How to Make a Dirt Bike Street Legal: Your Pocket Guide

Before you start reading this article, why not check out the Your Essential Dirt Bike Street Legal Kit Guide article first. So you’ll know exactly what you need to convert your dirt bike to street legal.

Have you ever wanted to make your dirt bike street legal, but didn’t know where to start? Okay, so we decided to make you a guide so you’ll know what to expect.

Here’s the law, the parts you need, and a few tips along the way. If you haven’t done it yet, it might seem daunting, but if you’re willing to learn a little about tools and basics, you’ll be surprised how easy it is.

Can you ride your dirt bike on the road legally?

It’s no secret that there are a lot of myths and rumors about titling dirt bikes for street use. Some say you have to have a title from when the bike was new to do it. Many people think you just need headlights and taillights.

A dirt bike can be titled, but to make it street legal, you’ve got to do more than just add a couple of lights.

To make it easy to see the many requirements in one place, the U.S. government has created the “Federal Minimum Requirement” for on-road motorcycles. Details are buried in several sections of the US Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) regulations. To be legal to operate on state and federal roads, a motorcycle must follow these guidelines, regardless of where it was made.

  • DOT approved headlights with high and low beams
  • There’s an indicator light that tells you when the high beam is on
  • The tail light and brake light are powered by batteries (with a switch for both front and rear) that run on just batteries for at least 20 minutes at a time
  • Motorcycles made after January 1, 1973, need turn signals approved by the DOT (most states do, but some don’t)
  • Rearview mirror (most require one, but some states require two)
  • An electric horn (some states require it)
  • Tires approved by DOT
  • Fuel tanks should be DOT approved (the FMVSS specifies steel, but most states don’t enforce it, so it won’t be covered).

States have some leeway in how they apply these requirements, as indicated by the notes in the list. In some states, speedometers and odometers are required; others don’t. You can get a comprehensive and up-to-date list from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Department of Transportation (DOT).

How Can I Make My Dirt Bike Street Legal?

For now, you just have to install the parts necessary to comply with your state’s DOT (Department of Transportation) requirements. You’ll have to invest some time and money if you want your dirt bike to be legally operated in any state.

Necessary Parts for Making Your Dirt Bike Street Legal

Before riding a dirt bike on the road, make sure you know the rules in your area. This list might not cover everything you need in your area, so make sure you check.

Headlight

Most states require that motorcycles have a DOT-compliant headlight, which is:

  • High and low beams switchable
  • Lit during both day and night
  • Clearly visible but not too bright as to blind oncoming drivers

However, headlights draw a lot of power. Installing an LED headlight will keep the battery drain down because LEDs require a fraction of the amps of halogens. You can also use these lights without a charger if you want.

You need to know where the high/low switch goes in your area. Some states don’t require this switch, while others do. In order to comply with DOT regulations, the switch must be visible to the rider, and it’s best to place it on the traditional left-hand side of the handlebars.

Tail Light

Having a working brake light on your tail light lets drivers behind you see that you’re slowing down. Plus it draws attention in daylight as well as in the dark, which is important for safety.

You can also kill four DOT requirements with a high-quality taillight!

  • Taillight
  • Brake light
  • Turn signals
  • License plate light

Depending on the state, some lights need batteries that can keep them on for 20 minutes at a time, and they also have to be on all the time. LED tail lights will extend battery life and reduce the need for a stator upgrade, just like LED headlights do.

Taillight switches need to be set up so that both the rear brake pedal and the front brake lever illuminate the taillight when engaged. It’s common to use a banjo-bolt switch to trigger the brake light when the brake pedal is engaged. Drum brakes work best with mechanical switches.

You can get taillight brackets and fenders together that solve installation issues and look cool.

Mirrors

It’s not mandatory in every state, but most require a working mirror on a motorcycle.

It’s important to have a mirror that works so you can see what’s going on behind you. If you ride the street a lot, be careful about using a cheap, shaky mirror.

Most riders don’t like the look of mirrors on their machines, and will grudgingly install a single low-profile mirror for looks. It’s best to invest in a wide-angle mirror if you do this, so you won’t have a blind spot on one side of the bike.

Classic, threaded, long-stem mirrors will fit most dual-sport bikes. If not, you can put mirrors on the bar-ends. You can see a lot more behind you with them than stem mirrors, and some of them are really low-profile.

Turn Signals

In many states, hand signals are required instead of turn signals.

Even then, it’s a good idea to have turn signals. Especially at night, yellow flashing lights get drivers’ attention better than hands. You can also keep your hands on your handlebars when you’re making turns.

Having said that, if you’re only having trouble installing blinkers, you may be able to skip it using hand signals. Turn signals aren’t required in all states, but some do. And LED blinkers won’t drain the battery as much as a bulb.

Tires

Wheels have to fit the tires, and the tires have to be DOT-certified. 

There’s no need for knobby tires, but they should be able to hold up to highway pressure. You can convert your dirt bike to a ‘dual sport’ or ‘supermoto’ bike if you want to keep the feel of a dirt bike. Just make sure it meets the minimum federal requirements.

Horn

To be considered street legal, your bike needs a horn. 

There are some states that require an electric horn, others allow a squeeze-type horn (in my experience, squeeze horns rarely make enough noise to alert others to your presence). Your state will tell you which kind you need.

License Plate Bracket

It’s wise to display your license plate so it doesn’t draw unwanted attention from law enforcement; again, research is important since every state (even every zip code!) will have its own requirement. The plate should always be visible, even at night (LED strips are cheap and effective).

Exhaust

You don’t have to worry about the DOT restricting an exhaust system unless you live in California. In general, if your exhaust is in good condition, meets sound regulations (which can be easily fixed with a muffler), and doesn’t smoke, you’re good to go. EPA-approved exhaust systems are the way to go, though.

Optional But Recommended Street Legal Dirt Bike Parts

You don’t need these components in most local areas, but if some do, it’s always a good idea to have them on your street legal dirt bike conversion.

Odometer

Dirt bikes don’t need odometers, but street bikes do. It shows you your speed, mileage, RPM, and engine temp.

At the moment, this is only required for motorcycles in Indiana, so it’s optional. You’ll never run out of gas again if you have a trip meter!

Since dirt bikes only have 2 gallons of gas, it’s very common to run out of gas. Most of these are super easy to set up. There are companies like Trail Tech that sell all-in-one odometers that include everything you need.

Kickstand

There aren’t many kickstands on off-road dirt bikes because of safety concerns.

However, these contraptions don’t pose much of a safety hazard on the street, and trying to do without one in an urban environment makes no sense. Despite the fact that kickstands aren’t required by law, many riders neglect them in the rush to get their dirt bikes going, only to find there is no place to rest them.

Wouldn’t it be better to have one?

Street Gearing

Front and rear sprockets on dirt bikes probably aren’t designed for street-legal dual-sport machines’ top speeds. They’re likely made for quick acceleration.

If you change your gears, you’ll notice a big difference in acceleration and top-end speed. More teeth in the rear sprocket mean better pickup at the expense of top speed and vice versa.

On the other hand, dropping a tooth on the front sprocket will increase acceleration at the cost of top-end power. It’s possible your dirt bike’s speedometer won’t read right if you change the front sprocket.

Fan

Due to the fact that dirt bikes aren’t built for streets, they usually don’t come with fans. You can’t sit at a red light on the way to McDonald’s because they’re made to be constantly moving. If you live in a city with traffic, you might want to keep your bike cool with a fan.

Cush Drive Hub

It’s a bike-specific problem.

Most motorcycles have a dampening system to protect the transmission from road damage. Rubber pieces can be found in either the clutch hub or rear wheel hub. “Cush drive” hubs let the driveline move. They are usually not on dirt bikes because the loose terrain allows the rear wheel to slide.

Cush drives prevent expensive transmission damage and are a wise investment. Bike owners can save a lot of headaches by being diligent.

Getting Your Dirt bike Approved for Road Use

Making sure it’s attainable is key to the process. The first place to go is your local DMV, online or in person. You can find out what is needed to turn a dirt bike into a street machine from your state’s transportation authority. Get this before starting anything because it might lead to the realization that the dirt bike isn’t going to have a license plate.

Another great place to do research is the Internet, but it’s also full of inaccurate and misleading info, so be careful. It’s not that hard to get a plate, and some people have posted details about how they did it. Take advantage of what you learn there, but verify the info you find with other resources and at the DMV first to make sure what you find makes sense.

Find out what parts and accessories are required in the state and federal regulations so you can make sure the bike you’re planning on converting has them. Older bikes don’t. See what’s required and if it’s available. The conversion won’t work if the items aren’t available.

Can You Make A Motocross Bike Street Legal?

Yes, you can make a motocross bike street legal. It’s not nearly as hard as people think to make a motocross bike street-legal if you’re handy. 

Research is what’ll take the most time, energy, and patience before you convert your bike. Otherwise, you just do it the same way you do it with any dirt bike.

How Much Does It Cost to Make Your Dirt Bike Street Legal?

To make your dirt bike legal for the street, you’ll have to spend $100 to several hundred dollars. It depends on many things, such as whether you’ll still ride off-road, what kind of bike you have, and how much weight your new parts add.

Now that you have a general idea of the parts you need to make your dirt bike street legal, it’s time to get them. Check out our Best Dirt Bike Street Legal Kits article for our top parts recommendations for each dirt bike brand.