Motorcycle Licensing in BC
Obtaining a motorcycle endorsement (class 6) on your drivers’ licence is essentially the same as getting any other licence, but it is a bit more complicated than getting an endorsement to drive a car (class 5) in part because operating a motorcycle is more complicated than operating a car, and the consequences of making a mistake are usually higher.
ICBC’s website https://www.icbc.com/driver-licensing/types-licences/Pages/Get-your-motorcycle-licence.aspx is really clear on the steps you need to go through to get a motorcycle endorsement, as is the “Learn to Ride Smart” manual. However, it takes a lot of digging to find all the disparate information so I’ve tried to collect it all in one spot.
If you have questions that weren’t answered here you can also call ICBC customer service at 1-800-663-3051.
AS with other classes of licence, the first step in obtaining a motorcycle endorsement is the knowledge/signs/eye test (which has a lot of the same questions as the car test, plus motorcycle specific questions) and the last is the road test (which is almost exactly the same test as the car test, it’s just administered a little differently)
In between these two tests is the Motorcycle Skills Test, which is a basic vehicle control test (that car drivers don’t have to do) conducted in a parking lot at speeds under 30 kph. It tests your ability to steer, operated the controls (like the accelerator, brakes and possibly clutch) correctly and do a sudden stop.
The whole process of getting a class 6 upgrade to your existing licence takes a minimum of 30 days.
Probably the best way to get a motorcycle licence in BC is to take some form of training (when ICBC first implemented the Approved Motorcycle Skills Program, more than half of new riders in BC took an approved course)
Graduated Licencing Program
If you do not have a driver’s licence of any kind, then you start in the same place, with the combined car/motorcycle knowledge test (class 7/8).
The next step is the Motorcycle Skills Test, which you can take after 30 days.
If you pass the skills test, ICBC can remove restriction R38
“Operation of your motorcycle is limited to:
driving under direct supervision of an adult who holds a valid class 6 driver's licence
a maximum speed of 60 km/h”
In other words, you can be on the road, unsupervised, in a month (compared to one year for a car licence under GLP).
This despite the fact you have not demonstrated your ability to shift gears or steer at more than a walking pace.
You also have not demonstrated any ability to operate a vehicle in traffic.
You will, however, still have a no passenger and no night riding restriction R10.
After a year, you can do both your class 7 and your class 8 road tests if you choose. They are essentially the same tests, but you have to do both if you want both the class 7 and 8 N endorsements.
Once you have a 7/8 N, you have to wait two years to do your class 5 or 6 road test (unless you qualify on an Approved GLP course, which gets you a 6 month reduction in this wait time. The GLP course is not the same as an Approved Motorcycle Skills Course).
Because there is only one GLP exit test, it doesn’t matter which road test you do (5 or 6). If you pass the road test you will receive a class 5/6 full licence.
Vehicles used for the skills and road tests
There are certain vehicles you can’t use for the motorcycle tests, and there may be restrictions applied to your license depending on which vehicle you do use.
However, if you search ICBC webpages or look through the Learn to Ride Smart or Tuning Up for Riders Guides, you may find some of the information or vehicle descriptions confusing.
For instance, the ICBC licensing website and driving guides refer to E-bikes (actually electric bicycles)
“Limited-speed motorcycles look a lot like some electric bikes (also known as motor-assisted cycles). However, their operating rules aren't the same.”
While there are pseudo Motor Assisted Cycle’s that look like small scooters (most 50cc scooters qualify as LSM’s, but see Motor Assisted Cycles and R. v Ghadban, 2020 BCSC 664 in the next section for the ruling on the legality of unlicensed electric scooters )
And none of this has anything to do with electric motorcycles.
You cannot use a Motor Assisted Cycle (even a legal one) for any tests, and you can’t use a Limited Speed Motorcycle (usually a 50cc scooter) for a test if you already have a licence for a car etc.
ICBC driving guides also refer to scooters as being predominantly 50cc (in other words, Limited Speed Motorcycles) which is somewhat misleading.
While 50cc use to be the most popular category, the engine size ranges up to 850cc, and 125-300cc may be the most popular category now.
its impossible to tell how many scooters (as defined by ICBC driver licensing) over 50cc are registered in BC as there is also a disconnect between driver licensing and the insurance side of ICBC, which doesn’t classify any scooter over 50cc as a scooter for insurance purposes. They just insure them as motorcycles by engine size.
ICBC licensing guides also make no reference to electric motorcycles, which can make as much power as the largest conventional motorcycles, but usually have no clutch or transmission.
Hopefully the following may clear up some of this.
Motorcycle classifications and restrictions for licensing and testing purposes
Starting with the smallest displacement motorcycles and working up to less common categories.
Motor Assisted Cycle as defined by MAC Regulation 151_2002.
You may not use an MAC for any of the motorcycle tests.
You do not need a driver license to operate an MAC, but you must be at least 16 years old and you must wear an approved helmet.
There has been a lot of contention around the electric scooters and motorcycles with vestigial pedals (which no one could actually pedal) masquerading as Motor Assisted Cycles.
A motor assisted cycle is a motorcycle with an electric motor that produces 500 watts or less, with a top speed of 32 kph.
BC MAC regulation 151_2002 3(2) states “The motors of a motor assisted cycle must turn off or disengage if the operator stops pedaling, an accelerator controller is released, or a brake is applied.”
Simply, if you can operate an electric motorcycle by just opening a throttle, it doesn’t meet the definition of “motor assisted”.
In April of 2020 the BC Supreme Court (R. v Ghadban, 2020 BCSC 664) upheld this interpretation of the definition when it ruled that the electric motorcycle in question did not meet the definition of a Motor Assisted Cycle because the operator could ride it just under the power of the motor.
Limited Speed Motorcycle
If you have a driver licence other than a class 6 or 8 learners, you may not use an LSM for your motorcycle skills test or your motorcycle road test as you already have a licence that allows you to operate the vehicle you are using.
If you have a class 6/8 learners and no other license you may use an LSM for your road test, but you will receive an R51 “Class 6 or 8 restricted to Limited Speed Motorcycles” on your licence.
A limited speed motorcycle is defined as a motorcycle that:
Has no more than a 50 cubic cm engine displacement or 1.5kilowatt motor rating
Does not need clutching or shifting after the drive system is engaged
Has a maximum speed on level ground of 70 km/h and weighs no more than 95 kilograms, excluding fuel and batteries
Must have wheels that are 25.4 cm in diameter or more
All LSMs as defined by Transport Canada have Limited Speed Motorcycle written on the Vehicle Identification Number plate, but Transport Canada doesn’t have a weight limit, so a scooter with the LSM designation on the VIN plate may not meet the BC definition (e.g. Vespas).
Scooters: (not limited speed, so larger than 50cc, or manual transmission)
You may use a scooter on your road test, but you will receive an R24 “class 6 or 8 restricted to motor scooters” on your licence.
R24 does not include a passenger restriction. More on this later.
The term “scooter” is used to describe a number of wheeled conveyances, including mobility scooters (three or four wheeled) and two wheeled (inline) platforms you stand on.
ICBC’s “Learn to Ride Smart” uses the following definition for “Motor Scooters”:
“Motor scooters have the engine mounted below the rider, usually under an enclosure, and they usually have an automatic transmission. Most have a platform for the rider’s feet, which also provides some weather protection.
Most motor scooters are 50 cc, but some are much larger and more powerful.”
AS noted earlier, the insurance side of ICBC only uses the term “scooter” when referring to Limited Speed Motorcycles.
For the purposes of this article, we will consider Scooters to be two or three wheeled motorcycles that do not meet the definition of Limited speed motorcycles (LSMs) so Scooters with manual transmissions or with engines larger than 50cc/1.5 kW.
You may use a Scooter for your motorcycle tests, but if you use a Scooter for your Road test you will receive an R24 “class 6 or 8 restricted to scooters”. This applies even if the Scooter is an 850cc Aprilia that weights over 250kg and has a top speed of 180 kph, or a 50 cc vintage manual transmission Vespa or Lambretta, and a bunch of scooters in between.
Many people think using a scooter for the skills test makes it easier because of the (usually) tighter turning circle of smaller (70-200cc) Scooters and because of the automatic transmission, but this is also a bit of a myth. (the possible exception being a vintage manual transmission Scooter)
First, remember that you cannot use an LSM (the smallest scooters) for your tests if you already have a driver licence other than a class 6 or 8 learners.
Secondly, the size of the tighter slow speed exercises in the skill test is based on the diameter of the turning circle of the vehicle you are testing on, so a tighter vehicle turning circle isn’t as much of an advantage as some people think (although lighter, smaller bikes are always easier to ride a slow speeds).
Thirdly, as most modern Scooters have centrifugal clutches, you have to raise engine rpm to get the clutch to engage, which is less precise than a manually operated clutch.
The entire restriction R24 is confusing and unnecessary, given ICBC can restrict class 6 or 8 to “no clutch” without using R24, and the insurance side of ICBC doesn’t even recognise scooters over 50cc as scooters (which must confuse the police when they pull over a Suzuki or BMW 650 scooter or a Piaggio MP3 500 and they check your licence restrictions)
Engine size 200cc or less
R13, class 6 or 8 not permitted to carry passengers
British Columbia does not have an engine size restriction.
If you pass your test on a scooter, you can ride any size scooter, and if you pass your test on a motorcycle that isn’t defined as a scooter and it has a clutch lever, you can ride any size motorcycle including motorcycles with no clutch lever, and scooters.
However, if you do your road test on a motorcycle that is not a scooter, with an engine that is 200cc or less, you will receive R13 class 6 or 8 not permitted to carry passengers.
Notice that if you have no other licence and you take your road test on a Limited Speed Motorcycle, you will be restricted to LSMs (50cc automatic), but you will not be restricted from carrying passengers (except that many LSMs aren’t equipped to carry passengers) and if you take your road test on a 70cc scooter you will be restricted to riding scooters (of any size) but you will not be restricted from carrying passengers.
But if you take your road test on a 200cc motorcycle, you will be restricted from carrying passengers, but not the size of the motorcycle you ride.
Motorcycles with no clutch lever R51 class 6 or 8 restricted to motorcycles with no clutch.
Technically, all internal combustion engine motorcycles with automatic transmissions have clutches (centrifugal, dual, electronic etc.) but many do not have clutch levers (the lack of a clutch lever makes it way easier for the examiner to decide what restriction to put on your licence).
Most scooters have the brake lever on the left handlebar, but examiners are trained to check for the difference.
Most electric motorcycles do not have clutch levers, clutches, or even transmissions.
If you do your road test on a motorcycle with no clutch lever, you will receive R51: class 6 or 8 restricted to motorcycles with no clutch.
This makes sense as you have not demonstrated your ability to use a manually operated clutch or to shift gears.
And in the case of electric motorcycles, they are the easiest motorcycles to ride in almost all conditions as power to the rear wheel is controlled by one thing, how much you open the throttle/accelerator.
You may note the apparent contradiction (discrimination?) that if you do a class 5 or 7 road test in a car with an automatic transmission, or an electric car, you will not have any restrictions placed on your class 5 or 7 licence.
Three wheeled motorcycles that do not steer like a motorcycle. R51 “class 6 or 8 restricted to 3 wheeled motorcycles” or “class 6 or 8 restricted to sidecars”.
Note that I specified three wheeled motorcycles that do not steer like a motorcycle (trikes, sidecars, Can Am Spyders)
The Piaggio MP3 series (125-500) and its offshoots (Peugeot etc.) steer by causing them to lean like any motorcycle, and are considered scooters; and the Yamaha Niken (also a three-wheeler that leans) is considered a normal motorcycle for road testing.
You may use a trike, Spyder or sidecar unit for your skills test and road test, but if you use it for the road test you will receive an R51 restriction with the appropriate wording.
Getting the restrictions removed
No matter what restriction you have on your motorcycle licence (R13, R24, R51) getting it removed from your licence just requires passing an eye test, the signs/signals test and a road test on a motorcycle that is not in the class you are restricted too. Doing your test on a motorcycle that leans to steer, is over 200cc, and has a clutch lever, will allow ICBC to remove all motorcycle specific restrictions, unless the restriction was applied for medical reasons (for instance, you only have one leg or one hand. Even then you might be able to operate a conventional manual transmission motorcycle with “specified modifications”)
For further information check
or call ICBC customer service at 1-800-663-3051.
John Eastman has spent 40 years in motorcycle safety, including 14 years as a riding instructor and curriculum consultant, 8 years as a driver examiner and driver examiner trainer and 17 years as a driving school inspector with ICBC.
John was part of the development team for the class 5/6/7/8 road tests, the Motorcycle Skills Test and the Approved GLP and MSTP programs.
He can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook.