Can I make a dirt bike street legal and how do I do it?
You may be wondering how to make your dirt bike street legal and others might wonder why you need a street-legal dirt bike.
How to make a dirt bike street legal?
- Adding a headlight with high and low beam.
- Adding a tail light.
- The tail light needs to include a brake light.
- Indicators or turning signals are also a legal requirement both front and rear.
- Licence plates with a light.
- Street legal tires.
- Horn or hooter.
How you make a dirt bike street legal depends on the type of dirt bike you have and your budget. But you are probably better off buying a dual sport version of a dirt bike in the first place than spending money converting one yourself.
The requirements for a street-legal dirt bike will vary from country to country and from state to state in countries like America. But if you are determined to convert your dirt bike, most if not all dirt bikes can be converted, but it then comes down to cost and hassle.
Are you allowed to drive a dirt bike on the road?
The simple answer to the question ‘Are you allowed to drive a dirt bike on the road?’ is yes, with a but.
The but applies to the fact that to ride a dirt bike on the road, it first needs to be street legal.
The changes required to make a dirt bike street legal are explained in a bit more detail below. But these will of course vary from country to country.
Why would you want to have a street legal dirt bike?
Some may wonder why anyone would want to convert a dirt bike to street legal in the first place. The answer is simple. If you want to be able to ride to your favourite dirt track or off-road track and this is on streets and roads, you’ll have no choice but to convert your dirt bike or buy one that is dual purpose.
When I was younger, my first dirt bike was a Husqvarna that wasn’t street legal, but we had to use small sections of road to get to our favourite off-road track. Most of these sections were a simple road crossing from one field to the next, but in some cases it did require us to ride along the road for small sections.
It would have been much better if we had road legal dirt bikes, but we were young and more care free back then.
I would never advocate riding on a road with a non-street-legal dirt bike. If you do, you’re asking for trouble from the law and police if you get caught riding on the road. The fines or how much trouble you will get into, will depend on the country you live in. But I would guess that in most countries like the UK, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the penalties will be quite severe. These could include confiscation of your dirt bike!
So don’t risk it. If you need to use the roads, either buy an already street legal dirt bike, or spend the money converting the one you have.
What are the requirements for a street legal dirt bike?
Every single state in the US is different. Plus every single country will be different.
For example, what makes a dirt bike street legal in the UK will be different to what it is in America. But this will also be different to Canada, as it will be to Australia and so on.
So in this article, I will cover some of the more important basics to make your dirt bike street legal. But you will need to check the rules in your country. Plus if you live somewhere like the USA, you will need to check the rules in say California vs Florida vs Texas vs New York and so on.
So what are the basics for a street legal dirt bike?
No matter where you live in the world, be it the US or the UK or elsewhere, these are some of the basic requirements for most countries and states within America for a street legal dirt bike:
- Horn – You need a horn on the streets to worn other road users.
- Mirrors – You need mirrors to see vehicles behind you for various road maneuvers.
- Headlights – Headlights are a must have for any street legal dirt bike to see and be seen on the road.
- Tail lights – As with a headlight, a tail light is essential for other road users to see you from behind in the dark.
- Break lights or stop lamp – As any vehicle breaks it’s important that other road users are aware of it breaking. This is so they don’t run into the back of you.
- Indicators or blinkers – Indicators or blinkers are a must have light system to tell other road users your intentions of direction change.
- A licence plate – Most countries require a licence plate to provide for individual identification for the police and so on.
- Licence plate lamp – This is to illuminate the licence plate at night so it can be identified in the dark too.
- Sound and emissions – There will be different sound limits and emission restrictions for street use vs off-road use. These will vary from country to country and from state to state in the US.
To register your dirt bike for street legal use, you need to contact the DMV CA in California for example in the USA and the DVLA in the UK. You will need to check what this is in your own country. Each state of the USA has it’s own DMV to register with.
Tips for selecting a dirt bike to convert to street legal
When selecting the right dirt bike to convert, there are a few factors to consider. These include the following factors:
Selecting a dirt bike with a four-stroke engine
There aren’t as many two stroke dirt bikes around as there used to be. Most are now 4-stroke bikes instead.
But even if you can get a 2-stroke, I wouldn’t recommend this for converting to a street legal bike. 2-strokes are noisier for a start and their emissions are much worse than a 4 stroke engine. You may have difficulty in getting the two stroke to pass the emission testing.
The other downside of a 2 stoke dirt bike is in terms of fuel consumption. Current four-stroke engines are much more fuel efficient. Plus you don’t have the chore of mixing 2-stroke oil with fuel when you have a 4-stroke.
Factory fitted headlight and tail lights
If you can buy a dirt bike that has the lights factory fitted, you will save yourself loads of hassle. You can buy the lights no problem, but it’s the wiring that is chore. If you don’t know electrics, it’s gonna cost you to have these fitted by a professional.
Gearing ratios and number of gears
The gears required on road use vs off-road use is quite different. So make sure you buy a dirt bike that has a wide-ratio gear box. The wider gearing makes the off-road riding easier. This reduces the constant need to shift gears to remain in the power band.
If you can get a dirt bike with six gears, even better. Otherwise on faster sections of a road, you’ll be reaching to change up gear.
Water cooling vs air cooling
You want to make sure the dirt bike you buy is water cooled. The last thing you need is for your bike to be over heating in slow moving traffic or at a set of traffic lights. On the track you are constantly moving, so the air cooling setup works well. But on the streets, air cooling can be problematic.
Electric power and charging system
Check what type of generator or alternator the dirt bike has. Will there be sufficient power to run the new lighting system you install? If the dirt bike you’re buying is kick-start only, it’s unlikely to have sufficient electric charging capacity to install headlights and tail lights.
Not all dirt bikes are easy to convert to street legal
When it comes to converting dirt bikes to street-legal machines, not all bikes are as easy to convert as others.
Some dirt bikes will inevitably be more of a challenge to convert than others on the market, which is the nature of the game. So if you’re looking for a street-legal dirt bike at the outset, you are better off looking for one that’s already street legal or one that will convert more easily. One that offers less of a chore to make the conversion.
It’s likely that all dirt bikes can be made into street legal bikes, but it becomes more of an issue of expense and effort. The other limiting factor, which may also have a cost association, is your mechanical and electrical ability. If you are mechanically minded and/or electrically minded, then you’ll be able to do the conversion yourself.
But if you’re neither of these, you’ll need to have a local bike garage do the conversion for you. This will not be cheap.
What type of dirt bike to buy that’s already street legal
Some dirt bikes come street-legal ready, also known as dual sport dirt bikes. But these dirt bikes are expensive when new, so you may wish to consider buying secondhand.
Examples of good secondhand and new street legal dirt bikes include the KTM 450EXC. These were available from 2008 and later, but even the second hand ones are not that cheap. They are rarely on sale, as people tend to hold on to them, as they’re just so good. The new KTM 450EXC’s are around $10,000, but if you want to ride to your favourite dirt biking spot, that may be a price worth paying.
Another example of a street legal dirt bike you can buy off the shelf is Husqvarna. I love Husqvarna, as this was my very first dirt bike I owned.
The 701 Enduro 2018 is describe to have ‘the ability to conquer urban environments and treacherous offroad terrain with equal composure.’ This is more expensive than the KTM and is over $11,000 new.
What do you call a dirt bike that is street legal?
When a dirt bike is both street legal and off-road ready, it’s referred to as either dual purpose or dual-sports. The dual sports versions of KTM and Husqvarna have been detailed above.
There will of course be compromises made to allow a dirt bike to accommodate both road and off-road riding. But KTM and Husqvarna have done a great job at retaining the majority of the dirt-bike ability, but with built-in on-road requirements to satisfy the laws.
Is it legal to drive a dirt bike on the sidewalk or pavement?
Riding your dirt bike on a sidewalk in the US or on the pavement in the UK is illegal. If you get caught riding on the sidewalk by the police, you will get into real problems. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also dangerous to ride a dirt bike where people are walking.
It’s possible to even be against the law to push your dirt bike along the side of the road or on the sidewalk or pavement, where the dirt bike is not street legal.
Instead you’re better off either converting your dirt bike to be street legal, or buying yourself a trailer to tow it to the nearest track.
I hope you enjoyed this article about how to make a dirt bike street legal
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Have fun and be safe!