Getting Started

How To Get Your Motorcycle License

Cycle World’s Serena Bleeker takes you through the steps in this article.

Get Trained. Go Ride.

Learning to ride can be fun and safe, and the best way to ensure you learn the right way is through formal training from a certified riding professional. There is more to riding than just the physical demands of the motorcycle. Riders need to develop the mental skills and attitude to safely navigate risks you’ll encounter on the road. Our friends at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation® offer award-winning courses all over the country.

If you’re ready to start, find a course near you at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website.

Note: While the MSF develops the curriculum used across the country and at military bases, each state and military branch is responsible for administering the actual motorcycle safety program. Costs, class schedules and other details may vary from state to state.

6 Steps to Two-Wheeling

Step 1: What’s Your Style?

Figure out what type of riding fits your lifestyle. Do you want to use your motorcycle to commute in the city or cruise across the country? Maybe you want to explore off-road trails or enjoy twisty mountain roads. Or perhaps you want to do a little of everything. Whatever you choose, there are different types of motorcycles for different styles of riding. For a look at the types of motorcycles available, click here.

If you are completely new to riding, try and don’t forget to take the personality quiz, which can give you some ideas on the types of rides you might enjoy.

Step 2: Get Trained and Licensed

Whether you want to ride off-road, street or a combination of both, it’s a good idea to get trained. If you want to ride on the street, you’ll also need to get licensed.

The best way to learn to ride is through an accredited motorcycle safety training program, such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s DirtBike School for off-road riding and the MSF’s Basic RiderCourse for street riding. In most states, the Basic RiderCourse is a licensing program, meaning once you successfully complete the course and pass a riding skills and/or a written test, you will receive a certificate to take to your state department of motor vehicles for your motorcycle endorsement.

Training programs vary by state, so check with your state’s DMV for available programs. You can also go to to find a BRC near you. After completing your training and getting your motorcycle endorsement, start by practicing in a parking lot and riding on quieter streets before you take on faster roads.

Step 3: Get The Gear

To be a proper rider, you must wear proper gear from head to toe. In case of a spill, this could mean the difference between brushing it off or expensive medical bills – or worse.

Select the following for more information.

Get a Helmet

We recommend full-face helmets for the best protection. Besides safeguarding your head, helmets keep bugs and other debris out of your face. Remember to get a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet. When buying, look for the DOT sticker on the back. And don’t be shy about trying on a variety of helmets before you buy. Helmets should fit snug (slight “chipmunk cheeks” is what you’re going for), but you don’t want pressure points around your head. Ask a salesperson to help you find your perfect fit.

For more helmet information, visit these manufacturer sites:

Riding Jacket and Pants

Road rash is no fun, which is why there are some amazing riding jackets and pants out there to protect you, in case you take a spill. Most motorcycle-specific jackets and pants are made with abrasion-resistant textiles or leather, and many of these jackets and pants have impact-absorbing armor around the shoulders, elbows and knees. Many motorcycle jackets also have a pocket for a back protector.

There are many styles to choose from, and there are different jackets and pants for different types of riding: adventure/off-road, urban, commuting or touring. You can get three- and four-season jackets and pants, often offering several removable layers, or perforated, breathable gear for warm temperatures. Many jackets and pants, such as riding jeans, blend right in with today’s urban wear, so off the bike, people won’t even know you rode in.

For a more in-depth look at different textiles, read “A Closer Look at Textiles”  by Motorcyclist magazine.

You can also visit these manufacturer sites for options:


Choose the Right Gloves

Protecting your hands is important, and full-fingered gloves offer the best coverage. There are many types of gloves available: perforated or waterproof and insulated; gauntlet style, which completely cover the wrists; and shorter gloves that just go to the wrist. There are adventure gloves, gloves made for cruising, urban riding and more. Gloves are offered in a variety of materials, including leather and textiles, and many styles also have armored protection for the knuckles and palms.

Proper Riding Boots

Proper riding boots and shoes also provide protection for your ankles, and there are so many styles to choose from. There are boots made to excel in adventure touring, dirt biking or riding on a race track. There are boots that offer good protection on the bike while also easy to walk around in.

For a look at a few options:

Step 4: Buying Your Motorcycle

This is probably the most fun step (besides actually riding your bike). But first, you should determine your budget, then consider whether you want to buy new or used.

A used bike can be a good “starter” bike, because you won’t mind dings and scratches as much. There are often great deals on used bikes from dealers and private sellers. Check with your bank or credit union for financing options. Dealers may help finance a used bike, too.

Buying used from a private individual might get you a better price, but there may be pitfalls. Most states require a motorcycle inspection before it can be registered and tagged, and some used bikes have been customized so much that it can cost a lot of money to get it back to state standards. Some unscrupulous sellers might also try to hide problems. Once you pay a private seller for the motorcycle, anything that goes wrong with it will be on you.

You might pay a little more buying a used bike from a dealer, but most dealers can complete the state inspection, tag the bike and prep it to be ridden immediately. Some dealers even offer a limited warranty on used motorcycles.

Buying new can also be a great option, and payments on new motorcycles are often less than what many think. For example, a nicely equipped entry-level bike can be purchased for $6,000 or less. Based on a 48-month term and 6 percent interest rate, monthly payments can be about $147, depending on your state tax rate. Check with your financial institution or with the dealer for financing help.

Step 5: Insurance

Make sure you have proper insurance. If you are financing a new motorcycle, most lenders won’t approve the loan until they get proof of insurance. If you already have auto insurance, check to see if they offer motorcycle insurance, because companies often offer multiple-policy discounts.

Bonus: If you took the Basic RiderCourse, many insurance companies offer a safe-motorcyclist discount. Be sure to ask!

Step 6: Maintain Your Bike, Maintain Yourself

Motorcycles come with a book of tips, the owner’s manual. Read it. Use it. It’s your friend. (If you bought a used bike, go online, many owner’s manuals can be downloaded.) Check to see that you have the proper tire pressure and other adjustments before you go out and ride.

If you buy from a dealer, don’t be afraid to ask questions. They are there to help.

New and seasoned riders alike can benefit from keeping their skills sharp with refresher courses. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers more than 25 courses to continue your lifelong learning. Your dealer can also be a good resource for education as many people who work there are also passionate riders and may know of other motorcycling organizations that offer advanced or specific training.


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