You've bought your first motorcycle and you're eager to get out on the road. First, though, you must get some type of motorcycle certification from your state. I'd also like to add, you must get motorcycle insurance!
Generally, there are two levels of motorcycle certification. The first one you must get is your motorcycle permit.
- Motorcycle Learner's Permit: The permit is similar to a driver's permit that you receive before getting your license. Usually a permit is a restricted motorcycle license that does not allow you to carry a passenger. Additionally, many states do not allow you to drive after dark if you only have a permit. In order to remain legal, you will need to get your permit before learning to ride a motorcycle on the open road.
- Motorcycle Endorsement: In the motorcycle world, an endorsement is the equivalent of a driver's license. You can carry a passenger, and you can drive after dark if you have a motorcycle endorsement.
Getting a motorcycle learner's permit is a simple task. Each state determines its own requirements for obtaining a motorcycle permit, but most states require you to take a written permit test to receive the permit. This permit test is separate from the test that you take to get an automobile driver's permit. After passing the permit test, you will be required to pay a fee before receiving your motorcycle learner's permit. There are two ways to obtain a motorcycle endorsement:
- Permit Test and License Test: You can take both the written test (to get your permit) and a skills test (to get your license). The permit test is all written and is based on material in the driving manual produced by your state. You can often access these online at your state DMV website. Otherwise, you can stop by the DMV and pick up a paper copy of your state's driving manual. The skills test to get your motorcycle license is a simulated road test in which you must demonstrate a variety of skills every motorcyclist must master.
For example, you must demonstrate your ability to smoothly start, stop and turn. Also, you'll be required to perform more advanced maneuvers such as quick stops, S-turns, U-turns, and sharp turns to avoid obstacles. None of these skills is extremely difficult, but each takes time to master.
- Motorcycle School: If you want a different option, you can take an approved motorcycle rider safety course. The MSF or Motorcycle Safety Foundation is the major national organization that promotes motorcycle safety. Besides providing a comprehensive pamphlet on riding a motorcycle (available online and in print), they also offer classes that teach you all about motorcycle safety and conduct an approved program to obtain your motorcycle endorsement. You'll need to have a motorcycle permit before you attend a motorcycle rider safety course. You can expect most motorcycle classes to last one or two weekends.