Motorcycle Manual: Earning Your License

Knowledge And Skill

Safe operation of a motorcycle requires knowledge and skill. License tests are the best measurement of the skills necessary to operate safely in traffic.  The assessment of your own skills is not enough. People often overestimate their own abilities. It is even harder for friends and relatives to be totally honest about your skills. License exams are designed to be scored more objectively.

To earn your license, you must pass a knowledge test and an on-cycle skill test.  Knowledge test questions are based on information, practices and ideas from this manual. They require that you know and understand road rules and safe practices. An on-cycle skill test will either be conducted in an actual traffic environment or in a controlled, off-street area.

Knowledge Test

(Sample Questions)

1. It is MOST important to flash your brake light when:

A.  Someone follows too closely.
B.  You will slow suddenly.
C.  There is a stop sign ahead.
D.  Your signals do not work.

2. The FRONT brake supplies how much of the potential stopping power?

A.  About one-quarter.
B.  About one-half.
C.  About three-quarters.
D.  All of the power.

3. To swerve correctly:

A.  Shift your weight quickly.
B.  Turn the handlebars quickly.
C.  Press the handgrip in the direction of the turn.
D.  Press the handgrip in the opposite direction of the turn.

4. If a tire goes flat while riding, and you must stop, it is usually best to:

A.  Relax on the handlegrips.
B.  Shift your weight toward the good tire.
C.  Brake on the good tire and steer to the side of the road.
D.  Use both brakes and stop quickly.

5. The car below is waiting to enter the intersection. It is best to:

A.  Make eye contact with the driver.
B.  Reduce speed and be ready to react.
C.  Maintain speed and position.
D.  Maintain speed and move right.

car at intersection

Answers to the questions above: 1-B, 2-C, 3-C, 4-C, 5-B


On-Cycle Skill Test

Basic vehicle control and crash-avoidance skills are included in on-cycle tests to determine your ability to handle normal and hazardous traffic situations. You may be tested for your ability to:

  • Know your motorcycle and your riding limits.
  • Accelerate, brake, and turn safely.
  • See, be seen and communicate with others.
  • Adjust speed and position to the traffic situation.
  • Stop, turn and swerve quickly.
  • Make critical decisions and carry them out.

Examiners may score on factors related to safety such as:

  • Selection of safe speeds to perform maneuvers.
  • Selection of the correct path and staying within boundaries.
  • Completion of normal and quick stops.
  • Completion of normal and quick turns, or swerves.


To receive a motorcycle license with full privileges, most states require that maneuvers be performed as designed.

On-motorcycle skill tests are not designed for sidecars or three-wheeled vehicles. Those vehicles maneuver differently than a two-wheeled motorcycle.  It depends on the state, but an examiner may follow you on a car test-route.  Restrictions (sidecar, three-wheeled vehicle) may be added until completion of a two-wheeled motorcycle test.


Diagrams used in this manual are for reference only and are not to correct scale for size of vehicles and distances.