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How to Apply for a Motorcycle Permit or Endorsement

The process of receiving your motorcycle permit or endorsement requires some studying of traffic laws and motorcycle operation, as well as getting a few forms and paperwork in order. But once completed, you’ll be on the open road in no time. Each state has its own method of licensing, so contact your local DMV for specific requirements.

The Motorcycle Handbook

The first item on your agenda should be to obtain and study your state’s motorcycle driver manual or handbook. The motorcycle handbook is usually found in a PDF format on the state’s website, and a hard copy will most likely be issued through the state’s department of public safety or the equivalent branch upon your request. The motorcycle handbook details the definitions of a motorcycle, licensing requirements, exam requirements, traffic signals, state motorcycle laws, and everything else you’re going to need to know to receive a motorcycle license and legally operate your bike. It’s also important to know the distinction between a motorcycle permit, a license, and a motorcycle endorsement because each one applies to different types of riders.

The Motorcycle Permit

A motorcycle permit, or a learner license, allows a beginner driver to operate a motorcycle under the supervision of a valid motorcycle license holder who is over the age of 21. Motorcycle permit requirements depend on the state, but usually consist of proof of identification and U.S. citizenship, Social Security Number, vehicle registration and liability insurance, a written test, an on-cycle test, and a vision exam. Some states also require the driver to take a basic rider course, while others, such as Oregon, Wisconsin, and Michigan, may allow the completion of a basic rider course to waive the on-cycle test. Most states, including Texas, Oklahoma and Massachusetts, require all new motorcycle operators, regardless of age, to first apply for a motorcycle permit before receiving their motorcycle endorsement. A driver usually must wait six months before applying for a license. Some states further restrict the motorcycle permit by prohibiting driving during the evening, or restricting motorcycle use to within a three-mile radius from your residency.

The Motorcycle License/Endorsement

A motorcycle endorsement is added to an original driver’s license. This is usually classified as M, but the distinction varies depending on the state, and is equivalent to holding a motorcycle license. Most states will waive your riding skills test if you are over the age of 18, have a motorcycle permit, and have completed a basic rider course. Otherwise, you must pass the state knowledge test, the riding skills test, and pay a license fee to receive your endorsement. Some states require motorcycle endorsement applicants to have a valid state driver license (Class D) and may require an applicant without a driver license to take a Class D knowledge test as well. There is usually a fee associated with a motorcycle license application.

The Motorcycle Exams

The knowledge test that permit and endorsement applicants must take consists of questions based on information and practices as stated in the motorcycle manual, usually presented in a multiple choice format. Passing the test requires knowledge of the state road rules and safety practices.

The skills test, on the other hand, is an on-cycle exam conducted either in a traffic environment or in an off-street area. Much like a driving test, it assesses the driver’s knowledge of the motorcycle and his or her riding limits, ability to navigate traffic, communicate with other drivers safely, and make critical decisions. Some states, such as Georgia and New Jersey, require you to supply your own motorcycle with proper registration and insurance forms, as well as your own safety helmet.