California Motorcycle Laws

Mar 9, 2024

Tags:guiderentersMotorcycle Safetyca

picture of a wallet with a california drivers license motorcycle laws in california

Whether you're a seasoned rider or a newbie with dreams of open highways, understanding California's motorcycle laws is crucial as a local or a traveler. In this blog, we’ll look into the essential laws, safety courses, helmet laws, and licensing info every Californian rider needs to know. 

DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal advice. For specific information on California Motorcycle Laws, contact your local DMV. This blog is up-to-date as of February 2024, and laws may be subject to change. 

Here’s what you’ll find below:

  • Motorcycle safety courses in CA
  • Motorcycle Licensing 
  • Permit Restrictions 
  • California helmet law
  • CA’s riding rules
  • Speed limits & signaling laws
  • Motorcycle insurance requirements
  • California lane splitting laws

Motorcycle Safety

picture of a male motorcycle rider sitting on a motorcycle in a safety course california motorcycle laws

CHP California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP)

The California Highway Patrol's Motorcyclist Safety Program offers vital resources for both new and existing riders, including a Basic Rider Course of 15 hours split between classroom and on-cycle training. Mandatory for riders under 21 and recommended for those 21 and over seeking a license, the program also features a Premier Program for extended learning and a Basic RiderCourse2 for skill enhancement. Enrollment details are available at ca-msp.org.

Motorcycle Safety Course

Upon completing the motorcycle safety course, you'll receive a Certificate of Completion (DL 389) from the training facility. This certificate can waive the DMV's motorcycle skills test if submitted within a year of issue. For those under 21, completion of a CHP-approved rider training course and possession of an M1 or M2 permit for six months are required for a motorcycle license. Over 21s can either complete the safety course or take the DMV driving test, with three attempts allowed. Standard licensing steps also apply. For more details, contact CHP at 1-877-743-3411 or visit ca-msp.org.

Motorcycle Licensing in California

California currently offers three types of motorcycle licenses. All licenses require a driver knowledge test, motorcycle knowledge test, any specific test related to the Class, or a motorcycle skills test, OR obtain a Certificate of Completion from a Motorcycle Training course that is CA-approved.

  1. Class M1: You can ride any 2-wheel motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, motorized scooter, and all vehicles listed under Class M2
  2. Class M2: You can ride any motorized bicycle, moped, or motorized scooter. With a Class M2 license, you can’t ride a bike over 150cc. 
  3. Class C: Class C licenses are for riders looking to ride with a sidecar attached, a three-wheel motorcycle, or a motorized scooter. 

Things to know:

  • You CAN’T use a motorized scooter for a skills test
  • You can ride a motorized bike or scooter that can’t go over 30 MPH with ANY class of license. 
  • Electric bicycles do NOT require a license.
  • Motorcycles under 150cc require a Class M1 license (See above).
  • Motorcycles under 150cc are NOT expressway or freeway-approved.
  • The Motorcycle Skills Test is a pass/fail test.
  • Minors/Young Adults: For an M1 or M2 license, minors 15 ½- 17 ½ years of age and 18-21 must complete special requirements, like a Motorcycle Safety Course. See the California’s website for more information. 

California Motorcycle Permit Restrictions:

  • No passengers
  • No freeway driving
  • No nighttime driving

California Helmet Laws & Gear Suggestions

It is state law to wear a DOT-compliant motorcycle safety helmet. It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle or motorized scooter without one. 

California highly suggests this gear:

  • Eye protection
  • Protective apparel, like leather, a jacket, long pants, reflective material, closed-toe boots, full-fingered gloves.

On the Road - Understanding California's Riding Rules

  • Carpool lane: Motorcyclists can use the carpool lane unless otherwise stated. 
  • No tailgating
  • Passing drivers must be within the posted speed limit
  • DUI Regulations: Driving under the influence of any substance is illegal and prohibited in the state of California (well, everywhere, really). A blood alcohol content 0.08% or higher will land you heavy fines and a day in court, ultimately. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can quickly put you and others around you at risk. 

Speed Limits and Signaling

  • Motorcyclists must adhere to the posted speed limit
  • Signaling is required when changing lanes. 
  • The maximum speed limit on most highways in California is 65 MPH. Unless otherwise posted, the maximum speed limit is 55 MPH on two-lane undivided highways and for any vehicles towing trailers.

California Motorcycle Insurance Laws & Facts

  • In California, motorcycle riders must have insurance to legally use public roads, with minimum coverage set at $15,000 for individual bodily injury, $30,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $5,000 for property damage. 
  • While law enforcement won't file this report, it's the rider's responsibility. It's recommended to opt for insurance coverage exceeding the minimum to better protect against costs from incidents involving underinsured or uninsured motorists.
  • If you, as a rider, are involved in a collision that caused more than $1,000 worth of damage, you must report your collison to the DMV within 10 days.

California’s Lane Splitting Laws

In California, motorcyclists are allowed to lane split. It's illegal for anyone to deliberately obstruct or endanger a motorcyclist by actions such as blocking their path or opening a vehicle door in their way.

picture of a crowed highway in california with a motorcycle rider splitting lanes with the traffic california motorcycle law

Stay Safe When Renting a Motorcycle with Riders Share in California

When renting a motorcycle in California through Riders Share, prioritize safety by selecting a bike that matches your experience level. Ensure the motorcycle is well-maintained and familiarize yourself with its features before hitting the road. Always wear appropriate safety gear, including a DOT-compliant helmet, regardless of local helmet laws, to protect yourself. Additionally, review California's motorcycle laws, such as lane splitting rules and insurance requirements, to stay compliant and safe. 

Bottom Line

And there you have it—a roadmap to navigating California's motorcycle laws with ease and confidence. Whether it's mastering lane splitting, understanding helmet laws, or choosing the right insurance, knowledge is your best companion on the road. Remember, riding in California is not just about enjoying the breathtaking landscapes; it's also about respecting the laws designed to keep you safe. So, ride responsibly, embrace the adventure, and let the spirit of the road guide you under the California sky. Stay safe, stay informed, and keep the rubber side down.