To our surprise, our readers overwhelmingly favor a tiered licensing system in the U.S. Read what some of them had to say (unedited).
- I don’t live in USA but a measure like this is something that could help young people to live longer. Moreover, I think it must be imposed on cars too. It’s like racing, you have to take a license to drive a specific car and for that the requirements are established, not because you want to go over F1 or a CART you could you have to show you are able mentally and physically.
- The idea is ridiculous. Unfortunately the sad fact is that if something like this doesn’t happen, bike makers will
probably be hit with so many lawsuits over death and injury due to
“negligence” they will probably endorse the idea to save their own butts.
Here in the land of the free, it seems hardly anyone is responsible for
their own actions or well being any more. Every moron out there that
doesn’t have enough sense to keep from injuring themselves is suing for
damages…….and sadly enough, usually settling out of court just to limit
the cost to the defense or winning outright. If someone with ZERO riding
experience is stupid enough to think they are ready to push a Hayabusa to
the limit, they probably deserve the result the ugly result they get.
I’m still waiting for the day some idiot in one of our “helmet optional” states cracks their skull on the asphalt and
sues the state for NOT making them wear a helmet. God knows there is a
pathetic attorney out there waiting to take the case. In a country with
courts that award a woman money from McDonalds because their coffee burned
her, anything is possible. Unless some judges start throwing the
frivolous cases out of court, we are destined to be controlled by the
liberals that believe they need to “protect” us from ourselves.
- Definitely !!! Then maybe Japan will export some of those nice 250-500cc units they have
over there. Right now, there is not much choice…..”you fit on a 600cc “race bike”,
great it’s yours for $7000″
- I am not too sure of their current regulations, but back in the 80’s in
Japan, a local could not buy any street bike larger that 400cc.
And as part of the test to see whether they would be able to handle the
bike, they had to pick it up so that both wheels are off the ground.
All large capacity motorcycles were ONLY for export.
- I absolutely agree that tiered licensing should be instituted in the US. As
recently as yesterday someone related an experience they had over the
weekend on their Harley in which they felt they were not going to make a
curve so they ran off a residential street into someone’s front yard. I
asked if anything on the bike was scraping, to which he replied no, and
mentioned that motorcycles are usually capable of much tighter turns than
their riders realize. When I asked if he had countersteered into the turn
he was clueless.
I have ridden for 30 years and am often asked to recommend a first bike.
Invariably the asker is disappointed with my reply, ignores my advice, and
ends up with a 700 pound cruiser or 100+ hp crotch rocket that they are
incapable of piloting responsibly. Too many of them leave the sport, end up
injured, or worst of all endanger others. I believe the answer is tiered
licensing and mandantory training such as an MSF course. Tiered licensing
should include some clause for carrying passengers as well.
Your website is excellent. Keep up the good work and thanks!
- I am not sure how it could be implimented, but I believe that we should have some system like this. I have been
riding motorcycles for over 25 years. I started out on bikes like a yamaha 60, then moved up to a honda 160, then a honda
305/350, then after almost 15 years of on/off road riding I bought a honda 750. I have ridden over 150k+ street miles. I feel now
that I have the experience needed to ride these modern speed machines “safely”. In the past 5 years I have owned and ridden just about every kind of street bike available. I agree that we should have some type of beginner class that would require a newly licensed rider to start say on something 500cc’s or less then after 1 year they can reapply for an advanced rider license. I have ridden with guys, and gals that buy bikes that are to powerful for them, get hurt and then blame others for their problems. I also believe that we should require some type of rider training program for new riders, or even older riders if they want to ride any type of new sports bike over 500cc’s. Heck most dealers won’t sell you a large 4 wheeler to you if they know that your son who is 7 is going to ride it. It’s just common sense!
- I’m 43. I’ve been riding/racing since I was 9. Didn’t get me first big
street bike until I was 23. That may have even been too early. During my
riding experience I’ve seen far too many people riding motorcycles they had
no business riding. If the issue of tiered licensing were to ever make it to
a ballot I would vote in favor of the measure.
- Yes I beleive we should have the tier licensing for young riders and
beginning riders. I started riding 25 years ago and I started on a Honda
cb360t. It was perfect, it wasnt fast but it allowed me to learn and feel
confortable. Its sad when you see the motorcycle magazines touting 750’s as
beginer bikes. Just my .02 cents. Thanks.
- I think tiered licensing is a pretty good idea. Seems like a lot of idiots these days are looking at ZX-7s, ZX-9s, “Busas” for a first bike. Besides making things a little safer, it would have the added benefit of reinvigorating lightweight racing in the US. After all, the newest bike the lightweight class has is the SV650. Everything else is at least 10 years old.
- One of the things that brings people to the US is freedom. Freedom to
buy as many loaves of bread as they want. Freedom to eat Steak for
dinner every night if they so choose. Freedom to take a shower in the
middle of the day and stand under the hot water for an hour. Freedom to
read whatever books they want. Freedom to write down their thoughts, no
matter how ‘crazy’ they are. Freedom to practice any religion they
believe in. Freedom to get in their car and drive across the country to
just to see what the other side looks like. Freedom to come and go as
they please. Of course all of these freedoms come with some rules. If
you steal the bread, you get arrested. If you drain your shower water
in to the towns drinking water supply, you get arrested. If you drive
100 mph in a 50 mph zone, you get arrested and lose your license. etc,
Anybody with a valid drivers license is allowed to drive anything from a
Geo Metro to a vintage 427 Cobra. The only things limiting them are
their money and their brain. But that is what is so great about living
in this country. If I want to own a 427 Cobra, and I have the money
(which I don’t but sure wish I did), I can. The same should go for
My point is this. Stopping somebody from buying a particular bike is a
form of censorship. It goes against what this country is built around,
Freedom. What we can do however, is give them a ticket if they don’t
have a valid license to operate it. If I were to drive an 18 wheeler
down the road without a CDL, I would get a ticket. But in America, I
can still buy the 18 wheeler if I want.
Keep up the good work on the web site.
- Obviously, there are idiots out there who need this kind of protection. The
problem is, how do we set up the tiers? I know that in some European
countries, the initial year or so, the rider is limited to a 250. What 250
can keep up with everyday highway traffic in the US? This puts the rider in
a dangerous situation that, given his/her lack of experience, he/she
wouldn’t be able to handle. Perhaps a horsepower limit is more feasible,
like the limits used in Germany.
- I’ve been a motorcyclist for going on 20 years now. Just by pure
coincident, I ended up progressing from smaller cc bikes up to the liter
machine I have now. I think tiered licensing is something we should take a
hard look at. Not too may levels; 2-3 at the most.
I have no idea how it would be tracked. Time of license ownership wouldn’t
seem right; just because you have the license doesn’t mean you’ve ridden at
all. Maybe completion of an MSF course should get you into the first level
and then completion of the experienced riders course (which I haven’t taken)
for the upper level? Some would scream it was just a money maker for the
One good outcome of this could be a boom in the used bike market. And, of
course, safer riding. Thanks for listening. Ride on.
- If you want to see a tiered licensing program that works well look at
the one Japan has. I spent a year over there in the Marines and talked
to many Japanese riders. They are very skilled and safe. I could see
this driving down the insurance rates here in the states if it was
- I’ve always thought it was a good idea for people to start out on
smaller, less-powerful motorcycles. it’s common sense, really. I’m an older guy, 43, and began riding mini-bikes when i was nine. my
first licensed road bike was a Suzuki 185. It horrifies me to think that a complete novice can jump on a 140-hp
bike. 0-60 in under 3 seconds! Especially if that novice is, say,
18-years old. (nothing against 18-year-olds. I was once one myself, so
I’m speaking from experience!). Like i said, common sense should keep most beginners away from machines
like that. Just as it would keep most beginner skiers off the expert
Unfortunately, common sense isn’t a quality associated with younger,
less-experienced riders. So, do we then resort to legislating common sense? yeah, i think we
should. Yeah, yeah, yeah… land of the free, down with government beuocracy,
blah, blah, blah. But certain regulations make sense. we don’t let
6-year-olds drive cars. In certain states, first-year drivers aren’t
allowed to drive after dark.
But that’s just my opinion and it isn’t based on facts or statistics.
before we adopt legislation, we should be certain there’s actually a
problem. For example, do statistics show that inexperienced riders who ride sport
bikes get in more accidents than beginners who ride smaller bikes? etc,
etc. If the facts show there’s a problem, then i think we should do something
- I would tend to agree with a tiered system. Even though a 600 or even a 400
have enough speed/horsepower/torque to get folks in trouble or dead, I
believe there are different types of accidents that can be produced more
readily by excessive speed/horsepower/torque afforded by the open class
- Its amazing that you feel that to regulate something will stop stupid people
from doing stupid things! We have become a society who is responsible for
everyone elses actions!
When will people become responsible for their own actions? Your statement
can be applied to all sports. People who learn to ski cannot go on any hill
over 2 degree decline, and be progressive each year. People who get their
drivers licence for cars can’t drive anything that has more than 50 hp. and
each year after that hp increases by 10 hp.I could go on with silly things
like this for ever. Point is you will not stop people need for speed!
You will try to educated them best you can,hope the dealers are responsible
enough to direct the new rider away from bad choices. After that its
Darwinism at its best. Yes the fools will crash and hopefully will learn
from that experience.
The problem is what level of bike is considered appropriate. Will it be
based on cc or hp.?
The problem with either is both can be played with and both can be ridden
well beyond their limits and death can be the result. So what was the use of
this silly excersice of limiting hp or cc. or time of day that they can
- Tiered licensing should be instituted here in the state!
I’ve started racing bikes in 1982 on a GPZ 550. The shop that I was racing for was shipped 5 GPZ 1100’s. Out of the 5 , 3 came back totaled , and 2 of those were kids.
I remember thinking that if only they had some training or something that they might have had a chance.
Well, 19 years later and there has been an increase in rider education. Many people take the courses offered by local organizations and some even attend track days at local road courses. I have many friends with Harleys that regularly attend the events that my friends and I put together at NHIS. Still , anybody can walk into a dealership and buy a bike capable of near 200 mph speeds. I especially cringe when I hear of someone with little or no experience buying a Sportster 1200 or Yamaha R1 for a first bike ! One woman I know just bought her first bike , a 1200 Sportster . She is all of 4′ 11″ and about 105 pounds. She’s never even ridden a bike ! I tried to dissuade her but I ran into ATTITUDE ! I explained that something smaller would be better to learn with but all of her so called friends ride big bikes and they thought it would be COOL for her to have a 500 pound bike to learn on.
Attitude and ignorance are the culprits here. The shops want to sell bikes and people want them. But I think that the shops should share some responsibility when it comes to safely promoting the sport of riding motorcycles. If we adopted a tiered licensing system they could do that without hurting their wallets.
This country is consumed with the “BIGGER IS BETTER” attitude. That needs to be addressed first. Those of us that are really involved in the sport understand this to be a false reality. We just need the rest of the riding public to understand this so that we can be safer on the street.
I’ve raced for 19 years but I haven’t ridden on the street for 6 years. Not only because of the dangers from cars and dogs and little old ladies , but also because I can’t find many safe street riders to ride with. It’s a hell of a thing when racing is safer than street riding. It’s a good thing but it could be better.
- I think government should be small. Government protection should be limited
toward product safety not how to use the products safely. If the product is
defective then laws should be written/used to protect people from getting
hurt. If the product is not defective and someone gets hurt because they
misused the product then it’s their tough luck.
Too many lawsuits have been won by idiots claiming the company should of
been responsible for their foolish behavior. I think the MSF course is the
way to go. Let those that want to spend the money for their own safety do
it and get good advice.
You can’t educate a fool. He believes he already knows the answer.
You can’t protect fools from themselves. “I know what I’m doing”, is their
You can’t legalize common sense. We could produce paper fast enough to
hold the volumes required for that legislation.
- I’ve been working in a motorcycle dealership for 22 years now. I’ve see first hand too many streetbikes crashed by beginner riders. Last summer we sold a ZX-12 to a customer who had never ridden a street bike before.
I believe tiered licensing is a must. You mentioned the alternative and we wouldn’t want that would we?
- I completely agree with you. Insurance rates for some of the more powerful
sportbikes (specially the Japanese ones) are making such bikes nearly
unattainable. Why are the rates so high? Because of younger,
inexperienced riders that buy these types of motorcycles, and then crash
them. Tiered Licensing would ease off government pressures towards regulating
horsepower limits, as well as make the streets safer for all, not to mention
give us motorcyclists a better reputation.
- The idea of a tiered licensed system is essential given the power of new motorcycles such as the GSX-R1000 and new Ninja. Even the new sport 600’s are insane from a beginner’s perspective. I’m from Canada and the same problem exists here – easy access, tremendous power, and broken bodies. Some of these new bikes are really race bikes for the streets. Its not a matter of freedom but of simple common sense.
- I think that it is a good idea. I consider myself to be a mid-level street
rider and have the conscious to know that I would not want to purchase a
bike of that power. I am also 25 which I consider to be a prime age for the
market that they are trying to hit. I do ride/race dirt, and I have a
street bike but throwing a leg over my 426 and hitting the dirt, and
throwing a leg over my 916 and hitting the street are two totally different
things. I feel that the 916 is a bit over my head and I find myself
constantly telling myself to slow down. In my opinion even the entry level
rider can not use all of the power of a 600 in this day and age. The bikes
are so much more advanced and handle so well that the common every day “Joe
rider” will not be able to tell the difference unless he really cranks on
I can’t say that I really have any ideas as of right now how this could be
incorporated. Age is one that comes to mind but age and lack of experience
on a bike is no different than getting a hot head my age on one with no
experience. This is a good issue I see it upsetting some people, but those
are the ones that I believe just want to say that they have the extra cc’s.
- I’ve lived in the UK and US. I think the English system is a good idea
however it is way too restrictive to be used in the US in it’s current form.
The English system requires a large red letter “L” be displayed prominently
on the front of the vehicle (car or motorbike). Also initially you must
prove competency on a 50cc bike, then you can move to 125cc, 400cc then
unlimited. The entire process can take 6 years. This will never fly in the
US. especially not the 50cc bike or “L”. What I did notice about the
system was that riders of large bikes in the UK were very skilled. More so
than your typical American that purchases a Harley cruiser. There can be
alot of reasons for that. Typical English roadways are not straight super
highways but narrow curvy country roads, and the roads are wet. Anyone
surviving those conditions will be an excellent rider by default. What
would an optimum system be for the US? That’s up for debate.
- I think that it’s a good idea.
- I’d support tiered licensing for two reasons.
1. As you stated, new riders on open class bikes are
quite apt to lose control on them. The acceleration
of the F-USA Unlimited Superbike spec machine I got to
test ride over the weekend was very intimidating for
me, even with 200,000 road miles of experience,
several national racing licenses, and a shelf full of
trophies as an expert level club racer. It’s
frightening to think that any testoserone filled
brickhead can go into a dealership and pick up
something with those levels of power.
People will argue that a rider doesn’t have to use
that power. Which is true to a certain extent, but it
only takes one ill-timed twist of the wrist to get it
wrong and hurt yourself really badly.
2. It would make me and a lot of other people happy to
see all the exotic 250-400cc grey market bikes
available to the public here in the states. Cool four
stroke machines, like the ZXR-250, or the RVF400. A
selection of machines which would cater to a public
restricted to machines 500cc and lower, who still want
a nice looking, good handling machine.
I personally could care less for upper echelon
horsepower limits. People with money and resources
will find ways past, just as they do with all the grey
market two strokes we see on the streets these days.
180mph is more than enough.
So Dirck, do you want to lobby this for us? Where
would you begin pushing for such a structure to be
- I think that it would be a good idea that would be beneficial (directly and
indirectly) for everyone. It wouldn’t take anything away from anyone.
People will respond with, “I have the ability to ride that” or “I’m good
enough to ride anything I want”. The response to these responses will be,
“Fine then just test into that class of license”. I went to a Motorcycle
Safety Foundation class last year weher I saw a guy, about 50-55 years old
say that he had never ridden a motorcycle on the street before, but yet he
had a Harley full-dresser on order with a local dealer. I then proceeded to
watch this guy lay a bike on its side during each of our outdoor
sessions…and these were 250cc Suzuki street bikes (Z-250 I believe).
Imagine the disaster of him getting on a massive Harley and heading down the
road. I realize that you were referring to rocket-bikes, but the same would
apply to large road-cruisers too. I drive a Valkyrie (100+ HP) and would be
very willing to test into a license to ride it should that ever occur.
I hope that the readers keep the bigger picture in mind as they make opinions
on this concept. I would actually push for it.
- I know that the good ol’ US of A has always been about freedom and
choice, but I feel that tiered licensing isn’t such a bad idea. My first
bike was a ’76 Kawasaki KZ400 and I felt it was just the right displacement
for me as I first started riding. I know it wasn’t the coolest, or the
fastest, but at least I didn’t have to file an insurance claim if it tipped
over (and it did several times in that first year!). Do you think tiered
licenses could lead to a drop in insurance rates for some of the larger
displacement bikes since they would be operated by more experienced riders?
I would be in favor of it if it did.
I am sure that I am in the minority in this line of thinking though. We
Americans hate to be told we can’t have something if we want it. Admittedly
there are some 16 and 17 year olds out there that can ride the pants off me
at any given time and would be fine on a new GSXR1000, but let them be tested
for proficiency on the bike and not just whether or not they can ride a
figure eight before they get on a 140+ hp machine. I admit that at 35 some
days I can feel like a squid, but the longer I have ridden the fewer squidly
days I seem to have. Even after 12 years of riding I don’t find myself
looking at the most powerful and fastest bikes. Bikes like the new
Bonneville, the SV650S and the ZR7 seem more to my taste. Something you can
throw some soft luggage on and head to the NC mountains for a run at the
twisties with reasonable power and comfort. Tough to be an oddball ;o).
P.S. I really enjoy your magazine and have to get my daily fix in the
mornings. Good work and fair reporting. Thanks!
- Good question. I’ve spent a lot of time in Germany and like their, and
other similar european licensing schemes. I also buy the argument that
a little such regulation might avert stronger oppressive regulation in
the future. Still, I’m undecided. There is a chance, in the U.S. where
the desire/need for motorcycles seems much less prevalent and urgent,
that any raised barrier to entry/adoption/initial-ownership will, if not
kill, at least drastically throttle new ridership. As a lack of new
riders (average age of motorcyclists continues to climb quickly) is a
pretty widely acknowledged problem, anything that exacerbates this trend
is worrisome. I like the idea of tiered licensing, I’d just like to see
some dialogue and how to how it can be implemented without stifling the
influx of new riders.
- I’ve been reading your site for a couple of months now and I am always looking foward to the next morning to start my workday on the right foot with your interresting news.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for six years now and i am amazed year after year when new models come out and “re-writes the book”. Those machines are very capable and most riders (and future riders as well) are looking at those bikes and think they can master them. And that scares me. I live in Montréal, Québec and for a couple of years now the Provincial government is trying to deal with the drastic raise of fatal motorcycle accidents on our roads, the first thing that got on their minds is to raise the licence premium by a factor of 2.5!! Then, they considered limitating bike selection for new riders (but they dropped that idea rather quickly, don’t ask me why) and now, some stupid bureaucrats want to litterally ban ALL sports motorcycles in the Province. Those same people cancelled three years ago the law that everybody who wants to get a driver’s license had to take driving lessons (for cars and motorcycles alike) and now that young (most of them) people are getting killed on bikes they don’t know how to ride they want to find a solution for a problem they don’t truly understant.
I agree with the idea that a new rider has to start at the begining, with efficient lessons from people who know what they’re talking about (in that department, i think driving schools are doing a good job but there is always room for improvement) and when it’s time to buy, i also agree with the idea that he has to choose the proper machine to match his skills. What i suggest though, is when that rider wants to move to a higher category of bikes (after a certain amount of time), he must have taken advanced riding lessons from a racing school (like Keith Code’s in California and F.A.S.T riding school in Quebec) and then pass another test at the license department ( i don’t know who is mandated in the U.S. but here it’s the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec). Only then, that rider could go to the dealer and come out with, let’s say, a 929, a R1 or a GSX-R 1000.
Those machines are developped for racing and i am supprised (and glad at the same time) that we can buy them for the street in the first place. It’s like if we could buy a F-1 car and drive it to go see grandma on Sunday afternoon. But i also realise that those vehicles are NOT for anybody. I hope everyone (especially Governments) will get to their senses and take action to keep people alive and STILL have a great time.
- While I am not in favor of more government regulations, I am very much in
favor of better rider education. A skilled rider is a safe rider. Consider
the following: 1. A motorcycle endorsment is not necessary when you purchase a bike. 2. Getting a motrocycle endorsment is very easy. Addressing these two issues would probably reduce the number of accidents
- I strongly agree with the concept of tiered licensing. The operation of a motor vehicle is a privilege of society, not a birth-right.The proof of ability should fall on the operator, and the belief that just because one can afford a machine ,one can RIDE the machine, is illogical at best. Also, what a great way to build true enthusiasts! Not that the government cares on this idea, but with this concept in place (tiered licensing) at a glance of a riders’ machine, all would know the riders’ ability and seniority of experience. If a person really wants that 150hp, 200mph bike they are going to do what it takes to get it and have the ability to ride it safely (hopefully) for themselves and everyone else. I don’t condone legislation for the sake of legislation, but good ideas that benefit all are worth considering. Thanks for your time!
- It’s a great idea! I am 23 and ride a 98 Honda VTR 1000. A very powerful
machine indeed. Was this my first bike. Heck no! I grew up around
motorcycles and my dad stressed the importance of starting out small (which
is common sense anyway). So I did, I went from a couple of dual sports, to
an average street bike (Kawasaki EX-500), and then to the Super Hawk. The
progression started when I was 16 till now. As a result, I had plenty of
experience to make the jump to the big bike. Even though there was a
learning curve associated with the massive torque, I had the maturity to
handle the bike with respect. On the other hand as I was progressing up
through the bigger bikes, I saw many guys my age buying the typical
sportbikes (CBR, GSXR) for their very first machines. You guessed it, they
all dumped them at one time or another. Even my best friend bought a GSXR
750 for his first bike. He did it behind my back because he knew I would
have talked him out of it. Yep, he dumped it too. I told him so. For
safety’s sake this should be a law!
- The issue you bring up is a good one and one which should be thought
about. I have been riding motorcycles for 26 years and started when I
was 8 years old. I have owned dirt, dual-sports, sportbikes ranging
from 600cc’s to 900cc’s and ridden bikes such as the ZX11. In my years, I have seen numerous people (beginners and young) buy the
hottest 600 (or higher) and be involved in an accident within 18 months, then sell the bike and get out of motorcycling entirely, within
3 years. I have also spent a lot of time in the UK and watched the difference between UK riders and my counterparts in the US. The skill
difference (generally) is astounding, due to more mature and seasoned riders on the hottest equipment and not the other way around.
From a sense of liberty and freedom, I do not feel that this is something we as bikers should push in the US, however, I do feel that
this would be a great proactive move or a concession/compromise should the government start to seriously re-discuss horsepower restrictions or
other limitations present in the UK and Europe, such as governors to prevent high performance motor vehicles from exceeding certain speeds.
Your point is very well taken about the few (and often undedicated)
distorting the reputation and possibly the liberties of the (devoted)
many. I applaud you for bringing up this subject and it is something
we should consider and stay up on. I also hope that others are
thinking about this issue because it could effect us, if we do not stay
informed and be proactive to do what is right for us and the sport.
- I personally feel that some type of tiered licenses would be a good idea.
I personally have just started riding a streetbike. I have been riding dirtbikes for several years. Even though I
know how to ride a motorcycle, dirt is very different from the street. A tree is not going to jump out in front of you
like a big Chevy, though I could have sworn a few trees have. (Hazards of Enduro riding) So I choose to learn to ride a
smaller bike first. I personally own a Suzuki SV-650. I would someday like to own a GSX-R750,
1000 or Yamaha R1, but I know I can not handle the power that these larger fuel injected monsters are producing
at my stage of experience. My jaw dropped when I saw your article on the horsepower readings you guys received from
Yoshimura dyno chart on the GSX-R 1000. (150+ HP) The SV-650 was only a few months old when I bought it. The person who
owned the bike before me bought the bike for the same reason, to learn on a smaller machine before they jumped onto a larger
machine. Someone who has never ridden a streetbike before may not have a clue of the
power these new bikes a capable of. They need to learn technique before they can handle serious power.
Thank you for your time, and keep up the excellent work with the articles
- This concept is way overdue in this country. Personally I would limit
riders under the age of 21 to 500cc machines.
- Wow! Someone thinking ahead. I not only support this idea, I love it. I
know too many people who have bought big bore/high-po bikes as their FIRST
street bike. So far, I have been lucky enough to not lose any friends this
way, but it seems terribly pointless to buy a cutting edge machine and then
ride it like a Rebel 250. Not that street craziness is the point of riding,
but why the fascination with deadly equipment? I think the human race is
catching some of the lemming disease.. a bit of population control via
road-schmere. My main concern with getting legislators involved in motorcycle laws is that
they tend to take a good idea and mutilate it in the interest of every lobby
group that chips in their $.02. If they can keep reasonable limits for the
first few tiers then it could work out very well. Problem is, will that
dissuade entry level bikers if they have only a small selection of ‘legal’
bikes for them to pick from? What about used bikes… could a newbie pick
up a used ZX-12 from a private seller and proceed to strain himself/herself
through the grill of an oncoming 18 wheeler? Many things to ponder-
- I am all for it. I think before anyone purchases a first bike a MSF
beginner class is in order. I think once that class is completed
successfully, the rider should be limited on the cc rating of the bike for a
certain period of time. Not all new riders will ride all the time, some
will do it on weekends, and some maybe only once a month. That is not
enough to retain and practice what was learned in the MSF course. As the
rider feels his/her skill level increase, then take an ERC and once
successfully completing that, the rider should be able to move into whatever
size machine he/she wants.
- When I first got my mc license in my home state of IL at least 30 years ago
they had a tiered system based on age. You couldn’t get a license for a
bike over 150cc until you were 18, but by that time I’d spent years racing
mx and was able to handle bigger bikes. I might be a good option but even
600cc sportbikes are too much for most newbies and these days you would be
hard pressed to find a bike from any manufacturer which met that criteria.
Mandatory riding schools will never happen, the best approach might be
substantual insurance savings for those who have completed formal mc
- I am a female and I ride a ’00 R1. I’m not butch or manly, my husband rides
motocross and the first bike I ever rode was his ’98 YZ250. I’m sure that
if a system like the one you described were in place I would never have been
able to ride these wonderful machines.(inexperienced woman) The bottom line,
adults need to be able to make thier own decisions and they also need to be
able to live with any consequences. I love your website, keep up the great work!
- Although I don’t want Uncle Sam messing with me or mine any more than the
next guy, I do think tiered licensing makes sense. I’ve been riding
motorcycles on and off-road since I was eight, and it makes me downright
nervous to think of a beginner rider grabbing a fist full of GSX-R1000 and
heading off down the same roads traveled by my family. I don’t think I’m
qualified to exploit such a bike, but at least I know enough to respect one
and ride it safely and within my limits.
It’s only a matter of time before some government-types decide to take up
this issue and seek to limit what I can ride. I don’t want that. I also
don’t want people who are simply not qualified to ride the biggest and
baddest bikes on the road splattering themselves all over the place, and
possibly all over other innocent bystanders. The best compromise I can
think of is tiered licensing.
I would submit to advanced testing, both riding and written, to qualify for
an advanced license. If I need to take an advanced riding course, that
probably wouldn’t hurt either. I want to take one anyway, and that’d be a
good impetus. I’d bet the people who most think they don’t need advanced
training or better skills are usually the ones who most need them.
- I believe the USA should have tiered licensing something like Japan.
Beginners start on 0-500 cc advancing to 600 to 750 to open with at least a
years experience on each level before advancing to the next.
- It sounds like a good idea.
- I have several, conflicting thoughts on this issue.
The first appeals to my desire to appeal to individual
responsibility and integrity. Just as people should
choose to ride with a full face helmet and full
protective gear everytime they ride, people should
choose to ride smaller displacement machines in their
first several years of riding. Of course if people
always acted with responsibility and integrity, we
would not need a government. Since we do need a government, the question is: Where do we draw the line with regard to the specifics of
the contract with government? What freedoms are we willing to give up for what protections? To answer
the question of choosing specific measures we might look to the experiments of others. I hate to sound
like a paranoid domino theorist, but in Europe they have tiered licensing AND efforts to restrict
horsepower and modifications. If we acceed to tiered licensing, do we then open the door to further
restrictions? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I fear the consequences of risking the
experiment. I would hope for greater efforts at new and experienced rider education. I would hope for
writers in the popular media to spend some ink extolling the pleasures of riding smaller displacement
machines. I would hope that, through such efforts, riders of all experience levels would opt for smaller
machines. For myself, I’ve been riding 14 years. I’ve ridden liter bikes but don’t really want more than 70 to 90
horsepower on the street. This will be my fifth year roadracing, and I have more fun racing lightweight
machines. Nevertheless, I don’t want my options to ride or race bigger machines taken away. I would
support tiered licensing, if I thought the restrictions would stop there. I don’t
- Yes, I do think it should be adopted. It seems a very logical system and
could potentially reduce fatal accidents, injury and possibly even
insurance rates.My only reservation is inviting the government to study just how high
the performance level of large sport bikes is. Also, although logical to
me as a 43 year old, a 21 year old college grad with a signing bonus in
hand might argue that he should be allowed to buy anything he can afford
to buy and insure.Also, we have no tiered licensing for cars although the expense barrier
to high performance cars is considerably higher than it is for bikes.
There are a few cars that can reach pretty impressive speeds though.
Should 16 year olds be allowed to drive those without a competency exam?Perhaps the best analogy is that of pilot licensing. Flying an airplane,
like motorcycle riding, requires considerable training and a set of
skills that many people may either not possess or care little to
develop. Both are inherently higher risk than automobile driving.
My vote is that we SHOULD DEFINITELY have tiered licensing for bikes. It
would remove the temptation of youth to show bravado by owning something
that is “the ultimate bad-ass” but which they are ill-prepared to safely
operate. I am glad I could only afford a 48 hpYamaha 500cc twin for my
first road bike. I had a blast on that thing, loved it dearly, and
really learned to ride on something that did not intimidate me. I have
owned a ’77 Yamaha XS 500, ’81 Yamaha 750 Seca, ’83 Honda CB 1100F, ’84
Yamaha FJ 1100, ’89 Yamaha FZR 1000 and now, a ’98 Yamaha R1. Being a
longtime litre sport bike rider didn’t insulate me from crashing though.
I have crashed the R1 twice. My second and third crashes since my first,
22 years ago.
The new big bore sport bikes are fun, fast, capable, affordable,
beautiful and potentially deadly. They are no place for a novice.
I hope you will post results of your opinions received on this. I
suspect I will be in the minority.
- I believe that tiered licensing should be required in the USA. For one, it
will create a market for smaller, sane motorcycles and perhaps revive the
lower cost market, since the current market is pricing itself out of
contention. The other, obvious reason is that these powerful bikes require
advanced skills, which can be honed on smaller, less powerful bikes. Thank
- After fifty-five years of riding motorcycles, I have given a lot of thought
to the foolish dealers and riders that are guilty of purchasing a machine
completely out of their capabilites. Here in Mississippi a dealer does not
even question the buyer about his riding, only offering assistance in a
safety course should he, or she, want to take a course. I have see the flow
of easy money resulting in too much machine and tragic endings. Never have I
observed such incompetent, uneducated, riders as we have now. We began
motorcycle drivers’ licensing in 1985 to prevent this. This is a travesty.
The police never check a DL for the endorsement. The test questions are a
joke, and the test ends when a rider puts his feet on the pegs without
falling. I think tiered licensing should be on horsepower, not cc’s.
But…most bikes around here are crashed by “par’ners” instead of the true
- Tiered licensing seems to promote development of better and more
sophisticated small displacement motorcycles. I’ve always envied my
overseas motorcycling friends for the kick-ass 250 and 400 cc sport bikes
they can choose from that never make it to the U.S.
However, I wonder if tiered licensing would cut down on motorcycling in the
U.S. We don’t have the same motorcycling culture as in other countries
like United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and others. Motorcycles aren’t as
“necessary” here, so I suspect that tiered licensing in the U.S. would
create an impediment to would-be riders, working against their accustomed
practice of immediate gratification, and discouraging them from ever
I believe, perhaps incorrectly, that more Americans get their motorcycling
start riding off-road bikes than our overseas counterparts do. This tends to
offset the need for tiered licensing in the U.S., as many of our beginning
street riders already have years of experience riding off-road.
I’d like to see the motorcycling press start emphasizing the need for decent
beginner bikes in the U.S. Show Americans more of the excellent smaller-
displacement machines sold overseas, work up some enthusiasm for them,
perhaps promoting 250 and 400 cc four-stroke sport bike racing, and
pressure the manufacturers to sell these motorcycles here.
- I am all for it 100% … take a look at most of the best racers past and
present and you will finds that they all started on small bikes and graduated
through the ranks to become who they are. Riding on the street would work just the same
and harbour a generation of better/safer/smarter riders. There will always be stupid
people on bikes but this way that, chromosome deficient, percentage would be smaller. I
would love to see tiered licensing in Canada as well. You dont start school at grade 10?
- Having been a long time motorcyclist, I don’t see anything wrong with a
tiered licensing structure. To take things one step forward, I think it
would be advisable for everyone to be required to take a rider safety
course before being able to get that initial license. These courses go
a long way to teaching new riders some simple, important safety rules as
well as some basic riding skills.
- Just thought I’d drop my two cents into the opinion
box about the idea of tiered licensing.
I am all for it.
Let me first point out that, in my opinion, in this
over regulated country of ours, the last thing that we
need is another law! Although that sounds like a
contradiction of my first statement, it isn’t
The United States is all about freedom, but that
freedom only extends to the point that it starts
infringing on the freedom of your neighbors. The role
of government in a free society is to protect the
rights of the individual, not only my rights against
malice or negligence from those around me, but the
rights of those around me against malice or negligence
on my part. For example I may have the right to drive
a car, but I do not have the right to drive that car
in such a way as to endanger the lives of those with
whom I share the road. Therefore, I am required by
law to get some basic training in vehicle operation
and gain a basic understanding of the traffic laws
I’ll need to obey in order to protect the safety of
both my neighbors and myself. This is accomplished
through the licensing procedure.
The same argument applies to any activity that I
engage in that has the possibility of endangering
other people. It is not a violation of my rights to
require me to learn to do that activity safely. In
other words I do not have the right to behave
Regarding motorcycles, even though they are lighter
and present less risk to others on the road, the same
argument applies. But then comes the question as to
what constitutes a reasonable level of competence that
should be demonstrated before letting me loose on the
roads? The level of training necessary is directly
proportional to the difficulty of the activity and
it’s potential for harming others and onesself.
I think it would be nearly impossible to successfully
argue that a motorcycle requires less skill,
attention, and coordination to operate safely than an
automobile. Yet most states do not require any formal
training to receive a motorcycle license while
requiring formalized driver training for automobiles.
As motorcycling requires far better skills than does
the normal operation of an automobile, it makes sense
that more training should be required.
Larger displacement motorcycles generally require more
skill, judgement, and experience than smaller, lighter
motorcycles. Therefore, it stands to reason that a
higher skill level should be demonstrated before a
rider is let loose on the public.
Once simple way to do this is to have the rider
demonstrate his competence in progressively more
Some of the issues to take into consideration
concerning tiered motorcycle licenses are:
(1) Proper Learning Process
Most motorcycle skills instructors and experienced
riders will tell you that the best way to get into the
sport of motorcycling is to start small. Smaller
motorcycles allow the beginning rider to learn on a
machine that is light and easy to handle in parking
lot situations. Since rider confidence is paramount
to successful operation of the motorcycle in traffic,
the lighter, easier to manage size of smaller bikes
helps boost rider confidence.
Kenny Roberts regularly has some of the best
professional roadracers in the world train on XR-100s
at his ranch. That begs the question, what could
professional racers possibly learn from riding tiny
little beginner bikes? Quite a lot, it turns out.
Smaller, lighter machines give plenty of feedback
(less mass to dampen the feedback), and allow riders
to experience situations such as low traction without
fear of killing oneself. The rider can then
concentrate on learning to recognize the signals that
the bike sends and taking proper countermeasures.
The rider who starts out on smaller, lighter bikes
will have a much better chance of learning real
vehicle control skills than one that starts on a huge,
(2) Performance of Today’s Motorcycles
Todays sportbikes are incredibly fast and competent.
If you were to compare the average sports car to a
race car, you would find that they really have nothing
more in common than an engine and four wheels. But if
you compare, for example Honda’s CBR 600F4, to the
bike that Kurtis Roberts rode in AMA competition last
year, you would find that the race bike is really a
very well built and maintained example of the
streetbike that you can buy right off the showroom
floor. Handing the keys of a modern sportbike to a
newly licensed 16 year old is like handing him the
keys to an Indy car and telling him to “Have Fun.”
(And just about as responsible). A tiered license
system would force him to start on something smaller,
or force him to prove that he has the skills, and more
importantly, the judgement to handle a large, powerful
motorcycle in traffic.
(3) Affect on the motorcycle market.
Americans have generally always believed that “Bigger
is better!” That is an axiom that we never seem to
question, just look at the portion sizes in any
popular restaurant. (Not to mention the size of the
average American customer) We are indoctrinated with
the “Bigger is better!” mentality from the time we are
children, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we
immediately, at age 16, want to get on the biggest
Damn bike available. In reality, we are almost forced
to do that because there really are very few smaller
street legal motorcycles on the market. The reason
for this (besides the bigger is better mentality) is
that there are very few financial advantages to owning
a smaller motorcycle. But with a tiered motorcyle
licensing program, the manufacturers would have to
respond with smaller, more beginner friendly machines
if those 16 year olds were not allowed to spend
Daddy’s money on a big bike. This would also invite
more riders into the sport, as beginning riders would
not be forced to hop directly onto large, powerful
intimidating motorcycles, but could learn to ride on
user friendly machines that are readily available on
In closing, I would like to point out that requiring
someone to prove they are competent to handle their
machine in traffic is not a violation of anyone’s
rights. On the contrary, it is going to encourage
that 16 year old to learn to ride the right way, and
work his way up to bigger bikes, it also means that
the chances of him becoming a 30 year old big bike
rider are much improved. And, as anyone who has
received formal motorcycle training will readily tell
you, the more you know, the better it gets.
- I think it would be a good idea. I have heard so many stories about people
rite out of riders training school buying 100+ horsepower bike and trashing
it and themselves rite off the lot. They just don’t know any better and have
too much excitement being new riders to think twice. My first bike was a
triumph standard, then I progressed to a sportbike twin and know I have a
gsxr 750. I always felt my riding level could support the machine and have
tons of fun without feeling out of control. Maybe track days could be
mandatory – wouldn’t that be nice.
- Yes, start immediately. I lived in Europe for 11 years and rode most of my
riding years there. American drivers are some of the worst I’ve seen. No
training and then you let them buy high horse power machines….. This
gives a lot of us experienced riders a bad name and image.
- I see several problems with the concept of tiered licensing. First of
all, I have not seen conclusive evidence that these systems actually
work. Secondly, tiered licensing systems tend to be rather arbitrary.
They take no account for relevant factors such as age and dirt
experience. I believe that a tiered system would negatively affect the
motorcycle industry as many riders would simply choose another hobby.
Who would bother to go through the trouble of licensing when the only
bike they’ll be able to ride is one they perceive is too small and
unsatisfying? Motorcycles are still toys in this country, meaning
people ride because they WANT to. Take away that desire and you take
away industry growth.
The diversity of available motorcycles makes the creation of a tiered
system challenging. CC limits would no doubt rule out the 883
Sportster (a decent entry-level bike), and thus they would be
vigorously opposed by Harley Davidson. D-P bikes like the KLR650,
DR650, and F650GS would also likely be ruled out by CC limits, as
would the various MZ singles. Horsepower limits are also no good
because the resultant government testing that would be required would
add to the cost of new bikes. Some truly huge motorcycles (such as Evo
big twins) could slip under the HP limit. And while many manufacturers
offer horsepower restriction kits for their 600cc sport bikes in
countries that have horsepower limits, those devices are easily
defeated by the owner.
Do we really want to invite regulation of any kind on our sport? I
believe not. If we start talking about tiered licensing systems, some
legislator is bound to stand up and say, “Hey, if these high
horsepower bikes are so dangerous why don’t we just ban them
altogether? Not even experienced riders need more than 100hp do they?”
This will sound reasonable to their fellow non-motorcycle-riding
legislators, and poof, we’re ALL screwed.
Finally, I think we need to take the issue into perspective. You said,
“In the United States, without any experience whatsoever, you can walk
into a motorcycle dealership and buy a Hayabusa, a ZX-12, a GSX-R1000,
or any other incredibly powerful motorcycle. Clearly, these are not
beginner bikes. Nevertheless, occasionally, a pure beginner will
purchase a machine like this, and the results are too often
Replace “a Hayabusa, a ZX-12, a GSX-R1000” with “a Ninja, an
Interceptor, an FJ-1100” and this paragraph could just as easily have
been written in the 1980s. In fact, I remember reading statements
EXACTLY like that both in motorcycle magazines and in newspapers back
then as John Danforth tried to push his idea of a “Superbike” ban
through Congress. Thankfully he failed.
For as long as there have been people with more money than sense,
people have been doing dumb things like this. I strongly believe that
the right to be an idiot is a fundamental part of the American dream;
we may not like it when someone else does something really stupid, but
if we want to continue to live free we need to remember that there
will be, and must be, consequences. Thanks again for the interesting Web site,
- Replying to your last post on the 6th. I believe that the dealers should use extreme caution when letting someone purchase a bike like a ZX12 or any other high horsepower sportbikes. We don’t let anyone test sportbikes for insurance reasons, which should tell you something. We give a new customer the opportunity to ride a demo like a ZR 7 or something similar to it in order to make sure they know what they are getting into. We also make sure that no sportbike gets delivered from our store without the owner wearing a helmet. These are the things that we try to do in order to educate and hold some sort of responsibilities for our new buyers. It is a tough decision when you have money on the line and you want to sell a bike. This is a free country, and we would like to keep it that way. No Tiered licensing. We just need people to be responsible for their actions, including the dealer.
- I think tiered licensing should absolutely be adopted in the US. I know of
three students who died in crashes when I was in college, and a few more who
survived crashes. Would these have been prevented? Possibly not, but the
speeds at which they crash most surely would have. I think a tiered license
would greatly reduce my insurance costs also. After being licensed for 15 years
now, you would think that the insurance on a GSX-R600 wouldn’t be $1000 a year!!
- I think that this might be a good idea. If it is done the right way. It
might even give motorcycles a better name, by keeping uncontrolled bikers to
- Gee, how many “do you think we live in Russia?” responses did you get to
that post? It’s a concept that’s well past it’s prime. Everyone in the
industry has either missed it, or been to scared of the backlash from
pointing out the obvious. A very brave move on your behalf. Upon
reading all the slush about the new GSXR-1000, I’ve told my friends that
we’re going to see another peak in the amount of minced calamari (dead
squids) this coming riding season. I’ve already listened to several
non-riders tell me how they’re going to plunk down the $10k needed for
one and kick my and everyone elses ass this summer. “How quaint, that’s
nice”, is my reply. The only flaw in your proposal is that it should
apply to ALL motor vehicles. The inexperienced dweeb on a hyper bike
will probably kill only himself (unless he sneeks up on you from behind
on your favorite road) but the inexperienced teen behind the wheel of
the 5,000 lbs Suburban is something else altogether. The problem is
that you’ll receieve absolutely no support from any manufacturer for
such a proposal. That plus the fact that any legislation that makes
sense never advances in this country. And further more, I’m certain
that you didn’t contribute enough to ANYBODIES campaign to get noticed
I admire your conviction just the same
- I am responsible for my own behavior. Sadly, however, some in and
out of government think they know what’s better for me than I do
myself. My hunch is that those who have the most to gain financially
will lobby lawmakers most heavily. Thanks for asking.
- I believe it would be a GOOD idea. Rider for 35 years.
- I’ve just read your article on tiered licensing. We have a tired licencing system here in New Zealand where I believe we need to first wait 9 months before being able to legally ride a bike of over 250cc capacity. 15 years ago when I got my licence, it was six months. I was a little surprised that a similar system is not in place in the States.
Perhaps it is because this has already been in place for decades, but I know of little complaints about the system. New riders keen to get a ZX-6R may be frustrated that they have to wait a while, but at least they understand and appreciate why.
Anything which makes motorcycling safer, especially for beginners, but does not make it dull for all has got to be good.
- I think tiered licenses are a good idea, grew up with them in NZ, now
living in OZ and they have them here too. You can not learn to ride on the road on a 100+hp death weapon. I
see this at the track every time I do a rideday, 99% of all the high powered bike riders can not use a
fraction of the power. Thats on the track let alone the road.
- I think it has it’s negatives as well as it’s positives. For instance, what
about MX riders, etc that have experience on off road bikes, they would have
to start out as a beginner on a road bike. I also personally wouldn’t want
to be forced to buy something that I wouldn’t want to buy…I think it could
be harmful to the street bike market if something like this were implemented.
Also, who would determine when a rider had the appropriate skills to advance
to a higher power machine?? Also, changing bikes every so often because you
are working your way up to the machine you REALLY wanted in the beginning
would be quite expensive…turning away more potential customers. I think
that a small minority are the ones that are getting themselves into trouble
with bikes that have too much power for their ability, the ignorant and
stupid are the ones that are causing all the problems…and then there are
the occasional accidents that can’t be avoided. People just need to know
their limits and buy the appropriate machine for their ability and use…and
the people that don’t do that buy a bike knowing that they could be seriously
injured or killed on it. I don’t think the majority of people want to be
babysat and told what they can and cannot buy…
- I think a tiered license system is the only way to stop young inexperienced
riders from attaining the powerful machines of today. I do not want the
government to get involved in this issue but they will. I am a motorcycle
industry professional and think we should act on this soon to be important
issue now. Great web site also I loved the story on the new V-5.
- Dirck, I think that the idea of tiered licensing should be adopted in the US and that is someone who grew up riding and owning 5 sportbikes and I now own a Harley Road King. I think the point that you raise IS the main issue. The fact that you have kids going into dealerships, some of them WITHOUT ANY MOTORCYCLE LICENSE are buying bikes that can approach 200 mph with minimal tuning. These people are not only a danger to themselves, but to others and often the case, innocent motorists. They are seen riding WAY over their heads and part of the cost of their irresponsible behavior is being passed onto others, whether it be in increased insurance premiums for our bikes…etc. I think that you will be getting feedback from the younger riders denouncing the notion of a tierd licensing system and the older mature riders (granted I’m only 28) opting for it, for safety’s sake.
- While I understand that there are valid arguments to be made in favor of a tiered licensing system (and
while I would rather see such a system implemented than face across-the-board governmental restrictions
on horsepower and/or speed) I, frankly, doubt that such a scheme would result in any significant decrease
in the number of cycling-related fatalities.
I say this for several reasons. First: despite all the attention paid to bikes like the GSX and the
Hayabusa, very few–and I mean VERY few–of these machines are actually going to be taken home by
brand-new riders. I have no doubt that there ARE people either naive or foolish enough to believe that
a 150+ hp engine is appropriate to a learner’s bike; but if you take the bike option away from them,
they’ll most likely find something else.
Second: Speed kills–but so do a lot of other things, when you’re riding a motorcycle. You don’t have to be
blazing through sub-10 second 1/4 miles, or riding at extreme lean angles, to kill yourself on a bike.
Third: I suspect that such limitations would encourage people to attempt to circumvent the system by riding
illegally, or by making illegal (and perhaps dangerous) modifications to their bikes.
Fourth: Experience helps, but it’s no guarantee. There will always be a broad spectrum of riding talent
out there, regardless of government-mandated experience.
Fifth: Just as drug/alcohol/tobacco laws frequently tend to encourage the very behaviors that they have
been written to discourage, so would a tiered system encourage newbies to believe that something “good” was
being unreasonably kept from them. This in itself could have less-than-desirable consequences.
It’s easy to blame the manufacturers (or the enthusiast press, for that matter). Ads and reviews
that portray race-rep 600s as being generally suitable for the beginner provide nice, big targets for those
who would be more than happy to “save” us from ourselves. For that reason alone, I think that the
industry could stand to do a better job of self-policing. For example: the average beginner, in
my experience, fails to understand just how unbelieveably fast some of these bikes are–and
understandably so, given that (for example) almost every review of the Nighthawk 750 I’ve seen makes
reference to its ho-hum power delivery…while failing to mention that it is still capable of handily
out-accelerating even the fastest cars on the road.
Ultimately, though, the responsibility falls upon the buyer. Pardon the cliche, but you can’t outlaw
stupidity. Nor, for that matter, can you take all the danger out of motorcycling. Do what you can to
educate; do what you can to encourage a sense of responsiblity and proportion in new riders–but don’t
expect that people are ever going to stop dying on motorcycles, and don’t punish the majority for the
mistakes of the few.
- Tiered licensing and mandatory rider training are ideas whose time have come.
I am a 58-year-old motorcyclist who just returned to riding 3 years ago after an
absence of almost 25 years. It didn’t bother me a bit to take the beginning
MSF course that first year back and the Experienced Rider course every spring
Two years ago I was awakened about 2 a.m. one morning by the sound of a sport
bike going through the gears on a one-way arterial a quarter-mile distant
from my house. After a brief silence the sound was repeated as the bike
returned in the opposite direction past my house. I listened as the bike was
wound tight in the first three gears and into fourth. The next sound was a
crash and then silence. The sound of sirens soon followed.
By the time I dressed and walked a little more than a block to the scene of
the accident, one of the two victims had been taken away in an ambulance,
only to die en route to the hospital. The other was covered by a sheet, near
the outside of a curve they failed to negotiate, already pronounced dead.
Both were in their early 20s and the Honda 600 sport bike they had been
riding was purchased new just two weeks earlier I later learned.
This example is a strong argument for both tiered licensing and rider
- I AGREE THERE SHOULD BE A LIMIT SET ON NEW RIDERS.WHEN I STARTED IN 1972 A
650CC WAS AS BIG A MOTORCYCLE AS YOU COULD BUY.I STARTED WITH A HONDA CB 350
AND I THOUGHT IT WAS A JET.I REALLY DIDNT KNOW HOW TO RIDE WELL AND ANYTHING
WITH MORE POWER MIGHT HAVE KILLED ME OR SCARED ME AWAY FROM MOTORCYCLING
- I think its a very good idea. It would say plenty of lives. Just would hope they don’t think age restrictions would also be a good idea. (I’m 66)
- Hi nice site. My thought is that I doubt (?) if there (statistically) is a big
problem with novices killing themselves or others with big, fast bikes. I thought the Euro system was based on the rider’s age.
Riding is a bigger thing over there. US youth have other interests–annoying
me with their car stereos and stuff like that. Buying $10K bikes and
insuring them ensures few young people wanting to do so.
- I am and will remain a proponent of tiered licensing. We all know too many
stories that tell us why. But, you asked how it should work. Here’s my
scenario — it is being played out with my daughter (soon to be 16) right
Tier 1: This should be at the current licensing age. It would allow riders
who have completed rider training (under my plan rider training is
mandatory) to obtain a license for a motorcycle of not more than X
horsepower (my suggestion is that the number be 20 hp). Tier 1 license
lasts for 1-2 years (possibly 1 year without an accident or violation or 2
years if the record is not clean). Example — Kawasaki Ninja 250
Tier 2: Upon successful completion of a Tier 1 period, a rider can obtain a
Tier 2 license which will allow up to Y horsepower (again, my suggestion is
50 to 60 horsepower). Tier 2 license lasts for 2 years without an accident.
Accidents automatically restart the time for Tier 2. Example — Honda Hawk
Unlimited license: Upon successful completion of a Tier 2 period, a rider
can obtain an unlimited license. Example — GSX1000R, 929RR, Duc 996, etc.
I propose this approach because I believe it reflects the learning curve.
First, we must learn to ride. This means control the bike in a number of
situations. Second, we must learn to control the power of the bike. This
is best learned with a bike that has sufficient power to be fast and
responsive, yet not bite too hard if we make minor mistakes. Finally, we
learn to control the big overpowered wheelie-monstors.
- Government has a role, in my opinion, where the exercise of free will
unreasonably encroaches on the health, safety, or general welfare, of other
members of society. Accordingly, unless there is compelling evidence that
inexperienced novices are creating an unreasonable risk of harm to others,
said novices should be able to strap themselves onto whatever they want. In
other words, get as much bike as you want, just don’t hit my wife’s mini-van.
- I think it’s not a bad idea to have novice riders develop the skills, some of which experience brings, before they progress to more powerful mounts. I worked in a motorcycle dealer back in the early 70’s & I remember that a lot of the collision repairs were new high performance bikes with very low mileage. For many of their unfortunate owners this was their first motorcycle.
But it does have some interesting negative points to consider. What about purchasing a used high performance machine from an individual? Can I be restricted by a government from selling a piece of my own property to any individual I wish? I hope not!
- This is not only a great idea that should be adopted, but pushed even further than that. Giving a 1000cc machine to someone who’s only sat on a bike while shopping for it, is pure folly. The dealerships would certainly be against it, but F them. They already make too much money.
I also think that we should pay for how fast we go on the highways. Follow the limit, pay a tiny (or no) fee. Go super-fast, and pay a premium to do that. Passing lanes would become passing lanes instead of the unsafe hang-out they are now. Like the Autobahns in Germany. Noone hangs in the passing lane, because there is always someone faster than you.
- I say no. I think the neg. issues would outweigh the pro. The dealers might have a hardship because of this.
The upper end bikes would maybe become more costly. The used market would become tighter. I just don’t think
that it would work in the U S . The manufacturers should be able to lobby to overcome power limits as long as the
engines are clean.
- Couldn’t resist this one. I read your reports/comments everyday and feel very comfortable with your attitude and knowledge. I to am an older type with 40 years of playing with fast noisy toys of all types.
Now to the issue at hand. Probably not a chance in hell. Good idea but we haven’t been able to impose tiered licensing on cars yet either and this poses a much greater threat to society at large than motorcycles. Beginners tend to run into/over things and the consequences with a Buick/Toyota are probably far more serious for the innocent victim than a Suzuki/Triumph.
Just a thought. Keep up the good work and keep reminding us that snowmobile in the winter that bikes can be used in December and January somewhere in the civilized world.
- As a guy who used to work in m/c sales for many years…the tiered system is a double edge sword. I
saw, too many times ( one of the reasons I left the industry), a wild eyed,fresh faced kid or a
mid-life-crisis adult come into the shop wanting the fastest bike out there. And I saw many
disasters…some right in the parking lot. But I saw equal disasters from experienced riders.
But if you give a government agency the right to tell you what size bike you can ride because of age or
experience…you are giving up a big right. Again..a very sharp double edge sword.
- Just thought you might like to know that in the UK you can still walk into
your local bike dealer and purchase a Hayabusa, ZX-12 etc having only just
passed your test. In fact it is a real problem.
By far the most costly to insure (after the obvious 17-21 year old age
bracket) are the 45-50 year olds ‘born-against’ as they are known. These are
the people who probably last rode a Norton Commando when they were new!
Insurance for this age bracket on such machines is ridiculously low. So they
hop on and promptly make ‘people-patê’ of themselves – meaning a huge loss
for the insurance companies which they load on everyone and not those who
cause the most loss!
In fact our weekly bike paper MCN ran an article highlighting this last
summer by getting a complete novice onto a Honda Blackbird in 5 days.
What we do have however is a 33bhp limit for anyone under the age of 21.
This is a two year restriction too this power output (i.e restriction lifted
when 19 yrs if test taken when 17). Although to be honest 33bhp is adequate
to top 100mph/160kmh so it’s not too hard to bear! It does however prevent
kids getting their hands on machines that are far too powerful for them to
The moral of the story is that age is not a substitute for experience and
licensing should reflect this! And I mean that for both sides of the
- Let me start out by saying that I abhor government regulations concerning
the leisure activities I engage in. For example, I hate helmet laws, but
wouldn’t even think of riding a motorcycle without one myself.
To me, Tier Licensing is in the same category as helmet laws. I would not
appreciate the government making Tier Licensing laws. BUT, having been
involved with motorcycles for 35 years, I have to admit that Tier Licensing
is needed. I have seen too many inexperienced riders get on bikes that
they can’t handle and get themselves or others hurt. Inexperienced riders
cause negative exposure to all riders. We don’t need that!
When I was in the military in the Philippines years ago, I did the
motorcycle licensing for the entire base. I had each student demonstrate
riding ability before I would issue them a license. I would recommend the
same be done with Tier Licensing. Because riding ability CANNOT be
demonstrated in a parking lot, this would mean a complete restructuring of
the Licensing qualifications.
- I don’t think Tiered Licensing will work in the US, because this country
doesn’t care about motorcycles and motorcyclists the same way that the UK
or other Euro countries do. Motorcyclists are a small minority in the US,
despite our growing numbers in recent years. The UK also has far stricter
requirements for auto registrations (requiring a complete inspection, not
just smog inspection like they do in some states in the US). Some
countries won’t let you register a car that’s older than 10 years, etc.
Our restrictions on automobiles are lower than other countries, and even
lower for motorcycles.
Since the US has taken a hands-off approach to motorcycling (the CARB/EPA
Nazis are a notable exception) the tiered system won’t even be considered
by lawmakers. And if it was, we would probably not have a sub-250cc
requirement or a sub-400cc requirement as in other countries. We’d
probably limit to 600cc, which is appropriate, IMHO, given the fact that
we’re a highway-based nation, unlike the Euro nations which are
small-road-based for the most part. We have a cc-based insurance system
for the most part (I know there are exceptions) where you’ll pay a lot of
$$ whether you have an R1 or a Drifter 1500, and you’ll pay hardly anything
if you have a EX250 or an Aprilia RS250 (street version), even though the
power difference is staggering.
So no, I don’t think they will implement a tiered system here in the US.
Should they? If it prevents even one fatal accident, I think it would be
worth it. If nothing else, we could then see an influx of 400cc and 250cc
sportbikes (and other bikes) which are plentiful in other countries and are
more than many people need in terms of power, etc. We shall see.
- I believe that a tiered licensing system in the US “might” reduce the
number of accidents suffered by beginners. But I think requiring
rider education would prove to be more effective in said reduction of
accidents. I have two sons who are just beginning to ride and both
have taken the beginner’s course offered by the state of Ohio. It is
an MSF approved class and runs about 2-1/2 days. By not turning
people loose on any bike capable of topping 180 miles per hour before
they have at least rudimentary training is the way to go.
- Washington state already has tiered licensing. There is actually three
tiers. To ride a 500cc or larger motorcycle you have to take the riding
portion of the DOL test on a bike of that size or bigger. This was done so
people couldn’t get their endorsement on a trail 90 and go out and buy a
- I AM FOR IT. I HAVE ONLY BEEN RIDING FOR A YEAR. I HAVE NEVER RIDDEN A
MOTORCYCLE UNTIL I BOUGHT THE ONE I HAVE LAST YEAR. AND FOR MY FIRST BIKE,
MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE MAYBE PURCHASED A SMALLER ONE, IS A 2000 HONDA CBR F4.
BUT I DIDN’T WANT TO GET TIRED OF A TOY BIKE AND THEN GO OUT AND BUY ANOTHER
ONE BIGGER. BUT IF YOU HAVE NEVER RIDEN A BIKE BEFORE I DON’T THINK THAT THE
BIGGER IT IS THE BETTER IT IS. THERE SHOULD BE SOME KIND OF STARTING POINT.
EVEN IF IS A 600-750. THEY ARE FAST AND NIMBLE BIKES. BUT YOU DO TURN THE
THROTTLE, AND YOU HAVE TO RESPECT THEM. DON’T ACT LIKE A FOOL. IT’S ALL UP
TO THE RIDER.
- No Way! Anyone can go out and buy a Ferrari, but few can drive it. The government
has proven over and over that they are not capable of running our lives, and
we should not let them. Let the rookie idiots buy their Busas and kill
themselves. Just don’t put any restrictions on what I can buy or how much
horse power it can make.
- Before you go off on a negative tangent, think about the possibility that
government bureaucrats might limit horsepower levels for everyone if too
many beginners kill themselves on bikes they shouldn’t be riding.”
This is ridiculous reasoning. To paraphrase, “if you don’t volunteer for
slavery, you may be forced into it.”
“We’re not taking a stand on this issue…” This is the problem with ethics
in the United States’ culture. This kind of philosophy, pragmatism, is a
passive dependent on that of Europe’s to which the article alludes. It is
from a Kantian-Hegelian, malevolent-universe premise and a Byronic view of
existence which clashes with the very essential American value that man is
clean, free, creative, rational, and magnanimous.
Pragmatism declares that philosophy must be practical and that practicality
consists of dispensing with all absolute principles and standards. It’s a
product of those for whom reality is not firm, but fluid and indeterminate,
such that there is no distinction between the existence of the external
world and one’s consciousness. So there is the metaphysical decision as to
whether the selfish dictatorial whims of an individual or the democratic
whims of a collective are to shape the indeterminate reality.
Americans achieved a political revolution that resulted in freedom, justice,
and production but we have yet to achieve an ethical revolution which is in
harmony. Whatever our partial and largely implicit acceptance of the
principle of ethical egoism, most of the country remains explicitly within
the standard of European tradition — avowing their primary allegiance to a
moral code stressing philanthropic service and social duty.
We have politics presupposing one kind of ethics, within a cultural
atmosphere professing the sublimity of an opposite kind of ethics. This is
the difference between Americans and the Europeans who find themselves in
the innately deprived state of serfdom. They have accepted the notion that
reason is not valid and they must seek to join some group which shall
acquire a greater knowledge by some unspecified means to the ability thus
leading them in a moral significance lying within the selfless service and
obedience to the group.
Originally, the pragmatists propounded theories of a predominantly
socialistic nature in the Progressive movement. They were shocked to
discover themselves advocating statism, so none of them talk anymore about
long range programs, theories, principles, or abstractions. Today, they
deride any concern with large-scale matters of an entire economy.
“Pragmatic” not “idealistic” is how they justify their “stance” not “stand.”
Those with this pragmatic perspective are opposed to any sort of political
philosophy which might label them “liberal” for they must resist any attempt
to identify their own views. Nevertheless, what has grown savagely brighter
is their lust for power, government power. It is not the bright crusading
lust of a fanatic with a mission such as Hitler – it is more like the glassy
eyed brightness of a somnambulist whose stuperous despair has long since
swallowed the memory of his purpose, but who still clings to his mystic
weapon in the stubborn belief that there “ought to be a law.” The
somnambulist of the status quo, who I think has reached that point where
giving up and going on are both the same dead end and tired disguised
oblivion is everything he does, doesn’t hear all the things we have to say and all our hopes for something more from
him, for they amount to exactly the same: absolutely nothing.
- Some other countries, such as England, have a tiered licensing system.
This requires beginner riders to purchase machines with restricted
horsepower levels. Should something like this be adopted in the United
States? The land of the free and the home of the brave? If so, how should it
Absolutely we should do this. I think even 600cc sportbikes should be
reserved for riders with experience, nevermind Gixser 1000s. I’d prefer to
see a list of bikes beginners could buy, new or used. The AMA, or some such
organization, would advise state DOTs about which models are best for which
experience levels. That would involve a lot of work, debating over every
model offered for sale over the last three decades, and it may become a
little subjective. But it would be effective. A displacement limit would
be easier to implement, but there are problems with that approach; a 600cc
sportbike is so much more powerful than an 800cc cruiser for example. The
displacements would have to be broken down by category and maybe year, and
that’s nearly the same as classifying each specific model. It may be
difficult but it’s more effective to work with a horsepower limit as the
Euros do – say 50hp max for rookies, 100hp for intermediates.
The enforcement comes when a bike is registered. We should have a special
motorcycle operators license stating when we took the *required* training
course. If a rider is pulled over for a traffic infraction and found to be
on a bike for which the rider is not licensed, the penalty should be a stiff
fine and suspension of the mc license. Whether using horsepower or model
to classify bikes, once the 2 year mark is reached, a rider may advance to
and register an intermediate bike. After another two years, you’re free to
ride anything. Ideally, there would be a way to track the riders’ mileage
and let that factor into advancement. Someone who rides 10k miles in a year
could become much more skilled after in less time than a person doing the
usual 2-3k miles/year. Perhaps adding in odometer readings to mix at
registration time. That might even encourage some people to take mc
vacations, and touring on backroads is a fine way to increase your skills.
Of course, if the speedo cable breaks while you’re in Mexico, then you’re
screwed out of that mileage, but I digress. That might be too complicated
for us Yankees anyway. It already takes too long to get out of the DMV.
Regardless, the initial training on a lower powered bike would allow newbies
to learn how to *ride* the thing instead of hang on for dear life and
survive another day. There are certainly some adrenalin rushes to be had
with the latter, but the former is a better way to extend a riding career.
My two pence.
- I think that it’s a good idea and while the’re at it, why not make the
driver training effective too. We have the worst drivers in the world
(well almost). About 20% of the drivers on the road in the US should have
thier licenses pulled. The tiered licensing will allow a new rider to
understsnd the dynamics of a smaller motorcycle before learning a harsh
lesson on a ZX12. Manditory dirt bike training would be good. A dirt bike
does the same things as a street bike, but at much lower speeds and forces.
- I am fully in support of tiered motor vehicle licensing – not just for
motorcycles, but also for cars and trucks. I also think that the
requirements for a tiered licensing program could be readily cutomized for
individual vehicle operators.
The purpose of any tiered vehicle licensing program should be to mitigate
risk to the less experienced vehicle operator – and others on the road –
while allowing him/her to develop the skills necessary to deal with
higher-risk scenarios. (While I think the British have a good system, I
think it’s a bit simplistic – after all, a restricted Hayabusa still weighs
550 lbs. – even though the testing criteria for a full license are
rigorous.) For example, we know that motorcyclists are at greater risk
driving at night, or on urban freeways (or both). We also know that
inexperienced motorcyclists are at increased risk when operating powerful
and/or heavy motorcycles. A tiered sytem for motorcycle licensing would thus
incorporate restrictions on motorcycle weight, horsepower, and power/weight
ratio, as well as restricting riding to given times of day and to certain
types of roadways. Same thing for cars. (Wouldn’t we all sleep better at
night if we knew that a 17-year old male could not get behind the wheel of a
Ford Excursion – on prom night?)
A tiered licensing system could easily be administered to be appropriate to
the age and experience level of an operator. Think of first-time
motorcyclists. A 16-year-old, who has never had any vehicle license, should
probably be restricted to lightweight, lower-powered motorcycles, day-only
driving, and roads with speed limits no greater than 45 mph, for example.
However, a 30-year-old first-time motorcylist who has held an automobile
license for 14 years (and would presumably have had experience with night
driving) might be restricted to the smaller bikes and lower-speed roadways,
but would be allowed to drive at night. Elderly vehicle operators might be
restricted from night driving, and driving heavy vehicles like Crown Vics
and Harleys. ;>)
A tiered system doesn’t have to just have two tiers; furthermore, each
element (car weight, or motorcycle pwer/weight ratio, or day-only driving,
etc., etc.) could be on a separate timeline, customizeable to the age,
experience, and capabilities of individual drivers. It may sound complex,
but all the raw data for customizeable risk-reduction tiered licencing is
probably available from vehicle insurance actuarial tables. Unfortunately,
I don’t see such a system becoming a reality, since many will probably see
it as overly Orwellian. (Land of the free, home of the brave…) Off-topic:
Thanks for the great work on your site.
- I feel the time has come for license restrictions. Look at racing – there are novice and expert classes for a reason. A 600cc streetbike is now faster than a Superbike back 20 years ago.I’m not sure a 16 year old beginner can handle a new 600, much less a 900cc+ machine.If we had a tiered system we might get to ride some of the cool 400cc bikes that we never get to see.I know this is the land of the free, but you have a good point in that a few mistakes made by beginners could screw up the whole system. If the government steps in and limits ALL motorcycles we ALL will suffer.
- I agree, there should be some type of system setup. I know that a 600 does
not compare to a 12R a GSXR-1000, or a Hyabusa. What I do know is that my
friend just went out and bought a 2001 GSXR 600. He has never even ridden a
bike before, and is not the quickest of thinkers. I get more scared
thinking that I will hear a story of how he died on that thing than I do
getting on my own bike. It would be a great idea to keep people like him on
a 250 or a 500cc Ninja for a while.
- I read your article on the idea of bringing tiered licensing to the US and I think
it is a great idea. I am 23 and I took the cycle safety course last June. The course was performed
next to a local cycle shop in which I would browse around dreaming of which bike I wanted. After the
last day of completing the course I stumbled onto a great deal on a bike that was just brought into the shop.
It was a Suzuki GS500E. However, even though I passed the test, the salesguy that was going to sell me the
bike was a little iffy because I was so new to riding. He knew it was a small easy to handle bike but to be
sure he had me test drive it on the saftey courses track. I am 6’2 190lbs and the bike was much different
then the little 125’s I took the course on. I am glad I took the course and I am also kind of glad the guy made me run the bike on the course before he let me take it on the street. I am very confident riding it now and it has plenty of get up and go, but it is also a great first bike. I know if I were to have chosen a 1000cc of something I would have probably been on the street behind my bike watching it fly into a parked car or something. I am not a showboat person on a bike, thanks to my father, but even so, a large bike can toss even some experienced drivers. The tiered system is a great idea for a beginner. Especially since I know that the requirements for a cycle license really aren’t very difficult and most moves are performed at lower then normal speed. It scares me knowing that some of the real timid people in the safety course with me received a license because they were capable of performing at low speeds. However, I think I would steer the other way if I saw them on a powerful bike reaching highway speeds. Not to be a safety freak, but even if the tiered license doesn’t fly, I think everyone should be required to take the cycle safety course in order to receive their license. Even experienced riders have learned from the course. It was definitely the best thing I ever did for myself.
- I could go along with tiered licensing ‘if done correctly’. Besides your
mention of imposed horsepower limits, it ‘should’ reduce insurance premiums.
Also it would hopefully reduce the sad situation(s) where a rider who is
‘over his (her) head’, wipes-out another rider, or furthers our public image
by involving a car.
- I could go along with tiered licensing ‘if done correctly’. Besides your
mention of imposed horsepower limits, it ‘should’ reduce insurance premiums.
Also it would hopefully reduce the sad situation(s) where a rider who is
‘over his (her) head’, wipes-out another rider, or furthers our public image
by involving a car.
- Re: yesterday’s topic about tiered licensing, I agree 100% that we
should have it here in the US. UK, Japan and other countries have it,
and it makes perfect sense, especially in light of so many killer
“murder-cycles” available to anyone with around $10K or sufficient
credit (or rich daddy).
I am a sport bike nut, and have owned a ’99 ZX-9R, ’98 GSX-R750, and
Ducati 748 (among many others). The power of bikes like the 9R is
incredible, readily available, unforgiving to the unwary, and deadly. I
sold the 9R because I found myself going over 100 mph every time I rode
it. Lots of fun, but waaaay too tempting.
Count me a definite YES for tiered licensing. Thanks for the great online publication.
- I absolutely support such a law. I am amazed by the number of people riding
high-performance motorcycles with no formal training and little or no
experience. Why should I have to pay higher insurance rates because of
careless behavior by inexperienced riders? As a private pilot, I am
required to pass certain skill tests and demonstrate specific levels of
experience before being granted a license to fly higher performance aircraft
and fly in less than ideal conditions. I think the concept applies equally
to riding a motorcycle, and should be applied to cars as well.
- Something like this is already done in washington state, although it is hopelessly outdated. there are 3 classes of licensing: 250cc, 500cc, and open. It should be changed to 900cc, 900cc, and open or something like that. I like the idea of local governments, ie states, deciding for themselves to be responsible instead of having the feds clamp down with the big hammer and making it so nobody can own a 200mph rocket.
Love the web site. Keep up the good work. That GSXR1000 review was RAD! I loved the wheelie shot. I wish I could get a high-res version of it, I would use it for my wallpaper.
- the sooner the better for all concerned, let the beginner cry if they like, we will probably all benefit from lower insurance rates also. sure i started myself out on a 250 ninja but i’m still here and learned much on a smaller machine. my .02$
- Having lived in England I’ve always been aware of the system they use.
It is useful in the context of keeping beginners off of machines that far
outstrip the abilities of the rider. However, the fees for the tiered
system escalate the higher up you move in the power chain (of the bike).
Having watched junior motorcyclists here purchase even 600 cc machines
that are capable of speeds well in excess of 100 mph and then drive them
right into the side of Auntie Ethel’s Buick, I tend to believe that if we
don’t have tiered licensing, we should have mandantory safety classes for
motorcyclists. Several organizations offer rider safety courses, but they
aren’t required. As riders I feel we should police ourselves so the
Thanks for the opportunity to express my opinion in this matter. Keep
up the good work, I truly enjoy your efforts.
- Here in new Zealand we have had the tiered system for 30+ years. the rules have changed again since I sat my test, but it now takes something like 2 1/2 years to gain a full license, with a 250cc limit on the bikes. The time can be shortened by sitting bike handling, and defensive driving courses.
The only people who complain loudly about the system are the wannabe Harley riders, who face a definite shortage of 250cc Harleys for them to ride.
The only problem created by the system is that a size limit doesn’t always relate to a bikes suitability, a 2 stroke 250 race rep is legal, a VFR400 is not ( a better example could be a BMW 850 twin ).
I think all experieced riders look at the top end performance bikes of today, and collectively think that if they’d had one at 16 they’d have killed themselves.
- I agree with a tiered licensing system. I lived overseas for 16 years, in
England and Australia. Australia limited you to 250cc for one year even
after you passed the road test. Even though I had been driving bikes for 10
years before moving to Australia I did not resent having to ride a 250cc. At
the present time it would make more sense to have a horsepower restriction
like they have in the U.K as some 250s are too fast for beginners. Of course
everyone could unrestrict the bikes like they do with pipes but it would be
a step in the right direction. I have been riding now for 33 years.
- Back when Senator Danforth proposed a ban on superbikes (Late 80s), this subject was discussed. I suggested a scheme like this in my letter to the Senator.
I proposed a scheme based on power to weight ratio, with the 883 sportster as the maximum for beginners. I still feel that this is a good guide.
I still think that Tiered licensing is a good idea, especially for riders under the age of 25.
- I’ve always been in favor of it or some other restrictions for the new
riders. Including tests for the experienced riders. How is it said .
Been around bikes for 10 years and have 2 years experience. But then you
still have 100 hp 600’s to content with. Just as dangerous as a 1000 if
you’re not into it yet.
- I am all for it. I bought a Bandit600 as my first bike. I feel that if I bought any stronger bike, I would’ve had two mishaps already and one could’ve been serious. In fact I think a Ninja500 would’ve been a better choice as a first bike. As it stands right now, many dealers are advocating a GSXR600 as a first bike to their customers, which is very dangerous and irresponsible. I think that for economic reasons there should only be two tiers as people do not have the money to buy a new bike every year or even every two years. So in my opinion the first tier (the beginners) should be limited to 500cc on sportbikes and 650cc on cruisers, and after having a motorcycle license for two years or maybe for 18 months, then they can take the limit off, to graduate to the second tier where you are no longer a newbie and can buy any size bike you want.
- Hi Dirck – this is a good topic for discussion, its been debated for many
years by the industry, riders and the government. The biggest impediment now
is that 40-50% (check with MSF) of street bike fatalities are UNlicensed.
So a tiered system isn’t worth any more than the paper its printed on
because NO ONE is checking for licenses. Then the problem becomes: do we
want MORE law enforcement scrutiny? Or should we do a better job of
educating riders and getting them licensed voluntarily?
The industry and rider groups have followed the latter strategy for years
and state and federal government are supportive. Record numbers of riders
are being trained today. Its not perfect, but what is? I doubt many riders
(or legislators for that matter) want to subject themselves to the level of
authority commonly accepted by European riders.
- You have struck a chord with me with this issue. I FULLY support it. I
am tired of hearing about inexperienced riders begging their parents to let
them have a bike, soothing their fears and then losing their leg, their arm,
becoming a quadriplegic or becoming a vegetable just days after their
parents give in to them. I am also baffled about all the “do-gooder”
politicians who want to strap neon glow vests on all of us, place hideous
bumpers etc in the name of motorcycle safety but completely ignore training
and tiered licensing. Good God man motorcycles ARE dangerous even if you
remove the car from the equation. Train the young and new riders so the
laws do not punish us all.
- Hey, I am in favor of tiered licensing. I know of a few young riders who own bikes I am afraid of. I started on a 250 and moved up progressively to a 750. It could be a good thing.
- I believe that tiered licensing should be adopted in the USA. I think it
will be a hard sell, however, since most Americans seem to believe (or are
led to believe through clever marketing) that the size of their motorcycle’s
engine is directly proportional to their manhood or worthiness as a rider.
I own 7 motorcycles, one dirtbike and 6 streetbikes, and only one of them is
700cc in displacement, yet my wife still thinks I am a man. How can that
be? Clearly, I am in the minority in a (microcosm of the) world where “size
matters”, regardless of whether it really has any significance in terms of
(usable street) performance. Almost every 600cc sportbike on the market in
2001 will surpass the 100HP / liter mark, and yet, the consumer is led to
believe that a 600cc is an entry level bike, for what… insurance reasons?
How much power does a newly licensed 17 year old need to propel himself to
“terminal” velocity?. I nearly died in 1976 at the age of 17 on a Honda
CB750-4 that had a mere fraction of the power and top end of today’s SS
bikes of the same displacement. The reason? Stupidity, inexperience,
testosterone and access to an enormous amount of power and speed. Maybe a
Honda CB400 or a Yamaha XS360 on that day would have made it much more
difficult to enter that corner traveling 30 mph faster than was possible to
exit the other end. Maybe not.
I have 9 more years to teach my 8 year old son enough about riding
motorcycles so that, with a lot of knowledge and a little luck, he’ll make
it through the invincible teenage years alive and come squirting out the
other end a man… a man in one working piece. I will take responsibility
for being “his” tiered licensing system, for I will heavily influence his
early decisions as to what type and size motorcycles to buy and ride. Some
other sons and daughters may not have that guidance, and for them I can only
pray. In fact, it is probably the progeny of non-motorcycling parents that
are at the greatest risk. Not only will they lack a positive role model in
he hobby, but the chances are good that the parent(s) will disapprove of
motorcycles altogether. This will give cause to the youth, in a predictable
act of rebellion, to go out and buy the biggest, most powerful motorcycle
that their money (or credit) will buy, putting them at the greatest possible
risk at a time when they should be exploring their limitations slowly as
they gain experience.
I am not usually inclined to promote government controls on what we can and
cannot do, for in most cases I do not believe it is in our best majority
interest as a country to do so. But motorcycling will never be a majority
issue in this country, and thus the rules of engagement are skewed. So, for
the reasons stated above, I take exception to my own ideology by siding in
favor of government restrictions on youthful or inexperienced riders….
but mostly because I am afraid for my own children….
- I agree with you and I thinnk that all countries should go that way. As I’m
from Brazil, and we have the same problem here, since beginners ride bikes
with 100+ hp. And, belive me, Brazill has a bigger motorcycle market then
the US, and a lot of riders ride bikes as a job (moto-curriers) it can
become a big issue.
- Sounds like an excellent idea. I’m used to the concept as I am Australian and
that is the practice there as well as Japan, England and most of Europe in
fact. Most people here are too ignorant to understand the concept however (I think?)
Excellent writing by the way, I read it daily…
- I’m a 45 year old rider who started riding 32 years ago at age 13. I agree that new riders, regardless of age, should have a 1-year learner license.
My 19 year old daughter has a boy friend who’s first bike is a Suzuki GSXR-600. He crashed it in the first month. When we discuss riding, he has no clue about safe riding skills. He belongs on a sub-400cc machine until he develops basic skills to a level where they are automatic.
I’ve roadraced, ice raced, moto-crossed & hare scrambled. I recognize my skill level and have never crashed on the street. I’ve crashed plenty off-road and at the track. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that an on-road confrontation with an SUV will always be fatal.
We should force these beginners to have some on-road exerience on smaller machines to develop skills, just like we do with automobiles. My home state of Michigan has graduated auto licenses.
- As someone who has grown up riding and racing since the age of 8, I think it makes perfect sense. I must tell you, that I will not let ANY of my friends ride on the back of a motorcycle with people they do not know. Especially girls. Why? These bikes are fast right now. And guys try to look cool, and start to push it. On a fast bike, that gets you in trouble very quickly. Still, even though they don’t know what the hell they’re doing, they think it’s no big deal. Next thing you know, Suzie has a wooden leg, and Bullet Bob races wheel chairs.
I own a ’01 R1, and it’s fast. I love it, but I’m a solid rider that respects it. And when that thing does a roll on wheelie in 3rd, I know how to deal with it. But it amazes me to see these guys out there hauling ass through a canyon, and then blowing a corner, and going off the road (I have seen this more than you would think). Or the guy splitting traffic like hell with some girl in shorts on the back; his hands are not ready to stop, he is not smooth, balanced, or ready for anything. It really pisses me off. I do not want to be there when this guy slams a car, or runs off into a ditch.
But the driving test does not even ask you to stop. Only those who have ridden and raced for any length understand the stopping thing. Its huge. And gravel, rain, dirt, etc. changes the whole equation immediately. A hard test for riding competency would sell less R1’s, but I can’t see how we can honestly say that even half of all riders have a good, basic understanding of the road, hazards, etc. and should have a machine like that. Hell, maybe I’ll sell it…Na, it’s great for showing off on…And girls love it when you go really fast with them on the back…
- I think it’s a great idea…and not just for bike riders. Under my fascist regime cagers would have to spend some early years on mopeds and small capacity bikes too.
We have a 250cc limit for learners in Australia, and NOTHING but NOTHING teaches defensive driving like riding a small two-wheeler. You know that asshole in the SUV that just pulled out in front of you without indicating or looking? Stick him on a 100cc moped and he’ll soon learn that the mirrors aren’t for looking at yourself and head-checks aren’t just for lice. If nothing else it will weed out the inattentive and slow of mind. Blind spots, diesel slicks, poor roads….you can get all close and personal with them all, on a small bike. Some people like to drag out the argument that “more power is safer, because you can get away faster”. That’s bullshit. 70% of all bike accidents are *single vehicle* accidents. And once you learn the limitations of a small bike, you DON’T pull stupid stunts like pulling out in front of 18 wheelers.
As an aside, this won’t appeal to the guys who only like riding in a straight line (the ‘NASCAR’ riders) but its great fun pushing a bike to its limits rather than the other way round… Through a corner, the exhausts dragging, throttle pinned to the stop – all at the speed limit…. I’m sure Mick Doohan himself couldn’t extract any more corner speed than I did out of my 250 (Yes, it’d be a slow painful race but hey….).
- We are still about two hundred years behind the Brits in rule writing. They started writing rules after Magna Carta. (1267?). You can’t have a gun there either. Let’s see, restrict mountain climbing, parachute activity, underwater fun, high speed boats … No.
- Hell yes the US should have such tests. Also, we should have to get our drivers licenses renewed every 4 or 5 years (with a driving test that tests the ability to drive, and not just around the block).
- Like you, I have mixed feelings on the issue of tiered licensing. On the one
hand, it restricts freedom; one cannot buy whatever bike he wants. On the
other, it may keep the gov’t bureaucrats at bay, and prevent them from
banning powerful bikes altogether. However, this could also be the first
step down the slippery slope LEADING to such a ban. This is something to
Having said all that, I don’t see why it couldn’t work. After all, many
states have either instituted graduated licensing of new drivers, or are in
the process of doing so. Here in NJ, we have this. Until a newly licensed
teenager gets sufficient experience, he cannot drive after certain hours,
stuff like that. Tiered licensing of motorcyclists is a similar concept, and
it just might work. However, I don’t know if HP should be the criterion by
which licensing is determined. I’ll explain why I say that.
Whatever the limit, it cannot stay valid for long. Number one, technology is
changing rapidly; a 750 motorcyle will develop much more power a few year
from now vs. its late-model counterparts. Secondly, a new owner can take a
bike, spend a few C notes, do some minor hop up mods to the exhaust, carbs,
airbox, and air filter, and uncork quite a few HP in the process. For
example, if the limit were 60 HP or so, the power of a new Triumph
Bonneville, all one has to do is change the stock peashooter mufflers with a
freer breating units, and you have an EASY 10HP gain. Likewise, if someone
purchases a Harley Twin-Cam powered bike, and puts a basic Screamin’ Eagle
kit on it that opens up the pipes, carb, and breather, you get similar
results. In other words, any HP limit can easily be exceeded, particularly
if a bike’s STOCK power output is close to the limit.
However, I don’t know if a displacement limit would work either. One,
technology is changing rapidly. For example, the 600cc bikes of today put
out much more power than the 1200cc bikes of a generation ago. Secondly,
displacement isn’t everything. I Yamaha V-Star 1100 would be easier to
handle than a GSX-R 750, performance wise! Even though the 750 is a smaller
bike, it puts out much more power.
I think that what would be best is to institute a tougher test for those who
want to operate bigger, faster bikes like the Hayabusa. Make the test a
reflection of the skills needed to operate something like the Hayabusa or R1.
While we’re at it, get the MSF involved, and have them set up a course to
teach those who want a bigger, faster bike how to properly operate it. Then,
once the applicant does this, they could take their completion card, show it
to the friendly folks @ DMV, and get a special endorsement to operate high
In closing, I think some form of tiered licensing is needed. Why do I say
that? Because the bikes of today are BETTER than those ridden by Eddie
Lawson in his prime. If you don’t believe me, look at the ZRX 1200; imagine
what Lawson could have done with that! However, most of us are not, nor ever
will be, anywhere near as good as Lawson was. If he would have his hands
full with a bike like the ZRX 1200, what business do we have riding them?
Why do we think we can handle 100+ HP on a bike? Thank you, and good night…
- Washington State had the same thing until July 1998 — I was 19 when I got my license but I still went out and got a F4, had to
have new but still wanted something that could be controllable, somewhat. I
have learned so much about riding that bike its crazy. 12,000 miles since
April 21, 1999. I think it could be a good idea I have had to many friends
die in the last 3 months on liter bikes.
- I think it would be a great idea. This has been around for awhile, just not in the U.S. I’ve read motorcycle mags since I was a young teen in the mid 70s, riding dirtbikes every waking moment, and it seems like I read something in Cycle World back in the mid-80s about such a system in Japan for streetbikes. The article explained that Japanese beginning riders had to start out in a class under 400cc, and to get to any bike in the open class, one had to go through an extensive and expensive rider training/licensing program.
Such a program would give some needed legitimacy to some really lax licensing in many states. The benefits of cutting down on accidents and fatalities is obvious. I’d like to see the positive impact this system would have on restructuring insurance costs. It would be fair, I think, for a younger street rider on something under a 400 to get a great rate, every at their age, and likewise for older and generally more experienced or mature riders, in getting great rates, regardless of engine size.
In N.C., insurance companies only ask basic general questions, such as 1). cost of the bike; 2). engine cc (with penalty to anything over 1000cc).
With such a licensing system, it would be great if laws would call for mandatory MSF courses, regardless of age/experience; I’ll admit some older riders may have acquired bad riding styles, habits, so I won’t pick on younger riders, despite the hard facts and statistics on traffic accidents.
Also regarding that Cycle World article, I remember it saying that having licensing for newer riders, putting them on bikes under 400cc, this made for an interesting Japanese home market, with many of the big-4 putting engineering resources in that class, such as the FZR400 Yamaha (which looked like our U.S. FZR600). The point being is that the younger riders were not relegated to a dumpy bunch of bikes. At the time, many of their 400s looked like the 600s being sent to the U.S. I’ve never been to Japan, but just remember the article.
Tiered licensing would be a great idea if done right, and consistently throughout all states. But with some legislative idiots, like the ones the AMA works to protect us from, who call for airbags, and seatbelts, and rollcages on motorcycles, this nonsense helps to make everyone defensive about bringing up anything that looks like placing limits on freedom, even if an idea isn’t nonsense and has merit. Tiered licensing, if done right and proactively, with motorcyclists involved, and not just non-enthusiasts in some legislature, would only help us motorcyclists as a whole in evolving motorcycling into an increasingly acceptable sport socially, and might help us justify reducing insurance costs, and would help save the lives of inexperienced riders.
- Hell yeah I am all for it as I am a organizer of a large riding group
and promote that beginers start off on a bike that is appropriate and
then they can learn the basics of how to make a bike work then they
should take a high performance riding school or some track time so that
they can learn how the big bikes work then buy a hooligan machine and
have some respect for what true power really is. From a rider who is tired of all of the funerals of young lifes wasted.
- Forget this tiered license business. Riders should not be allowed to get a
permit or license unless they pass a mandatory rider school program. All
positive and correct aspects of owning and riding a motorcycle can be taught
to applicants. Yes, experience does matter when it’s decision time in
motorcycling, but a newbie can be shown how to understand and respect our
sport/lifestyle and to be proficient.