Motorcycle license road tests outside the US

driver licensing requirements in the US are reputed to be quite lax compared to those of other countries. Likewise for motorcycle testing. I obtained my US motorcycle endorsement in Minnesota about 26 years ago. My recollection is a little hazy, but I’m pretty sure the road test didn’t take more than 5-10 minutes, and included little more than riding in a straight line, around a turn, and one rapid stop that was pretty forgiving. Having passed that very easy test, I was then legally allowed to operate any motorcycle I could get my hands on, right up to the heaviest and/or most powerful bikes of the day.

So what is the motorcycle license road test like in other countries? I am informed that scooters are relatively popular in Japan because the licensing requirements for motorcycle operators are much more demanding than those of the US. But what exactly is involved? When you show up for your motorcycle licensing road test in Japan (or Germany, or England, or…), What does the examiner make you do to satisfy him that you are worthy of a license to operate the biggest, most powerful street bikes available?

Just as a point of comparison, I understand the road test in Wisconsin is VERY difficult. Many people around here ride with their temps for years and years and years and then still fail the road test*. Most people encourage each other to take the MSF class which gets you the endorsement at the end, that’s what I did.
*I think the reason for failing the road test after riding for a few years is mostly due to bad habits. For example, from what I’ve heard, coming to a stop and putting both feet on the ground will fail you or at least get some points knocked off. You need to put your left foot on the ground and while you’re right foot is still on the brake.

Here in the UK we are pretty alarmed at the high proportion of motorcyclists who maim and kill themselves and their passengers on our roads.

To that end the test has become steadily more difficult over the years, from the 1960’s when it was pretty much as the OP describes to now:

First you do the 2 parts of the theory test: The multiple choice part and the hazard perception part. Both parts of the test are taken on the same day.

Then you must get a provisional licence and then a compulsory basic training (CBT) certificate to ride on public roads. You must take and pass the theory and motorcycle tests in 2 years. If you don’t pass both parts of your practical test within 2 years of taking theory test, then you’ll have to start the process again.

Once you have a provisional licence you can take the test. This is split into 2 separate modules: off-road and on-road. You have to pass both. I see little convoys of motorcyclists with an instructor or a tester regularly. They all have radio communication with the leader.

If you pass your test, which is no pushover, you can then ride a motorbike. You have to be 25 or more to ride one over 600cc.

If you want to see what’s involved in the practical go here

As far as I can tell, with no evidence at all, all of this has made little or no difference to the accident rate.

I took the PA test in 74, we had to go through the regular course for cars that included a serpentine track (pretty easy on a bike), then the killer, we had to do 3 figure eights inside a parking space. If you didn’t have a small bike you’d borrow one to take the test to get through that part.

Never heard of the foot on the brake part, you do have a front wheel brake on the handlebar.

I can’t see that it would. Unless you include a common sense test and make sure all the car drivers don’t aim for bikes the accident rate isn’t going down.

You mean there, right? From what I’ve read, every other first world nation has lower accident rates than the US (and ours is rising steadily as more inexperienced riders start up), and stricter licensing. Institutionally, the attitude seems to be “eh, you’re going to kill yourself anyway…” so our requirements are lax in all aspects.

This country has very bad drivers, but they’re nothing compared to how bad some riders are and people see the issue as solely about motorcycles being unsafe. Summer of last year, some guy in his 60s bought a new Harley and died riding it home, less than three miles. As far as I can tell, he had no training and no safety equipment, and got one of their heaviest, most powerful bikes. And when his kids learn someone rides, they’ll just say “Those things are dangerous! My dad died on one of those…”

Washington had a graduated system, based on engine displacement, when I got my endorsement there in the mid-'80s. It was something like 249-and-under, 250-649, and 650-and-above. If you wanted the 650-and-above endorsement, you had to take the test on that size bike. I think there was even a separate endorsement for operating with a sidecar.

NSW, Australia: Motorbike licencing has changed quite a bit and quite a few times, in an effort to minimise young rider deaths.
Currently this is what is in place for a licence to ride on the road in NSW:

  1. Pre-learner course:
    7 hour course held over two days. Motorbike, helmet & gloves are provided. It is heavily subsidised by the government, the rider pays around $85 for the course. It is pass / fail - if you don’t pass the basic practical tasks, you have to do the course again

  2. Learner licence aka “Getting your Ls”:
    Take your pre-learner course pass certificate to the motor registry

  • do an eyesight test
  • do a road rules test (on computer)
  • pay for your new licence
  • must be at least 16 years and 9 months
  1. Ride as a learner, displaying an “L” plate on vehicle (minimum of 3 months, maximum of 12 months)
  • not allowed to carry a pillion
  • blood alcohol limit = zero
  • speed limited to 80 km/h
  • bike restricted to an approved list (but basically must be under 660 cc & max of 150 kilowatt power to weight ratio) - 250cc are the most popular
  1. Pre-provisional training course:
  • one day (6 hour) training course
  1. Motor Operator Skills Test (MOST)
  • one hour skills test. Usually done at the end of the 6 hour course, but can be done as a stand-alone, especially if you don’t pass the first time, you can come back and just do the test rather than doing the course in step 4 again
  1. Provisional (P1) riders licence aka “Getting your Ps”:
    Take MOST certificate to motor registry and pay for licence.

  2. Ride bike as Provisional Rider, displaying P1 plate on vehicle.
    (minimum of 12 months, maximum of 18 months)

  • not allowed to carry a pillion
  • blood alcohol limit = zero
  • speed limited to 90 km/h
  • bike restricted to an approved list (but basically must be under 660 cc & max of 150 kilowatt power to weight ratio) - 250cc are the most popular
  • more than 4 demerit points = licence suspension
  1. Ride bike as Provisional Rider, displaying P2 plate on vehicle*
    (minimum of 24 months, maximum of 30 months)
  • blood alcohol limit = zero
  • speed limited to 100 km/h
  • bike restricted to an approved list (but basically must be under 660 cc & max of 150 kilowatt power to weight ratio) - 250cc are the most popular
  • more than 7 demerit points = licence suspension
  1. Ride bike with full licence
  • If over 25 years old and have held a drivers licence (car) for 12 months, you can skip the P2 stage (step 8) and go straight to your full licence after a year on your Ps
    I think other states in Australia are similar, though some are less complicated. The differences only matter to those under 25, depserate to get a bigger bike.

But back in the early 80’s when I got my licence, I had to fill out a 5 minute written test, then I walked out and got on a bike.

I had to display yellow “L plates”, and I was restricted to 200c or less. Minimum age was 17 and 9 months, (But the minimum age to drive a car unacompanied was 18, so there was a three month advantage to the M/C)

“Safety” is given as the excuse for tighter regulation now, but “safety” is always the excuse for everything. The main safety advantage is that more regulation == fewer riders, and fewer riders means fewer m/c accidents. Which is why I no longer ride.

Another thing is that I imagine in the countries with more rigorous licensing schemes actually take it quite seriously if you’re riding without one, whereas in most of the US riding without an endorsement is a pretty minor fine.

Here in the U.S., it seems like the best way to save motorcyclists’ lives is to surround them with better drivers. People turning left in front of bikes, changing lanes into them while looking at their smartphones, etc. are all too common.

I’m all for making sure people know how to handle a bike before they hop on, especially a big, powerful bike – those things can be an absolute handful. But if we require a graduated system that takes a few years for a new rider to build up to 1,000cc sportbikes, but we still continue to let 15- and 16-year-old drivers hop behind the wheel of a 6,000 lb. SUV and barrel down an interstate entrance ramp with nothing more than a learner’s permit and very little driver education, we’ve still got a problem.

I think that’s a little bit of a cop-out though. About half the motorcycle fatalities in a typical year are from single rider crashes, and in multiple vehicle crashes the rider is usually at fault about half the time. Even beyond that, many of the crashes where the car was at fault still would have been perfectly preventable with more defensive riding.

I agree American drivers are sorely lacking in attentiveness sometimes and there’s room for improvement there, but that really isn’t the problem that’s driving the ridiculously high rider fatality per mile stats in the US.

There’s a gent named Keith Code, who has a series of videos that can be accessed on the youtube. “A Twist of the Wrist I” (and II). He teaches some VERY important skills on these and they are applicable to anyone who rides, not just crazed sportbikers. I think the Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses are teaching skills based on his work. One of the techniques is counter-steering, and another is “look where you want to go”, and how to properly trust and use the front brake. Many of the single vehicle accidents that happen could be avoided if the people involved had been intimate with those skills and had applied them. Not all, but many.
In California, the riding test seems to be about how well one can navigate a parking lot, given the crazy tight and slow “course” one has to ride. Useful, but maybe not so critical. The written test has some goofy answers (in some cases outright wrong to this riders mind), but you give them what they want and they give you a license to ride. It’s up to you to actually learn to ride properly. I would recommend, as a 37 year rider, that you get some off road experience as well. Reading in this thread that some countries include off road riding as a prelude to getting a license gives me hope.

mind the gap

To get a motorcycle license in Mexico (Campeche) you have to take a one week course.

I got mine immediately by showing my motorcycle endorsement from the US.

Traffic has vastly increased since the 60s, and cars have become bigger and heavier, with a resultant increase in the severity of accidents.

I used to work in a hospital; motorcyclists were known as ‘organ donors’.

They still do have the engine size endorsements. The big difference in licensing now compared to the past is the state no longer gives written or road exams. You must take a motorcycle course to get a learner’s permit. Get enough road hours and pass the exam by the licensed motorcycle training school, take the form to the licensing office and you have a motorcycle endorsement. The state also farmed out driver’s licensing exams and tests to driving schools too.

I’ve never gotten that, though everyone mentions it. There are around four thousand motorcycle fatalities a year nation-wide and for decades it was half that (returning Boomers have bumped the numbers). Nobody in hospitals is dealing with very many rider accidents, and it’s a pimple on the ass of auto injuries and deaths per year. The accidents per miles driven is much higher, but from the perspective of the staff at Podunk General dead and injured riders should be pretty rare. The last stats I saw, motorcycle numbers were on par with bicycle accidents.

From the U.K. government:

I’ve been riding 50+ years and what saved my butt on more than one occasion is assuming that any car or truck that you can see will try to hit you.
Here in the US of A the AMA is lobbying for helmet law repeal. Hard way to keep members me thinks.

Here, “temporary Australians”.

Both Hells Angles and Police Officers don’t have any problem with car drivers “not seeing them”. A kind of selective blindness exists for m/c and push-bike riders who aren’t a threat.