How Old Do You Have to Be to Ride a Motorcycle or Get a License?

teen on a bike

Riding a motorcycle is a fun experience that will change your life forever. It is a combination of relaxation, exhilaration, pleasure, and fear. Motorcycle riding provides a mixture of emotional and physical pleasure with a thick layer of adrenaline and anxiety.

Despite being quite fun, riding a motorcycle can be quite dangerous, especially for inexperienced and young riders. Therefore, one of the main questions that baffle young bike enthusiasts is” how old do you have to be to ride a motorcycle?” Well, the answer to this question varies with jurisdiction. In fact, numerous states have numerous regulations and laws pertaining to the age of a motorcycle rider.

These restrictions that limit a rider’s age are meant to protect the rider, passenger, and everyone else on the road. Some states even have laws meant to protect the child who rides with their parents or older siblings.

So, if you want to know how old you have to be to ride a motorcycle, please read on.

How Old Do I Have to Be to Ride a Motorcycle?

Well, the answer to this question depends on what you mean by riding a bike and where you live. In the United States, if you want to operate your motorcycle on public roads, you must have a license, motorcycle endorsement, or a permit. But, you can ride a motorcycle on private land at any age provided you know how to ride one and have a supportive family. In fact, most jurisdictions don’t have laws restricting the age limit for riding on private land.

However, to ride your motorcycle on public streets, you have to be at least 14 years old in some states. In places like South Dakota, Arkansas, and North Dakota, riders above 14 years old are allowed to operate a motorcycle.

The state of New Mexico offers a restricted license to all applicants above 13 years of age. In Hawaii, Missouri, and Arizona, a temporary permit can be issued to anyone over 15 and a half years old. But, you cannot operate the motorcycle at night or carry a passenger.

Most states, including Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, offer learners permits to anyone above 16 years of age. However, before you receive the learner’s permit, you must take the driving examination tests. But you have to ride the bike under the supervision of an experienced rider for a few weeks before being allowed to drive alone. And in most states, people with learner’s permits are not allowed to carry a passenger.

getting a license

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Motorcycle License?

In the US, the DMV offers motorcycle enthusiasts a motorcycle license or a motorcycle endorsement. Most states offer beginners a learner’s permit from as young as 16 years old. However, these beginners are not allowed to drive alone for a certain number of days, and they must pass the driving tests. 

A young rider who doesn’t have a driver’s license yet is normally offered a motorcycle license. And if you already have a driver’s license, you are issued with a motorcycle endorsement. A motorcycle endorsement allows you to drive both a motorcycle and a vehicle. Therefore, you must have either a motorcycle license or motorcycle endorsement to operate a motorcycle.

However, the right age for getting either a motorcycle license or an endorsement varies with jurisdiction. In the United States, the average age for getting a motorcycle license is at least 16 years. Learner permits are issued to individuals who are at least 14 years old in some states. People with learner’s permits are required to operate their motorcycle under the supervision of an experienced rider. In some states, motorcycle riders under the age of 18 years must have a 6-month instruction permit.

The minimum age for getting a motorcycle license in states like Arizona, Alaska, and Arkansas is 16 years old. In Connecticut, 16 and 17-year-old rides need their parent’s consent to get a motorcycle license. In most states like New York, you have to be at least 17 years old.

Some jurisdictions don’t offer motorcycle licenses; instead, they issue motorcycle endorsements. So, you must get your driver’s license before you are allowed to take a motorcycle driver’s test. Therefore, you need to have a valid driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement to enjoy your bike in the public streets of states like Colorado. In Georgia, operators of a 3 wheeled motorcycle and motorcycles must have a class-M driver license.

What Is the Difference Between an M1 and an M2 Endorsement?

The DMV considers motorcycles to be motorized vehicles with an engine capacity of about 150cc and less than three wheels. The rider of any motorcycle with the above engine capacities must have an M1 motorcycle license or a motorized endorsement. On the other hand, M2 endorsements are for motorized bikes with less than 50cc or motorized bicycles.

Anyone with an M1 endorsement can operate a motor scooter, moped, or motorized cycle without getting an M2 endorsement. However, people with M2 endorsement cannot operate motorcycles with an engine capacity of about 150cc.

What Are the Requirements for Getting a Motorcycle License?

Some of the requirements for getting a Motorcycle license include:

The Minimum Age

The minimum age for applying for a motorcycle license varies with the state. Some American states allow you to apply for your license at age 16, while others require you to be over 18 years old. In other states, you must have a normal driver’s license to be allowed to get a motorcycle endorsement. Anyone below the age of 16 can only apply for a motorcycle instructional permit.

You Must Take a Motorcycle Safety Course

In states like Alabama, you will have to take a DPS motorcycle test before applying for the M2 endorsement. This course teaches you how to ride a motorcycle safely and all the road signs. Once you pass this course, you can apply for your license.

Motorcycle Permit

In some states like Alaska, you must first get a motorcycle instruction permit. You can apply for the permit at the local DMV office, where you will be required to take some tests. Once you have passed, you will be issued with a permit that you can use to practice on public roads. Motorcycle instruction permits are valid for only 2 years, and they require you to ride under the supervision of an experienced rider.

A Driver’s License

Some states require you to have a driver’s license before applying for a motorcycle license. Most of these jurisdictions don’t offer motorcycle license. Instead, you must first pass your driver’s test and get a license for you to be allowed to apply for a motorcycle endorsement.

How to Get a Motorcycle License in Your State

Once you have learned how to ride a motorcycle, you can present your motorcycle instruction permit at the DMV. Remember, you must have used the permit for at least 6 months before applying for the license. Some of the exams you will have to take when applying for a license include:

  • Pass a vision test
  • Past a knowledge exam
  • Complete and DMV-approved motorcycle driving course
  • Pass an on-motorcycle skill test

To pass these tests, you will have to demonstrate your understanding of the bike, control skills, and safety measure. So make sure you bring the following:

  • Proper eye protection
  • Proper clothing and this includes protective jacket and long pants
  • Riding gloves that promote freedom of operation
  • And a DOT-approved helmet, among others

These requirements vary with jurisdiction. So make sure you find out your state’s requirements before visiting the local DMV offices.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Ride on the Back of a Motorcycle?

riding in tandem

Riding the motorcycle with your child or younger sibling on the back can be quite fun. Besides being a means of transportation, it can be a great opportunity to share your hobby with your loved ones. However, carrying a young child on the back can be quite dangerous. Therefore, the child has to be at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall to be allowed to ride on the back in several jurisdictions.

At this height, your child no longer needs a car seat, and his/her feet can easily reach the passenger footrests. And with proper instructions and time, your child can learn to hold on to you when riding on the bike of a motorcycle.

In the United States, very few states have set age limitations for children passengers. In Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Hawaii, and Washington, the age limit are between 5 to 8 years of age. The other 46 states and U.S. territories have no age restrictions for passengers. But, you are still required to use the best judgment anytime you decide to ride with your child.

If they are too young or have not reached the height of about 4 feet, 9 inches, then you should never allow them to ride on the back. And even if their feet can reach the passenger footrest, you should be careful and avoid speeding. People with motorcycle permits are not allowed to carry passengers, even when riding with an experienced rider.

Final Thoughts

So…, how old do you have to be to ride a motorcycle?

It depends on where you live and where you plan on riding your motorcycle. Remember, most jurisdictions have rules and regulations that are designed to protect everyone on the road. So, you must have a motorcycle permit to be allowed to practice on public roads. And to get a motorcycle permit, you need to have attained a certain age. And in most states, the average age for anyone to legally ride a motorcycle is 16 years.

The exact minimum age for getting a motorcycle permit varies with jurisdiction. Some states allow kids as young as 13 years old to apply for instructional permits, while in other places, you must first get a driver’s license. Plus, some states don’t give motorcycle licenses; instead, they offer motorcycle endorsements.

However, there are no rules hindering you from enjoying your hobby on private property. Provided there is an experienced adult in the vicinity, kids as young as 12 years old can ride a motorcycle in private lands. However, before you allow your child to ride your motorcycle on private property, make sure he/she has all the protective equipment. After all, riding a motorcycle is as much fun as it is dangerous.

Avatar for Joshua D. Mattie

    Joshua D. Mattie

    My motorbike addiction began with 50cc at 5 years old. I rode motocross as a teenager & into my 20's when I worked as a mechanic. This helped me to see the light—sportbikes & cruisers became a passion. Now I'm building BikersRights to be the #1 resource for everything on 2 wheels!

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