First lets see how the VC defines what most people would call motorcycles:
(a) A "motorcycle" is a motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.
(b) A motor vehicle that has four wheels in contact with the ground, two of which are a functional part of a sidecar, is a motorcycle if the vehicle otherwise comes within the definition of subdivision (a).
A "motor-driven cycle" is any motorcycle with a motor that displaces less than 150 cubic centimeters. A motor-driven cycle does not include a motorized bicycle, as defined in Section 406.
(a) A "motorized bicycle" or "moped" is any two-wheeled or three-wheeled device having fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power, or having no pedals if powered solely by electrical energy, and an automatic transmission and a motor which produces less than 2 gross brake horsepower and is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on level ground.
(b) A "motorized bicycle" is also a device that has fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power and has an electric motor that meets all of the following requirements: (1) Has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts. (2) Is incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour on ground level. (3) Is incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power is used to propel the motorized bicycle faster than 20 miles per hour.
(a) A "pocket bike" is a two-wheeled motorized device that has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, and that is not designed or manufactured for highway use. "Pocket bike" does not include an off-highway motorcycle, as defined in Section 436. (b) For purposes of this section, a vehicle is designed for highway use if it meets the applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, as contained in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and is equipped in accordance with the requirements of this code.
(a) A "motorized scooter" is any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, has a floorboard that is designed to be stood upon when riding, and is powered by an electric motor. This device may also have a driver seat that does not interfere with the ability of the rider to stand and ride and may also be designed to be powered by human propulsion. For purposes of this section, a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, a motor-driven cycle, as defined in Section 405, or a motorized bicycle or moped, as defined in Section 406, is not a motorized scooter.
(b) A device meeting the definition in subdivision (a) that is powered by a source other than electrical power is also a motorized scooter.
Now that we know what the various types of vehicles are let's determine what licensing requirements they have:
(a) A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license issued under this code, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code.
(b) A person may not drive a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license or endorsement issued under this code for that class, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code, or those persons specifically authorized to operate motorized bicycles or motorized scooters with a valid driver's license of any class, as specified in subdivision (h) of Section 12804.9.
(4) Class M1. A two-wheel motorcycle or a motor-driven cycle. Authority to operate a vehicle included in a class M1 license may be granted by endorsement on a class A, B, or C license upon completion of an appropriate examination.(5) (A) Class M2 includes the following: (i) A motorized bicycle or moped, or a bicycle with an attached motor, except a motorized bicycle described in subdivision (b) of Section 406. (ii) A motorized scooter. (B) Authority to operate vehicles included in class M2 may be granted by endorsement on a class A, B, or C license upon completion of an appropriate examination, except that no endorsement is required for a motorized scooter. Persons holding a class M1 license or endorsement may operate vehicles included in class M2 without further examination.
For motorized bicycles as described in 406(b) A "motorized bicycle" is also a device that has fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power and has an electric motor that goes no faster than 20 MPH
(1) No person shall operate a motorized bicycle unless the person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets the standards described in Section 21212.
Riders can obtain permits for both M1 orM2
– Ride during times of darkness
– Ride on the freeway
– Ride with a passenger
Violation is 12509.5(c) VC = infraction
What this means:
– 2 wheels must have an M1 endorsement
– 3 or more wheels Class C only
Motor Driven Cycle
– 149cc or below
– 2 wheels must have an M1 endorsement
– 3 or more wheels Class C only
– Must have an M2 endorsement 406(a) VC
– Not a motor vehicle if falls under 406(b) VC (electric motor, pedals, and less than 20 MPH)
– Class C only
- Not allowed to ride it anywhere except private property with permission of the owner
Now let's look at the various Vehicle Code sections that are applicable specifically to motorcycles.
27465 VC tire tread depth
(b) No person shall use on a highway a pneumatic tire on a vehicle axle when the tire has less than the following tread depth, except when temporarily installed on a disabled vehicle as specified in subdivision
(a): (1) One thirty-second ( 1/32) of an inch tread depth in any two adjacent grooves at any location of the tire
A person shall not drive a two-wheel motorcycle that is equipped with either of the following:
(a) A seat so positioned that the driver, when sitting astride the seat, cannot reach the ground with his or her feet.
27800 VC Carrying passengers
It is unlawful for a driver of a motorcycle or a motorized bicycle to carry any other person thereon, except on a seat securely fastened to the machine at the rear of the driver and provided with footrests, or in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle and designed for the purpose of carrying a passenger. Every passenger on a motorcycle or a motorized bicycle shall keep his feet on the footrests while such vehicle is in motion.
– Three requirements
DOT approved helmet
Ride behind driver on seat designed for passenger
Feet must touch footrests designed for passenger
5201 VC License Plates
License plates shall at all times be securely fastened to the vehicle for which they are issued so as to prevent the plates from swinging, shall be mounted in a position so as to be clearly visible, and so that the characters are upright and display from left to right, and shall be maintained in a condition so as to be clearly legible. The rear license plate shall be mounted not less than 12 inches nor more than 60 inches from the ground, and the front license plate shall be mounted not more than 60 inches from the ground. Only one plate required for a motorcycle.
24601 VC License Plate Light
Either the taillamp or a separate lamp shall be so constructed and placed as to illuminate with a white light the rear license plate during darkness and render it clearly legible from a distance of 50 feet to the rear.
25650.5 VC Headlights
Every motorcycle manufactured and first registered on and after January 1, 1978, shall be equipped with at least one and not more than two headlamps which automatically turn on when the engine of the motorcycle is started and which remain lighted as long as the engine is running. This section does not preclude equipping motorcycles used as authorized emergency vehicles with a switch to be used to turn off the headlamp during emergency situations or when the light would interfere with law enforcement, if the switch is removed prior to resale of the motorcycle.
25651 VC Headlights
The headlamp upon a motor-driven cycle may be of the single-beam or multiple-beam type, but in either event, when the vehicle is operated during darkness, the headlamp shall comply with the requirements and limitations as follows: (a) The headlamp shall be of sufficient intensity to reveal a person or a vehicle at a distance of not less than 100 feet when the motor-driven cycle is operated at any speed less than 25 miles per hour and at a distance of not less than 200 feet when operated at a speed of 25 to not exceeding 35 miles per hour, and at a distance of 300 feet when operated at a speed greater than 35 miles per hour.
25251.2 VC Headlight Modulators
Any motorcycle may be equipped with a means of modulating the upper beam of the headlamp between a high and a lower brightness at a rate of 200 to 280 flashes per minute. Such headlamps shall not be so modulated during darkness.
24951 VC Turn Signals
24600 VC Taillights
During darkness every motor vehicle which is not in combination with any other vehicle and every vehicle at the end of a combination of vehicles shall be equipped with lighted taillamps mounted on the rear
24603 VC Brakelights
Every motor vehicle that is not in combination with any other vehicle and every vehicle at the end of a combination of vehicles shall at all times be equipped with stop lamps mounted on the rear
24607 VC Red Reflectors
Every vehicle subject to registration under this code shall at all times be equipped with red reflectors mounted on the rear as follows: (a) Every vehicle shall be equipped with at least one reflector so maintained as to be plainly visible at night from all distances within 350 to 100 feet from the vehicle when directly in front of the lawful upper headlamp beams.
26101(b) VC Modified Lighting
A person shall not use upon a vehicle, and a person shall not drive a vehicle upon a highway that has installed a device that is intended to modify the original design or performance of a lighting, safety glazing material, or other device, unless the modifying device complies with Section 26104.
26104 VC Modified Lighting
(a) Every manufacturer who sells, offers for sale, or manufactures for use upon a vehicle devices subject to requirements established by the department shall, before the device is offered for sale, have laboratory test data showing compliance with such requirements. Tests may be conducted by the manufacturer.
26701 VC Colored Wndscreens
(d) No person shall sell, offer for sale, or operate any motor vehicle equipped with red, blue, or amber translucent aftermarket material in any partitions, windows, windshields, or wind deflectors
26709 VC Mirrors
(a) Every motor vehicle registered in a foreign jurisdiction and every motorcycle subject to registration in this state shall be equipped with a mirror so located as to reflect to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle. Every motor vehicle subject to registration in this state, except a motorcycle, shall be equipped with not less than two such mirrors, including one affixed to the left-hand side.
27150 VC Exhaust
(a) Every motor vehicle subject to registration shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise, and no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device.
27151 VC Exhaust
(a) No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of the vehicle so that the vehicle is not in compliance with the provisions of Section 27150 or exceeds the noise limits established for the type of vehicle in Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 27200). No person shall operate a motor vehicle with an exhaust system so modified.
Motorcycle noise limits:
27000 VC Horn
(a) A motor vehicle, when operated upon a highway, shall be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet, but no horn shall emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound. An authorized emergency vehicle may be equipped with, and use in conjunction with the siren on that vehicle, an air horn that emits sounds that do not comply with the requirements of this section.
26453 VC Brakes
All brakes and component parts thereof shall be maintained in good condition and in good working order. The brakes shall be so adjusted as to operate as equally as practicable with respect to the wheels on opposite sides of the vehicle.
26311 VC Brakes
(a) Every motor vehicle shall be equipped with service brakes on all wheels, except as follows: (6) Any motorcycle manufactured prior to 1966. Such motorcycle shall be equipped with brakes on at least one wheel.
27400 VC Earplugs / Headphones
A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears. This prohibition does not apply to any of the following: (d) A person wearing personal hearing protectors in the form of earplugs or molds that are specifically designed to attenuate injurious noise levels. The plugs or molds shall be designed in a manner so as to not inhibit the wearer's ability to hear a siren or horn from an emergency vehicle or a horn from another motor vehicle. (e) A person using a prosthetic device that aids the hard of hearing.