Getting Started


Deciding to get a motorcycle license is a big deal. It’s a huge step to freedom and takes commitment to learning, understanding, and preparing to safely maneuver the roads on a motorcycle.

You may have already started wrangling up the funds for a great-fitting helmet, protective riding gear, and the motorcycle itself. A key first step, though, is getting your motorcycle license.

Cycle World’s Serena Bleeker takes you through the steps in this article.


Learning to ride can be fun and safe, and the best way to ensure you learn the right way is through formal training from a certified riding professional. There is more to riding than just the physical demands of the motorcycle. Riders need to develop the mental skills and attitude to safely navigate risks you’ll encounter on the road. Our friends at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation® offer award-winning courses all over the country.

If you’re ready to start, find a course near you at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website.

Note: While the MSF develops the curriculum used across the country and at military bases, each state and military branch is responsible for administering the actual motorcycle safety program. Costs, class schedules and other details may vary from state to state.



Figure out what type of riding fits your lifestyle. Do you want to use your motorcycle to commute in the city or cruise across the country? Maybe you want to explore off-road trails or enjoy twisty mountain roads. Or perhaps you want to do a little of everything. Whatever you choose, there are different types of motorcycles for different styles of riding. For a look at the types of motorcycles available, click here.


Whether you want to ride off-road, street or a combination of both, it’s a good idea to get trained. If you want to ride on the street, you’ll also need to get licensed.

The best way to learn to ride is through an accredited motorcycle safety training program, such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s DirtBike School for off-road riding and the MSF’s Basic RiderCourse for street riding. In most states, the Basic RiderCourse is a licensing program, meaning once you successfully complete the course and pass a riding skills and/or a written test, you will receive a certificate to take to your state department of motor vehicles for your motorcycle endorsement.

Training programs vary by state, so check with your state’s DMV for available programs. You can also go to to find a BRC near you. After completing your training and getting your motorcycle endorsement, start by practicing in a parking lot and riding on quieter streets before you take on faster roads.


To be a proper rider, you must wear proper gear from head to toe. In case of a spill, this could mean the difference between brushing it off or expensive medical bills – or worse.

Select the following for more information.


This is probably the most fun step (besides actually riding your bike). But first, you should determine your budget, then consider whether you want to buy new or used.

A used bike can be a good “starter” bike, because you won’t mind dings and scratches as much. There are often great deals on used bikes from dealers and private sellers. Check with your bank or credit union for financing options. Dealers may help finance a used bike, too.

Buying used from a private individual might get you a better price, but there may be pitfalls. Most states require a motorcycle inspection before it can be registered and tagged, and some used bikes have been customized so much that it can cost a lot of money to get it back to state standards. Some unscrupulous sellers might also try to hide problems. Once you pay a private seller for the motorcycle, anything that goes wrong with it will be on you.

You might pay a little more buying a used bike from a dealer, but most dealers can complete the state inspection, tag the bike and prep it to be ridden immediately. Some dealers even offer a limited warranty on used motorcycles.

Please review the MIC’s Guide to Buying or Selling a Used Motorcycle for more details.

Buying new can also be a great option, and payments on new motorcycles are often less than what many think. For example, a nicely equipped entry-level bike can be purchased for $6,000 or less. Based on a 48-month term and 6 percent interest rate, monthly payments can be about $147, depending on your state tax rate. Check with your financial institution or with the dealer for financing help.


Make sure you have proper insurance. If you are financing a new motorcycle, most lenders won’t approve the loan until they get proof of insurance. If you already have auto insurance, check to see if they offer motorcycle insurance, because companies often offer multiple-policy discounts.

Bonus: If you took the Basic RiderCourse, many insurance companies offer a safe-motorcyclist discount. Be sure to ask!


Motorcycles come with a book of tips, the owner’s manual. Read it. Use it. It’s your friend. (If you bought a used bike, go online, many owner’s manuals can be downloaded.) Check to see that you have the proper tire pressure and other adjustments before you go out and ride.

If you buy from a dealer, don’t be afraid to ask questions. They are there to help.

New and seasoned riders alike can benefit from keeping their skills sharp with refresher courses. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers more than 25 courses to continue your lifelong learning. Your dealer can also be a good resource for education as many people who work there are also passionate riders and may know of other motorcycling organizations that offer advanced or specific training.