How to Get your Motorcycle License in New York City

motorcycle license new york city

It can be tough to get your motorcycle license in New York City

Getting your motorcycle license in New York City can be done in one of two ways; either you can take the motorcycle road test or you can take (and pass) the basic rider course (BRC) which is given at an official Motorcycle Safety Foundation school.  In the end the route you decide to take really depends on whether you want to learn to ride a motorcycle, or if you want to learn to ride a motorcycle safely.  As we all know, riding a motorcycle is definitely not like riding a bide and, as many people have probably already told you, it can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.  In this article I’ll go over both methods of obtaining your motorcycle license in New York City, and, armed with that information you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which route you want to take.

The first step in getting your license in NYC is to get the motorcycle learners permit.  You’ll need to head over to your friendly DMV (haha) and fill out the application.  I suggest you head over to their website first and read the motorcycle manual.  There’s lots of information there that you’ll need to know before you take the 20 question multiple choice test.

If you already have a car license than you already know about 75% of what’s on the test.  Go over the manual and take one or two of their practice tests.  When I took the test there were only about four questions on the test that were motorcycle specific, the rest were about driving in general.

Taking the road test to get your motorcycle license in New York City

The first route to get your motorcycle license is by taking the DMV road test.  I think anyone out there who has ever taken the car road test will agree that you should do whatever possible not to annoy your evaluator, they can, and often do, fail people for the must mundane reasons.

When taking the road test you will need the following, don’t dare show up without any of this or you will fail.

  • A motorcycle or scooter.  With valid inspection, registration and insurance.
  • A chase vehicle (car), again, with valid papers
  • A companion to drive the chase vehicle, this person should have an auto license AND a motorcycle license.
  • Make sure you actually have a road test appointment.
  • Proper safety gear; this means at least a DOT approved helmet

I want to point out here that you must have everything here, you cannot ask somebody at the test site to help out and act as your chase vehicle.

Let’s go over the requirements to pass the motorcycle road test.

You’ll be required to do the following maneuvers:

  • 3 left hand turns
  • 3 right hand turns
  • 3 figure 8s

All of these maneuvers will be done on active streets with other cars around, there will also be stop signs and signals to contend with.  You must obey all traffic laws and yield when necessary.

When you begin the test you’ll be ahead of the chase vehicle with the evaluator and your friend in it.  They’ll signal you by using the horn; One beep = left turn, two beeps = right turn, three beeps = figure 8, 4 beeps = stop.

Now as you take the test and perform the maneuvers according to the signals you receive you’ll lose points whenever you do something wrong.  In addition, and I want you to take note of this, you FAIL the test if you put your foot down while doing a required maneuver.  There’s no exceptions, foot down = automatic fail.

In order to pass the motorcycle road test make sure you signal all your turns, even when pulling out at the start of the test.  Also, make sure you turn your head blatantly when checking for traffic.  Remember, the evaluator can’t see your eyes only your helmet so make sure it’s obvious your checking all around you.

If you manage to pass the test the evaluator will mark your permit and you’re a licensed motorcycle rider.

Taking the Basic Rider Course to get your motorcycle license in New York City

motorcycle safety school

Taking the Basic Rider Course is the smart way to go

Luckily we have a good motorcycle safety school right here in the Bronx.  Personally I believe that getting your motorcycle license through the school is the smartest and safest way to do it.  These guys make sure you know not only how to ride a motorcycle, but how to do it without getting yourself killed.

Let’s look at what this entails…

Once again you’ll have to get your permit, there’s no way around this.  Once you have your permit you’ll have to contact the school and register for a class.  Now, these classes aren’t free, they cost about $275.  If you were planning on taking lessons and then the road test the class will work out to be cheaper in the long run.

The class itself is a two day affair.  Each day consists of about 3 hours of classroom training and then 5 – 6 hours of actual riding on the field.

You’ll be trained in the following modules.

  • Counterbalance
  • Counter steering and turning
  • Swerving and emergency braking
  • Negotiating obstacles
  • Tight turns and low speed turns

As you can see, this is quite comprehensive and well worth the cost of the class.  Anyone can ride a motorcycle when it’s going 30mph, the real deal is controlling your bike when you’re doing 6-7 mph.  It can be done.  In fact, I can do a U turn on my Harley without crossing the white lane dividing line if I really had to, that’s skill.

I also want to point out that an entire day is spent learning how to avoid obstacles, swerving and emergency breaking.  A skill that so many beginner motorcycle riders are lacking.

Now, as you go through the course the instructors bust their butt to teach you exactly how to do each maneuver perfectly.  They can, and I’ve seen them do it, kick you off the course if you ride dangerously.

At the end of the two days you’ll have to pass a comprehensive test.  If you made it to day two I guarantee you that not only will you not have a problem with the test, but you’ll actually enjoy it.

They grade you on how perfectly you do each maneuver, if you make mistakes they add points, hit 30 points and you fail.  The good news is if you put your foot down it’s only one point.

Why is taking the basic rider course the smart way to get your license in New York City?

Easy question to answer, and it all has to do with human nature.  You see, when you just take lessons the average person will just take enough lessons to be able to do the required DMV maneuvers.  If you go to a driving school they’ll pretty much do the same thing, just teach you to pass the test, not how to ride safely.

The worst way to learn to ride is from your friends, sure their intentions are good but the fact is that their bad riding habits will become YOUR bad riding habits.  This is NOT the way to go.

The BRC goes beyond everything else and teaches you how not to get killed, and, usually it’s much quicker and cheaper than taking lessons then waiting for your DMV appointment.

As you can see I’m a big fan of the BRC, there’s simply no other intelligent way to get your motorcycle license in New York City.

Riding a motorcycle is tough enough, let alone in New York City, taking the rider course is a smart way to gain the skills you need to avoid accidents and stay alive.  I would also suggest reading this article detailing motorcycle tips for new riders.

Filed Under: Motorcycles and Scooters

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About the Author

Hi there!, My name is Norm. I am a college grad, a veteran, a pet owner and a family man. I started writing articles both to make a little extra money, and to share my knowledge with others. I currently work in the IT department of a major NY hospital.
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