How to Get a Motorcycle License in California

Craving the open road and fast freedom of a motorcycle? Before you set out on your cycle excursion, you’ll need to take care of some basic business. Here’s how to get a motorcycle license in California:

Who is Eligible for a California Motorcycle License?

Anyone can get a motorcycle driver’s license in California as long as they meet a few criteria. Those include things like your age, California residence status, and several more, including:

  • If you’re 15 ½ years of age up to 21, the first thing you need to do is complete a California Motorcycle Safety Program. (There are many of them. The one you take must be approved by the California Highway Patrol (CHP.)) If you’re over 21, you can skip this program.
  • You must get a learner’s permit. This requirement is the same whether you’re under 16 or over 21. Also, whether you already have a driver’s license for a car doesn’t matter.
  • You need to pass a written knowledge test with at least 21 out of 25 correct answers to get the learner’s permit. You have three chances to pass before you need to pay the application fee again.
  • Under the age of 21? If yes, you can only apply for your motorcycle license after you’ve had your learner’s permit for six months.
  • If you’re 21 or older, you can apply for your motorcycle license as soon as you like. We suggest practicing your driving skills for a few weeks before taking the driving test, though.
how to get a motorcycle license in California

Steps to Getting a California Motorcycle License

If you fit the criteria, there are a few steps you need to take to get your California motorcycle license. Those steps include the following:

  1. First, visit the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in California, closest to your residence.
  2. Next, complete form DL 44. (This must be an original, not a copy.)
  3. Then, give the DMV your thumbprint.
  4. After that, you need to pay the application fee for the motorcycle license.
  5. Then you will need to pass an eye exam.
  6. And then pass the written test about traffic laws and signs.
  7. Next, you will get your driver’s permit.
  8. Then, apply for a license based on the criteria for your age.
  9. Lastly, take a weekend course for the CHP (the CMSP, explained below) or pass the DMV’s driving test.
  10. Congrats! You’re licensed to drive a motorcycle in California!

What is the CMSP?

The CMSP is the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. This is a state-approved training course that you will find at various locations. It’s a weekend course that you must take if you’re under 21 years of age. If you’re over 21, you can skip it and just take the DMV’s driving test.
Just FYI, the CMSP has a fee that you need to pay, but the DMV test is free. (If you’re over 21, this could save you a few bucks. Under 21, sorry, you need to pay.) Also, if you’re under 21, you need to take and pass the CMSP course and then the DMV test. If you’re over 21, you can take either one.
Whether you take the CMSP or DMV course, you need to pass a few skills during a driving test. Some of the skills you’ll be tested on include:

  • Safety and defensive driving.
  • Riding your motorcycle in a tight circle.
  • Weaving your motorcycle through a series of cones in an obstacle course.
  • Accelerating quickly and then applying the brakes to come to a full, quick stop.

Once you pass and submit one, the other, or both, you’ll be issued a 90-day interim motorcycle driver’s license. The DMV will send your permanent photo motorcycle license to you in the mail.

If you’re over the age of 21, you need to:

  • Have a regular driver’s license. In order to get your motorcycle license in California, your driver’s license must be issued in California too.
  • Pay an application fee. At the time of publishing, that fee is $33.
  • Pass a vision exam.
  • Complete a motorcycle driver’s license application form, AKA a DL 44 Form.
  • Do 1 of these 2 things:
    • Pass a motorcycle driver knowledge test. This test is based on information from California’s Motorcycle Handbook. Questions center around motorcycle formations, eye protection, lane position and safety protocols.
    • Take a motorcycle rider training course. You’ll also need to provide a certificate as proof you successfully completed the course.
  • Give fingerprints.
  • Have your picture taken. You won’t be able to use the same picture from your driver’s license, so plan to take a new one.

If you’re under the age of 21, you can still get your motorcycle license if you:

  • Are at least 16 years old
  • Have had your permit for 6 months (here’s how to get a motorcycle permit in California)
  • Show proof of completed driver education/training
  • Have a completed certificate from a motorcycle rider training course

Driving a motorcycle can be fun, but like any moving machine, it requires safety and knowledge. Once you have your California motorcycle license, you’re free to hit the open road!

how to get a motorcycle license in California

Where to Store Your Motorcycle

Unlike a car, you shouldn’t park your motorcycle outside unless you’re in a very safe area of California. The risk of theft or damage from severe weather is higher with a motorcycle than with a car. That means storing it, which can be done at home or, if needed, in a California storage unit from SecurCare.

SecurCare storage units are clean and safe, perfect for storing a motorcycle or 2 (or more). Plus, you can get in and out of our storage facility with ease. There’s an on-site manager to keep an eye on things at every California SecurCare location, also.

By the way, you can store other stuff in a storage unit with your cycle, like gear and helmets. One last benefit of storing your motorcycle in a storage unit is that nobody in the family can mess with it. If you cherish your ride, you know exactly what we’re talking about. In short, a SecurCare storage unit is the perfect motorcycle storage spot if you don’t have space at home!

This post was originally published on 05/19/2019. This post was updated on 06/22/2022.

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