If you’ve been dreaming of taking a cross-country road trip on your new Harley, you’ll need to spend some time learning about your state’s motorcycle license requirements before you hit the highway.
Motorcycle licenses are typically issued by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Transportation, or Department of Revenue—the same organizations responsible for issuing driver’s licenses to all motorists. You can learn more about what steps are necessary to obtain a motorcycle license in your state by visiting your nearest driver’s license office.
Generally, anyone who wants to legally operate a motorcycle on state roads will need to obtain a valid motorcycle license. Having a license to drive a car or truck does not qualify you to legally operate a motorcycle. However, you can usually obtain a motorcycle license without being licensed to drive a car or truck. Age requirements for obtaining a motorcycle license vary by state.
Getting a motorcycle license typically requires completing a knowledge test and a skills test. These exams can usually be completed during regular business hours at your local driver’s license station. However, an appointment may be required for motorcycle license testing in some areas.
The knowledge test is generally a multiple-choice exam, either written or computerized, that evaluates your knowledge of your state’s motorcycle license laws as well as basic motorcycle safety procedures. Most states have a motorcycle instruction manual to help residents prepare for this exam. Practice tests or a list of sample questions may also be available.
The skills test, conducted by a trained motorcycle instructor, provides an opportunity to assess your motorcycle control skills by asking you to complete tasks such as making a right U-turn, coming to a quick stop, or swerving around an obstacle. If you fail this exam, the instructor will explain your mistakes and tell you how long you must wait before retaking the text.
Many states require motorcyclists to complete an approved safety course before obtaining a motorcycle license. These courses, often sponsored by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, combine classroom instruction with hands-on riding experience. Experienced motorcyclists teach essential skills such as choosing appropriate protective gear, conducting a safety inspection of your bike, riding in a straight line, turning, shifting, stopping, avoiding obstacles, and operating your bike under adverse weather conditions. In some states where a motorcycle safety course is not mandatory, successful completion of the class will excuse you from the motorcycle license skills test. Consult your local driver’s license office for additional information.