Monday, July 16, 2007

Your Friendly Illinois DMV Exam: M-Class

Please note: this is specific to Illinois exams only. Other states have different exams, although this exam has become increasingly popular. Please check the manuals and guides for your specific state before going to take your M-class exam.

Before taking your M-class road test, you are required to have your learner’s permit for at least the day beforehand. If you’ve driven a car, you know how to prepare for a permit test – pick up one of their manuals, study it, then go in for a pen-and-paper test. Some places may administer this test through electronic testing stations. You can actually download a copy of the Illinois manual here.

So you’ve taken the written test, and you’ve finished whatever instruction you need – whether you’re self-taught, had a friend teach you, or took a class. Note that some classes, especially those sponsored by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, culminate in you getting your license. If it doesn’t, you will have to head to the DMV to take their road test.

Some people say it is not possible to pass the DMV test on a large motorcycle. If you don’t feel comfortable passing the test on your own bike, many dealerships offer the use of a smaller motorcycle to their customers to go and take the DMV test – usually a Honda Rebel 250 or something similar. They may or may not charge a fee for this service. I personally do not recommend going this route, as you should be able to perform the maneuvers in the road test on your own motorcycle – that is what you will be riding day-to-day, after all. I managed to pass this test on my Sportster, which is 1200cc’s, and I witnessed another man passing the exam on a Road King while I was waiting for my turn.

When you go to take your exam, make sure you bring your permit, as well as a copy of your insurance papers for your motorcycle. You need to demonstrate proof of insurance before they will let you take the test.

When it’s your turn, they will tell you which area of the parking lot to take your bike to, and they will administer the test. One overall warning: except for the maximum controlled braking exercise, DO NOT use your front brake during this exam! You will be performing all of these exercises at a slow speed, and using your front brake will give you less control over your motorcycle while you are going slow. Use only your rear brake!

Exercise 1: Make two sharp left turns and stop in the stop box.

This is pretty self-explanatory, and most people do not have a problem here. Note that you will be driving between very small cones, make sure you don’t run over them or they will deduct points from your overall score. Take your time and go slow, do not over-think it! A trick for doing the sharp left turns – as you are approaching the cones, turn your head and look left before performing the actual turn. Look where you are going, and your bike will go there. Don’t look at the ground or get fixated straight ahead. Stop with your tire directly in the stop box using your rear brake.

You will be asked to perform a U-turn so you can face the range again, this time with your tire starting in the stop box.

Exercise 2: The cone weave and right U-turn.

This one can be somewhat tricky. Most people have a hard time not putting their foot down – note that you can only put your foot down once and still pass the exam. This is easy as long as you use your torque method – hold your clutch at the friction point, give yourself enough throttle to keep your bike moving, and control your acceleration with your rear brake only. Keep your eyes on the cones ahead, not the ones that you are currently passing. As long as you do not get fixated on the nearest cone, you won’t hit it!

You’ll then do a right U-turn - that is just a warm up. When you complete that, hug the left hand side of the range while you prepare to make your real right U-turn. Again, use your torque method, and give yourself enough room to make the U-turn. When in doubt, turn early to avoid going outside the yellow lines! If you are on a larger bike, they give you about 24 feet to complete this turn. Otherwise, you have to complete it within about 21.

Exercise 3: Maximum controlled braking.

This is the only time in the test you should apply your front brake. Get up to speed quickly, you should be at 15 MPH. You will go straight down a chute of cones, and when you reach the last one, apply your brakes and come to a stop before the designated line. They will time you on this to make sure you are stopping within a certain range. Piece of cake!

Exercise 4: Evasive maneuvers.

Some people find this exercise a little scary, but it is extremely important to know how to do this! You need to be able to go around an object that has just pulled in front of you if you are unable to stop in time to avoid hitting it. You will go down the cone chute again, and this time you will have to swerve either to the left or to the right of a line on the ground. I have heard they sometimes let you pick your own side, but when I went, the lady set up two cones and told me I had to go between them to the right. Most people feel more comfortable going left, so if you have the choice, feel free to pick that side instead.

That’s it! You get your license! Note that if you drop your bike at any time during the test, it is an automatic failure and you must wait until the next day to try the test again.

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