How to Get a California Motorcycle License

Are you ready to hit the open roads of California on your motorcycle? Few things are more exciting than cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway or the backroads of wine country with the wind in your face and the sun on your back. But before you can do so legally, you must obtain a California motorcycle license. Here’s what you need to know about the process.

Meet the Age Requirement

How old do you have to be to drive a motorcycle in California? To apply for a motorcycle license in California, you must be at least 16 years old. If you are under 18, you will need to complete a motorcycle safety course approved by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and hold a learner’s permit for at least six months before applying for a license.

Obtain a Learner’s Permit

If you are 18 or older, you can apply for a learner’s permit by visiting your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. You will need to:

  • Complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application (DL 44) form
  • Provide proof of your identity, residency, and legal presence
  • Pass a vision test
  • Pass a knowledge test based on the California Motorcycle Handbook
  • Pay the application fee

You can practice riding a motorcycle once you have your learner’s permit. Still, you must be supervised by a licensed motorcycle rider who is at least 21 years old and has a valid California motorcycle license. You cannot carry passengers, ride on freeways, or ride at night.

Complete a Motorcycle Safety Course (Optional but Recommended)

While not mandatory for those 18 and older, it’s a good idea to complete a CHP-approved motorcycle safety course. These courses teach you essential skills and safety techniques, and successful completion may waive the motorcycle skills test requirement when applying for your license.

Pass the Motorcycle Skills Test

If you have not passed an approved safety course, you must pass a motorcycle skills test administered by the DMV to obtain your motorcycle license. The test evaluates your ability to control the motorcycle, perform basic maneuvers, and follow traffic laws. You can schedule your skills test appointment online or by calling the DMV.

You may be eligible to waive the skills test requirement if you have completed a CHP-approved motorcycle safety course. Present your course completion certificate to the DMV when applying for your license.

Apply for Your Motorcycle License

After passing the skills test or presenting your course completion certificate, you can apply for your motorcycle license at the DMV. You will need to:

  • Present your learner’s permit or course completion certificate
  • Provide proof of your identity, residency, and legal presence
  • Pay the licensing fee

Once you have completed these steps, you will be issued a California motorcycle license, which grants you the privilege to ride a motorcycle on public roads.

California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) Training Course

If you’d like to avoid taking the on-bike skills test through the DMV, you can pass a California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) training course instead. Upon completing an approved course, you can receive a waiver to skip the skills test. 

You can find CMSP training courses throughout California. However, be sure to check that the course you’re interested in offers this waiver. 

Now you know how to get a California motorcycle license. After completing this training or passing the skills test, you will be on your way to getting our California motorcycle license. And here’s some more great advice. Start out with your FREE Rider Benefit Kit. It includes Hit-and-Run Reward, Bike Theft Reward, Legal Information for all Motorcycle Matters, Motorcycle Repair or Replacement Assistance, and a really cool Document Holder – from America’s motorcycle attorneys – Law Tigers.