What Qualifies as a Motorcycle?

By: Kat Saks July 3, 2012
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Whether you zip around town on a scooter or roar down the road on a hog, you should know how the state characterizes your ride. Learn more about what qualifies as a motorcycle and what doesn't. For state-specific details, you can also refer to the motorcycle manual published by your local motor vehicle agency. You don't want to get the facts wrong when registering your motorcycle.

Motorcycles Have Pedal Power

Most states require a bike to have electric-powered pedals in order to qualify as a motorcycle.

So, if you work up a sweat pedaling your feet to move your bike, it likely isn't a motorcycle.

The Wheel Deal: Motorcycles Have Three or Fewer

A vehicle must have three or fewer wheels in order to qualify as a motorcycle.

In some states, the number of wheels on your ride can help dictate the type of operator's license you need to obtain. So, consult with your state motor vehicle office to get the wheel scoop in your area.

Motorcycle Engine Size Matters

The size of your engine sometimes determines whether or not your bike qualifies as a motorcycle. Check the tank or frame of your bike and look for a label that reads "cc" along with a number (i.e., 250 cc, 500 cc, 750 cc, etc.)

The "cc" on your bike stands for cubic centimeters and measures the size of your engine. Once you know your engine size, talk to your state motor vehicle agency to determine how your bike measures up.

The Need for Speed: How Fast Can Your Motorcycle Go

The maximum speed of your ride might also determine whether or not your motorbike qualifies as a motorcycle. Some states label lower-speed bikes as scooters or mopeds rather than motorcycles. Check your state's definitions to learn more.

The definition of a motorcycle varies by state. Consult with your state department of motor vehicles to determine how to define your bike; extensive info is available in your state's motorcycle manual. Then, ensure you ride by the rules: secure the necessary permit, license or endorsement, and register the bike and get motorcycle insurance if need be.

What type of bike do you ride? Tell us about your wheels in the comments section below.

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