Aug 10, 2019
 in 
Motorcycles

How to Make a Dirt Bike Street-Legal 101

 By 
Trail Boss

Thinking about converting your dirt bike into a street-legal stud? Here’s what you should know…

Can you make a dirt bike street-legal? Why yes, you can. If you’re the handy type, making a dirt bike street-legal is not nearly as difficult as some people think. It’s the research you have to do prior to converting your bike that’ll take the most time, energy, and patience.  

When a friend of mine asked me this question recently, I wondered how many other dirt lovers might be wondering the same thing. So, I put together a comprehensive list of the most important changes you’ll have to make to avoid ruffling any law enforcement feathers.

The list I created is merely a starting point, though, not a done deal, so there’s still a bit of research required on your end in order to figure out individual state requirements. After some digging, you may find that several items on this list are not mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in your state, which could end up saving you both time and money (and we could all use a little more of those, am I right?).

So, let’s get the ball rolling on the “Can I make a dirt bike street-legal” question. Here’s a list of modifications some of you can expect to make (you should also refer to “The Federal Minimum Requirements” on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website for more information):

Headlight

The first step to making a dirt bike street legal is installing a DOT-approved headlight that can switch between high- and low-beam. Additionally, the high-beam indicator must be visible from the rider’s seated position. For this installation, make sure the bike’s stator is functioning properly because it, along with the battery, is what will power your headlight.  

Tail/brake light

The tail light must be DOT-approved and come with integrated brake light function. The switch to activate the brake light must be installed at both the handlebar lever and the brake pedal, and the tail light must be on any time the bike is running (if using a mounted battery, the tail light must remain lit for a minimum of 20 minutes). LED tail lights will reduce the draw on the battery, so keep this in mind.

Video Source: Trevor Pritchett YouTube

Wheels/tires

Tires must be DOT-certified, and they must fit the wheel. They don’t have to be knobbly, but they have to be able to withstand the pressures of highway riding. Some people choose to convert their ride to a ‘dual sport’ or ‘supermoto’ bike to maintain the feel of a dirt bike, and this is fine as long as the converted bike meets “The Federal Minimum Requirements.”

Rearview mirror(s)

At least one rearview mirror is required in all states, but in some states you have to install two. Keep in mind that where you install these mirrors is pretty important to your visibility, so place them wisely (bar-end mirrors are not ideal for dirt bikes).

Video Source: Andewsi TV

Horn

Every state mandates a horn be added to your bike for it to be considered street-legal. Some states require an electric horn while others accept a simple squeeze-type horn (in my experience, squeeze horns rarely produce the sound volume necessary to alert others of your presence). It’s up to you to research which kind your state prefers.

License plate bracket

Your license plate should be displayed in a way that does not bring unwanted attention from law enforcement; again, research is critical because every state (even every zip code!) will vary on this requirement. Just make sure the plate is visible at all times, even at night (LED strips are an inexpensive and effective solution).

Exhaust

Unless you’re living in California, the DOT does not place restrictions on a bike’s exhaust system. Typically, as long as the exhaust is in good shape, meets sound regulations (which can easily be achieved with a muffler), and doesn’t smoke like a chimney, you’re good to go. If you still have reservations, though, opt for an EPA-approved exhaust system.

Turn signals

Only some states require these, and they do technically have to be DOT-certified, though the likelihood you’ll get caught with non-DOT signals is pretty low. Where you place the switch that activates them matters most: top left-hand grip and visible from the rider’s position.

Video Source: desert speed YouTube

Speedometer

It shocked me to learn that very few states require a speedometer because riding a motorcycle doesn’t make you immune to getting a speeding ticket. So, to be safe, go ahead and install one.

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