Taking The Plunge

MotorcyclinCredit: publicdomainimages.net

Hopefully you've found your way here because you're interested in getting a motorcycle license. Getting a motorcycle license in Ohio isn't too hard. It only takes a few steps and doesn't cost a ton of money. Keep in mind, this article is for an absolute beginner. If you can already own and can ride a motorcycle but don't have a license, you can skip to the section “Advanced Riders.” This article will go over the steps that get you road legal with the least hassle. I'll discuss:

  • Taking your temporary learners permit test.

  • Signing up for a beginners course.

  • What you'll need for the course.

  • What to expect during your training course.

I've dedicated a large part of the article towards the Motorcycle Safety Foundation beginners course. If you don't feel the need to take the course, go to the end of the article.

Important: You do not need a motorcycle to get your license if you take the MSF beginners course, you'll be provided one. Also, the end of the last day will be your license exam. If you pass, you will receive your endorsement on the spot. To take the test right away at the BMV, you must bring your own bike.

Taking The Written Permit Test

The first step you'll need to take is simple. You'll have to take a knowledge test, much like when you first learn to drive a car. You don't need anything to take the test, you can walk in and take it anytime the office is open. Where you take the test depends on your county. Each county has one dedicated BMV office where the tests are held. You can the office for your county online. 

It is best to do some studying before the test. The government has a Motorcycle Operator Manual, available online, or in print at the BMV. It has most of the information you'll need. Be sure to go over the manual a few times. There are a few questions about traffic laws you should already know if you have a driver's license, but most of the questions are specific to motorcycles, and come directly from the manual. At the exam station, you'll first take a vision test, then sit down at a computer and take the test. It is not long, and you can miss several questions and still pass. 

If you pass, you'll go to another area in the BMV and they'll print you a Temporary Instruction Permit Identification Card (TIPIC). It will cost around $25 dollars to have this made. This is the only qualification you'll need to take the instruction course that we'll discuss next. If you fail the test, don't worry. You can come back the next day and retake it. It doesn't cost anything, so failing is not a big deal.

Signing Up For a Beginner Course

Ohio offers a few different rider courses. For the sake of this article, I'm just going to discuss the beginner course. If you've ridden with your permit for a while, or have had substantial motorcycle experience in the past, there are 3 more advanced classes.

When I registered for my class, I found the website somewhat confusing. So here is exactly what to do after logging onto Ohio's motorcycle website:

  • Towards the bottom, under “Information and Services” click on “Basic Rider.”

  • On that page, it describes what the requirements and the content of the course will be.

  • Back at the top of the Basic Rider page, click on the link to “View the Schedules & Register.”

  • Click “Take a Class” to set up your date for a training course. They are available in multiple locations and at varying times of the day.

  • Keep in mind, there are no classes in the winter, so you cannot register between November and mid-February. They start again in mid-February and last until October.

  • The class costs $50. You'll have to pay this fee when you sign up.

  • You'll be sent a receipt for your payment. You have to print this and bring it to your class or they won't let you in.

  • You're registered! 

What You'll Need for the Course

This is the bare minimum. When you go to buy full gear, the sky's the limit on spending, and the amount of equipment available is huge. It's a large topic I won't go into detail about here.

  • A helmet, which must be DOT (department of transportation) certified. They will give you one if you need it. If you use one without a face shield, you'll also need eye protection.

  • Over the ankle footwear. Boots, basically. Wear some that are good and firm. If you've never ridden a motorcycle, realize that you use both the bottom and top of your left foot for gear shifting, so you'll want something that's strong on top as well as the bottom or you might hurt your foot.

  • Full length upper body clothing. This can be as little as a thin jacket or a long sleeve shirt. You're best off with an actual riding jacket or something leather.

  • Long pants. Jeans are fine, but they can't have holes in them. Again, riding pants are best.

  • Full finger gloves. You can buy motorcycle gloves, but they are pricey. I use Mechanix Wear M-pact gloves. They aren't expensive, they're comfortable, and they look pretty cool. 

Taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Beginners Course.Men on MotorcyclesCredit: publicdomainpictures.net

Your course will be either 2 or 3 days. I'm not going to discuss in-depth the content of the course. Once you are there, the teachers will be guiding you all the way. But here's a general idea of what to expect.

There is a brief classroom session to start with. After that, everything else is hands on with a motorcycle. Plan on long, tiring days. Keeping a motorcycle upright takes a lot of muscle coordination, and it's more physically draining than you might think going into it. If you aren't very big or strong it will probably be a struggle. The motorcycles provided are all pretty small, so height isn't an issue, but even the smallest motorcycle weighs a few hundred pounds. No matter the weather, you'll most likely end up gross and sweaty. You've got to wear full body clothing and motorcycles are hot. This is essentially unavoidable.

You'll probably get aggravated. Similar to when I first learned to drive a manual car, I was convinced I would never get better. You will. The teachers will most likely be a little mean. It's a bit like gym class; you'll get pushed out of your comfort zone, but that's how you get better. You, or someone in your class may crash. I did. I laid my bike sideways, it hurt a lot, and I kept going. If you're afraid of getting hurt, riding a motorcycle might not be the right hobby for you.

The training sessions go by fast. You change exercises frequently, to cover a little of everything. As soon as you get a feel for doing one thing, you'll switch to the next. I won't lie, it can be nerve wracking at time. 

Bring something to eat and drink with you. You'll get bathroom breaks and a lunch break, but nothing is provided. Depending on your location, you may have to really hustle to go get something and come back. I brought my own water and a sandwich, and I'm glad I did. 

Finally, try to relax and have a good time. It's stressful, but it's also a blast. When I loosened up things went more smoothly. Being tense will cause jerky movements. Riding a motorcycle should be very fluid. If you can get into the zone, it really is a lot of fun. Keep in mind that everyone is new at this, and just as nervous as you are. Plus, your mistakes won't be too noticeable to the other students, because they are too busy focusing on what they are doing.

Finishing Class and Getting Your License

The last thing you do in the course is take your skills test. You'll be told what to do when the time comes, so don't worry about it until you're actually doing it. Once the class is done, it only takes a little while for you to find out if you passed or not. If you pass, they give you a card with your name and the instructors signature on it. This will act as your temporary license. You'll take this card to the BMV, pay another 25 dollars or so and they'll print you a new drivers license with the motorcycle endorsement on it. You have to wear a helmet for your 1st year, but that's the only restriction. 


There you go! That's what you need to get a motorcycle license. The process doesn't take long. You pretty much just need enough time to take the knowledge test, a free weekend to take the class, and a couple hundred dollars to buy gear. My dad had all the gear I needed, so my only cost was to have the permit made, payment for the class and then having a new drivers license printed. If you've considered trying to get your license, but you didn't know how, now you do. It's absolutely worth doing. Since the class provides the bike, you also don't have to rush and get a motorcycle. You can take your time deciding if you even want to pursue the hobby further. Either way, I hope you decide to go for it and I hope you have a great time. Thanks for reading, and please share if you know anybody who might benefit from this information.

A Note to Advanced Riders

You can schedule a test, take your own bike and take the exam at the BMV without taking the beginners course. You still need a TIPIC, or it simply isn't legal for you to be on the road to take the test. If you've had a license in the past but it's expired, the process is different and you'll probably need to call and ask about it. If you took the course and failed the test, you can also take the exam at the BMV so you don't have to retake the MSF class over again. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers courses for experienced riders as well, if you're interested.