Converting your dirt bike into a street-legal ride can take time, but as long as you are determined and you’re a handy type, the entire process can be a fun experience. In this guide, we will show you how to make a dirt bike street legal so that you can get a better understanding of the entire process.
Before you begin legalizing your dirt bike, you should take the time to research what your state’s Department of Transportation requires since laws are different in every state. There are always odd little details that you can miss and can give you a headache after completing your build.
The guide below will showcase the mechanical and non-mechanical elements that are required in most states, but make sure to check with the Department of Transportation for the state you live in to make sure that you have everything covered.
The list you’ll find below is just a starting point, and after doing your research, you might find that some of the items included are not required by the DOT in your state. Without further ado, here are the modifications that you can expect to make if you want to make your dirt bike street legal.
Having a DOT-approved headlight installed is a requirement in every state, and even if it wasn’t, it is an essential component that’s needed if you want to ride on the road at night or in adverse weather conditions.
The headlight needs to have a switchable high and low beam that can function both in the daytime and at night, and it should come with an indicator light that can tell you which beam is engaged.
The high-beam indicator should be visible from where the rider is seated. Installing the headlight is not difficult, but since most dirt bikes are fitted with an inefficient power system, it is possible that the power drain will become an issue.
Many of the components you’ll need to add to make your dirt bike street legal will require power that the bike may not be equipped to handle.
As such, you may also need to upgrade the bike’s electrical system. This means getting a better battery and stator, as well as a rectifier to convert the electricity into usable current. The electrical upgrade might not be needed, but before adding all of the new mechanical elements, make sure to check just in case.
Tail and brake light
When driving off-road, you can get away without having tail and brake lights, but on the main roads, they are a necessity. Not only will they help other drivers see you in the dark, but they are also used to inform when you’re slowing down, which is essential in preventing getting rear-ended.
The DOT in every state instructs street legal dirt bikes to have a tail light that doesn’t just light up, but that can also inform braking. In some states, the tail and brake lights need to be connected to a battery that can keep them on for at least 20 minutes without assistance from the rider.
Due to the power drain that this can have, LED lights are the best option, and they meet the legal requirements in all states. The switch that activates the brake light needs to be installed at both the brake pedal and the handlebar level.
Functioning turn signals are not mandatory in all states, but you should still consider having them equipped since they can prove very useful to have. In the states where they are required, you’ll need to install DOT-certified turn signals, even if it is unlikely that you’ll get caught with non-DOT turn signals.
The only reason not to have them installed is if you want to save some time and money, but even then, most riders prefer having turn signals installed. You don’t want to risk getting hit in the backside if a driver doesn’t understand your hand signals.
Just as is the case with the tail and brake lights, you should look for LED turn signals due to their increased power efficiency compared to bulb lights.
Some states will require only one mirror, but to ride safely, it is best to install two since having one on both sides will keep you more aware of what’s going around you. When looking for mirrors, you should get the ones that are the clearest and that have very little distortion.
Try to avoid cheap products not only because the quality of the reflection may be bad, but cheap options also tend to rust easily, and the chrome and paint may flake off as well. If you care about the look of your bike, then investing in a high-quality set of rearview mirrors is a must.
Just as important as the rearview mirrors is the spot where you install them since you need to place them wisely so that you can get as much visibility as possible. The good news is that installing mirrors is the quickest and easiest task on this list, so we don’t expect you’ll encounter any issues.
All states mandate having a horn installed on your bike if it is to be considered street legal, but there is a bit of a grey area that may confuse some riders. While all states require a horn, some may allow you to use a simple squeeze-type horn while other states require a fully-electric horn.
It is best to install a fully-electric horn even if your state doesn’t require one since a squeeze-type horn rarely produces enough sound volume to alert other members of the traffic of your presence.
Since most electric horns are very cheap and easy to install, getting one shouldn’t be an issue. What’s more, electric horns don’t require a lot of power, so you won’t have to worry about power consumption being a big issue.
Changing the exhaust may be required or not, depending on what type of exhaust your dirt bike uses. However, there are three things you will need to consider, the sound level, the gas emissions, and the shape of the exhaust. Most states don’t place restrictions on the exhaust system as long as it is in good shape, doesn’t smoke, and meets sound regulations.
Dirt bikes that are built for competition tend to emit more decibels than are allowed on the main roads, but meeting sound regulation can be achieved easily by installing a muffler. If you still encounter issues, the best way of meeting all the regulations is to buy and install an EPA-approved exhaust system.
California, in particular, is a very strict state, and you’ll need to take all the measures to make sure the exhaust meets all the regulations before taking your dirt bike on the road.
Having a speedometer installed is not mandatory in most states, and in fact, only Indiana requires having one installed. However, just because you don’t have a speedometer installed doesn’t mean that you can’t get a speeding ticket, which is why it is best to get one.
Having a speedometer installed will also help you keep tabs on your mileage, engine, temperature, and fuel consumption, which is essential considering that most dirt bikes don’t come equipped with large gas tanks. Installing a speedometer is also quite straightforward, so there’s no reason not to have one.
Many dirt bikes don’t come with a stand, since when riding off-road, the stand can catch on things, which can lead to accidents. When riding on the main roads, a stand becomes a necessity even if it isn’t required by law.
Once you find yourself in the city, you can’t simply hop off the bike and rest it up against a street light or the nearest wall. It is obvious, but many riders tend to forget about this essential element when converting their dirt bike, so make sure that you don’t.
While the tires you use for off-road riding don’t need to meet strict requirements, you should keep in mind that when driving your dirt bike on the main road, the tires must be certified by the Department of Transportation. They also need to be the right size and fit the wheel well so that they can withstand the pressure of highway riding.
The type of tire that you choose doesn’t matter as much, and you can go for both knobbly or road-use tires, what matters is for them to have the DOT seal on their sidewall.
After your bike meets all the mechanical standards required by your state, you’ll need to make sure that you have all the documentation required so that you don’t get fined if you get pulled over by a police officer.
The non-mechanical necessities include a license plate, inspection certificate, registration, and off-highway vehicle decal. These are required by almost all states. For the license plate, the bracket should be displayed in a place that makes it visible at all times, including at night.
Depending on the state, you may also be required to install an LED strip or other lighting systems on the license plate bracket.