Whether you’ve been riding pillion (as a passenger for those who are 100% new to the ever increasing list of new terminology you will learn along the way!) for 20 years and wanting to finally get your own machine, you’ve been riding dirt bikes off the beaten trail since you were a kid, or you’re 100% new to the riding world, there is a place for you.
For some, it can seem like a lot of maneuvering to become a legally legit motorcycle rider. You have to get a temp permit, take the class (or go straight to the test), get the right gear, get a bike, practice, find riding buddies, learn how to service your bike, and the list goes on. However, we’re going to try to break it down, step by step. Keep in mind, the legalese presented here is based off of the procedure and requirements in Columbus, Ohio and your state or local government may have different requirements. Past getting your license, though, the helpful hints should be universal.
The first step in this process is really to commit to it. A special note for women: commit to letting yourself go through this process. The feeling of accomplishment doesn’t end with “getting your license.” It can be difficult to find the right gear or people to ride with (we’ll have future write ups on those issues in the future!), but it is so worth it. If you’re serious about becoming a motorcycle rider, commit to doing it.
Getting Started: GET LEGAL. The best way to get started in motorcycling is to get your learner’s permit. This is separate from your driver’s license for a car and (updated in 2023) will be a paper temporary permit you carry with you.
1.) LEARNER’S PERMIT: Get your TIPIC (Temporary Instruction Permit Identification Card) through your local BMV.
You take a written test, after studying the handbook. I highly recommend at LEAST skimming the handbook, because not all of the questions are about just riding a motorcycle, may have changed since you got your car license or are relatively tricky questions in general.
Once you have passed the written test, you go to the Registrar’s Office to get the actual temporary license ID to be able to ride around. This will be valid for ONE YEAR, with restrictions.
With a temporary motorcycle license, you cannot have a passenger, must wear a helmet and aren’t supposed to ride at night or on “congested roads” (aka the highway).
You also need this ID card to enroll in a class or take the test to get your license.
2) GEAR: Before you start riding, you should consider getting the minimum gear required for taking an ODOT-approved class:
a) A DOT-approved helmet, b) “over-the-ankle” protective footwear, c) long pants, d) long-sleeved shirt or jacket, e) full fingered gloves, and f) eye protection.
Motorcycle Ohio (linked below) will provide a helmet for use during class, if you don’t have one. (UPDATE 2023: The Motorcycle Ohio course will have a supply of loaner helmets. Be sure to check the class registration information when signing up for updates.)
If you complete a Basic Rider Skills Course with the State of Ohio, you will take the license test at the end of the course. This is in place of taking the test at the BMV!
3) TAKE THE CLASS ( OR TAKE THE TEST DIRECTLY): You can either take a class with your TIPIC (recommended), or take the skills test “when the rider is ready.” (UPDATED 2/3/2023: The class registration schedule is OPEN for 2023. Classes historically fill very quickly.)
If you feel you could pass the test WITHOUT taking the class, you can schedule the driving skills test directly. For the direct test, you must supply the motorcycle. If you fail the exam, you must wait 1 week to retest.
4) Getting the License: After you take the skills test, or complete the class, and pass, you get your actual license.
**At the end of taking a class (that uses the Motorcycle Ohio Curriculum), you take the actual test and get a little card that you take to the Registrar’s Office to get your license. (The BRS Ohio will send you an EMAIL with your completion certificate. This is in place of the card you take to the Registrar’s Office)
There are several places (in Ohio) to take a class and the costs vary, as does the quality of instruction. However, all Ohio DOT sanctioned classes use the same basic curriculum/require the same standard minimum level of instruction and provide passing students with the waiver card (EMAIL) for the state test upon successful completion.
The Motorcycle Ohio course is 16 hours long. The majority of that time is spent outside, on the bike. On pavement. In long pants, long sleeves, potentially in the sun. We strongly suggest that you bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.
(UPDATE 2021: Several locations now offer virtual instruction for the classroom portion of the class. These locations will not allow for “stand by” entry, but you can do the classroom portion at home, on your computer. You will still need to arrive at the physical location during the range portion of the class promptly to complete the class.)
Special Note: In Ohio DOT Motorcycle Ohio classes, the class bikes are provided and are maintenanced regularly. However, if you find yourself struggling mechanically with your bike, be sure to SPEAK UP to let the instructor(s) know. Dropping a bike or losing control of a bike due to an unbeknownst-to-you mechanical error would be an unfortunate way to get booted from the class!
Speaking of, ALWAYS speak up when you feel you don’t understand something or don’t know if you’re doing something right. It’s better to put yourself out there to ask a question than to incorrectly learn , not learn, or get hurt! (Believe me, I KNOW that can be hard!)
5) PRACTICE: Once you have taken the class, or have gone straight to taking the test through the BMV, you should practice if you’re totally new to riding! Passing the licensing test is just a snapshot of what it will be like to ride on the open road. Practicing in an empty parking lot can be difficult if it’s private property, etc, but it’s worth it to have a relatively distraction free area to practice stopping and starting, turns, and your clutch, especially if you’re going to be riding a vastly different bike than you used in the class. If there is a class location near you that has the course painted on the lot and is open for use after classes or during the week, look into returning there to practice. You can also estimate the course on lined parking lots to practice!
Next steps: While you’ve probably worn some minimum required gear in the permit class, or to take your test, have you really invested in the protective gear you need to ride on the road? Check out the next blog post, “Gearing Up,” to learn about the stuff you really need to ride for the slide on the real roads!
Special Note for womxn riders!
If you’re interested in becoming a motorcycle rider and want to find a group of womxn to ride with, The Litas Columbus is for you! The Litas Columbus is part of a global womxn’s riding collective. We are not a “club or gang.”
The only requirements are 1) be a womxn. 2) ride a motorcycle (or be interested in getting into riding!) 3) be 18+ years old. That’s it! No dues, no meeting requirements, etc. Check out our Instagram and Facebook and head over to the main page to sign up! Feel free to attend ANY of our meet and greets (listed on FB) to get a feel for the group prior to joining, if you’d prefer! No pressure and no obligation. We’d love to see you there! If you’re not local to Columbus, Ohio, no problem! Check out the main page to see if there is a Litas Chapter in YOUR city. 🙂