Getting a Motorcycle Endorsement in Washington State

You need a motorcycle endorsement to legally drive a motorcycle or scooter over 50cc's in the state of Washington.

There Are Two Ways

1. Pass the motorcycle knowledge test (which allows you to get an instruction permit). And pass the motorcycle riding test. This route will cost you around $25.

or

2. Go to motorcycle training school. Where classes are offered for all types of motorcycle training including scooters and trikes.

After successful completion of the course, you can take your completion card to the DMV to get a motorcycle endorsement on your license. This route will cost you $250 unsubsidized in addition to paying the DMV $25 for the endorsement on your license (thanks to budget cuts). Or if you are able to get into a subsidized class it will cost you $125 plus $25 at the DMV for an endorsement on your license.

What to Know Before You Enroll

What most people don't know is how demanding and taxing motorcycle school is in Washington State. In order to get your motorcycle endorsement through a course, you will spend an entire weekend from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in training (there are three-day courses as well). Either way, you will be on a bike (that they supply and may not fit you properly) for up to eight hours over a two day period. If you are not used to balancing yourself and holding up a motorcycle or scooter for hours at a time this will wear you down quickly and your safety will be in jeopardy.

The first part of the day is spent in the classroom preparing you for taking the written exam (it's closed book and given to you to take on the morning of day two). The second part of the day you will spend four to five hours on a motorcycle or scooter while you are pushed through nine drills. This schedule repeats on day two in addition to taking the written exam, then four more hours on a bike pushing through eight more new skills and drills before finally taking the driving exam at the very end of the course when you are extremely exhausted.

While recently observing an Evergreen Safety Council (ESC) class in Kirkland, WA (it's a full weekend motorcycle class), by day two people were complaining of feeling exhausted. By the last two hours of the grueling weekend two people in a class of 12 had dropped their bikes. One got to stay in the class, the other failed the class.

The "goal" of the motorcycle safety class is to:

"Foster and promote safe motorcycle riding through quality rider training programs and public information campaigns throughout Washington."

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

As it turns out some of the bikes did not work properly. The instructors (at Kirkland that weekend they were Garcien and Chris) admitted to knowing they didn't work properly and still let students drive them. One student's motorcycle would not stay in neutral so that student had to squeeze their hand on the clutch for hours at a time for two days straight.

Another student who was physically fit and had done well throughout the course had been pulled aside by instructor, Garcien, on day two and was asked if they were ok because they seemed to be off that day. The student admitted to "feeling exhausted." Instead of hearing the student and offering safer alternatives the student was pushed to finish the class and on the second to last exercise, on day two, that student dropped their bike and was pretty seriously injured while pinned to the ground between the bike and the cement.

All because of severe fatigue that student failed the class.

What that student found out after might surprise you. The student was offered to re-take the last part of the course the following weekend. If this option had been given to the student just an hour before when they had admitted to "feeling exhausted" the incident could have been avoided and the student wouldn't be injured. Afterward instructor Garcien admitted to the student that failed the course that he knew the student failed due to fatigue.

The injured student (who has a gashed and sprained ankle, black and blue bruises across both legs and knees and left elbow and was not offered first aid) was also told they would receive a follow-up call the next day to schedule insurance for a doctor visit. This never happened. A call to the Director of the program, Monty, confirmed that they don't offer insurance for injured students (only secondary).

Also, no classes are cancelled due to weather (in the last six years only one class was cancelled because the instructor couldn't see his students in an enormous rain storm). Therefore, if it is raining, sleeting, or muggy you will still have to ride and test. If the weather in the summer is over eighty degrees during the course you are expected to still wear long sleeve gear, long pants, leather gloves, over the ankle shoes and helmets (obviously for safety reasons). Keep in mind this will zap your energy as well.

If you plan to take a course to obtain your motorcycle endorsement make sure you are physically ready to do so (being an in shape athlete is not enough you really need to be used to balancing and holding up a bike for hours at a time even in extreme weather). You can be seriously injured due to fatigue. And it's ironic because the courses are supposedly designed to ensure you understand your level of risk for riding a motorcycle and a class that teaches you to know when to park your bike when you are tired.

But in these courses the only way you get to park your bike from fatigue is if you fall and get injured first. Director Monty at ESC said it best when asked why a student isn't offered a chance to reschedule the riding test due to fatigue (by keeping the student's safety in mind), Monty's response: "That would be a scheduling nightmare on our part." Guess it's better to let the student get injured.

And remember if you fail the class and don't feel safe re-taking it with the ESC there are no refunds and no transfers of completed work with the DMV. You do have one choice if you want a refund, get a lawyer.