French licensing - - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old Jan 31st, 2006, 6:41 am Thread Starter
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Post French licensing

You think the American motorcyclist would go for this..?

Motorcycle License in France

The License

In France, as in the rest of Europe, you need to have a motorcycle license (type A) to be able to ride a motorcycle with more than 125 cc (if you have had a car license for more than 2 years, you are allowed to ride a 125 cc motorcycle with less than 15 hp).

If you're between 18 and 21 years old, you can get the "Progressive" A, meaning your motorcycle is not allowed to have more than 34 hp, and the weight/power ration may not exceed 0.16 kW/kg.

After two years riding with a "Progressive" A license, or if you are older than 21 years, you can get the "Direct" A license, that allows you to ride any motorcycle (in France all motorcycles are restricted to 100 hp maximum).

Rules of the Road

First, you need to learn the general rules of the road (unless you got your car license within the last 5 years). This means learning either in a classroom, or from self teaching.

When you're ready, you need to pass an exam. The exam is a multiple choice style, with a video projector displaying photos and/or videos. The test is timed, and you're allowed to have 5 errors for the 40 questions. Oh yeah... the test is in French.

Motorcycle Control

After you pass the rules of the road test, you need to go to a driving school. This is mandatory, as there are minimum hours you need to be "taught" how to ride. The minimum number of hours you need to train is 8 hours !

The first portion is controlling your motorcycle. This is held in a non-traffic environment, usually on an abandoned parking area. You'll learn how to ride a, usually, 600 cc modified Honda, Suzuki or Kawasaki. The modification consist of a lower power, and crash bars all around the bike.

The training is obviously in harmony with the exam. When you're deemed ready by your instructor, you need to pass the first motorcycle exam.

Motorcycle Control Exam

When you're ready, you need to reserve your first set of tests. At the exam place, you will need to do the following exams.

Motorcycle Training
1. Non Driving Exercise.

The examiner will ask you to do one of several exercises. They can be "walking" your motorcycle through a pylon slalom, forwards or backwards (smaller people often have problems with this), putting your motorcycle on a center stand, etc.

You need to demonstrate that you are able to control the motorcycle even when the engine is not running.

Failure to comply, dropping your motorcycle results in an automatic disqualification, and you need to re-apply for the exam.

Motorcycle Training
2. Mechanical Quiz.

Next on the list are several questions about the mechanical abilities of your motorcycle. They're not very detailed, but you'll be asked how you verify your oil level, tire pressure, chains, etc.

You don't need to be mechanically apt, but you need to know the basic parts of your motorcycle.

Failure to comply, results in an automatic disqualification, and you need to re-apply for the exam.

3. Oral Motorcycle Quiz.

The examiner will ask you, more or less in a conversation mode, specific questions on your ability to understand the differences between riding a motorcycle and driving a car. The questions are on specific motorcycle related laws. Failure to comply, dropping your motorcycle results in an automatic disqualification, and you need to re-apply for the exam.

Motorcycle Training
4. Control at Low Speed.

You need to maneuver your motorcycle through a slalom consisting of pylons in first gear. You are not allowed to touch the ground with your feet, drop a pylon or gasp, drop your bike. They check to see if your posture is correct. If you think that's easy, try it....

Failure to comply, dropping your motorcycle or hitting a pylon results in an automatic disqualification, and you need to re-apply for the exam.

Motorcycle Training
5. Control at Low Speed with Pillion.

Next after point 4, your instructor gets behind you, and then you need to ride another track with pylons at low speed (1st gear). The instructor is not allowed to talk to you to give you advice (but usually they use their legs to signal to you what you need to do).

Failure to comply, dropping your motorcycle results in an automatic disqualification, and you need to re-apply for the exam.

Motorcycle Training
6. High Speed Control.

Now you need to run a fast slalom. This involves you riding your motorcycle at about 40-50 kph through several pylons, U-turn and a fast return. The whole track needs to be done between 18 and 21 seconds! If you go too fast, or too slow you disqualify ! Too fast is rare, but too slow happens all the time.

Failure to comply, dropping your motorcycle results in an automatic disqualification, and you need to re-apply for the exam.

Motorcycle Training
7. Emergency Control.

At the end of #6, you are required to show that you are able to perform an emergency operation. This is either an obstacle avoidance (like a car door opening - not a real one, just a pylon) followed by emergency braking, or emergency braking by using your engine. Usually the speed is about 70 kph.

You must start the maneuver at a certain point, AND you need to stop before a certain spot. If not, you're out ! Failure to comply, dropping your motorcycle results in an automatic disqualification, and you need to re-apply for the exam.

8. Oral Exam.

Once you've reach this stage you're almost done. Now you get to sit in an office, where they're going to quiz you for all the specific laws that apply only to motorcycles. It's usually in a more easy going environment, and often, at this stage, they are more or less easy going. Unless you're really stupid and answer all questions wrong, you'll pass this bit.

Traffic Riding

Motorcycle Training
Although the traffic riding can be done concurrent with the motorcycle control, most schools choose to do this after the control exams (at least they know you'll not drop their precious motorcycle). You'll be riding your motorcycle equipped with an ear-piece in your helmet so you can hear your instructor talking to you via a walkie-talkie. Usually the instructor is in a car.... You need to spend at least 12 hours riding in traffic to be allowed to do your next exams.

Once your instructor deems you ready, you need to do your exam. Using the same walkie-talkie technique, the examiner drives behind you telling you which way to go. The exam lasts 30 minutes, and not complying with ANY traffic rule disqualifies you !


Once you get your precious motorcycle license, you get 6 points (normally you get 12). Any infraction, speeding or rules of the road, points get deducted. Once you've got 0 points, you loose your license and you need to start from scratch, often after 3 years !!

If you've managed to ride without a loss of points for 2 years, you get the full 12 points !!

The whole process can last about one year ! There are accelerated schools, where you can try to get your permit in a few days by a concentrated education.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old Jan 31st, 2006, 7:25 am
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Can you say "Conflict of Interest"

You forgot to mention that, in most cases, you will end up paying upwards of 500 for the privelegde (and in most cases closer to 1000 - thats about $1200 US).

The best part of the scam is the fact that it is the instructor (or training school) that you are paying that tells you when you are ready to take the exam. Can you say "conflict of interest".

The system in Spain is very similar (by the way, this also applies for car drivers license) and the Driving Schools have an extremely powerful lobby, as you can well imagine.

Are the French or Spanish drivers any safer - hell no! But damn, having a driving school is a sweet business.

Don't get me wrong, the actual level of training they require you to get is valuable and significantly better than what is usually required in the US.

Hell, when I took my test in the US (way back in 1979) I walked into the DPS in Texas, I took a 20 question exam that anyone with half a brain could pass. Then, the cop got in the car with my dad and told him where to drive. My job was to follow him while he observed my driving. The driving test lasted 5 minutes while we drove around the neighborhood and my biggest challenge was kicking away a stray dog that chaced me for a couple of blocks. I was 16 at the time and walked away with a drivers license that allowed me to drive absolutely any motorcycle I wanted - regardless of hp, cc or anything else. At the time I thought it was a great idea. Today, I'm not so sure.

In the US we could stand to add a bit more to the skills test and it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to have some sort of progression scale given the huge power you can now get on even the smallest bikes. But, clearly the "scam" approach used in France or Spain is unacceptable. That's why I refuse to get a license here in Spain. I just keep using my other driver's licenses together with an International License.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old Feb 7th, 2006, 8:40 am
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Europe is now full of these rip off rules and 'creative taxation initiatives' that are encouraged and lobbied for by those with self interest. For every new rule there is an army of administrators, all justified by the new rule with safe jobs and pensions. And guess who pays in the end? The freedom to hold views and lobby your interest is often taken up by those with ideals and no direct interest themselves, other than to tell other people what's best for them. I think this is the meaning of 'Nanny State'.

I'm all for safety training in fair and reasonable measure, but it doesn't stop the cagers totalling bikers.

There will always be a few who will ride a motorcycle dangerously and sometimes suicidal, but the inbred instict to survive, irrespective of what rules there are, is what keeps most of us alive.

My wife is always arguing about the rules being broken by other road users when she is driving, but she still hasn't learned that rules don't keep you alive, whereas defensive driving does, they just help put the blame in the right place afterwards. Me, I treat everybody else on the road as potentially hostile and try to drive defensively.

In Spain, my wife always complains about danger everywhere she walks, (hdf knows what I mean). The problem is mostly hers, because being brought up in a Nanny State, cosseted by rules she feels she is protected from all potential harm wherever it may be. Rules, Rules and more Rules lead to false security and when the unthinkable accident happens you lose out.

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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old Feb 7th, 2006, 12:31 pm
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.....same with alimony.....
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old May 2nd, 2007, 9:54 am
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This is not a french or spanish rule but a European Union directive for all the member states and you have to complete 20 hours of practice lessons in order to take the final exam.
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old May 2nd, 2007, 10:02 am
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Is a US. state-issued motorcycle license excepted as valid when on vacation in Europe?

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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old May 2nd, 2007, 10:19 am
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Originally Posted by brucecha
Is a US. state-issued motorcycle license excepted as valid when on vacation in Europe?
A US license is valid all over Europe.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old May 2nd, 2007, 11:20 am
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Originally Posted by aa3jy
You think the American motorcyclist would go for this..?
I think the part about taking it in French would be the deal breaker for me. I could see them try that in Texas, taking the test in French

What was that middle thang?
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old May 2nd, 2007, 11:52 am
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Oh but once you have a license, you have it for life. No requirement anywhere to take any kind of upgrading of any kind. This is where it all falls down and it is worse with Motorcycles than with cages. At least with a cage you are personally more protected from the jerk who can't figure out how to sholder check, signal, brake or do any of a dozen things everyone SHOULD be able to do.

Should have to upgrade every 5 years - mandatory written test, mandatory road test. SO what if it costs a couple of hundred bucks.

But even that doesn't keep idiots off the road. Folks of lower income (or no income), can purchase a wreck for next to nothing, manage to get a license plate for it and drive around - no license, no insurance. Worst that happens is their car gets taken away. If they are in a serious accident, "may" do jail time, can't fine them, no money, they just go and do it again. Drunk driving charges stack up, license suspended, can't afford insurance, buy a beater and drive it without license and insurance and drink and drive some more.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old May 2nd, 2007, 4:16 pm
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Got my original motorcycle license with no test or anything when, they first starting to issu them in NY State in the 60's. If you had a motorcycle registered for 2 years and you had a regular drivers license, you were grandfathered in.
I did take a motorcycle test 20 plus years later and flunked the first time. I did not even read the manual). Passed the 2nd time in a breeze. I have subsequently taken the MSF course with my 2 sons and friends to encourage good riding habits. I learned a lot.
Turned 70 recently, and hope to still ride for another 10 or so years

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