corner, near the DMV field office. They will instruct you to follow a route that will keep you in view for the longest period of time.
  

Two-Wheel Vehicle Operation | Table of Contents | Preparing to Ride

 
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