Riding in Iowa: From Motorcycle Laws and Licensing to Lane Splitting and Beyond

Riding in Iowa: From Motorcycle Laws and Licensing to Lane Splitting and Beyond

Navigating the Roads and Laws of Iowa: From Licensing to Lane Splitting and Beyond

Motorcycling is more than just the thrill of the open road. It’s about understanding the machine, the laws, and the community. From Iowa Motorcycle Laws to Safety, we’ve got all of your questions answered in this comprehensive rider’s guide.

In this article:

Ever found yourself pondering some of the more intricate details of the biking world? We’ve got you covered. Before we dive into the most burning questions riders have about motorcycling, we should remind you to check your local laws before riding in a new state or if you’re a new rider. 

One great thing about these United States is that each State sets its own laws, so you might want to make sure you understand yours before you ride.

Your Top Motorcycle Questions Answered

After a chat with our community and audience on various platforms, we’ve gathered some of the most intriguing and frequently asked questions about motorcycling. Let’s break them down.

Licensing & Legality: The Basics

A man studying to get his motorcycle license

“What are the steps to getting a motorcycle license and how hard is it to get one?”

Just like driving a car, you need a special license for motorcycles. The process might differ slightly depending on where you live, but generally, you’ll need to pass a written test, show off your skills in a practical test, and ensure your eyes are road-worthy with a vision exam. Let’s dive a bit deeper.

Steps to Getting a Motorcycle License

Note: Laws and requirements may vary from state to state. Make sure you know yours before you hit the road!

  1. Age Requirement: Ensure you meet the minimum age requirement, which varies by state. In many places, it’s 16 or 18 years old.
  2. Motorcycle Learner’s (AKA Instruction) Permit: Before obtaining a full motorcycle license, many states require new riders to first get a motorcycle learner’s permit. This permit allows you to practice riding under certain restrictions. In Iowa, riders must be at least 14 years old to apply for a motorcycle instruction permit.
  3. Motorcycle Safety Course: Enroll in a state-approved motorcycle safety course. These courses typically include classroom instruction and hands-on riding exercises. Completing a safety course can provide valuable riding skills, and safety techniques, and in some states, can waive the riding test requirement for the license.
  4. Written Test: Schedule and take the written knowledge test at your local DMV or equivalent agency. This test covers motorcycle-specific traffic laws, safety rules, and best practices.
  5. Skills Test: After passing the written test and gaining some practice (often with a learner’s permit), you’ll need to take a skills test. This is a practical examination where you demonstrate your ability to safely operate a motorcycle. The test might include maneuvers like turning, stopping, accelerating, and navigating obstacles.
  6. Vision Test: Some states require a vision test to ensure you can see adequately while riding.
  7. Fees: Pay the necessary fees for the motorcycle endorsement or license.
  8. Receive Your License: Once you’ve met all the requirements and passed the necessary tests, you’ll receive your motorcycle endorsement or license. This might be a separate license or an endorsement added to your existing driver’s license.

How Hard Is It to Get a Motorcycle License?

A biker takes a motorcycle driving test

The difficulty of obtaining a motorcycle license largely depends on your preparation and prior experience. For someone new to motorcycling, the skills test can be challenging, but with adequate practice and training, it’s entirely achievable. 

The written test, on the other hand, requires a good understanding of the motorcycle manual provided by the state’s DMV or equivalent agency. Completing a motorcycle safety course can significantly help in preparing for both the written and skills tests.

“What happens if you drive a motorcycle without a license?”

Think twice before hopping on your bike without a license. You could face some hefty fines or even spend a night or two behind bars.

“Is it illegal to run a motorcycle or an auto repair business out of your house?”

A man in a motorcycle repair shop teaches a young boy about repairing engines

Dreaming of turning your garage into a motorcycle repair shop? Check your local laws first. Some places might be cool with it, while others have strict rules against running businesses in residential areas.

Ownership & Costs: The Real Deal

A biker contemplates the pros and cons of owning a motorcycle

“What are the pros and cons of owning a motorcycle?”

Bikes are awesome. They’re fuel-efficient, give you a unique sense of freedom, and let’s be honest, they’re cool. But they also need regular maintenance, and there’s always the safety aspect to consider.

Pros of Owning a Motorcycle:

  • Fuel Efficiency: Motorcycles typically get much better gas mileage than cars, making them more economical for commuting and traveling.
  • Cost-Effective: Initial purchase, insurance, and maintenance costs for motorcycles are generally lower than for cars.
  • Parking: Due to their size, motorcycles can be parked in smaller spaces, and some cities offer free or discounted parking for motorcycles.
  • Traffic Navigation: In some areas, motorcycles can lane-split or filter through traffic, reducing commute times.
  • Environmental Impact: Motorcycles produce fewer emissions than most cars, making them a more environmentally friendly option.
  • Freedom and Thrill: Many riders love the sense of freedom and the thrill of being on the open road with a motorcycle.
  • Community: There’s a strong sense of camaraderie among bikers, with numerous clubs, groups, and events dedicated to motorcycle enthusiasts.
  • Less Space: Motorcycles require less storage space than cars, which can be beneficial for those with limited parking options.
  • Emotional Benefits: We touched on this before, but the social community aspect and camaraderie is amazing for a rider’s mental health and emotional well-being. Now, this may sound biased, but we’ve found that people who ride motorcycles often experience more stress relief, are more focused in many situations, and overall have a higher quality of life.
  • Physical Benefits: Riding a motorcycle can be physically taxing in that it works your core muscles and helps with posture which in turn (see what we did there?), helps with circulation.

Image of a motorcycle rushing down an open highway in the Autumn

Cons of Owning a Motorcycle:

  • Safety Concerns: Motorcyclists are more exposed and, therefore, more vulnerable to injuries in the event of an accident.
  • Weather Dependency: Although the purists and most experienced may say that it’s riding season all year, we all know our riding experience is tied closely to the weather. As much as we may hate to admit it, riding in adverse weather conditions like rain, snow, or extreme heat can be uncomfortable and risky.
  • Limited Storage: Motorcycles don’t offer much in terms of storage space, making grocery trips or transporting larger items challenging.
  • Passenger Limitations: Most motorcycles can only comfortably and safely carry one passenger.
  • Learning Curve: Riding a motorcycle requires a different skill set than driving a car. New riders need to invest time in learning and practicing.
  • Maintenance: While maintenance might be cheaper, motorcycles often require more frequent attention, especially if ridden regularly.
  • Seasonal: In areas with harsh winters, motorcycles might only be usable for part of the year.
  • Insurance Rates: While generally cheaper, insurance rates can be high for sport bikes or for riders with little experience.
  • Theft: Motorcycles can be easier targets for theft due to their size and accessibility.
  • Profiling: Motorcyclists are often pulled over simply for riding a motorcycle or wearing a cut. Don’t believe us? Check out the Motorcycle Profiling Survey.

“At what age are you too old to ride motorcycles?”

Age is just a number, right? When it comes to motorcycling, what’s more important is your physical ability and sharpness of mind. So, whether you’re 18 or 80, if you feel fit and alert, the road is yours!

Safety & Risks: The Hard Truths

A motorcycle rider fully decked out in protective gear takes to the open road.

Motorcycling comes with its risks, but being informed can make a world of difference. From understanding the odds of an accident to the protective power of gear, knowledge is your best defense.

“I’ve heard many riders say ‘it’s not if you go down, it’s WHEN.’ Is this true, do all Motorcyclists crash eventually?” 

This is a common saying in the biking community, emphasizing the importance of always being prepared and cautious.

“What are the odds of surviving a motorcycle crash?”

The odds can vary based on numerous factors, including the severity of the crash, the protective gear worn, and the immediate medical response.

“How do you not get killed on a motorcycle?”

Safe riding practices, continuous learning, and always being alert can significantly reduce the risks.

image of a motorcycle crash scene with a helmet

“Is it possible to survive a 50 mph crash?”

While it’s possible, the severity of injuries can vary. Protective gear and immediate medical attention play crucial roles in survival.

“Why do people ride motorcycles when it is so dangerous?”

The thrill, the sense of freedom, and the community are just a few reasons why many are drawn to motorcycling, despite the risks.

“Why are motorcycles legal if they are so dangerous?

 Like many activities, motorcycling comes with risks, but it’s up to individuals to make informed decisions. Laws are in place to ensure safety standards are met.

“How protective are motorcycle protective suits?”

High-quality protective gear can significantly reduce the risk of severe injuries in the event of an accident.

Accidents & Aftermath: Navigating the Tough Times

Three images of crashes with the text "Crash Aftermath"

Accidents happen, and when they do, it’s essential to know your rights and the best steps to take. Whether it’s understanding the complexities of lane splitting or navigating the aftermath of a crash, we’ve got insights to guide you.

“What is lane splitting and is it legal in Iowa?”

Lane splitting involves a motorcyclist riding between lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic. Its legality varies by state, and in Iowa, it’s currently not permitted.

“Who is at fault in a motorcycle accident when lane splitting?”

This can vary based on local laws and the specifics of the accident. In places where lane splitting is legal, the fault might be shared between the motorcyclist and other involved parties.

“How is the family notified after a person dies in a car accident?”

When a person tragically dies in a car accident, the task of notifying the next of kin is typically carried out by local law enforcement or the coroner’s office. The process is handled with utmost sensitivity and care.

Officers are trained to deliver such news in person, rather than over the phone, to provide immediate support and ensure the family’s privacy. They often arrive in pairs and will usually ask to enter the home and ensure that the family is seated before delivering the news. 

Officers also provide information about the incident and guide the family on the next steps, such as identifying the body and retrieving personal belongings.

“How do you survive a motorcycle crash?”

Image of first responders working to save a biker after a crash

Surviving a motorcycle crash often depends on a combination of preparedness, quick thinking, and sometimes, sheer luck.

Here are six tips to increase your chances of survival while on the road:

1. Wear Protective Gear

Always wear a DOT-approved helmet, which can significantly reduce the risk of fatal head injuries. Additionally, wear protective clothing like jackets, gloves, boots, and pants made of abrasion-resistant materials.

2. Stay Alert

Be aware of your surroundings, anticipate potential hazards, and always keep a safe distance from other vehicles.

3. Defensive Riding

Assume that other drivers might not see you. Be prepared to react to their actions.

4. Avoid Target Fixation

Focus on where you want to go, especially in turns or when avoiding obstacles, rather than on the obstacle itself.

5. Practice Emergency Maneuvers

Regularly practice emergency braking and evasive maneuvers to be prepared for unexpected situations.

6. Stay Calm

If a crash is imminent, try to stay as relaxed as possible to reduce the risk of injury. Tense muscles can lead to more severe injuries.

“How does a person survive the aftermath of an accident- physically, emotionally, and financially?”

A police officer investigates the scene of a motorcycle accident


Seek immediate medical attention, even if you feel fine. Some injuries may not manifest symptoms immediately. Follow all medical advice, attend follow-up appointments, and undergo physical therapy if recommended.


Traumatic events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other emotional challenges. It’s essential to seek counseling or therapy to process the trauma. Joining support groups can also help, as sharing experiences with others can be therapeutic.


If the accident was due to someone else’s negligence, consider consulting with a personal injury attorney to understand your rights and potentially seek compensation. Ensure that all medical expenses, repair bills, and any loss of income are documented. Additionally, reach out to your insurance company to understand the coverage and benefits available to you.

“How does insurance typically handle motorcycle accidents differently than car accidents?”

In my nearly 40 years of practicing law in Iowa, I’ve observed that insurance companies sometimes treat motorcycle accidents differently than car accidents, primarily due to the perceived risks associated with motorcycling. Here are some key differences:

  • Bias Against Motorcyclists: There’s an unfortunate stereotype that motorcyclists are “risk-takers” or “reckless.” This bias can influence an insurance adjuster’s perception of the accident, potentially placing more blame on the motorcyclist than warranted.
  • Severity of Injuries: Motorcycle accidents often result in more severe injuries compared to car accidents. This can lead to higher medical bills, which insurance companies might be hesitant to cover in full.
  • Total Loss: Motorcycles are more likely to be declared a total loss after an accident compared to cars. This can affect the payout from the insurance company.

Riding & Maintenance: Keeping Your Bike Happy

A dedicated rider with arm tattoos cleans and maintains his motorcycle.

A well-maintained bike is a joy to ride. From understanding the dynamics of group rides to the simple steps of regular upkeep, we’ll ensure your motorcycle stays in tip-top shape.

“What is the best way to make sure my motorcycle is well maintained?”

Maintaining your motorcycle is crucial not only for its longevity but also for your safety on the road. 

8 expert tips to ensure your bike is always in top condition:

1. Regular Inspections 

Before every ride, do a quick visual inspection. Check for any leaks, ensure lights and signals are working, and look over the tires for any signs of wear or damage.

2. Oil Changes

Just like cars, motorcycles need regular oil changes. Refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended intervals and type of oil.

3. Tire Pressure

Check the tire pressure regularly. Riding with improperly inflated tires can affect the bike’s handling and can lead to premature tire wear.

4. Brake Checks

Ensure that the brake pads and discs are in good condition. If you hear any unusual noises or feel any changes in the braking performance, get it checked immediately.

5. Chain Maintenance

A well-lubricated and adjusted chain ensures smooth rides. Clean and lubricate the chain regularly and check for proper tension.

6. Battery Care

Ensure the battery terminals are clean and free from corrosion. If your motorcycle has a lead-acid battery, check the fluid levels.

7. Seasonal Care

If you’re storing your motorcycle for the winter, make sure to winterize it. This includes adding a fuel stabilizer, disconnecting the battery, and covering the bike to protect it from dust and moisture.

8. Professional Service

While many maintenance tasks can be done at home, it’s essential to have your motorcycle serviced by professionals at the intervals recommended in the owner’s manual. They can spot potential issues that might be missed during regular home inspections.

Remember, a well-maintained motorcycle not only ensures a smooth ride but also keeps you safe on the road. Regular maintenance can also save you money in the long run by preventing major issues.

“Should motorcycles ride side by side?” 

No. Riding side by side does not allow motorcyclists enough space to avoid dangers. While riding side-by-side may not be a great idea, riding “staggered” is much safer. 

How to Ride in Staggered Riding Formation

In a staggered riding formation… 

  • The first rider would ride close to the center line. 
  • The second rider would ride close to the fog line, and at least 1.5 seconds behind the lead rider. 
  • The third rider would be close to the center line, and at least 3 seconds behind the lead rider and 1.5 seconds behind the second rider. 

Image demonstrating the proper way to ride staggered formation on a motorcycle

In staggered formation, the bike directly ahead of you must be at least 3 seconds ahead. The bike in the “staggered” lane should be at least 1.5 seconds ahead of you. This allows for better visibility and more space for maneuvering.

“Can a motorcycle slip on a banana peel?” 

Cinematic image of Mario from Mario Kart driving a motorcycle about to hit a banana peal. AI Art by Bing AI and Canva AI

It might sound like a scene from a cartoon, but in reality, any small object or slick spot can pose a hazard. Always be alert!

Wrapping It Up

From the fun and quirky to the serious and technical, motorcycling is a world filled with questions. And as we’ve seen today, it’s not just about the ride. It’s about understanding the bigger picture, from the laws that govern the roads to the community that makes it all worthwhile.

Join the Conversation!

Did this guide spark more questions? Or maybe you’ve got some insights of your own to share? Dive into the comments and join the conversation. And if you’ve got a fellow rider who could benefit from this knowledge, spread the word. Until next time, keep the rubber side down and ride safe!

If you’ve been injured in an accident, ride with us. Contact The Biker Lawyers for a free consultation.