Want to make your dirt bike street legal, but don't know where to begin? Well, we have decided to make a guide just for you, to help you understand what’s involved in the process from A to Z.
We are going to cover the laws and the parts you’ll need, and we’ll add some tips along with way. The process may seem daunting if you haven’t started yet, but we think you’ll find it’s really not that complicated for riders with moderate mechanical skills and basic tools.
We’ll cover the following:
Universal parts to help you get street legal anywhere
Upgrading your charging system to handle those parts, and
Optional parts that are rarely required but are good to have
The best part is, you can do it all yourself!
Legal Issues: Rumors and Facts
There are many myths and rumors that swirl around regarding the legal issues of titling dirt bikes for street use. Some say it can only be done if there was a title issued when the bike was new. Others think you only need to strap on a headlight and a taillight and head out on the road.
The fact is you can title almost any dirt bike, but the process of making a dirt bike street legal is more complicated than just attaching a couple of lights.
When you’re ready to go street legal, your simplest route is to let the pros at Dirt Legal handle the paperwork side of things for you. Visit our Dirt Bike Conversions page to learn more.
All the Parts You Need
The only thing left for you to do is install the necessary parts to comply with your state's DOT (Department of Transportation) requirements. Making a dirt bike physically compliant with the operating laws within any state will require some investment of time and money on your part.
Much depends on the model of dirt bike being put into road service, but there are many ways to simplify your build. Check out the infographic above to see the minimum equipment requirements for each state.
Be sure to get familiar with your local laws and regulations before riding a dirt bike on the road. You may not be as street legal as you might think, and this list might not cover everything your area requires.
Most states require that motorcycles have a DOT-compliant headlight, which is:
switchable from high beam to low beam
lit during the day and night
is clearly visible but not blinding to drivers
However, a headlight causes a constant draw on your electrical system. One way to keep the headlight’s draw on the battery to a minimum is to install an LED headlight, which requires a fraction of the amps of a halogen light. These lights also enable you to use a battery without a charging system if you wish. We discuss the limitations of this method in the Battery section below.
Be sure you know your local laws about the placement of the high/low switch. Some states have no requirement for this switch, but others are specific. The DOT requirement is that the switch be visible to the rider, and it’s best to place it where it is easily accessible, like the traditional left-hand side of the handle bar.
The tail light, with a working brake light function, enables drivers behind you to see that you are slowing down. It also attracts attention, which is just as important for safety in the daylight as it is in the dark.
Installing the proper taillight can kill four DOT requirements at once!
License plate light
In some states the light must be connected to a battery, which must be able to remain lit for 20 minutes, and it must be on at all times. Like the headlight, an LED tail light will reduce the draw on the battery, meaning longer battery life and less need for a stator upgrade.
The switches for the taillight must be installed so that the rear brake pedal and front brake lever both light up the tail light when engaged. One common solution is a banjo-bolt switch, which uses the extra pressure in the brake line when engaged to trigger the brake light. Mechanical switch options are also available which are best suited for drum brakes.
There are good taillight bracket-fender combos on the market that solve installation issues with a finished look.
Some states require that a motorcycle have two mirrors in place, but most just require that motorcycles have at least one working mirror.
A functioning mirror allows you to see what is going on behind you. They keep you safe, so be careful using a cheap, shaky mirror if you do a lot of street riding.
Some riders prefer the look of their machines sans mirrors, and will begrudgingly install a single, low-profile mirror for looks. When taking this route, it is wise to invest in a wide-angle mirror, which will do away with the blind spot on at least one side of the bike.
Many bikes that have available dual-sport versions will readily accept classic, threaded, long-stem mirrors. If not, a simple solution is to clamp on bar-end mirrors. They have a considerably lower profile than the stem mirrors, and some provide much better views of what’s going on behind you.
Many states do not require turn signals, but instead require hand signals to be used.
Even then, it is still wise to install turn signals. The flashing yellow lights get the attention of drivers much better than hands do, especially at night. And they also allow riders to stay in control of their handlebars when making a turn.
That said, if your only stumbling block is installing blinkers, the use of hand signals may allow you to skip this step in many states. Some states have specific requirements regarding the installation of turn signals, but not all. And again, LED blinkers will reduce the draw from the battery vs a bulb.
The tires on any street-going motorcycle must be DOT Certified.
Dirt bike rims normally accept DOT-rated tires, which contain extra layers of rubber and are highway-speed rated. If they are approved, tires will be marked DOT on the sidewall. It doesn’t matter if the tires are knobbies or not, only that they have the DOT certification.
You may get away with skirting this law, but off-road-only tires are ill suited for the rigors of highway speeds and may come apart at the seams. The smartest and safest approach is to install DOT-approved skins if you do a lot of pavement riding.
An increasingly popular option is to convert a dirt bike into a supermoto by installing 17 inch rims and mounting street tires found on most sport bikes.
Besides the obvious style points from this mod, sport tires offer increased longevity and maneuverability over knobbies when racking up miles on a road-going dirt bike.
Many sport bike riders have converted to the supermoto life due to the lighter weight of a dirt bike and the easiness of maneuvering it both on and off-road. The conversion will require special supermoto rims usually 17" in the front and rear to accept the sport tires, but kits are available that include wheels, cush-drive hubs, tires and brake rotors for an easy swap.
This is where we start to get into a bit of a gray area in regulations.
All states require motorcycles to have a working horn, but some allow non-electric horns to pass if an inspection is needed. Other states specify that the horn must be electric for a motorcycle to be street legal. The simplest way through this part of the maze is to just install an electric horn.
Most draw less than 10 amps, so they are no challenge to a properly set up charging system. They are also very cheap starting at around $8.
License Plate Bracket
Motorcycles used on public roads will need to display a license plate.
This rule is the same everywhere, though some states are more particular about the method of display than others. It is best to check with the local DMV to be sure the license plate is properly displayed on your street legal dirt bike.
There are aftermarket license plate brackets available that display plates in a way that is legal in most every state. You may also consider alternative means of affixing the plate, such as zip ties or mounting it beneath the fender for a cleaner look as pictured below. Just be careful that it doesn’t fly off.
In many states, you can also mount the plate vertically if it makes it easier for you. A light will be necessary, but a cheap LED strip mounted above the plate will suffice, and may prove to be a permanent solution. Some states require the plate to be past the rear tire for easy readability, but if it is visible from the rear of the bike then you shouldn't run into any issues.
Upgrading the Charging System
This often-overlooked aspect of street legal dirt bike conversions can leave you parked on the side of the road.
A battery is not necessary to power lights on a dirt bike if you have sufficient power from the stator. However, to power the required lights for street riding, you will need to convert the AC power your stator is making fire the spark plug to DC power the lights can use.
Powering lights off of alternating current will soon fry them. Although there are lights which can be powered by AC voltage, they usually have a much shorter life. A dirt bike without any of these components should be modified to use them.
The classic motorcycle charging system consists of a stator, a regulator/rectifier and a battery. Some motorcycles utilize alternators like cars do, but this is less common on dirt bikes.
The stator (or sometimes alternator) generates electricity in a motorcycle, but they do not all produce the same amount of it. A dirt bike without lights or a starter has minimal electrical requirements, and the stator likely produces minimal wattage.
The total draw of all the electrical components to be placed on the street-legal build should leave enough leftover power to charge the battery — 13 to 15 volts. Most kickstart-only dirt bikes will require an upgraded stator to power the added components.
The stock stator can be rewound to generate more power or you can purchase a high output stator online for most dirt bikes. Ricky Stator Is one popular choice to purchase upgraded stators for off-road vehicles.
The regulator/rectifier converts the alternating current coming from the stator to direct current that the electrical components can use. It also takes the high voltage coming from the stator and regulates it down to the 13 to 15 volts required to charge the battery.
Some aftermarket companies sell kits with upgraded stators and regulator rectifiers that are meant to work together. Again, do not operate lights directly off of alternating current unless the lights were made to handle it.
A battery is not necessary on most dirt bikes, but without it, you can only use your lights when the bike is running and the lights may dim while the bike is idling.
There are some small batteries on the market specifically designed for converting dirt bikes to street legal.
Some work as a lone power source for the lights on a bike, and some are designed to work with a charging system. Both styles are discreet, but supply all the DC power these motorcycles require.
However, using a battery as the lone power source will inevitably drain it quickly. It will require frequent charging and will have a short life, but it will do its job until you can perform a proper conversion.
There are bike-specific kits available that contain all three major electrical components, along with wiring harnesses. Wiring harnesses from a dual sport version of your dirt bike may also be available in the used market.
Optional Street Legal Components
Most local areas will not require these components, and while some will, it’s always a good idea to rock them on your street legal dirt bike conversion.
An odometer is a luxury on a dirt bike, but is important to have for street riding. It tells you speed, mileage, RPM, and engine temperature.
Currently, it is only legally required on motorcycles in Indiana, so this is an optional part. With a trip meter, you can make sure you never run out of gas again! It's a very common mistake to run out of gas on a dirt bike seeing as they only carry around 2 gallons of fuel. These are fairly easy to install for the most part. Companies like Trail Tech offer all in one odometers which include everything needed for a DIY installation.
Not many off-road-only dirt bikes have kickstands due to safety concerns of it falling down accidentally.
The safety hazard these contraptions pose on the street is practically nil, however, and trying to live without one in urban use is an exercise in futility. Again, kickstands are not required by law, but they are a simple convenience that many riders overlook in the rush to get a dirt bike on the road, only to later find there isn’t always a place to rest the bike.
Best to have one, don’t you think?
The front and rear sprockets on a dirt bike are likely intended for slower top speeds than the typical street legal dual sport machine gets up to on the road. They are likely set up for explosive bursts of speed.
A gearing change can make a huge difference in acceleration and top-end speed. Getting a rear sprocket with more teeth will provide better pickup at the cost of top speed, and vice versa.
The opposite is true for the front sprocket, where dropping a tooth will net greater acceleration at a cost of top-end power. Keep in mind that, if your dirt bike has a speedometer, changing the front sprocket will likely make it read incorrectly.
Most dirt bikes don't come with a fan, due to the fact that they are not built with streets in mind. They are made to be constantly moving, not sitting at red lights on the way to McDonald’s. If you live in an urban area with traffic, you may want to add a fan to your bike to keep the engine from overheating.
Cush Drive Hub
This is an extremely bike-specific issue.
To simplify, most road-going motorcycles have a dampening system in place to soften the blow of road imperfections on the transmission system. Either the clutch hub or the rear wheel hub may contain rubber pieces for dampening. These “cush drive” hubs allow for some play in the driveline. Dirt bikes rarely have them because the loose terrain allows sliding the rear wheel while shifting.
On the street, cush drives save transmissions from expensive damages and are a wise investment. Due diligence on the part of the bike owner may save tremendous headaches down the line.
There’s Nothing You Can’t Do Yourself!
Converting a dirt bike to be street legal can sometimes seem overwhelming, which is why we offer 24/7 customer service 365 days a year. If you're having trouble with installing the equipment or other issues getting your off-road vehicle road worthy, feel free to give us a call for assistance at (800)-994-7513.
Take some time to research your own ride and the local laws in your area, determining piece by piece whether upgrades are needed and finding a permanent and high-quality solution to each issue. The time you spend now making sure you get it right will make a huge difference in the quality of your ride down the road.
When you’re ready to get your bike titled and registered, Dirt Legal has you covered. The headaches involved with converting a dirt bike to street use are mostly just good times turning wrenches. You take care of the fun stuff, and we'll do the paperwork.
Need a license plate? Making dirt bike street legal is what we do.
Let us take on all of the headaches of dealing with the DMV for you. No more playing phone tag or waiting in line at the DMV for hours on end, and no need to spend your evenings researching the laws in your state.
When you’re ready to go street legal, your simplest route is to let the pros at Dirt Legal handle the paperwork side of things for you. The laws governing how to make a dirt bike street legal change from state to state, but we’ve done all the research so you don't have to. We can register almost any dirt bike, whether it came with a title or MSO from the manufacturer or not.
Visit our Dirt Bike Conversions page to learn more.
From our website, simply choose your vehicle service, then fill out the form with your vehicle information. After your purchase, you will receive a welcome packet in the mail. Complete the enclosed forms and send them back to Dirt Legal in the pre-paid envelope provided, then wait for your tag, registration and/or title to arrive in the mail as fast as possible!
We offer a 100% money back guarantee if we fail to make your dirt bike street legal.
That’s why Dirt Legal is the most trusted source for this unique service. We have dealt with the most complex situations and can often get a street legal tag and title in your home state, which is something most people struggle to do on their own. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if your vehicle qualifies for our in state legalization service.