Motorcycle License in Michigan
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Despite a short riding season, there are more than 200,000 motorcycles registered in Michigan. With an abundance of places of interest, a great coastline to follow, and an array of small towns and villages, the Great Lakes State is a day-tripper's dream and an easy state in which to take weekend jaunts alone or as part of a group.
In Michigan, motorcycles are defined as any two- or three-wheeled vehicle with a gasoline engine bigger than 50cc, and a seat or a saddle. To ride one legally, it needs to be registered and insured and you need an endorsement on your valid driver license.
Earning a motorcycle operator endorsement is a multipart challenge. You’ll need to pass a written test administered by the Secretary of State, and a safety course or road-skills test that will be administered by a state-certified road skills testing organization.
You may be tested in an actual traffic situation or in a controlled, off-street environment. Either way, the test is stringent but not all that difficult to pass with practice.
You can apply for a motorcycle endorsement when you turn 16. You’ll need to have at least a Level 2 Graduated Driver License (GDL) and have passed the Secretary of State’s written test and vision screening. You also need to take an approved safety course.
There are a variety of safety courses available from both public and private sources. Public organizations charge $25 for a basic rider course. Fees at private organizations vary.
If you’re 18 or older, you’ll need to have either a valid driver license or a Temporary Instruction Permit (TIP), have passed the written test, and have successfully completed either a motorcycle skills test or a motorcycle safety course (which you’ll need to take if you fail the skills test twice).
A TIP is valid for 180 days and allows you to practice riding as long as there’s a licensed motorcycle operator supervising you. You can reapply for a TIP as often as you like.
With a TIP, you may not ride at night or carry passengers. If you’re under 18, you’ll need at least a Level 2 GDL and to have taken―or be enrolled in―a safety course.
Michigan requires younger riders (under 18) and riders who have failed the road skills test twice to take part in a safety course before they can earn a motorcycle endorsement. For many riders, the course―even when not required―is a good investment in skill development and on-road awareness. In fact, there are multiple levels of courses offered for riders of differing skill levels, including:
- Basic Rider Course
- Performance Based Course
- Experienced Rider Course
All include hands-on skills development as well as classroom time.
The safety courses are offered by a variety of organizations, both public and private. The fee for public courses can’t exceed $25.
Once you’ve got your TIP, you can start practicing the required skills on which you’ll be tested. Remember, you’ll need to be under the watchful eyes of a licensed rider at all times when you’re on public roads.
To take the test, your bike needs to be legally equipped and registered, and you’ll need to go to a road skills testing organization. Since you’re likely to be riding under a TIP, you’ll also need to have a supervising rider along. The entire test shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes, including a five-minute vehicle inspection and about 10 minutes of actual riding.
The examiners will be testing you on a number of required skills that will enable them to judge if you’re ready to ride on the road alone. You’ll need to exhibit engine control without stalling. You’ll also be required to make sharp turns, make U-turns, weave through a series of cones, make an abrupt turn around an obstacle, execute a normal stop, and perform a quick stop to test your proficiency.
Assuming all goes well, you’ll be issued a certificate you can take to the Secretary of State office to apply for your endorsement. The endorsement costs $13.50.
Your motorcycle endorsement expires with your driver license―every four years on your birthday. You’ll receive a renewal notice about 45 days before it expires. You can renew in person, or by mail. The cost to renew your motorcycle endorsement is $5.
As of April 2012, Michigan no longer mandates helmets for all riders. To ride without a helmet, you must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have passed a motorcycle course within the last two years
- Carry at least an additional $20,000 in medical insurance
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