NY motorcycle license test

TSo, you want a motorcycle licensehere are two ways to get your motorcycle license in New York. You can either take the DMV motorcycle road test or you can take the basic rider course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. For some people getting their motorcycle license can be a difficult task indeed as riding a motorcycle is absolutely NOT like riding a bike. In the end it's important to not only learn how to ride a motorcycle, but to learn to ride one skillfully and above all, safely. Let's take a detailed look at the two ways you can get your motorcycle license in NY.

You must get a motorcycle license learners permit first before you get your license

The first step in obtaining your motorcycle license is getting your permit. In NY this is nothing more than taking a simple multiple choice test at your local DMV office. You can visit the DMV web site to obtain a motorcycle manual and even take practice tests before you actually go to take the real thing. The test is quite simple and tests your knowledge of motorcycle safety, road hazards, traffic laws, and of course, driving under the influence.

DO NOT go to the DMV to take the test without reading the manual, you could possibly fail. Do yourself a favor and spend 15 minutes reading up on the important information you need to know.

I would also suggest you take the practice tests online as well, it can only help.

Once you have your motorcycle permit you must decide on which route you will take to get your license, the road test or the rider course.

First let's take a look at what the road test entails...

The road test requirements to get your motorcycle license

Take the Basic Rider Course and learn to ride safelyHere's a look at the NY DMV motorcycle road test. Keep in mind, and those of you who have taken the car road test will agree, in the end, you are at the mercy of the evaluator. Do whatever you can to make him (or her) happy, in other words don't annoy the evaluator at all, do whatever you are asked to do!

What you will need: You need to bring a motorcycle (or scooter) that is fully insured, registered and inspected. You will also need a chase vehicle (a car) that is also fully insured, registered and inspected. You will need a companion that is licensed to drive a car AND a motorcycle since you cannot legally ride with a permit without a licensed companion nearby. You will also need to have your road test appointment (you can't just show up and take the test)

You may NOT ask somebody to act as the chase vehicle, you need to bring one with you!

Make sure you show up with the proper safety gear. Even though only a helmet with a visor is legally required I would show up with jacket, gloves and boots too.

The requirements to pass: You will be asked to do several maneuvers in the street, there is no 'testing' area. You will need to do 3 left hand turns, 3 right hand turns and 3 figure 8s. All of this need to be done in the street while obeying traffic laws, watching traffic and NEVER putting your foot down during the required maneuvers. You will also be evaluated in following traffic laws and being able to properly control your bike.

You can lose points for doing some things incorrectly, such as not coming to a complete stop at a light or stop sign. Lose enough points and you will fail. In addition, you will fail automatically if you put a foot down during the required control maneuvers. This is an automatic fail, no exceptions.

You'll need to either find someone to teach you how to ride or go to a motorcycle driving school and take lessons before you head off to the road test. I don't recommend either of these, you'll see why much later on.

The reality of the test: Here's some more details about how the test is done.

The testee is briefed on the requirements of the test and told to perform..

  • 3 right hand circles in the road
  • 3 left hand circles in the road
  • 3 figure 8s in the road

...and then pull over for the results.

The entire roadway can be used to perform these maneuvers, both lanes including the shoulder (if there is one). Once again, if a foot touches the ground, you fail. I would signal everything, even when pulling away from the curb.

You'll need to deal correctly with any traffic you encounter, including yielding and stopping if necessary.

The evaluator will ride in the chase car and signal what he wants you to do..

  • One horn = left turn
  • two horn = right turn
  • three horns = figure eight
  • four horns = pull over

The evalutation takes maybe 10 minutes to complete and goes through well used areas, not too much traffic but you will have other cars around. There's also some stop signs, lights and intersections to deal with.

Make sure you put both feet down when you stop, just so the evaluator can see your really stopped. Stop before the stop line and then move forward. You may not cross the white lines either so make your left turns wide.

You need to signal everything and make sure you blatantly turn your head when checking for traffic, the evaluator can not see your eyes, only your helmet.

You need to follow all traffic laws including the speed limit.

Now, personally I don't like going this route to get a motorcycle license, there really isn't any training involved other than learning how to make low speed turns. I prefer the motorcycle safety course to get your motorcycle license.

If you manage to pass the road test the evaluator will mark your permit, you then need to take it to the DMV and get the motorcycle endorsement on your license.

During the spring and summer months the wait to get a motorcycle road test appointment can be 6 weeks or more, keep that in mind.

Taking the motorcycle safety course to get your motorcycle license

Go to the Motorcycle Safety SchoolOk, now let's talk about the Basic Rider Course. This 2 day course is designed to teach you HOW to ride a motorcycle safely. They'll teach you everything you need to know to ride without killing yourself.

These are some of the skills you will learn..

  • Counterbalancing
  • Countersteering
  • Swerving
  • Obstacle negotiation
  • Emergency stopping
  • Tight turns
  • Wide turns

and of course, figure 8s

As you can see this is a lot more involved than just going to the road test. The good thing is if you pass the course you will get your motorcycle license (actually about a week later as you have to wait for the certificate to arrive in the mail).

Why is the Basic Rider Course the best way to get your motorcycle license?

Well, when you take lessons the reality is the student will only take enough lessons to be able to do the required maneuvers to pass the road test, not really concentrating on the safety of riding a bike. This is true whether you go to a driving school or your friend teaches you.

Oh, by the way, having a friend teach you to ride is the absolute WORST way to learn, as his bad habits become your bad habits, and you'll be lucky to get any safety training at all.

The motorcycle safety course is two days with about 3 hours of classroom instruction and 5-6 hours of riding instruction each day. Classes have about 12 students and 2-3 instructors.

The classroom instruction will go through the proper way to ride, including interpreting traffic movement and positioning yourself correctly, as well as road hazards and other safety tips. This is a very important part of the course.

The riding part of the class consists of drills, each one concentrating on a specific skill. You'll do it until you learn it, period.

At the end of the last day you'll be tested. This isn't a simple do some turns and a figure 8 test. You'll be tested on swerving, turning, braking, and the other required skills.

If you pass the test, you're licensed (yay!). The good news is you CAN put a foot down while doing the test, you only lose points if you do.

In the end I feel taking the basic rider course is the absolute best way to get your motorcycle license. You'll learn how to ride and not get yourself killed out there.  Remember, 46% of all motorcycle accidents are single vehicle accidents, meaning rider error, learning how to ride well will significantly reduce your chances of an accident.

If you're serious about getting your motorcycle license I would also suggest reading this article detailing over 100 tips for new motorcycle riders.  It'll help you no matter which route you decide to take.  If you'll be taking the road test instead it'll give you the proper training you need to ride safely.  Training that you probably won't receive if you're taking lessons.