Motorcycle License in Illinois
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All licenses in Illinois are handled by the IL Secretary of State (SOS) office. In order to legally operate a motorcycle in Illinois, you must have a valid Illinois Class M license or permit.
- Class M denotes any motorcycle over 150 cc.
- Class L denotes a motor-driven cycle with less than 150 cc displacement.
Note: Having a Class M license allows you to ride any motorcycle or motor-driven cycle.
If you are at least 18 years old, you can apply for a 12-month Class L or M instruction permit, which allows you to operate a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle with certain restrictions. If you do not already have a valid Illinois driver’s license, be prepared to take the written basic knowledge exam, plus the written motorcycle knowledge exam, and a vision test.
To obtain your permit, go to your local IL SOS Driver Services office and:
- Present your IL driver’s license (if applicable).
- Present proof of identification and Illinois residency (if you do not yet have an IL driver’s license).
- Submit a permit application.
- Complete any required exams (written basic, written motorcycle, and/or vision).
- Pay the applicable permit fee.
With a Class M 12-month instruction permit, you may only operate a motorcycle:
- During daylight hours.
- Under the direct supervision of a licensed motorcycle driver. who is at least 21 years old and who has a minimum of 1 year of driving experience.
Class L or M Permit for Riders Under 18
If you are 16 or 17 years old and have completed driver’s education, you may apply for a 24-month Class L instruction permit for a motor-driven cycle. To apply for a Class M permit when 16 or 17 years old, you must also be enrolled in a motorcycle training course (see below) and complete the written knowledge exam at the SOS.
Make an appointment at your nearest IL Secretary of State (SOS) office location to apply for your permit, and provide the following:
- Proof of identification and residency.
- An application for a Class L or M permit.
- Proof of enrollment in an IDOT motorcycle training course (see below).
- Payment for the applicable permit fee.
After you pass the written knowledge exam, you will receive your Class M motorcycle permit. With your permit, you may only drive during daylight hours while being supervised by a licensed driver of a motor-driven cycle or motorcycle.
The process for obtaining a Class L or Class M endorsement is the same for either license.
If you choose to complete an IDOT-approved Motorcycle Safety Course (see below), you will be exempt from the written and driving exam required to obtain your Class L or Class M motorcycle endorsement. Otherwise, you can prepare for the exams by studying the Motorcycle Operator Manual and by taking practice tests.
To receive your Illinois motorcycle or motor-driven cycle endorsement, visit an SOS Driver Services location and:
- Provide proof of identification (the Illinois SOS provides a list of acceptable documents).
- Present a completion card from a Motorcycle Rider Education course (if applicable).
―Applicants 16 to 17 years old must complete the Motorcycle Rider Education course to be eligible for a Class M license. You must also still take the on-cycle skills exam. ―Applicants 18 years old or older may present a course completion card to waive both the written and on-cycle driving tests.
- Complete the written and driving exams (unless you are presenting a certificate of completion from an IDOT motorcycle safety course―see “Waiving the Written and Driving Exams” below).
- If you do not already have a valid Illinois driver’s license, you must also pass the basic written exam and vehicle behind-the-wheel test.
- Pass a vision exam.
- Pay the $10 fee.
Waiving the Written and Driving Exams
Completion of an IDOT motorcycle safety course will qualify drivers 18 years old and older to waive both the written and driving exams when getting their Class L or Class M license. (See “IL Motorcycle Rider Education Courses” below.) Applicants 16 to 17 years old who complete the course must still take the driving exam and the written test.
To waive the exams, you must present a completion card from an IDOT Motorcycle Rider Education course. The completion card is valid for 1 year.
You can renew your Illinois Class L or M license when you renew your Illinois driver’s license for a $5 fee.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) offers Motorcycle Rider Education courses to increase the knowledge and safety of motorcycle riders in Illinois. Successful completion of the Basic Rider Course (BRC) and Intermediate Rider Course (IRC) may be used to waive the knowledge and skills examinations for persons 18 years old or older who are getting their initial motorcycle license.
Classes are free and open to residents of Illinois; however, certain eligibility requirements apply (see each class type below). Note that a registration fee may apply.
If you plan to enroll in a course, visit the Illinois Cycle Rider Safety Training Program website to choose and schedule a class.
Basic Rider Course
The Basic Rider Course (BRC) offers both classroom and practical training. You must be at least 16 years old and hold a valid license or permit to take the Basic Rider Course.
Drivers under 18 years old must have a parent or guardian sign a waiver and bring the waiver to the first class.
The BRC involves 8 hours of classroom training and 12 hours of practical training. In the class, you will be taught:
- Basic riding skills.
- Street riding skills.
- Mental skills.
Completing the BRC qualifies you to waive the written and driving test if you're 18 years old or older when getting your Class L or Class M license. It may also qualify you for discounted insurance. Riders under 18 years old must take the driving exam. Your completion card is valid for 1 year.
You must bring the following gear to class:
- Over-the-ankle boots not constructed of cloth or canvas.
- Shirt or jacket with long sleeves.
- Full-fingered gloves.
- Long, straight leg pants constructed of sturdy material.
- Eye protection.
- Valid permit or license.
A motorcycle and helmet will be provided.
Intermediate Rider Course
The Intermediate Rider Course (IRC) is available for drivers who hold a valid license or permit and have experience operating a motorcycle.
The IRC is intended for those with experience operating a motorcycle who want additional or on-road training. The course will review basic motorcycle skills and provide additional riding strategies. The course takes approximately 9.5 hours to complete and includes classroom and practical training.
You must bring the same items to the IRC class as are required for the BRC class (see above). A motorcycle and helmet will be provided.
Basic Rider Course 2
The BRC 2 is designed to help riders become more comfortable on their own motorcycles. The course, which is 8.5 hours, is spent almost exclusively on driving skills. In order to take the course, you must have your own street-legal motorcycle OR written permission from the owner of a motorcycle you’ve borrowed. You must also already have a motorcycle endorsement on your license, a DOT approved helmet, and valid proof of vehicle registration and insurance.
Advanced Rider Course 2
Advanced Rider Courses (ARC) are available for riders with extensive experience. The course is designed to add on skill, braking techniques, rider behaviors and strategies taught in previous courses. The course is approximately 8.5 hours long. You must have your own street-legal motorcycle OR written permission from the owner of a motorcycle you’ve borrowed in order to take the course. You must also already have a motorcycle endorsement on your license. You must bring your own DOT approved helmet, current vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
You will also be required to bring the same items as are required for the BRC and IRC classes (see above), plus eye protection (goggles, glasses, or face shield) and a helmet. You also need to fill out a waiver and a motorcycle safety inspection checklist. The forms will be provided for you.
Finally, you must show proof of valid motorcycle insurance at the first class.
Illinois also has regulations involving low-speed cycles such as mopeds or scooters. For more information, please visit our guide on Mopeds & Scooters in Illinois.