Motorcycle Handbook License Requirements

California issues the following license 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 license requirements in this handbook pertain to two–wheel vehicles and are referenced in Section 12804.9 of the California Vehicle Code.

  • Class M2—You may operate any motorized bicycle, moped, or a bicycle with an attached motor, or a motorized scooter.

NOTE: Class C licensees may operate a motorcycle with a side car attached or a three–wheel motorcycle.


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 exams are designed to be scored objectively.

You may apply for a Class M1 or M2 license at any DMV office which provides driver license services. To obtain your license, you must pass a knowledge test and pass a motorcycle skills test or obtain a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) as defined in the Motorcycle Safety Training course section below.

To locate a field office that offers the motorcycle skills test and/or to schedule an appointment, call 1–800–777–0133 or visit www.dmv.ca.gov.

Knowledge test questions are based on information, practices, and ideas from 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.


Motorcycle Safety Training Course

Motorcycle applicants under 21 years of age are required to complete a motorcycle safety training course before receiving a motorcycle instruction permit.

Motorcycle applicants 21 years of age and older are encouraged to enroll in the motorcycle safety training course. The motorcycle safety training course offered by the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) provides hands–on motorcycle knowledge and skill training for novice and experienced riders. CMSP has trained thousands of riders over the past several years. The DMV motorcycle skills test may be waived upon completion of the motorcycle safety training course and submission of the Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389). For more information you may 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.


Applying for a Motorcycle Permit

To Obtain a Permit (X = required)
REQUIREMENTS ADULTS AGE
21 AND OVER
ADULTS AGE
18 TO 20
MINORS AGE 15½
TO 17
(Requires parent or
guardian signature)
Complete a DMV application (DL44 or DL44C) form X X X
Pay required fees X X X
Meet DMV vision standards X X X
Have fingerprint captured X X X
Have photo taken X X X
Provide required signature(s) X X X
Have had instruction permit for at least 6 months   X X
Pass applicable knowledge exams X X X
Provide DL389 Certificate of Completion   X X

NOTE: While not required, motorcycle applicants age 21 and older are encouraged to enroll in the motorcycle safety training course.

The Class M1/M2 permit includes the following restrictions:

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

NOTE: Minors age 15½ – 17 must bring proof of completion of both driver education and driver training or be currently licensed.


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 else who assists you in 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 items on your motorcycle. The items you will be asked to identify are the:

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

You will be asked to demonstrate the following skills, which include 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 you will begin the circle ride.
  • Circle Ride – Ride around the circle twice in a clockwise direction keeping the front wheel within the tracking path, and return to the starting point, weaving once more through the row of five cones.
  • 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, shifting gears up, then down, complete a U–turn and return, shifting gears up, then down and end in a smooth stop at the starting point. This is only performed on motorcycles with a clutch and gears.
  • Observation Test (if applying for a motorcycle–only license) – The examiner will observe your driving from a preselected vantage point, usually on the corner, near the office. They will instruct you to follow a route that will keep you in view for the longest period of time.

A diagram of the motorcycle skills test area.



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