Want to know how to make your dirt bike street legal in California? We’ll get to that in a second, but first: congratulations on living in one of the world’s best places to ride a motorcycle.
Why is California Awesome for Riders?
Whether you live in the north, central, or south part of the state, the sheer number of amazing roads at your disposal in California is insane. Take it from me; I’ve lived all over that beautiful state.
In a day’s ride you can see snow-capped peaks, desert sands, redwood groves, and ocean waves. Not to mention you have Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Vegas Baby at your disposal anytime you fancy taking your BRAAP’n shenanigans to the city streets.
Not convinced yet? Here are three big reasons to make your dirt bike street legal in California.
California is the only state in this great country where you can legally split lanes. Legend has it this law came to pass because old motorcycles were air-cooled and would overheat in standstill traffic. Advocates of the law support anything that reduces congestion while opponents can’t stand the thought of someone flying past them while they sit in gridlock traffic.
This will be especially helpful if you’re on an air-cooled street legal dirt bike in California.
When I lived in California my daily commute was cut in half thanks to lane splitting. I had enough time to get home, change clothes, and ride to the ocean before my car-driving coworkers even got home.
The Pacific Coast Highway: Highway 1
If you thought riding a street legal dirt bike in California cities was fun, try kicking back on the most incredible road this country has to offer. It might not be the fastest, or the curviest, or even the most dangerous, but Highway 1 lives in infamy as the quintessential California road.
Do the whole thing and you’ll see the Big Sur coast, drive through a Redwood tree, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and see Venice Beach and Santa Monica.
Ride a street legal dirt bike in California and you can take creative detours like the Old Coast Road, pictured above, places where street bikes simply can’t go.
Fun fact: I drove a Smart Cabriolet on that road once. I wouldn’t suggest it.
A Strong Community
Regardless of how, what, and where you like to ride, there’s a group of people in California doing exactly what you love. People are riding all over the state at all hours, and you’re never far from a helping hand if you need it.
But before you buy a one-way ticket to the Best Coast, you probably want to know how to make a dirt bike street legal in California – and why it’s not as easy as it sounds.
How California Registration Works
In most states plating a dirt bike would take an hour at the DMV. Making a dirt bike street legal in those states is as easy as walking into the DMV and presenting the proper paperwork, but that’s not how it works in the land of lane splitting and legal weed.
While all that tree smoke is perfectly fine for the environment, exhaust emissions are not.
To put a fine point on it, most of the loopholes for making a dirt bike street legal in California closed around 2004. Not only does your bike now need a speedometer, odometer, horn, blinkers, lights, and all the other bells and whistles, it needs to have a CARB permit or EPA sticker from the manufacturer showing that it’s legal for highway use in California.
Follow those links and you’ll notice the verbiage is strict when it comes to dual sports and dirt bikes being ridden on public roads. Granted, California has good reason for this: more vehicles and worse air quality than most of the country has ever seen.
And you can’t just catch the inspector on a Friday afternoon and slip him a Washington: in California there’s no mechanical inspection, it’s a VIN verification. That means there’s no way you can slip an off-road vehicle past the DMV.
The bottom line:
Any bike that doesn't have a CARB or EPA sticker designating legal highway use in California is not getting a plate. That means no street legal dirt bikes in California. Unless…
Dirt Legal to the Rescue!
Legalese: The following accounts are anecdotal and are not legal advice. Be sure to obey all laws and legal requirements when operating a motor vehicle on California roads.
When I moved to a small town north of San Francisco I brought in a mid-2000s car licensed and plated in my home state. It had no hope of passing California emissions because of its straight pipe exhaust, so what did I do?
I left that plate on my car and went about my life, and nobody cared.
Dirt Legal does exactly that by getting you a 50-state-legal plate (and title and reg) from a different state. You affix that plate to your bike and boom – you’ve got a street legal dirt bike in California without ever setting foot in a Cali DMV.
What about inspections and registration?
Your license plate will come from a state that requires no inspections and allows registration renewal by phone or mail.
“But you can’t have out-of-state plates in California. You got lucky.”
If you ride a street legal dirt bike in California and you’re just passing through, you’re fine.
If you’re new to California or planning to take up a permanent residence there, things are a little different.
The California DMV rules state that you must register your vehicle(s) in California within 20 days of establishing residency. “Residency” is loosely defined as working, living, paying rent, or receiving bills at a California address on a permanent basis.
The thing is, most states have laws like this and most of the time they’re only enforced in strange circumstances. If you have so much as a mailing address in another state you have nothing to worry about.
But what about CHEATERS?
California has a program called CHEATERS that basically allows other drivers to narc on you if they think you’re dodging the registration process. So if your neighbor is the type to grab a bottle of Lubriderm and break out the DMV Handbook late at night, you might get a call from an officer.
But as someone who lived in California, worked in California, got pulled over in California, and got tickets in California, all with out-of-state plates over the course of several years, I have to say the risk of anyone caring about your plate is pretty low – especially on a street legal dirt bike.
Keep your registration current and you won’t attract undue attention riding a street legal dirt bike in California. That is, unless you do something reckless. But you wouldn’t do that, right?
Get Street Legal Today!
Dirt Legal is one of the only companies in the world that can make a dirt bike street legal in California. When it comes to getting your dirt bike – even a two-stroke – on the road with a legal title and license plate, we’ve got you covered. Putting on all the street legal parts is on you, but the hard part is on us.