There is no doubt that dirt bikes are fun to ride off-road. So, it’s tempting to try and bring the fun to the streets. But before you do, you should know that dirt bikes are not allowed on the streets. So, why are dirt bikes not street legal?
According to the U.S Department of Transport (DoT), dirt bikes are not street legal because they lack conventional vehicles’ basic mechanical safety features. That includes DoT-approved headlights, brake lights, tail lights, rear mirrors, turn signals, and functional horns.
While that is the primary reason why dirt bikes are not street legal, others include not having an EPA-approved exhaust, DoT-approved gas tank, and plate number.
Furthermore, dirt bikes are street illegal in some places because they don’t have the necessary documentation, including a license, inspection certificate, and insurance.
Note, however, that dirt bike laws vary from state to state and neighborhoods. It’s also worth noting that it’s not illegal to ride some dirt bikes, and in some places, there are no laws forbidding one not to ride a dirt bike.
Let’s explore more!
7 Reasons Why Dirt Bikes Are Illegal on the Streets
Here are seven reasons why dirt bikes are not street legal in a majority of states:
1. Dirt Bikes Lack Critical Street-Legal Mechanical Safety Features
The Department of Transport (DoT) sets minimum requirements for off-highway vehicles (OHV), which dictate that all OHVs observe the necessary safety features.
And since dirt bikes fall in the OHV class, they are subject to the DoT requirements.
The requirements include the following DoT-approved features:
- Brake light
- Turn signal
- Rearview mirror
Unfortunately, standard dirt bikes don’t come with these accessories, and even if they do, the features usually are not DoT-approved or not functional.
2. Dirt Bikes Lack Street-Legal Exhaust
When it comes to the emission equipment (exhaust), it must be EPA-certified. Unfortunately, that is not the case with standard dirt bikes, making them street illegal.
3. Dirt Bikes Lack DoT-Approved Gas Tanks
While dirt bikes come with smaller gas tanks, they are not DoT-certified. The Department of Transport insists on steel fuel tanks with adequate capacity, which dirt bikes don’t feature.
4. Dirt Bikes Are Too Loud
This mainly applies in the neighborhoods, where the community laws do not encourage disturbing noise. In most neighborhoods, it’s illegal to ride dirt bikes as they are historically loud.
So, it’s essential to be familiar with the community laws to know if it’s legal to ride dirt bikes on the streets or not.
5. Dirt Bikes Wheels Are Not DoT-Approved
Though a dirt bike’s wheels are designed for rough roads, they cannot take the tarmac’s hard surfaces. That’s unless you get a dual-sport bike, which can take on all terrains.
If you ride a standard dirt bike on highways, the tires could puncture easily due to the rough contact between them and the tarmac. Their thread profiles also resist fast-rolling, which means you are likely to go slower.
6. Dirt Bikes Lack a License Plate
For easy identification of the vehicle user, the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) expects all vehicles to have a license plate, including motorcycles. Unfortunately, dirt bikes don’t come with a license plate.
So, since dirt bikes qualify as motorcycles, they can only be street-legal with a license plate, which they often lack.
7. Dirt Bikes Lack the Necessary Street-Legal Documentation
The DoT expects all vehicles to have a license, inspection certificate, and insurance where necessary. Without such documents, it’s illegal to ride on most roads. Unfortunately, most dirt bike owners don’t see the need to obtain them.
Where Are Dirt Bikes Street Legal in the U.S.?
Dirt biking is illegal on the streets in most U.S states. Some states, however, have stricter rules than others. For example, California, Maryland, New York, and Texas outlaw dirt bikes on highways and other streets.
You can, however, ride them with a special permit from the local authorities.
Where Can I Ride My Dirt Bike Legally?
While it’s illegal to ride dirt bikes in most U.S states, you can freely do it in Indiana without a license or any special mechanical add-on.
You can also ride a dirt bike in Georgia without legal certification, but it has to be on private property. As for Florida, you need first to register the bike to ride it.
What Places in the Neighborhood Can I Ride a Dirt Bike?
While it’s illegal to ride a dirt bike on-road in most states, it’s not illegal to do it in the following places in your neighborhood:
- Private properties
- Motocross racing parks
- State riding parks and trails
Can A Dirt Bike Be Made Street Legal?
The quick answer is yes. Yes, a dirt bike can be made street-legal by meeting the necessary mechanical and non-mechanical requirements as follows:
a) Mechanical Requirements
Here, you can make your dirt bike legal by fitting the following:
- DoT-Approved Headlight
A good headlight should be DoT-approved to assure you of better visibility at night. One DoT-approved headlight for consideration is the DoT-approved H49003LED Headlight (view on Amazon).
This headlight promises a brighter output with better visibility. Plus, it comes with a universal fit to fit on any dirt bike or motorcycle.
- Rearview Mirror
Some states require you to have two rear mirrors, while in others, one will do. So, confirm that first before investing in the feature.
- Turn Signal
The turn signals are optional in some states. They are, however, an excellent addition to on-road dirt bikes. If they are mandatory, they should promise better visibility, as is the case of the Oz Motors 4X Carbon Turn Signal (View on Amazon).
These turn signals promise bright blink on the streets for maximum visibility and come with a universal fit to fit on just any dirt bike.
In some states, you can use a regular bike horn, but you must use an electric horn in others. Get an electric horn and fit it on your dirt bike to play it safe.
- DoT-Approved Wheels
Replace your dirt bike’s tires with DoT-approved options to ride on the streets. Such tires have good traction and roll smoothly on-road.
- License Plate Bracket
Once you start riding on-road, you need to display your dirt bike’s plate license. That’s only possible if you fit a license plate bracket.
An option like the Yibid Universal Mini License Plate Holder (View on Amazon) doubles up as a taillight and brake light holder, thus a good investment.
Note that while this is not mandatory in every state, it’s an excellent add-on to a dirt bike since it lets you monitor your speed and travel distance.
Most U.S states don’t say much about the exhaust. So, so long as it’s EPA-approved, you are good to go.
- Brake and Taillight
Get a DoT-approved brake light which usually doubles up as the taillight. You should switch the taillight on whenever the dirt bike engine runs.
Overall, you cannot go wrong with the BSK Universal DoT ECE LED Taillight (View on Amazon).
This DoT-approved taillight fits not just road bikes but also dirt bikes and promises super bright but traffic-visible light.
b) Non-Mechanical Requirements
This involves documentation, which includes:
- Operator’s license
- Inspection certificate for the dirt bike
- Insurance cover for the dirt bike
Why Should You Make Your Dirt Bike Street legal?
Given that it’s costly to make a dirt bike street legal, it’s logical to ask if it’s worth it?
Well, a street-legal dirt bike allows you to ride off-road and on the streets any time of the year. It’s more like having a 2-in-1 bike. Just like you can use a BMX bike for dirt jumping and street riding, you also use a street-legal BMX the same way.
And if you are a commuter, such a conversion saves you commuting expenses. Additionally, a street-legal bike promise convenience. By making the best dirt bike street legal, there is no place you cannot go.
Are All Dirt Bikes Street Illegal?
All dirt bikes are not illegal to ride on the street. Some are exempted because they have the essential mechanical safety add-ons that roadworthy vehicles have.
The add-ons include the headlight, brake light, tail light, horn, exhaust, and rearview mirror.
Here are the two street legal dirt bikes that I’m talking about:
- Supermoto bikes (or motard bikes)
- Dual-sport bike
People Also Ask
1. Can You Make Dirt Bikes Street Legal?
Yes, it’s possible to make a dirt bike street legal if you meet the necessary mechanical and non-mechanical requirements that the transport department expects from all vehicles.
Mechanically, your dirt bike should have the following DoT-approved features:
- Rear mirror
- Turn signal
- DoT-approved brakes
- License plate holder
As for the non-mechanical requirements, your dirt bike should have a license, inspection certificate, and insurance cover in some cases.
2. Is It Illegal to Ride a Dirt Bike On the Sidewalks?
In most states, it’s illegal to ride a dirt bike on the sidewalk just as much as it is on the highway. There are, however, exceptions which include:
- Emergencies – If your safety or that of others is at risk and the only immediate solution is to ride a dirt bike on-road, you may be exempted by the law.
- Riding on private sidewalks – If the sidewalk is on your property, no one can fault you for riding a dirt bike there. You can also do it on someone’s property if you have their consent.
- While walking on sidewalks – You can push a dirt bike on the sidewalks. It’s not illegal to do so. It only becomes illegal if you jump on it and start riding.
3. What Can Happen If You Illegally Ride a Dirt Bike On the Streets?
In most neighborhoods, you are likely to be cautioned not to ride a dirt bike there if it’s a first-time violation. Only after repeat violations are you likely to face criminal charges.
Overall, some violations are more serious than others, leading to prosecution and heavy fines. That includes the following:
- Loud exhaust
- Riding without a license
- Riding with no insurance
- Using the dirt bike without a license plate
- Riding under the influence
- Lacking the rear mirror, brake lights, and other safety add-ons
Why Are Dirt Bikes Not Street Legal? Closing Thought:
The reasons why dirt bikes are not street legal are clear and logical. It’s also clear that you can turn a standard dirt bike into a street-legal option or, better, get a street-legal dirt bike such as Supermoto or dual-sport bike.