Earlier this year, I decided to get my M1 License.
Here is what you must do to obtain a California M1 License:
- Pass the Written Test
- Pass the Riding Test
Easy, right? Well, not so fast. The tests are actually designed to be ridiculously tougher than the ones for cagers (those poor souls who choose to ride on four wheels instead of two). It’s probably because one small accident is all it takes to kill you whether it’s your fault or not. And I don’t know about you, but I kind of would not like to die? Sure, you get an official license to be a badass, but before you even attempt to start this expensive hobby, you have to understand the physical and financial risks that come with it:
Do you trust yourself to suit up every time, every ride, snow, rain or shine? One lazy mistake could put you in the coffer.
Think a bike is going to save you some money on gas and insurance? Think about that again when you receive the hospital bill for you and your bike when you go down (and you will).
Ready to buy the best gear you can afford – twice? A motorcycle helmet has a one crash policy. Check out the prices on some Dainese leathers or a Shoei helmet.
Any anger issues stemming from an unfulfilled childhood? Be ready to keep your cool when cagers runs you off the road and you almost high side onto the pavement while they speed away unaware that you just almost died.
Did I scare you away yet?
Good, you’re still here. Since that spiel is over and done with, here’s what you really need to know about the M1.
Read the motorcyclist’s handbook that they give you at the DMV. Study for the written test. You only have 3 tries to pass. You’ll have to fill out a DL4 at the DMV, pass a vision exam and get your fab photo taken.
The DMV’s riding test is HARD. The last thing they need is a hot headed hooligan that decided (on impulse) to get on a bike to show his lady friends around town. (Think that guy is also going to invest in a second set of gear for a passenger?) I’ve heard stories where out-of-state riders who have been riding for decades have failed the test. You’re much better off getting it waived by eating $250 on a DMV approved Safety Course such as the MSF Basic Rider Course or Harley Davidson’s Rider’s Edge Course. It’s damn well worth the money. It costs less if you’re under 21, but in the grand scheme of things, the cost of the course is a small price to pay. You’ll get to meet other bikers and get to talk to many instructors. I took the MSF Basic Rider Course and passed the riding exam in one weekend. (Hey, who has time during the week?)
On both days, you are in a classroom and then outside in a huge parking lot to practice. In the classroom, you’ll get to watch exciting videos from the 80’s with gaudy post processing (Holy Motorcycles, Batman!) . The material was pretty straightforward and it would’ve gotten boring had it not been for the colourful personalities that motorcycling usually attracts. The typical crew consist of the old dude who just never got around to getting a license despite riding for years, to the girlfriend that was encouraged by her boyfriend to ride, to the budding, young, testosterone filled males that are in it for the chicks,and then folks like me who just thought it would be fun.
My classroom instructor was a California Highway Patrol officer (this IS a DMV approved class after all) and boy, did he have stories: “How about that time a Porsche wanted to race me on the freeway at 3AM and then I lost control of the bike? What about all those aggravating times I sat at the stoplight because my bike couldn’t trip the signal? And what about all those fatalities on the road I’ve seen? Oh, and did I tell you a cager tried to run me off the road so I took out his side mirror with my foot? Oh and one more advice to all y’all: Don’t run from me. I will catch your punk ass. And when I do… ”
The riding session is a breeze. You’ll go through plenty of parking lot drills and exercises. Previous knowledge of operating a manual transmission helps a lot if you’ve never ridden before. The course instructors make the exam ridiculously easy to pass. No one in our group failed the exam. The exam consists of the same lessons you did just prior to the exam. I think the hardest skill test has to be doing the figure 8 in a tiny little box. You get points knocked off for your feet touching the ground, engine stalling, riding outside of the figure 8 or test area, etc. Dropping your bike is an automatic fail. Don’t do that. Well, even then, you get asked to come back another day for more “counseling”. (See how easy they make it to pass?) I think a really key thing to realize is that you can’t get knocked off points for doing the same thing twice. For example, if you accidentally put your foot down, you won’t get penalized for doing it again, so why not if you have to?
All in all, the riding course is money. I think almost everyone starts out with it.
Once you get your license endorsed with the “M1”, get your insurance taken care of and then you’ll be ready to ride!
Hope that was helpful.
See you on the road! Va va vroom!