Minnesota Motorcycle Laws and Regulations

1. All motorcyclists must:

  • have a motorcycle instruction permit or a motorcycle endorsement. 169.974 subd. 2 (a)
  • register their motorcycle and display a valid license plate. 169.79 subd. 1
  • carry liability insurance for their bike and proof of insurance when riding. 169.797 subd. 3
  • wear eye protection, either a face shield, goggles, or glasses. Windshields no longer meet legal requirements. 169.974 subd. 4 (a)


2. When riding on a motorcycle permit, riders:

  • must wear a DOT-approved helmet. 169.974 subd. 2 (c)
  • cannot carry passengers. 169.974 subd. 2 (c)
  • cannot ride on interstate freeways. 169.974 subd. 2 (c)
  • cannot ride at night. Motorcycle permits are valid for one year. 169.974 subd. 2 (c)

3. If you are under 18, you must:

  • complete an approved motorcycle rider training course. 169.974 subd. 2 (a)
  • wear a DOT-approved helmet. 169.974 subd. 4 (a)

Motorcycle Equipment


4. For street-legal motorcycles:

  • if the motorcycle has a passenger seat, it must also have passenger footrests. 169.974 subd. 3 (a)
  • a rear view mirror, horn 169.974 subd. 3 (a), and muffler are required equipment. 169.69
  • the headlight must be on at all times when riding. 169.975 subd. 5 (g) (i)Motorcycles are required to have at least one, but not more than two, headlights with both high and low beam. 169.49 (b) Headlight modulators are legal in Minnesota as an exception to FMVSS Title 49, Part 571.108.
  • a red tail light is required, including a brake or stop lamp. 169.50 subd. 1 A "blue dot" on the tail light of up to one inch in diameter is legal. 169.64 subd 4 (c)
  • at least one brake is required, front or rear, which may be operated by hand or foot. 169.67 subd. 2


5. Motorcycle Laws

  • Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of their lane and have all the rights and responsibilities of other drivers. 169.974 subd. 5 (f)
  • Motorcyclists are permitted to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) carpool lanes.
  • All laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs apply to motorcyclists as well. 169A
  • Passengers must wear eye protection. 169.974 subd. 4 (a)
  • Passengers under 18 must wear a DOT-approved helmet. 169.974 subd. 4 (a)
  • Motorcyclists may only ride on a permanent seat. Passengers may ride on a passenger seat or in a sidecar. 169.974 subd. 5 (a)
  • Passengers must be able to reach both footpegs while seated on the bike. 169.974 subd. 5 (b)
  • Operators and passengers must face forward with one leg on each side of the motorcycle. 169.974 subd. 5 (c)
  • Motorcyclists must not carry anything that interferes with holding onto the handlebars. 169.974 subd. 5 (d)
  • Splitting traffic is illegal. No one except on-duty police officers may ride between lanes of traffic or in the same lane with other vehicles. It is legal for two motorcyclists to ride side-by-side in the same lane if both riders agree to it beforehand. 169.974 subd. 5 (e)
  • Headphones/earphones: one ear only.


Penalties for riding without a motorcycle endorsement or instruction permit include up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and having the motorcycle towed and impounded.


Additional Information: MINNESOTA RED LIGHT LAW

Sec. 42. Minnesota Statutes 2000, section 169.06, is amended by adding a subdivision to read: Subd. 9. [AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE RELATING TO UNCHANGING TRAFFIC CONTROL SIGNAL.]

(a) A person operating a motorcycle who violates subdivision 4 by entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal against a red light has an affirmative defense to that charge if the person establishes all of the following conditions:


  1. the motorcycle has been brought to a complete stop;
  2. the traffic-control signal continues to show a red light for an unreasonable time;
  3. the traffic-control signal is apparently malfunctioning or, if programmed or engineered to change to a green light only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle, the signal has apparently failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle; and
  4. no motor vehicle or person is approaching on the street or highway to be crossed or entered or is so far away from the intersection that it does not constitute an immediate hazard.

(b) The affirmative defense in this subdivision applies only to a violation for entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal against a red light and does not provide a defense to any other civil or criminal action.

INSURANCE ALERT—Did you know? Minnesota law mandates that your automobile insurance policy includes coverage for you if you are involved in a crash with an underinsured or uninsured motorist. There are NO such mandates for you with your motorcycle coverage. This means if you are involved in a serious accident with a motorist who has minimal or no insurance, you could be faced with many bills and out-of-pocket expenses of your own! Talk with your insurance agent about adding these very basic protective features to your motorcycle policy.