How to Get A Motorcycle License in California

California’s year-round, consistently beautiful weather makes it a motorcyclist’s paradise. You may be reading this blog because you agree. Now you want to know how to get your motorcycle license in California. That motorcycle license is your key to taking full advantage of the Golden State’s weather and views on your bike.

Can’t I ride my motorcycle with my regular driver’s license?

To the dismay of many, it is illegal to ride a motorcycle with just a driver’s license. If it was legal, everyone would do it! Under Vehicle Code 12500(a), driving without a valid license for your vehicle can be charged as either a California infraction or a California misdemeanor. 

Unfortunately, there aren’t any special types of motorcycles that you would be able to ride in California without a valid M1 license. The state of California requires drivers of any two wheel motor-driven cycle to have a valid motorcycle license, so there is really no way of getting around it.

If you get pulled over on your motorcycle and you do not have a valid motorcycle license, you can face a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months in county jail.

What is an M1 and M2 license?

The M1 and M2 licenses are the two classes of motorcycle licenses that you can get in California. When you have an M1 license, you can operate any two-wheeled or three-wheeled motor-driven cycle without pedals. With an M1 license, you can also operate any vehicle in the M2 class. For those of you planning to ride your motorcycle through some of these scenic California routes, you will need an M1 license.

With an M2 license, you can legally operate a motorized scooter, bicycle, or moped. However, it is a required that it does not exceed a speed of 30 miles per hour and has fully operational pedals.  

How do I get my M1 license?

If you are above the age of 21 and already have a valid driver’s license, what you need to do to obtain your M1 license is:

  • Complete a driver’s license application – form DL 44 
  • Make an appointment at your local California DMV
  • Present your California ID or driver license if you have one
  • Give your thumbprint
  • Have your picture taken
  • Pay the application fee ($38 in the state of California)
  • Pass a vision exam
  • Pass the knowledge test in 3 tries or less (a.k.a. the California motorcycle permit test)
  • Provide a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) or take the motorcycle driving test

The Rules of a Motorcycle Permit

You should note that in California, you are only allowed to take the knowledge exam 3 times. Each time you do not pass, you are required to wait a week before retaking. If you do not pass on your 3rd try, you must start the application process again. This includes paying another application fee. You should definitely spend some time studying. It will help you obtain your permit sooner, and will make you a knowledgeable rider, which we should all be!

Also, having your permit does not mean you are now free to operate your motorcycle whenever and wherever you want. Riders under the age of 21 must hold their permit for at least 6 months before they can apply for a license. However, you should still buy insurance as soon as you get your permit so you can practice on an insured motorcycle. If you have a permit but no license, you are prohibited from riding with passengers, riding on the freeway, and riding at night between the hours of 11 PM and 5 AM.

How do I get my motorcycle license if I am below the age of 21?

If you are below the age of 21, the process of getting your motorcycle license is almost identical to the process above, but not quite. Every individual applying for an M1 or M2 license will begin with an M1 or M2 motorcycle permit, which you get after passing the knowledge test. If you are below the age of 21, you will follow the same steps listed above, but you will be required to hold your permit for at least 6 months before you can get your motorcycle license. This is to ensure that you take ample time to practice with your bike off the highway and without passengers, as these are some of California motorcycle permit restrictions. 

Can I get a motorcycle license without having a driver’s license?

If you do not have a valid California driver’s license, there are additional requirements before getting your M1 license. You are required to submit proof that you have completed both driver education and training. You must also pass the driver knowledge test in addition to the motorcycle knowledge test.

Is it worth getting a motorcycle license?

Absolutely! Getting your motorcycle license is a great investment of your time. When you get that Class M1 license and valid motorcycle insurance, you are finally free to take your bike out. Now you can enjoy cruising through the beautiful scenery that California has to offer. Just one cruise down Pacific Coast Highway with a view of the beautiful shoreline will make the efforts spent on your motorcycle license completely worthwhile.