A lot of people seem to want to try out motorcycling but don’t really know where to start. Here’s a list I put together for some friends that I’ve been sending out occasionally but might help a wider audience which is why I’m posting this here.

I’m a big proponent of the MSF courses. It’s a good way to get on a bike and get your license at the end of it. You get walked though the basics with almost no assumptions about what you know and leave with a motorcycle license if you pass the test at the end. You don’t even need a motorcycle or helmet — you can play with their toys! Some of their techniques I don’t agree with, but 99.9% of the course I think is awesome! (And you typically get a discount from most of the motorcycle insurers out there)

So, before anything else, go pick out a course and sign up: http://www.motorcycle.ohio.gov/brc.htm Don’t be surprised if they are filled up, they do that. Sign up anyway or I’ll remind you next year with the same thing.

In case you know me, you’re probably in the Cleveland area, so here’s some to pick from so you can be even lazier. Go on, call, I’ll wait.

  • Cuyahoga Community College (Cleveland – East & West): 216-987-3075
  • Lakeland Community College (Mentor): 440-525-7331.
  • Polaris Career Center: (440) 891-7750

If you’re not in the Cleveland Area or if the class you want is full, I can’t do all the work for you; look around at neighboring counties too. Cuyahoga and Lake counties don’t have online registration which explains why I’m telling you to be all low-tech and call. Most other counties have online registration anyway.

What you need to do:

  1. Call and schedule a course — do this now since they fill up quick!!
  2. Go to any BMV office and apply for a motorcycle learners’ permit. This costs around $20 give or take. They will give you a piece of paper that doesn’t mean anything yet and a book to read. This doesn’t allow you to do squat yet. We’ll get back to it in a moment.
  3. Read and study the book. It’s Ohio traffic laws and overall motorcycle operating practices. You know most of it from just having a regular drivers’ license.
  4. Go to a BMV examination location (most aren’t so make sure behand) with the worthless paper from step 2 and take the written test. You’ll be waiting with all the 16-year olds who are getting their license for the first time. Remember, this is the written test, you did it a while back.
  5. Pass the test and they will sign and emboss the paper making it worth something. Congratulations, you have a motorcycle temporary license! This allows you to ride a bike w/o passengers, with a helmet, during daylight hours. A lot of folks stop at this point and re-do this every year. I think that’s dumb. Check out the Basic Rider-2 course for a quicker way of getting your license then.
  6. Take your temp from step 5 to the class on the first day. The first day (probably night after work really) is a classroom session.
  7. Show up at the field sessions with at least long pants, long-sleeve shirt, over-the-ankle boots and gloves on time and ready to have fun. A motorcycle will be provided for you. You’ll get a helmet too if you don’t have one already.
  8. Have fun!! It’s a blast to play with other people’s toys!
  9. Pass the test on the second field day. Get a card that is signed by the instructor.
  10. Take that card from step 9 to any BMV office and get your MC on your license. Congratulations, you have a motorcycle endorsement!

That’s it.

If you have access to a motorcycle and know what you’re doing, you can skip the MSF class and take the test at the BMV. It’s a hell of lot easier on the tiny bikes you have access to at the MSF course than it is on your giant bike you have already. Trust me!

It seems bureaucratic. It is. It’s the frickin’ BMV. :-) It’s not that bad really (and I added a few steps I suppose ;-)).

After you get your license it’s important to practice some of the stuff you learned. Find a parking lot and do the figure-eights. Stop fast sometimes. Swerve around pot-holes. You never know when you really need to do it!