Can You Ride A Motorized Bicycle Without A License?

Last Updated on March 18, 2022 by

With gas prices soaring and the planet heating up more every day, people are trying to be as green as possible in their everyday lives. One of the ways in which people are doing this is by ditching their cars and instead taking up cycling.

Not only is it a great way to help the planet, but it can also get you some fresh air and exercise.

Nowadays, there are many different kinds of bike for people to ride, including motorized bicycles. This presents a bit of a conundrum, though, as bicycles are powered by people pedaling, not a motor.

Can you ride a motorized bicycle without a license

Vehicles with motors required training and licenses to use properly, since bicycles have never had motors before this has never been an issue. However, with motorized bicycles, does this law still apply?

Will you need a license to ride one? Today, we look at motorized bicycles and discover whether you ride one without a license.

What is a Motorized Bicycle?

The term motorized bicycle may be confusing to a lot of people, due to our ideas of what vehicles are and aren’t motorized, especially when you try to think how you would go about fitting a motor on a bicycle. A better term for a motorized bicycle is a power-assisted bicycle, and may clear up some confusion.

These types of bicycles still retain pedals upon which the rider can power the bicycle with themselves, but they also have either a motor or a small engine and transmission attached to the vehicle.

These can either assist the rider with pedaling the bike, or they can power the whole bike unassisted. The motor or engine is normally very small and cannot power the bike to great speeds, typically up to a maximum speed of 32 miles per hour (52 kmph).

What Does the Law Define as a Motorized Bicycle?

The definition for a motorized bicycle depends on the state that you live in.

Each state has their own definition for the vehicle, and as such, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. However, since California is the most populous state, we will use their definition to aid us in the law’s stance.

In California, motorized bicycles are classed as vehicles with either two or three wheels that are propelled by human energy via pedaling or by electricity and a motor. This is subdivided further into two categories of motorized bicycle: Type A and B.

Type A motorized bicycles have an automatic transmission, cannot produce more than 4 brake horsepower, and cannot exceed 30 miles per hour. Type B has an electric motor which never exceeds an energy output of more than 1000 watts and cannot go over 20 miles per hour, even with human propulsion.

Again, this changes state to state, as in Georgia, motorized bicycles are classified as mopeds, but each state has laws and a speed limit.

What Do You Need to Ride Motorized Bicycles?

Since most states consider it necessary to have legislation around motorized bicycles in some capacity, there are normally some requirements in order to own and ride them around.

What you need however depends on the state itself, with some requiring only a little and others requiring a lot.

Once again, due to the sheer amount of states in the US, we will not be able to look at them all. Therefore, we will look to the most populous – California – for its requirements around motorized bicycles.

Do You Need a License to Ride a Motorized Bicycle?

Most states require you to have a license to ride a motorized bicycle. In some states, it is only necessary to have a standard valid license that lets you drive, but in others you need more specific licenses.

In California, it is necessary to have a valid motorcycle license to ride a motorized bicycle, either M1 or M2, and due to this the age restriction for riding them is 16 years old.

Do You Need to Register Your Motorized Bicycle?

Again, most states will require you to register your motorized bicycle to some degree. In California, this follows the same lines as a motorcycle, and you must register your motorized bicycle in the same way you would a motorcycle.

You must also get a specialty license plate for your motorized bicycle as well, as you will be subject to laws that the police may need to stop you for.

Safety and Your Motorized Bicycle

Motorized bicycles may not be as dangerous as cars or trucks, but they are still classed by many states as something that needs to be regulated.

As such, safety measures have been drawn up around them, and they are given the same scrutiny as other vehicles on the road. Therefore, it is worth noting the safety measures to keep yourself safe and to not fall foul of the law.


Most states have some form of helmet law that is enforced regularly when a motorized bicycle is involved.

Most lax states, like Arkansas, will have it necessary for a motorized bike user to wear a helmet if they are under 21. More strict states, like California, have a mandatory requirement for anyone operating a motorized bicycle to wear a helmet.

Lights and Reflectors

All states need a form of reflector or light on your motorized bicycle, and the majority will require both.

In California, a front headlight and rear red tail light are a must, and they must be able to be seen from 500 feet away. Other states also require at least a red rear reflector and suggest a front reflector as well.

Where Can You Ride Your Motorized Bicycle?

Since motorized bicycles are classified as a form of vehicle in almost all states, they must follow the same rules as other motorized vehicles, but they are also subject to different restrictions from larger vehicles.


A motorized vehicle is almost universally banished from the sidewalk, be the region, California or elsewhere. The problem is the fact that they are motorized. People are upset by pedal bikes on the sidewalk, so motorized ones are a big no-no.

Freeways & Highways

You cannot ride a motorized bicycle on either a freeway or a public highway. It is simply too dangerous, as even though you are on a vehicle, you would be most in danger in those situations.

Streets & Roadways

Motorized bikes can ride on streets and roadways, in fact it is practically encouraged.

The laws in these areas are clear for motorized bicycles and drivers will have to respect your space. However, you are also subject to the rules of the road here, so be careful.


Motorized bicycles are an exciting development for cyclists and those who struggle when cycling.

They give you help when you need it cycling, but it must be known that they are also subject to various laws and restrictions. This should stop you from buying one or cycling on it, just be aware of the bicycle laws and regulations around your bicycle.

Derek Bruce
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