Maintaining motorcycle mastery in Montana

  • Published
  • By by Chief of Legal Assistance 1st Lt. Spencer Sare
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

With warmer weather, more and more people are trading in their four-wheeled rides for a two-wheeled version. A motorcycle is a fun alternative to taking a drive in a sedan or station wagon. However, before you jump on your bike and tour the countryside, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, Airmen must meet the requirements of both the state in which you are driving and the U.S. Air Force.

Montana requires a motorcycle endorsement on a Montana driver’s license or a motorcycle license from another state to operate a motorcycle on Montana’s roads. If you cannot obtain a motorcycle license from your state of residence, then you will need to surrender your current license and get a Montana driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement. 

To get a Montana motorcycle endorsement you must be 15 years of age if you have taken a driver education course, or 16 years of age without the course. The endorsement costs 50 cents per year.

A written test and a riding skill test must be successfully completed to receive the endorsement. The riding skill test may be waived if you have taken a motorcycle rider safety course. A motorcycle-only license is available by passing the written driving test, the written motorcycle test, the riding skill test, and paying a fee. 

When applying for a Montana driver’s license, you may be asked to register to vote. However, you should be aware that obtaining a Montana driver’s license and registering to vote in Montana may affect your state of residence for tax purposes.

For example, service members who register to vote in Montana will lose the military exclusion benefit and have to pay the full registration fee for each vehicle they register in Montana. You are not required to register to vote to obtain a Montana license, but you do have to have a Montana address.

The U.S. Air Force also has its own requirements.

In addition to following local and state laws, Air Force Instruction 91-207 requires “all military personnel at any time and all civilian personnel on an Air Force installation or off an Air Force installation in a duty status who operate a motorcycle on a roadway are required to attend and complete an approved motorcycle rider education course.”

Once you complete this training, you can take your certificate to the Department of Motor Vehicles and apply for your motorcycle endorsement. It also requires refresher training for motorcycle riders every three years.

It should be noted that if you fall under Air Force Global Strike Command, as Malmstrom does, you are required to complete an intermediate approved motorcycle course within 120 days after completion of initial training.

It is also required that within 30 days of applying for your endorsement or taking a rider’s education course, you consult your immediate commander and have a face-to-face interview with them to let them know you intend on riding a motorcycle. This can be scheduled through your unit.

You must also ride safely. The U.S. Air Force requires all riders and passengers, regardless of age or experience, to wear adequate personal protective equipment defined as head protection, eye protection, protective clothing, and foot protection at a minimum, both on and off base.

Finally, you need to be covered by insurance. In the state of Montana, you must have liability insurance with a minimum coverage of $25,000/$50,000/$20,000.

An installation commander can require all drivers to have liability insurance if they wish to drive on base, even if state law doesn’t require it.

Driving a motorcycle can be fun and enjoyable. All you need to do is remember to be legal, to be safe, and to be covered. This is done by making sure you take your motorcycle safety course, obtain the requisite drivers license endorsement, wear all of your PPE, inform your command of your intent, and have adequate insurance coverage. With this done, you can enjoy all of the beauty that Montana has to offer through a one-of-a-kind experience.

For any other questions regarding laws or state licensing requirements, please contact the base legal office at (406) 731-2878.