How to Make a Dirt Bike Street Legal in California? – Only 3 Steps

Written by James Stevens / Checked by Robert A. Verdin FAQs

how to make a dirt bike street legal in california

Having the ability to cruise the streets of the city along with your friends is something worth memorable. What if you can do that with your esteemed street-legalized dirt bike?

California is an exciting location to ride in because of its different terrains and views. Although they have strict rules regarding dirt bikes roaming the streets, it is still possible.

To be able to ride your bike, you have to make it street-legal first. California dirt bike laws change regularly, so you need to keep track of them now and then. So how to make a dirt bike street legal in California? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Steps to legalize your dirt bike in California

What is a Street-legal Dirt Bike in CA?

Step 1: Verify if your dirt bike model is eligible.

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A dirt bike suited for use on official roads is modified or produced to meet the safety and emissions criteria. It sure is convenient to ride one on the streets if you can, but in exchange, you must fulfill several requirements for your bike to be street-legal.

Here is the list of categories:

  • Emissions standards
  • Equipment requirements
  • Safety requirements
  • Registration requirements
  • Insurance requirements

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the best action is to buy a motorcycle manufactured to be capable on dirt roads and street roads or to get newer dirt bike models that need minimal modification.

In California, some models of dirt bikes, such as a YZ450F street-legal conversion, are complicated to convert. So before doing anything else, check with the California DMV if your dirt bike model is ready for conversion.

Remember that Federal and State Emissions Regulations apply to converted dirt bikes. These regulations differ depending on the manufacture date of the motorcycle and where it is registered.

Unfortunately, California street-legal motorcycle requirements are strict when it comes to emissions standards.

All California street-legal dirt bikes sold or registered must fulfill particular emissions criteria and have a certification sticker, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The certification stickers provided are either red or green.

Red ones have low-quality emissions systems, so they are not eligible for conversion, even though you have the proper modifications.

On the other hand, you can convert bikes with green ones to street-legal as long as they have the required changes and standards.

Step 2: Obtain the necessary documentation.

To register a dirt bike in California, you need to gather the proper documents. It can be quite a nuisance because you need a number of them, but it is worth it if you want to ride a street-legal motorcycle in California. Here is the list:

  • Title: You can apply for a street-legal offroad motorcycle through an application form in the DMV. In some cases, you also need proof of ownership, which includes a Proof of Sale or a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO).
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): Every vehicle allowed on the streets must have a unique VIN, and yes, that includes your dirt bike if you want it to be street-legal. Register your ride at the DMV or California Highway Patrol (CHP).
  • Insurance Policy: Like other vehicles, you must abide by California’s insurance requirements if you want your dirt bike roaming the highway. At the time of writing, you need coverage for minimum liability

Step 3: Install the required equipment.

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A dirt bike bought fresh from the manufacturers can sometimes be too barebones for city riding because you naturally want them to be as light as possible for a faster speed.

These pieces of equipment, such as lights, horns, and mirrors, are all necessary for your safety and the other people around you, so don’t worry if you feel like the government is ripping you off of your money.

Equipment Needed to Be Street Legal

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Here is a comprehensive list of the equipment you need to install on your dirt bike to be allowed on the roads:

  • Lighting: You need functional DOT-approved lights such as headlights capable of high and low beam settings with switches, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals.
  • Horns: There is no set standard when it comes to the sound of the horns, so you can either install an air horn or an electronic horn that has enough power (In CA, it must emit a sound ranging from 200 feet and less than 110 dbA)
  • Mirrors: The government requires at least one rear-view mirror for the dirt bike. To pass inspection in California, buying a mirror with more than a 3-inch diameter is the minimum requirement.
  • Speedometer: Some highways have a speed limit, so you need to keep watch of your motorcycle’s speed while riding. A good-value speedometer includes a gear indicator and a fuel gauge.
  • License Plate Holder: A bracket that emits a white light securing the license plate so you can see the license plate clearly from afar.
  • Other equipment: You must also have a DOT-approved exhaust system that meets the noise standards and emissions regulations and DOT-approved tires that are still capable of off-road activities.

After you finish these necessary processes, all that is left to do is to pass the inspection of your dirt bike at a DMV or CHP station if you have a street-legal dirt bike kit.

You will then be issued a license to drive a dirt bike in California and a registration form for your motorcycle, and you will now be able to ride a dirt bike on the streets.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Do I need dirt bike insurance?

Most states require insurance coverage if you want to ride your dirt bike on public roads or streets.

Even if the law doesn’t require insurance, it is still a good idea to have one so you can protect yourself and your dirt bike when an accident or other unforeseen occurrence happens.

In California, riders must get the minimum liability insurance coverage:

  • $15,000 for one person’s injuries or death in an accident
  • $30,000 for more than one person injured or killed in an accident
  • $5,000 for property damage in an accident

Reasons why it is hard to register a dirt bike in CA

The main reason is that California updated its rules and regulations to reduce emission threats. They have become stricter about any form of vehicle that places the environment at risk.

Some dirt bikes do not meet these requirements, so this regulation is why it is cumbersome to make a motorcycle street-legal, as you need to comply with several significant modifications.

You can ride your motorcycle on the roads of California with no restrictions if it has a green certification sticker and a CARB permit, as both of these credentials ensure that the dirt bike is qualified to be safe for the environment.

Conclusion

So here is how to make a dirt bike street legal in California. Some people advise that it is easier to buy a model designed for dirt roads and already made to be street-legal.

But if you have a strong reason to convert your dirt bike into a street-legal one, whether it is for convenience or pleasure, may this guide help you make the right decision.

As always, remember that you need a license to ride a dirt bike off-road before doing anything risky. Ride safe!

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James Stevens

James Stevens is an expert bike mechanic who knows everything from basic repairs to custom modifications. What sets him apart is his ability to explain complex concepts in a way that's easy to understand. Check out his content on Speedway if you need help with upgrades or modifications for your bike.