Texas has a thriving motorcycle culture. The Lone Star State is a slice of heaven for riders, offering over 250,000 square miles of land, varying altitudes, and thousands of miles of quality road. Whether you ride inland or along the coast, the diverse landscape provides movie-like backdrops and awe-inspiring scenery.
If hitting the road on two wheels is a priority on your to-do list, getting your motorcycle license is the first step. As any seasoned rider will tell you, safety is paramount when you mount a bike, so you mustn’t cut corners when you start. With that, here’s how to get a Texas motorcycle license.
How To Get A Texas Motorcycle License
The good news is that getting a motorcycle license in Texas is straightforward. Yes, there are plenty of steps and boxes to tick, but if you play by the rules, you’ll throw your leg over quickly. The only complications that arise occur with minors.
Still, the road is tried and tested. Teenagers have an additional few hoops to jump through. In this guide, we’ll take you through all the steps of getting your license. Then, we’ll discuss the particularities of minors who want to get road legal. Firstly, you need to learn about the types of licenses in Texas.
Types Of Motorcycle Licenses
Many people think there are several types of motorcycle licenses in Texas. There is just one, called the Class M license. It permits the holder to drive a motorcycle or any other motor vehicle that has a seat or saddle, and has a maximum of three wheels.
However, a J or I restriction may limit Class M licenses. The J restriction is for learner motorcyclists. If you have a J-restricted license, you can only ride while under supervision. The I restriction pertains to 15-year-old riders who can’t operate a vehicle above 250cc.
We’ll get into more detail on this a little later. Below is a specific section on minors and the age restrictions for getting a Texas motorcycle license. But first, here are the standard steps for securing your Class M.
1. Get Your Driver’s License
A lot of riders start out on four wheels. They get their car license before setting out on their motorcycle journey. While the weather in Texas is generally good, it’s not always ideal for a bike. Therefore, in many scenarios, driving a car or truck is safer and more practical.
So, for many of you, the first step to getting your motorcycle license is to get your car license. A Class C learner license is all you need, but an unrestricted license works fine too. You can still apply for your motorcycle license if you don’t have a car license. However, you’ll need to complete the theory portion of driver’s ed.
Once you have a driving license or have proof that you’ve finished the classroom part of a driver’s education course, you can move on to the next step.
2. Take a Motorcycle Safety Course
The Texas Department of Safety (DPS) mandates that applicants complete a DPS-approved motorcycle safety course before applying for their license. This practical class teaches you operational skills and basic controls and maneuvers.
A typical course involves approximately 10 hours of training, and you’re taught important mechanics and riding techniques, like cornering, swerving, and safe braking. These courses are essential for building good habits and learning how to operate a motorcycle safely.
Upon completing an approved safety course, you’ll acquire a certificate (either an MSB-8 or an MSB-8R). You’ll need this certificate for your license application, so hold onto it. The certificate is only valid for two years from the issuance date, so you must apply within this window.
If you let your certificate expire without applying, you’ll have to complete the safety course again. Courses are typically around $200 to $250, so you don’t want to repeat one. Prices vary, however, as certain schools offer different packages. For example, some schools may provide a motorcycle and insurance.
You can find different DPS-approved safety courses according to your experience. Check out the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) website for safety schools and courses in your area.
While you can find a useful Texas motorcycle license course online, they don’t involve practical lessons, so they’re not valid in the eyes of the DPS. If you have an existing motorcycle license from another U.S. state, the DPS can waive the requirement for taking a safety course.
After completing your safety course, you’ll receive a trainee license (J restriction). With this license, you can practice riding under supervision from a licensed operator aged 21 or older. This is the best time to learn your chops and improve your riding skills.
3. Complete The Motorcycle License Application
You can begin the formal application process once you have your certificate for passing the motorcycle safety course. Unfortunately, you can’t apply for a motorcycle license online. You must attend the Texas Driver License Office and complete the requirements.
Adult applicants will need to bring the following:
- Valid ID
- Proof of residency
- Social security number
- Motorcycle registration (if you have one)
- Motorcycle insurance (if you have a motorcycle)
- DPS-approved safety course completion certificate
- If you don’t have an existing license, you’ll need to show a certificate of completion for adult Drivers Education
- Administration fee payment
You’ll need to fulfill the final steps before you get the final sign-off from the Texas Driver License Office.
4. Take The Mandatory Eye Test
Naturally, you must prove your vision is good enough to ride safely. So, next, you have to pass the mandatory eye test. This is a fundamental screening, similar to the test you would take to determine whether or not you need glasses.
You can usually take this test at the Department of Public Safety. However, you can also get one from a licensed optometrist. If you typically wear glasses or corrective lenses, you should wear them during the test. Usually, you’re required to wear these when driving.
If you fail the test, you’ll be referred to a specialist for a review. You may need a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses to meet the vision requirements. For those with visual impairments, there may be some dispensations, like nighttime driving restrictions, speed limits, or unique mirrors.
5. Pass The Written Exam
In addition to an eye test, Texas motorcyclists must pass a written exam based on motorcycle safety knowledge, rules of the road, and driving laws. The exam consists of 20 multiple-choice questions. A pass is 16 or more correct answers, so studying is recommended.
Once you pass, you’ll receive a certificate, which you’ll need to complete the license application process. Although the knowledge test is mandatory for all applicants under 18, the exam may be waived for adults if they have completed a relevant safety course.
6. Ace Your Motorcycle Skills Exam (Road Test)
Passing your skills exam is the final and arguably most important part of the process. This test is completed on the road, so you must demonstrate competence, awareness, safe driving practices, and technical riding skills. Schedule your test ahead of time at your local testing office.
If you’re prepared, the skills exams should be straightforward. You must show up to the test center with a motorcycle, a motor vehicle, and a licensed driver. Riders under the age of 21 need a helmet, and you’re recommended to wear motorcycle-safe riding attire, like gloves, boots, and a jacket.
During the exam, you’ll ride the motorcycle while under the supervision of an examiner who rides behind you with the licensed driver that you took with you. The main criteria for grading are safety and overall control of the bike. In most cases, the rider and examiner communicate via radio.
The examiner provides instructions, and the rider must follow them. Some of the most essential skills to master before your test include road positioning, speed control, cornering, changing lanes, merging with traffic, and reacting to signs and other road users.
Feeling nervous during a driving test is natural, which often causes young riders to make mistakes. But don’t worry, if you fail your skills test, you only need to schedule another one and retake it. You’ll get there eventually.
Submit The Final Application
After completing all the mandatory steps and passing the tests, you’ll have everything you need to submit your final application. Take the relevant documents to the Texas Driver License Office and pay the fee.
The DPS will then process your application before issuing the license. You’ll receive your physical permit in the mail at the address you provide on your application form. The office will provide temporary support valid for 45 days while you wait for the official license.
You can show this paper license at traffic checks or roadside situations requiring a permit. Once it’s in date, it is legal proof that you can operate a motorcycle in Texas.
How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Motorcycle License In Texas?
For young motorheads, the good news is that you can begin getting your license at 15 years old. However, the application is slightly more stringent, and you’ll face riding restrictions at various stages. But ultimately, the pathway is quite simple.
The main difference for minors is that they can’t skip any steps. They must get their learner’s permit and complete the classroom part of the driver education course. Minors must also provide a high-school Verification of Enrollment and Attendance (VOE) document.
At this point, they can apply to enroll in a safety course. Once this is completed, the steps to getting the license are the same as for an adult. However, a parent or legal guardian must provide an authorization signature on the application.
15-year-olds face a special restriction (I restriction) that prohibits them from riding a motorcycle that exceeds 250cc. Once the rider turns 16, they can apply for the restriction to be removed at the licensing office. When this step is complete, they may ride any motorcycle.
How To Apply For A Motorcycle Endorsement In Texas
A motorcycle endorsement is when you add a credential to your existing license that shows you’re legally permitted to operate a motorcycle on public roads. As discussed earlier, you can apply for your motorcycle with a class C driver’s license.
You submit your application at a Texas Driver License Office as usual. However, you must pass the safety course and mandatory exams before you receive your Class M. In Texas, you can also obtain endorsements for different types of bikes, like motorcycles with sidecars or three-wheelers.
Again, you apply at the license office. Sometimes, you may need to take an additional exam or provide extra information.
Driving Without A Motorcycle License In Texas
Operating a motorcycle without a class M license in Texas is illegal. If police stop you without a permit, you may be arrested and subject to a fine. The precise amount varies depending on your district, but it could be anywhere from $200 to $1,000.
You may also face additional penalties if you’re violating other traffic violations while driving without a license. Depending on the offenses and the circumstances, you could face a court hearing, more significant fines, and even jail time. These factors can also affect your eligibility to receive a license.
Fastest Way To Get A Motorcycle License In Texas
The state of Texas has a set pathway for receiving your motorcycle license, and all riders must complete the mandatory steps. There’s no definitive way to expedite the process. But, if you have an existing driver’s license and pass a valid safety course, you can get through the process quicker.
Having an existing license means you can apply for your class M immediately. Passing a recognized safety course allows you to forego the written exam portion of the application process.
- Types of motorcycle licenses: dps.texas.gov
- DPS-approved safety courses: tdlr.texas.gov
- Eye test information: idrivesafely.com
- Knowledge test information: dmv-permit-test.com
Christian Linden is a seasoned writer and contributor at Texas View, specializing in topics that resonate with the Texan community. With over a decade of experience in journalism, Christian brings a wealth of knowledge in local politics, culture, and lifestyle. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Texas. When he's not writing, Christian enjoys spending weekends traveling across Texas with his family, exploring everything from bustling cities to serene landscapes.