On Getting a Quebec Motorcycle Driving License

Don't Want a Pickle
Just Want to Ride My Motorsickle!

During my teens and early twenties I owned and rode a number of motorcycles, including three Triumphs: a 1953 650 Triumph Thunderbird (the same model that Marlon Brandon rode, stolen trophy strapped across its nacelle, in "The Wild Ones") and two 1966 650 Triumph Bonnevilles, one used and one brand new ($1,200 off the showroom floor).

Of all the bikes I owned, the Triumphs were far and away the nicest. They were lightweight yet powerful, stunningly beautiful to look at from every angle, and handled with grace and ease at any speed.

In June of 2003, thirty-three years after I sold my last one, I fulfilled my life-long dream of owning another Bonnie. Set me back five times what my brand new '66 cost, but the completely original 1969 T120 Bonneville was worth every cent to me.

After getting the Bonnie home from Frank's Brit Barn down in New Hampshire, I began looking into what I'd need to do to get on the road. I soon discovered how easy it would be.

First, get the bike registered and tagged. No sweat, all I had to do was:

  1. Trailer the bike to the inspection center in Sherbrooke, QC and get it inspected (ka-Ching! $64).

  2. Install second mirror to have bike conform to provincial law (ka-Ching! $20).

  3. Return bike for the follow-up inspection and have it appraised for tax purposes (ka-Ching! $97).

  4. Present paperwork to the SAAQ, where they ignore the $97 certified evaluation of $1400 and tax me for amount on sales receipt (ka-Ching! $367.41 Federal and ka-Ching! $433 Provincial tax).

  5. Purchase a license plate (ka-Ching! $194) after showing the insurance policy (ka-Ching! $104 with no fire/theft - what? do I look like I'm made of money?).

So far, a piece of cake, and getting the second mortgage was easy too.

Now for the really easy part - I need a motorcycle class driving license.

  1. Begin by following SAAQ's directive to obtain "Driver's Handbook" and "Operating a Motorcycle", on sale at Publications du Quebec outlets. Even scored copies en anglais (ka-Ching! $32).

  2. Enroll in an accredited driving school's motorcycle theory course (ka-Ching! $200).

  3. Complete 12 hours of theory classes in two weeks and then make an appointment to take the SAAQ's theory test (ka-Ching! $28).

  4. Pass theory test and receive 6R learner's permit (ka-Ching! $32) for driving bike on the driving school's closed-circuit course.

  5. Trailer bike to driving school's closed-circuit course (or use one of their bikes) for 12 hours of practical instruction in three weeks (ka-Ching! $360).

  6. After having the 6R permit for one month minimum and completing the practical instruction, trailer bike to SAAQ's closed-circuit course for preliminary practical test (ka-Ching! $90).

  7. Pass SAAQ preliminary practical test, and receive 6A learner's permit (ka-Ching! $32) which lets me drive anywhere I want, so long as I am accompanied by at least one fully licensed motorcycle driver at all times.

  8. Make appointment for SAAQ road test - but only after holding the 6A license for a mandatory minimum of seven months. This is Quebec, ok? you know, winter... snow... ice? Fast forward to following Spring

  9. Trailer bike to SAAQ (or be accompanied by licensed motorcycle driver) and take SAAQ's road test (ka-Ching! $90).

  10. Pass road test, purchase the two-year probationary motorcycle driving license (ka-Ching! $96).

    Note: probationary licensees are subject to a 4-point ceiling and zero alcohol tolerance.

  11. After two years with probationary license, obtain a regular motorcycle driving license (ka-Ching! $?).

There, isn't that easy? Of course I've left out a few details here and there to save some space.

(Cue the crazy laughter)

Now you know why Quebec license plates say "Je me souviens" ("I Remember") - Because I remember when the #^%*&@ government hadn't yet made everything under the sun such a complete and total pain in the butt!

Never mind, by this time we're into August and I'm determined to get going so that by next summer I can stop sneaking around on the secondary roads getting a stiff neck watching for Provincials.

I get to step "2" above only to learn that the only school that gives the motorcycle course in my area doesn't give the course in English in the town nearest me. "Try our Sherbrooke office."

I call the Sherbrooke office (25 miles away)... French only - "Try Montreal."

I call the Montreal office (100 miles away)... "Desole, French only - try Granby."

I call the Granby office (40 miles away), no English courses. "Try Brossard."

I call the Brossard office (90 miles away), courses are, you guessed it, in French only.

But the very nice lady in Brossard does hold out a ray of hope, "Maybe next year." (As a former Washington Senators baseball fan these words had a vaguely familiar ring to them).

So, I went to Sherbrooke and took the theory class in French (no more courses in Magog until next year). I was just starting to get down on the bike vocabulary when the course ended.

Not to worry, I call up the SAAQ to get an appointment for my theory test. Person on the other end asks for my dossier number.

"Dossier number?" says I.

"It's on your driving license", says she.

I haul out my license, read off the number, and idly flip the license over where I read:

Vehicule automobile de moins de 4500 kg et habitation motorisee.
Toute motocyclette.

"Ummm, never mind, cancel that appointment, I have to go ride my motorsickle right now."

Evidently when I moved here in '72 and traded my US driver's license for a Quebec one I told the SAAQ that I drove automobiles and motorcycles.

All these years... who knew?

September, 2003
Bruce Miller