A motorcycle license is legally required to drive a motorcycle or scooter around New York City, but the process of getting that license can seem confusing. With that in mind, here’s my guide to obtaining a motorcycle license in New York State:
1) Get a learner permit
Before New York State will issue you with a motorcycle license, you first need a learner’s permit. This involves you visiting a DMV to take a 20 question multiple-choice written test, which will quiz you on the basics of operating a motorcycle, safety gear, and general rules of the road. You can make a DMV appointment online.
The written test is relatively easy (you can answer six questions incorrectly and still pass), but you should read through the DMV’s Motorcycle Manual to prepare. Better still, you should take these practice permit tests online to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you’ll be asked. If you take a few of the practice tests you’ll soon figure out what you need to know to pass.
Once you pass the written test you’ll be issued with a temporary learner permit on the spot. Your full permit will arrive in the mail around a week later.
2) Learn to ride
Once you have a valid learner permit, you can begin the process of learning to ride. If you want to do this on the road, you’ll need to be accompanied at all times by a driver who is 21 or older, and has a valid motorcycle license from New York or another state. If you have a friend or family member that can teach you to ride, great. alternatively you can take private lessons at a driving school, of course. When you’re comfortable and confident riding, you can go ahead and take a DMV road test to obtain your license (see step 3).
Another way to learn to ride a motorcycle and get licensed extremely quickly in New York is to take a two-day intensive course with the Motorcycle Safety School, which is endorsed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The MSS course consists of around 8 hours rider training on a closed course, and another 8 hours in the classroom. The classroom portion educates students further about motorcycles, safety gear, and New York State road laws, while the practical training will take you from complete beginner to basic rider through a series of training exercises designed to simulate road conditions.
At the end of the two-day MSS course you’ll take a casual test to ensure you’re capable of operating a motorcycle safely enough to be on the road. If you pass this test, you’ll be issued a road test waiver which you can take to the DMV and exchange for a full license – you do not need to take a DMV road test!
One important thing to note, however, is a full New York State car drivers license is required to redeem the motorcycle road test waiver for a full license. Repeat: If you do not have a full car license you cannot redeem the MSS waiver at the DMV, and you will be required to take a DMV road test even if you take the MSS course. That said, the course itself still serves as a great intensive training course if you’re new to riding.
MSS locations are located all over the state, and there are a few around New York City including in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Right now the course costs around $350 in the city.
3) Take a DMV road test
If you don’t want to take an MSS course, the quickest way to get a New York motorcycle license is simply to take a DMV road test. If you pass, the examiner will issue you with a temporary license on the spot, so you can legally ride immediately.
To take a DMV motorcycle test you need a valid learner permit and a full New York State car driver’s license. If you do not have a full car license, you’ll be required to take a 5 hour “pre-licensing” course, and to take the resulting certificate (form MV-278) with you to your test. The 5 hour class is a drag, but you can take it at driving schools all over New York City and upstate at relatively short notice. It costs around $60.
When it comes to taking the road test, you can use your own motorcycle providing it meets the DMV’s criteria. Alternatively, you can take the test using one of the Motorcycle Safety School’s bikes if you wish. MSS sells a DMV test package for $200 that includes the cost of the DMV test, bike rental, and a 30-minute “bike familiarization” session to get used to the vehicle. Other driving schools offer similar packages, too.
Getting your motorcycle license in New York isn’t easy, but it isn’t exactly difficult either. My advice for new riders is to take the MSS course, which will most likely result in you getting your license waiver after two short days.
If that isn’t an option and you need to take a road test, I recommend doing as much research as possible before the test to ensure you’re well prepared. There are some videos on YouTube that might give you some pointers, for example. I plan to follow this post with a comprehensive guide to the road test sometime soon.
My final piece of advice is to remember that gaining your motorcycle license is really just the first step in learning to ride. You might be on the road legally, but you are inexperienced and a potential danger to yourself and others if you don’t take things slowly to start. Remember – be safe out there, especially if you’re riding around New York City.
That said, get out there and have some fun. And check out this post if you need some tips on places to pick up some motorcycle gear in New York City. See you on the road!