Are Dirt Bikes street legal? There is no one simple answer. It all depends on the type of dirt bike you have, and where you live.
The Short Answer:
- If the bike is road registered and equipped with a headlight, taillight, brake light, speedometer, turn signals, a horn, and mirrors – Yes, it is street legal and can be ridden on the road.
- If the bike is designed for racing off-road (eg motocross bikes) and has none of the above street equipment – No it is not street legal and cannot be ridden on the road.
The Long Answer:
Regulations vary depending on where you live and the type of Dirt Bike you own, so read on for a more in-depth look.
There are many different types of dirt bikes that have evolved over the last few decades, designed to be used for different purposes. Some dirt bikes can be registered while others can not.
Whether a dirt bike is registered or not (and whether you are licensed or not) will have a major influence on where you can ride.
Here’s a look at the different types of dirt bikes available today.
Types of Dirt Bikes
Road Registerable Bikes
These bikes can be legally ridden on the road, and on unsealed roads such as within state forests, dirt bike parks, etc.
Adventure Bikes/ Dual Sport Bikes
Dual Sport Motorcycles are designed for on-road use, but modified for off-road use, with longer travel suspension, lower gearing, off-road tires, etc. They generally are designed to allow the fitting of luggage racks for motorcycle camping.
Some are more road orientated, and too heavy for very rough terrain, others are lighter and more off-road capable.
These are similar to 4wds of the car world.
Enduro motorcycles are designed for off-road endurance competition on specialty circuits. Most are equipped with small lights, speedometer, horn, etc and capable of being registered, if not already registered at purchase.
These may be thought of as the two-wheeled version of rally cars, with high-performance suspension for off-road performance, but road registerable.
Although street legal, they are more suited for off-road use.
Dirt Bikes designed for about 50/50 on-road/off-road use, usually purchased already registered. More comfortable on the roads than an enduro bike, but not really up to competing off-road unless modified.
Declining in popularity in recent years as the market now tends to move towards Enduro bikes and Adventure bikes.
Low-performance dirt bikes that are used on rural properties as farm bikes. Designed more for durability and reliability and fitted with racks for carrying any range of things like hay bails, dogs, and even the odd sheep.
Normally road registered for times when traveling between paddocks that include short sections of public road use.
Dirt bikes that are modified for road use with smaller diameter wheels, street tires, upgraded brakes, and taller gearing. Used mostly for road riding or racing on circuits that include both road and dirt sections.
Normally based on the registerable Trail or Enduro bikes and registered where used on public roads.
Bikes Not Road Registerable
These bikes can only be ridden on competition circuits, dirt bike parks, or on private property.
High-performance dirt bikes, that are used for racing on motocross tracks, either man-made tracks in a stadium (Supercross) or natural terrain tracks. These bikes are designed to handle large jumps, berms, ruts, etc. Can not be registered.
Motorcycles that are designed for competition on very challenging terrain, whether natural or man-made. Balance and skill are observed and points are lost for a foot touching the ground.
Usually used only in controlled competition areas. Can not be registered.
ATV’s – All-Terrain Vehicles or Quads
Four-wheeled machines using similar engines to dirt bikes. ATV’s are not generally capable of being registered. Extensively used as farm vehicles, but some high-performance versions are available for off-road competition.
Pit Bikes/Mini Bikes
Pit bikes are not street legal and can only be ridden on competition circuits, dirt bike parks, or private property.
Where You Live
This has a major bearing on whether you can ride your dirt bike on the road because regulations vary greatly.
Let’s look at some areas in more detail
Are Dirt Bikes Street Legal in California?
For a dirt bike to be street legal in California, it must meet the state’s emissions guidelines. Street legal dirt bikes must also have functional lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a windshield — and any other equipment conventional vehicles are equipped with.
If your dirt bike isn’t street legal, you may be able to convert it to a street-legal model, as long as it meets the state’s emissions requirements. It’s far easier to just buy a street-legal dirt bike than to try to modify an older model. There is a list of compliant bikes on California’s DMV website.
Dirt bikes are classified by the state government as off-highway vehicles (OHV). To legally ride your dirt bike on the state’s OHV trails, it must be certified compliant by California’s Air Resource Board (CARB).
CARB awards a red or green sticker to all OHVs, including dirt bikes. Dirt Bikes that were produced in 2003 and later can ride on OHV roads year-round. These bikes can carry the CARB’s green emissions sticker.
Older models, or newer models with poor emissions, which have red stickers, can only be ridden seasonally.
Your Dirt Bike must have a green sticker from CARB for it to be street legal. Even green-stickered dirt bikes may not necessarily be street legal. If you buy a green-stickered dirt bike in California, it may not have the necessary equipment that would enable you to ride on the state’s roads.
Bikes with red stickers: have low-quality emissions systems and can’t be converted for highway use even with modifications. They can only be ridden on OHV tracks seasonally.
Bikes with green stickers: meet the emissions standards dictated by California, either as the result of customization or by the manufacturer’s design.
Street legal dirt bikes: have always met the state’s emissions laws and are equipped with windshields, blinkers, horns, and other safety features.
Just as with a street motorcycle, you need a Class M license to ride a street-legal dirt bike in California and you must be over 18.
Are Dirt Bikes Street Legal in Texas?
Dirt bikes are legal in Texas so long as they are ridden on private property or at OHV legal venues on public land. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website offers a list of OHV venues across the state; a Texas OHV decal is required when riding in these areas.
Dirt bikes including motocrossers, cross-country racers, enduro models, and trail bikes are not street legal in Texas. The only off-road motorcycles that are legal for road use in Texas are Dual Sport bikes.
To make a dirt bike street legal, it must have fitted DOT-approved headlights, taillights, horns, fuel tanks, tires, and rearview mirrors. After installing all of these mechanical parts, a dirt bike owner can apply to make their dirt bike street legal.
You will need a Texas OHV decal for your dirt bike when riding at OHV venues on public lands, which can be purchased from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Are Dirt Bikes Street Legal in Australia?
You can ride dirt bikes on Australian roads provided you have full registration, a license, and your bike is ADR-compliant.
If you hold a recreational registration you cannot ride on the road legally, as that registration is designed for off-road riding use only.
If you own a motocross bike, then it can’t be registered in the first place. The same is true for pit bikes & mini bikes which aren’t road legal on Australian roads. This is due to ADR-compliance issues.
Riding your Dirt Bike on the road is dependent on 2 factors:
- Your license. You’ll need to have a Provisional license at the very least which limits you to 250cc motorcycles.
- Your registration. You’ll need proper motorcycle registration. Recreational registration doesn’t allow you to ride on the highway or residential streets in Australia.
You can certainly ride a street-legal dirt bike on any Australian road. If it’s open for regular traffic, then it’s open for you as long as you are fully registered, licensed and your bike is compliant.
Are Dirt Bikes Street Legal in Canada?
In Ontario, dirt bikes must have a blue and white license plate to be used on public roads, as well as insurance, and the rider’s license.
There are two types of plates for dirt bikes: green and white, and blue and white.
Green and white license plates:
A dirt bike fitted with a green and white license plate is designated as off-road only and cannot be used on public roads. The license plate must be displayed at the front of the vehicle.
Bikes with green and white plates can only be used on private property, with permission of the property owner, and in public riding areas with designated riding trails through the Ontario Federation of Trail Riders (OFTR). Riders also need a rider permit, which can be obtained from OFTR, and the bike’s registration.
You do not need an M license to ride a dirt bike with a green and white plate, but the bike must be insured.
Blue and white license plates:
A dirt bike with a blue and white license plate can be used on public roads and also off-road.
It should be equipped with all the road-legal signals, lighting, and a horn, which allows it to be used safely on public roads.
The rider must have the appropriate M license and insurance. The plate must be displayed at the rear of the vehicle
Where Can I Ride a Dirt Bike Off-Road Legally?
There are several places where you can legally ride your dirt bike off-road:
The motocross track is one of the most common places to ride dirt bikes and you can legally ride your dirt bike without any legal issues. The bikes are specifically made for the motocross track and it can be a great location to ride your dirt bike but you will need a competition license.
Riding Parks or State Trails
Riding parks or state forests is another place where you can ride your dirt bike but you need to follow the laws of any riding parks or state trails. Some riding parks or state trails allow you to ride your bike without any registration or modifications to your bike.
But some riding parks or state trails will have some requirements that you need to follow and in some places, you may need to pay a membership fee.
Before you go to any riding parks or state trails you need to do some research and know the requirements of the place you are visiting.
An approved spark arrestor is a must in state forests to avoid the chance of forest fires.
Private property is another place where you can easily ride your dirt bike. You will need the landowner’s permission to avoid trespassing issues. You are fully free to ride your bike on your own private property.
But keep in mind that noise violation and pollution laws exist. If your private property is away from your neighbor’s homes and you do not violate the noise violation and pollution laws then you have no problems.
But if your neighbor’s homes are close to your riding tracks and your bike violates the noise and pollution laws, then you may need to fit a quieter spark arrestor or ride tracks that are away from the neighbors.
Do you need a license for a dirt bike?
You will need a driver’s license to ride any motorcycle on the road.
Motocross bikes, trials bikes, pit bikes, and quad bikes are for off-road use only. Riders obviously don’t need a driver’s license, insurance, or a license plate if they’re not riding on the road, although this varies from state to state. Some riding areas require a permit.
If you are racing, you will need a competition license from whatever governing body you are racing under.
Can I ride a dirt bike around the neighborhood in the US?
For most neighborhoods, it’s illegal to ride a dirt bike around and you will get ticketed. Dirt bikes can cause a lot of disruption to neighborhoods.
While there are a few states that allow dirt bikes to be ridden in neighborhoods, most won’t. Riding an electric dirt bike will reduce any disruption to your neighbors.
In most states, riding a dirt bike in a neighborhood is considered illegal. Most dirt bikes are made to be used off-road. They don’t have headlights, taillights, turn signals, insurance, or registration.
Even if you do get your dirt-bike street legal with registration, there is no guarantee that you can ride your bike on a neighborhood street. Not only are dirt bikes loud, but in many states across the country, you are not allowed to legally ride them in neighborhoods.
Of course, this will depend on the state you live in. For instance, in Georgia, you can ride a dirt bike in your neighborhood. But, it has to be in a private neighborhood.
In Florida, you can also ride dirt bikes in neighborhoods, but you need to have a title and registration for your bike.
Maryland, Texas, and California outlaw dirt bike riding in neighborhoods. However, if you have special permission you may be permitted to ride in a private neighborhood. This is up to the local authorities in your area, though.
The only place you can ride a dirt bike without any type of bike modifications, legal documents, or special permission is Indiana. In Indiana, it is completely legal to ride dirt bikes in your neighborhood. Your neighbors might complain about the sound, but at least you won’t get in any legal trouble.
If you want more information on your specific state, and its laws regarding dirt bike riding, you can go to your local DMV, talk to the authorities in your area, or talk to your local dirt bike dealership.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when asking ‘Is a Dirt Bike street legal?’
If you are looking at making a dirt bike street legal, you must make it comply with your local laws, which may be a costly exercise.
The far easier way is to purchase a bike that is already a ‘street-legal dirt bike’, such as a Dual Sport bike. You can then improve its off-road performance if you are into serious off-road riding if you choose.
That way you know that you have no worries when it’s time to take a trip down the highway to the next trail.
Co-writer: William Blake Bike Addicts.com
Do you have a Dirt Bike that you have made street legal? What did you have to do to make it comply?