How to Rent a Motorcycle in California

Jan 3, 2022


BMW motorcycle ridden in California.

California is one of the most desirable riding destinations in the world. The landscape is beautiful, the lifestyle is laid back, and every road leads to a new adventure.

Generally, the coastal regions have a Mediterranean climate throughout the year. Travel inland however, and the mercury climbs quickly, especially during the summer months. There’s also unique weather pockets (both hot and cold), depending on elevation and proximity to the chilly water of the Pacific Ocean. This makes California a year round treasure trove for motorcyclists.

Most tourists visit in the summer, but consider traveling during spring or autumn since it’s generally easier to get around. Plus the weather is more mild and agreeable for most. Hotel accommodations are also usually lower. If you’re biking on a budget, there are lots of camping sites all through California.

The roads in California are generally very good, especially when you leave big cities like Los Angeles. California is the only U.S. state where lane splitting (riding a motorcycle between lanes of slow-moving traffic) is legal.

What Do I Need to Rent a Motorcycle in California?

California Motor Vehicle law dictates you must wear a DOT-approved helmet when riding, for both rider and passenger. It’s always best to bring your own helmet so you know it fits right. However, Riders Share owners often rent helmets and other riding gear for a nominal fee.

To rent with us you must be over 21 years of age with a valid motorcycle license, and a good driving record. Most international licenses are accepted. Learn how renting works with us.

During the summer months (June-September), California gets toasty, particularly if you’re riding through the desert or inland areas of the state. On the other hand, during the winter months, California gets considerable rain and snow in the mountains. So pay attention to the weather before planning your trip.

Motorcycle Insurance

Motorcycle insurance is an important concern. You can’t jump on someone else’s bike and ride off into the sunset. Similarly, travel insurance often specifically excludes the use of motorcycles over a certain bore size. Other rental companies may charge exorbitant insurance rates. 

One of the great benefits of choosing Riders Share is it solves the insurance dilemma. With us, you can rent a bike from any owner and be fully covered by our insurance policy. We even offer additional insurance options if you desire theft and/or damage that goes beyond the state’s minimum legal requirements. Learn about our insurance coverage.

Choosing a Motorcycle

Selecting and renting a motorcycle is easy with Riders Share. There’s rarely a deposit and you can choose any type of bike. From Harley-Davidson’s to Yamaha’s, we offer a large assortment of street bikes. If you’re planning on covering some serious ground, we recommend a motorcycle with a large windscreen and some luggage.

California Itineraries

California is a huge state. It’s larger than Germany for example. Plan a realistic road trip itinerary that will allow you to savor the sights and experiences of this diverse land.

Two-Day Trip — Los Angeles to San Diego (150 miles each way)

Before heading out of Los Angeles, explore this exciting city full of amazing beaches. Head out to Malibu, Newport Beach, and/or Venice Beach. Leisurely make your way south to San Diego County and the beachside cities of Oceanside, Encinitas, and Torrey Pines State Park.

Finish off your San Diegan tour by eating tacos at the Cantina Mayahuel or Puesto restaurant. Entertainment and dining is usually more laid back than Los Angeles. 

For more trips around Los Angeles, read our Our Favorite Motorcycle Trips around Los Angeles that You Must Ride article.

Four-Day Trip — San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Starting your trip in San Francisco lets you check out cool neighborhoods like Mission, Castro, and Haight. Polk Street and the Marina are also good nightlife spots with wine bars including Amélie. An hour’s drive south takes you to Half Moon Bay, a gorgeous and sometimes foggy beach.

Head inland towards Lake Tahoe, stopping for a wine tasting in Napa. Midtown Sacramento is a nice place to get lunch straight from the surrounding farmland. Nevada City and Grass Valley are historic old towns that we suggest staying in for a night for their special old-town vibe. You can even explore their old gold mines.

The ride to Lake Tahoe is great, and you can dedicate a few days staying around the lake. Staying on the western shore (Bliss Beach, Emerald Bay, and Desolation Wilderness are great for hiking, views, and beaches). If you do this trip in the winter, skiing and snowshoeing are on the cards, and The South Shore will be a busy party zone.

Enjoy the scenic drive to Yosemite Valley National Park. We suggest taking a couple of hikes here if time permits, to El Capitan or Half Dome. Be sure to check out the waterfalls before heading back to San Francisco. Want more trip ideas in the SF bay? Read the Best San Francisco Motorcycle Riding Routes article to get up to speed.

Ten-Day Trip — California Coastal Road Trip

A coastline trip is easy to follow, and you can jump on and off this north-south route at any point between San Diego and Eureka.

Starting in San Diego, you’re already spoiled for choice stop-offs: Encinitas, Carlsbad, Laguna and Newport Beach are all great options south of L.A. And if you’re north of the city, Venice and Malibu are worth checking out. Keep in mind, many beaches are crowded during the summer. So if you want something more secluded, travel further north to Ventura county.

Stay in the beachside college towns of San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara. Both these towns are wonderfully charming and offer a wide range of hiking opportunities, relaxed dining, and less-traveled beaches.

As you ride north up Highway 1, you’ll enter Big Sur— a quintessential California destination. During weekends, the drive can be busy. Stay in Monterey or Santa Cruz, two of California’s most alluring and sleepy beach towns.

Soon you’ll reach San Francisco. Continue on Highway 1 to Mt Tamalpais. The further north you travel, the larger the redwood trees get. Crowds also fade into the distance. Coastal towns like Muirwoods and Fort Bragg are good places to stay the night.

Once reaching Eureka, and from here you can explore the Redwood National Forest and Humboldt. It’s surprising how different Northern California is to the south.