Motorcycle Maual Cover Image

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

Motorcycle Manual

MV-21 MC (1/05)
Edited for the Internet 1/11
Complete text and images.

Motorcycling is a popular choice for economical and convenient travel. More than 241,000 New Yorkers use motorcycles for commuting, touring and recreational activities.

The New York State Motorcycle Safety Program is dedicated to improving motorcycle safety. We recognize the need to promote rider education and motorcycle awareness for all motorists. Through education and greater public awareness, motorcycling can be a safe and enjoyable activity.  This manual will help to make your motorcycle traveling safer.  I urge you to read it carefully and to follow its good advice: keep your motorcycle in good condition, wear a helmet and protective clothing, drive defensively, always obey the rules of the road and never drink and drive.

Andrew M. Cuomo


The chances of being involved and seriously injured in a traffic crash are greater riding a motorcycle than driving a car. The purpose of this manual is to educate the reader to help avoid crashes while safely operating a motorcycle. This manual contains what you need to know to pass the motorcycle knowledge test and shows safe riding techniques. Since you must share the road with many types of vehicles, your written test will be based on this manual and the Driver's Manual. Studying the manuals, taking a motorcycle rider course and practicing your riding skills can reduce your risk and increase your safety.

Drive alert and enjoy the ride.

Barbara J. Fiala, Commissioner
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

NYS Motorcycle Safety Program Logo

NYS Department of Motor Vehicles Motorcycle Safety Program
6 Empire State Plaza, Room 335
Albany, New York 12228

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Table Of Contents

Licenses Registration, Inspection, Insurance Special Rules and Required Equipment
Wear the Right Gear Clothing Know Your Motorcycle Controls
Helmet Use Know Your Motorcycle Check Your Motorcycle
Helmet Selection The Right Motorcycle For You Know Your Responsibilities
Eye and Face Protection Borrowing and Lending
Basic Vehicle Control Increasing Conspicuity Tire Failure
Body Position Clothing Stuck Throttle
Shifting Gears Headlight Wobble
Braking Signals Chain Problems
Turning Brake Light Engine Seizure
Keeping Your Distance Using Your Mirrors Animals
Lane Positions Head Checks Flying Objects
Following Another Vehicle Horn Getting Off The Road
Being Followed Riding at Night Carrying Passengers and Cargo
Passing and Being Passed Crash Avoidance Equipment
Lane Sharing Quick Stops Instructing Passengers
Merging Cars Swerving or Turning Quickly Riding With Passengers
Cars Alongside Riding a Curve Carrying Loads
SEE Handling Dangerous Surfaces Group Riding
Intersections Uneven Surfaces and Obstacles Keep the Group Small
Blind Intersections Slippery Surfaces Keep the Group Together
Passing Parked Cars Railroad Tracks, Grooves and Gratings Keep Your Distance
Parking at the Roadside Mechanical Problems
Why this Information is Important Alcohol and the Law Don't Ride
Alcohol and Other Drugs in Motorcycle Operation Consequences of Conviction Step in to Protect Friends
Alcohol in the Body Minimize the Risks Fatigue
Blood Alcohol Concentration Don't Drink
Knowledge and Skill Knowledge Test On-Cycle Skill Test
Rider Education


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