There are many reasons you might be interested in turning your dirt bike into a street-legal one. You may love it so much that you want to ride it everywhere. Maybe it’s hard for you to put the bike in the back of your truck and drive it to the field every time you want to go for a ride. Or maybe it’s a matter of expenses. Whatever the reason, I’m going to make the process simple for you.
The three steps to making your dirt bike street legal:
- Do the research.
- Non-mechanical requirements.
- Mechanical necessities.
Types of Street-legal Dirt Bikes
Before deciding on the work you want to do, it’s best to know about the three types of street-legal dirt bikes. Some types of dirt bikes may already be legal on the street. (Who knows, maybe yours is, too!)
These are the three different dirt bikes:
- Dual sport
These bikes are street legal straight from the showroom, and you won’t have to spend a penny on them. Install a plate, and you’re good to go. They meet noise, safety, and pollution regulations.
An ideal vehicle for riding on roads/highways, but you can also carry on riding them when you get to a dirt road! They’re great for long rides with their comfy seats and big fuel tanks.
Supermoto dirt bikes are the street-legal versions of dirt bikes. Turning your bike into a Supermoto requires some modifications. And once the process is done, you can only use the bike on roads.
3 Steps Towards a Legal Dirt Bike
Step 1: Do the Research
To make your bike street legal, you must modify it in a way that meets federal and state standards.
First, check out “The Federal Minimum Requirement,” which is a list the U.S government provided, named as the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard(FMVSS), so you can get a sense of what you’ll have to do.
Each state has specific regulations and demands different parts and accessories. The legal process may vary from state to state. Contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Department of Transportation (DOT), either online, on the phone, or in person. This way, you can access the updated list of requirements and prevent wasting your money, time, and energy.
Step 2: Non-Mechanical Requirements
Here are some of the most common requirements in almost every state—you can’t get past a police officer without them.
- A License Plate: Of course, you’ll need one. If you have a license plate for one of your bikes, you can get that ready for your new one.
- Inspection Certificate: To get your dirt bike certified, you must go through an inspection after dealing with all the mechanical requirements that I’m going to discuss in the following section. You can do this at some motorcycle shops.
- Registration: You’ll need to pay some fees and register your bike through the local DMV after modifying your dirt bike. Otherwise, you’ll be facing huge fines.
- Off-Highway Vehicle Decal: Most states need you to get an Off-highway vehicle decal, again, through the DMV.
Step 3: Mechanical Necessities
Ok, let’s get to the technical part. Here is a complete list of what you may need, but be sure to check your state’s obligations before starting the process.
Having a headlight is a must, as it allows you to see and be seen. Besides the fact that all states require you to install a headlight, having one is non-negotiable because of your own safety. All riders need a headlight to ride in the dark or foul weather. It also allows other drivers to see you and prevent accidents.
Your headlight should be DOT approved. The following requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to check before purchasing a headlight:
- The headlight must be on during the day and night.
- The headlight should be visible but not blinding to others.
- The headlight should be switchable from low beam to high beam.
- The high/low switch should be visible to the rider.
- The high/low switch should be easily accessible.
Even if your state’s DOT doesn’t demand these specifications, if you think about it, they’ll all help you ride more safely.
A DOT-approved tail light with a brake light function is necessary because the drivers behind should be able to see you in the dark, and they should know whenever you’re stopping or slowing down.
The DOT demands that you install the brake light’s switch at both the brake pedal and the handlebar lever.
In some states, your battery should be able to run the light for at least 20 minutes. To achieve this, it’s a good idea to use a LED headlight as they demand a lot less power from the battery.
You should choose a light that functions as a tail and brake light and is also a license plate light. Some tail lights can even work as turn lights.
Installing a horn is another vital thing that all states require you to do. Some states specifically ask for an electrical horn, but some don’t. So, if you're not crossing any state lines, you can install a squeeze horn on your dirt bike.
For safety, though, consider how loud the horn is when buying one. I recommend purchasing an electrical horn for better sound achievement. They don’t use much battery, either.
Turn signals are optional in some states, where they only require you to use hand signals on the road to communicate with other drivers.
But even if your state doesn’t mandate installing turn lights, I recommend you do so anyway because you can signal your movements more efficiently, especially in the dark, without having to let go of the handlebars. This way, you can maintain control when making a turn.
Some states have rules about the placement of the turn lights switches. Again, to reduce battery usage, you can purchase LED blinkers.
Having one mirror is a must according to the DOT rules in all states. Some states require a minimum of two mirrors. Having mirrors will help you see all the surrounding traffic when riding on the road, especially on crowded streets.
As mirrors usually come in a two-pack, I suggest you install two mirrors for safer riding. Also, be wary of cheap mirrors because they’re mostly low-quality.
DOT Approved Tires
This rule of the Department of Transportation is not just an obligation; it’s for your own safety. Please, don’t assume that your dirt bike’s tires are good enough for the highway. That’s a risk you’re taking with your life! The tires made for dirt roads won’t survive highway speeds and may cause a terrible accident.
Be careful when shopping for new tires. Their product description should explicitly say that they’re DOT-approved. Assume nothing and always read the label.
DOT-Approved Gas Tank
Most states require you to have a steel gas tank that is DOT approved.
At the very least, your exhaust should be in good condition, not smoke much, and meet sound regulations. Most states declare this is enough, but some have more specifications on the matter. For example, you may need to have a spark arrestor to get your dirt bike legal. Usually, though, replacing the silencer and making sure the muffler is not overly loud will do the work.
Your exhaust should appear natural, clean, and dent free. The safest option you can take is to install an EPA approved exhaust.
The only state that makes having a speedometer an obligation (at the time of writing) is Indiana. But from where I’m standing, not installing a speedometer or an odometer can get you into so much trouble.
If you don’t know how fast you’re going, you’ll probably end up getting a speeding ticket. Plus, some odometers can show you millage, RPM and engine temperature, as well as speed.
They can even show you how much fuel you have in your tank. As dirt bikes can carry only around two gallons of fuel, it’s a good idea to have an odometer on-board.
Dirt bikes rarely come with kickstands, and having one isn’t an obligation in any state, but it’s common sense!
License Plate Holder
After your bike has been titled and registered, you must install your license plate, maybe right away. So, it’s a good idea to have the license plate bracket ready beforehand. Some states have specific regulations about how you display your license. You won’t want to bring unwanted attention from the police, so be sure to check with the DMV first.
Many people may tell you to buy a dual-sport if you want to ride on both the streets and dirt roads. But if for any reason, you’d like to change your dirt bike into a street-legal one, and if you’re dedicated enough, I encourage you not to give it a go, and I think after it’s all done, you’ll be glad you did it.
A little reading on state regulations will help you finish this project with the minimum time and effort. So you know what you should do and how to do it. If you’ve read this article, then you’re already halfway there!