How To Make a Dirt Bike Street Legal
A license plate on your off-roader will double your miles and double your fun.
Time Needed: One day; Difficulty: Intermediate; Cost: $167-$310 plus registration fee
Most of us who love ripping things up on a dirt bike have had this thought: I wish this thing was street legal. It doesn’t have to be just a thought. We’re going to show you how to make your dirt bike street legal. Making your dirt bike street legal creates a range of benefits, such as riding your bike to a trail, dominating it, and then riding back home. You essentially get to add an extra bike to your garage, and this is especially true if you buy another set of supermoto rims and fit street tires. Let’s dive in to what it takes to turn your dirt bike into one that’s legal for use on public roads.
Why Make Your Dirt Bike Street Legal?
The real question is why wouldn’t you want to make your dirt bike street legal. Unless you use your bike solely for motocross or off-road competitions, making it street legal can be very beneficial to any off-roader.
Dirt bikes are lightweight, designed to be agile, and although they aren’t the fastest motorcycles, they accelerate rapidly. These attributes create a supremely capable machine, both on city streets and country roads, especially if you fit supermoto rims and road tires. By making your dirt bike street legal, you’re creating a machine that is sure to generate a grin from ear to ear.
The main benefit, arguably, is that you can ride to a trail, tear it up, and ride home on the same machine. You no longer need to load up your truck or trailer if you want to take your dirt bike off-roading; your two-wheeler just keeps going after the asphalt turns to dirt.
Are Mini Dirt Bikes Street Legal?
Just like their larger counterparts, mini dirt bikes can be made street legal, too. A mini dirt bike must meet the same requirements as a regular-sized dirt bike, and these requirements will vary from state to state. Make sure you check the federal minimum requirements in your state before converting a bike.
Converting a mini dirt bike opens up a world of opportunities in terms of getting some track time in. Many go-kart tracks are perfectly suited to mini dirt bikes and allow riders to take to the track on certain days. If you fit road tires to your mini dirt bike, you’ll be able to ride to the track, push your skills to the limit in a relatively safe environment, and ride back home.
How Do I Register a Dirt Bike?
Like most things when it comes to making a dirt bike street legal, the process of registering it differs depending on where you live. Get information online or by going to your state’s motor vehicles bureau. They can tell you all you need to know about what modifications you need to make to your bike and if there’s any reason your particular bike can’t be made street legal.
Next, consider state and federal regulations along with available motorcycle parts. This is an important step as parts for some old bikes might not be available.
The next step is gathering federal and state documentation, which you’ll need to verify the bike and what’s been done to it. This process is a bit tricker since the documents required can vary greatly depending on what state you live in. In some states, you’ll need the motorcycle’s manufacturer’s certificate of origin, or MCO, sometimes known as the MSO. The bike’s title will suffice in other states.
After you’ve taken the above steps, you’re ready to carry out all the necessary upgrades to the bike. Depending on which state you live in, you might need a mechanic to sign off on all the work you’ve performed on the bike. Understandably, many mechanics will want to have performed this work on your bike themselves. So before making any modifications yourself, contact your mechanic first.
Once you have all the paperwork required and alterations made, it’s time to head to your local motor vehicles department. An employee will check the relevant paperwork and modifications and might issue a license plate or tell you why your bike hasn’t been approved.
The Safety Brief
Nothing about this DIY job is very dangerous, but you will be working with electronics, liquids, and sharp objects. It’s a good idea to get yourself a good pair of mechanics gloves and safety glasses before starting your conversation.
The Tools and Parts You Need
The exact parts you’ll need will depend on where you live and the options you fit on your dirt bike. You might not need all of the parts listed here, but these are good examples of what you’ll need to change in order for your dirt bike to become street legal.
Speedometer and tachometer (optional)
Side stand/Center stand (optional)
The Proper Requirement for Your State
The upgrades required to make your dirt bike street legal vary from state to state. Before you tackle this project, check out what the requirements are where you live. What you’re looking for is the federal minimum requirements for all on-road motorcycles in your state. Depending on where you live, you might even be able to skip a few of the steps below.
How To Make a Dirt Bike Street Legal
Fit a Headlight
All states require you to fit a Department of Transportation-approved headlight with a high- and low-beam function. The high-beam indicator and high/low beam switch must be visible from the rider’s seated position. We recommend fitting the switch to your handlebars, as you’d find on a street bike.
All states require you to have a DOT-approved tail light that also functions as a brake light. This light must be powered by a battery on the bike to be considered road legal. The battery needs to have enough power to sustain the tail light, with the brake light engaged, for a minimum of 20 minutes. You’ll need to install brake-light activation switches at the front brake lever and rear brake pedal. The headlight doesn’t need to be powered by a mounted battery, but since the tail light does, you might as well hook up the headlight, too.
Get a Horn
No matter where you live, you’ll need to fit a horn to your dirt bike to make it road legal. Most states require that you use an electric horn but not all of them. Since horns don’t place too much strain on your electrical system, the easiest thing to do is get an electric one.
Laws on mirrors vary from state to state. In some states, you’ll need two mirrors, but other areas only require one. Check out what your state requires before making your purchase.
The laws regarding turn signals vary greatly from state to state. Many states don’t require motorcycles to have turn signals and allow riders to use hand signals instead. Other states require front and rear turn signals and even have regulations concerning where they need to be fitted relative to the headlight and tail light.
Speedometer and Tachometer (optional)
Not many states require you to fit a speedometer, but you’ll need to check state laws before hitting the streets. Even if you don’t need a speedometer, it’s still a good idea to fit one to ensure you ride within the legal limits. If you use one with a built-in odometer, you can keep an eye on your trip distance and make sure you don’t run out of fuel.
No states require a tachometer, so fitting one is a matter of personal preference. Some speedometers have a built-in tachometer, so if you choose one of these models you can kill two birds with one stone.
Although an upgraded battery isn’t a legal requirement, it might be necessary to power other additions to your dirt bike, such as tail lights. There are a couple options to choose from, and some are designed specifically for getting dirt bikes on the road. Some models will only work as a power source, and others are designed to work with a charging system.
If you run your lights and other electronic components directly from your battery without using an alternator, your battery won’t last long. Fitting an alternator will help recharge your bike’s battery as you ride, so you won’t worry about running out of juice.
If you want to keep your bike’s battery healthy and running smoothly, install a regulator/rectifier. It converts the AC coming from the alternator to the battery to DC and controls the amount of power that’s sent to the battery.
A license plate is necessary in all states, although some are more particular about where it needs to be. If you’re unsure where to place it, your state’s motor vehicle bureau can tell you. There are license-plate mounts that are legal in almost every state, and that’s great if you plan on taking interstate trips. You’ll also need lights mounted above the license plate, but an LED strip should do the job nicely.
Every motorcycle on the road needs to have DOT-certified tires. Most dirt bike rims will accept DOT tires, which are signified by the DOT marking on their sidewalls. It doesn’t matter whether they’re knobbies or street tires, as long as they’re DOT certified.
Some riders opt to fit their dirt bike with supermoto 17-inch rims, which include cush-drive hubs and brake rotors. These tires will last longer and make the bike more maneuverable on the road, and if you want to take it on a trail, all you need to do is swap the rims out.
Side stand/Center stand (optional)
Most dirt bikes don’t come fitted with a stand, and although it’s not a legal requirement, it’s one of the most practical upgrades you can make. If you want your dirt bike to be useful for short trips to the store or town, you’ll want a side or center stand.
Car Bibles answers all your burning questions.
Q. What do you call a dirt bike that’s street legal?
A: A dirt bike that’s been made legal for street use isn’t reclassified under a new name. Some people might refer to it as a dual-sport bike, as it’s now suitable for riding off-road and on.
Q. Can you make any dirt bike street legal?
A: This depends on your home state. In some states, particularly California, certain dirt bike models can’t be made street legal. In California, you’ll be able to tell if you can make your bike street legal based on a code stamped on its frame.
Video Tutorial on Making a Dirt Bike Street Legal
Making your dirt bike road ready is a hands-on task, and while you can get great information from reading about what you need to do, sometimes a video is just as beneficial. We’ve included one of our favorite instructional videos to help explain the process.
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