So you’ve decided to take full advantage of the beautiful California weather by getting a motorcycle. Or maybe you’re a motorcycle driver that’s new to the Golden State. Between relaxed oceanfront cruises and tearing through heart-pounding hillsides, there’s something for every type of biker. But first, you have to get a California motorcycle permit.
Every motorcyclist in California, no matter what type of motor-driven cycle you drive, will need a valid motorcycle permit. To operate any two-wheel motorcycle you’ll need a Class M1 license, also known as a motorcycle endorsement. As long as you meet the basic requirements outlined below you can become a legal motorcycle driver in California.
Motorcycle drivers who are 21 years old or older
- Must complete a California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) or pass a motorcycle driving test at a local DMV office.
- Present your California driver license or I.D.
- Complete a DL 44 form.
- Pay the $33 application fee.
- Pass the vision test.
- Pass the written test.
- Provide a thumbprint.
- Take a photo for the motorcycle permit.
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Motorcycle drivers who are under 21 years old must also:
- Be at least 16 years old.
- Complete a CMSP training course.
- Have a motorcycle learner permit at least six months.
*Drivers under the age of 18 must also provide proof of completion for a state-approved driver training and education course or already have a Class C license.
**If you already have a California Class C license you can operate a three-wheeled vehicle.
***If you don’t yet have a California driver license or ID you’ll need to provide extra documentation. (See below)
Current California Residents
OPTION 1 - Take a Motorcycle Driver Training Course
Step 1. Complete a state-approved motorcycle training course. You can pick up vital skills and streamline the licensing process by passing a state-approved California Highway Patrol (CHP) CMSP. Drivers that pass a motorcycle safety course and earn a Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) are exempt from taking the skills test at the DMV.
Step 2. Schedule a test time at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Visit your local DMV to present your motorcycle training certificate of completion and supply the required information for getting a motorcycle license. Find the nearest DMV location here.
Step 3. Pass the knowledge tests. You’ll be required to take the motorcycle knowledge test and possibly the driver knowledge test. Knowledge test questions are based on the information found in the California Driver Handbook.
If you need to get a motorcycle license plate or registration you can handle that at the DMV office as well.
OPTION 2 - Take the California Motorcycle Driver Skills Test
Step 1. Schedule an appointment and present required documents at a California DMV.
Step 2. Pass the knowledge tests.
Step 3. Pass the motorcycle skills test. Drivers who are 21 and older can skip the motorcycle safety training courses in lieu of taking a driving skills test at the DMV. The test will either be in a real traffic environment or controlled off-street area. It’s a pass/fail test that includes:
- Pre-trip inspection
- Riding in different track paths
- Slow riding
- Gear shifting
OPTION 3 - Get a Motorcycle Learner Permit
Step 1. Complete an approved motorcycle driver education and training course.
Step 2. Get a Class M1/M2 instruction permit. Drivers that are under 21 years old must have a restricted Class M1/M2 motorcycle instruction permit for at least six months. To get a California motorcycle learner permit you’ll need to provide the DMV with the necessary documentation and forms, pay the application fee and pass the knowledge tests.
Step 3. Upgrade to a motorcycle license. After six months you can apply with the DMV to add an endorsement or upgrade your restricted driver permit to a motorcycle license. This must be done within 12 months of receiving a permit.
Option for New California Residents With an Existing Motorcycle License
Are you new to the West Coast motorcycle scene? Get ready for more ideal motorcycle driving days than you ever thought possible. Even though you have a motorcycle driving license from your current state, you’ll have to get a California license within 10 days of moving.
In addition to passing the motorcycle skills and knowledge tests, there are a couple extra requirements for motorcycle riding if don’t have a California
license or I.D. You must:
- Provide documentation that proves birth date and legal status.
- Present documents that prove residency.
- Provide your social security number for verification.
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