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Motorcycle License Requirements in California

As California motorcycle attorneys, we know that riding a motorcycle is a thrilling experience where you can enjoy the open road and an adrenaline rush at the same time. California is no exception – its year-round pleasant climate creates nearly perfect weather conditions most days, and it boasts beautiful, scenic biking routes such as the Pacific Coast Highway, the Redwood Ride, and the Angeles Crest Highway. It’s no wonder motorcycles are as popular as they are in the Golden State, but before you strap on your helmet and climb aboard your bike, you’ll need a valid motorcycle license to get going while complying with state law. Though the process is simple, the steps you’ll need to take to get your license will depend on you as well as your needs.

Types of Motorcycle Licenses

Anyone wanting to ride a motorcycle in California must possess a valid motorcycle license at all times. California issues different classes of driver licenses for operating any two-wheel vehicle:

  • Class M1 – This license permits operation of any two-wheeled motorcycle and all vehicles listed in Class M2.
  • Class M2 – This class authorizes operation of a motorized bicycle, moped, or bicycle with an attached motor.

These licenses are for people wanting to operate vehicles with only 2 wheels. However, the California DMV permits anyone holding a valid Class C license, which is the license issued for standard motor vehicle operation, to operate a motorcycle with a sidecar attached, a three-wheel motorcycle, or a motorized scooter.

Applying for Your California Motorcycle License

The process of earning a license depends on the age of the applicant; anyone under 21 years of age must complete additional steps before being granted a motorcycle driver license.

Process for Applicants Under 21

Instruction Permits

Anyone not yet 21 must hold an instruction permit for at least 6 months before applying for a motorcycle license. To get a permit, you must take and complete the CHP approved California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) training course and present the completion certificate at the DMV. You’ll also have to complete a driver license or identification card application and provide your name, Social Security number, pass a vision exam, pay the application fee, and pass a knowledge test. You have 3 chances to pass the test before you are required to begin the process again. Once you complete these, you’ll receive a permit.

Getting Your License

Once you’ve had a permit for 6 months, you can apply for a full California motorcycle license. The DMV will need:

  • Your instruction permit
  • Proof of completing driver education and training if you don’t already have a driver license
  • Your completion certification from the Motorcycle Training course

Because you’ve completed the CMSP, you won’t need to take a skills test. However, they may perform an observation test.

Process for Applicants Over 21

Applicants over 21 may apply for a license without holding an instruction permit first. However, you will be required to either the CMSP or pass a motorcycle driving test at the DMV. The test includes:

  • A pre-trip inspection
  • Riding in different track paths
  • Slow riding
  • Gear shifting

The test at the DMV requires making an appointment and providing proof of financial responsibility.

To apply for your motorcycle license, head to the DMV. You’ll be asked to provide information such as your Social Security Number, verify your identity, pass a vision exam, pass the knowledge test, have a fingerprint and photograph taken, pay the application fee, and either present your CMSP certificate or take the motorcycle driving test.

No matter your age, once you complete all the requirements, you’ll be issued a temporary license and your other license will follow shortly in the mail.

Contact a California Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today

Once you’ve gotten your license and are hitting the open road, it’s important to ride safely and remember your protective gear at all times. However, even when you follow all the rules, others may not, and accidents do happen. Motorcycle accidents are particularly dangerous for riders because of the lack of protection you have compared to a motor vehicle – they can result in astronomical medical bills, catastrophic injuries, and short- or long-term inability to work. If you were injured while riding, contact the skilled California motorcycle accident attorneys at Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC today. Our experienced attorneys have more than 20 years’ experience delivering aggressive, successful representation for clients like you and have recovered millions in compensation on their behalf. Contact us 24/7 by calling (866)-966-5240 or through our Contact Page online to set up your no risk, no obligation, free consultation today. Let us use our knowledge and resources to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

What is the Difference Between and M1 and and M2 License?

Class M1 licensees may operate any “motorcycle”, “motor-driven cycle”, or “motorized scooter”. Class M2 licensed individuals may only operate “motorized bicycles” or “mopeds”. Applicable definitions under the California Vehicle Code for these various vehicles are as follows:

“Motorcycle”: Any vehicle with a seat or saddle and designed to travel on not more than three wheels.

“Motor-Driven Cycle”: A motorcycle with 149 cc or less engine.

“Motorized Scooter”: Any two wheeled device with either a floorboard or a seat which can be operated by motor or by “human compulsion”.

“Motorized Bicycles” aka “Mopeds”: a two wheeled vehicle with a gas motor no more than 2 gross brake horsepower or an electric motor and capable of speeds of no more than 20 m.p.h.

Both classs M1 and M2 licenses can be issued with the following restrictions:

  • No freeway driving
  • No nighttime driving
  • No carrying passengers
Benefits of taking a basic rider safety course:

The basic rider safety course covers all aspects of motorcycle safety and accident prevention. It starts with basic equipment and gear checks, becoming familiar with your bike, basic maneuvers including serpentine turns, riding in circles, shifting gears and braking techniques. In addition to being a great primer for new riders or refresher course for older bikers who are getting back in the saddle. In addition to obtaining a waiver of the DMV riding skills test, it can also qualify you to get discounts on your motorcycle insurance, depending upon the insurance carrier.

Example of Typical Motorcycle Basic Rider Safety CourseImportance of Motorcycle Safety and Consulting a Motorcycle Accident Attorney in the Event of a Mishap

As an attorney that has represented hundreds of motorcycle riders throughout California in accident-related claims, I would always suggest taking basic rider safety courses and learning to ride on surface streets prior to freeway driving. You should always stay in control of the bike and not travel at excessive speeds. California negligence laws provide for recovery of monetary compensation in the event of a motorcycle crash that is the result of any motorist engaging in unreasonable conduct. This can include any number of thing but, common scenarios are unsafe lane changes, left hand turns or other intersection accident and rear end collisions. In the event of an accident, motorcyclists should seek immediate medical attention first and foremost, report the incident to their insurance company and consult an experienced motorcycle lawyer familiar with the claims process. For assistance with any motorcycle bodily injury claim in California, call us toll free at 866-966-5240.

Sources and Additional Resources
Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.