Are dirt bike tires street legal? There have been many dirt bike enthusiasts and curious riders who have asked this question.
However, the answer is not simple.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established tire standards and guidelines, known as Standard 119, for tires used on motorcycles driven on the streets. Dirt bike tires do not meet these standards, so they are not considered street legal by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about riding a dirt bike on the street – from exploring why dirt bikes are illegal on the road to the different laws and regulations of each state and how to turn your dirt bike street legal.
But first, let’s talk about why dirt bikes aren’t considered street legal in the first place.
Can you ride a dirt bike on the street?
Riding a dirt bike on the street is possible but not advised due to legal restrictions.
Dirt bikes are not equipped with the necessary safety features and equipment required by law for road use.
As a result, it’s illegal to ride an unmodified dirt bike on public roads without proper modifications and documentation.
Why is it illegal to ride a dirt bike on the street?
Dirt bike tires are not meant for the street.
The knobbies designed for off-road grip can quickly wear on the road, leading to faster tire degradation from increased heat and friction.
Noise is another reason why dirt bikes face resistance on the streets, especially in residential areas.
Dirt bikes are loud and powerful, which can be a nuisance for drivers, pedestrians, and neighbors.
Many cities and states have laws regulating excessive noise levels from motorcycles, putting dirt bikes at a disadvantage right off the bat.
But most importantly, dirt bikes are not street legal due to their lack of required road safety equipment.
Dirt bikes are designed for off-road use only, so they don’t typically come with components like headlights, taillights, horns, speedometers, odometers, and turn signals.
This makes them a hazard to other motorists on the road and subject to fines, impoundment, and tickets if ridden on the streets.
Local and state regulations on dirt bikes for street use
Laws regarding dirt bike street riding vary by state and local jurisdiction in the US.
Some states prohibit it, while others allow it with specific requirements.
In most states, your dirt bike must undergo modifications for road safety to be street legal.
Different states have varying laws about riding dirt bikes on the streets.
In states like Arizona, Colorado, and Indiana, riders can take their bikes on the road with the necessary safety equipment and registration (at the time of writing).
Your dirt bike tires must also be DOT-approved.
Other states like California and Texas have more stringent regulations, which not only encompass safety gear but also compliance with emissions standards and limitations on riding locations.
In California, dirt bikes must pass the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards and be manufactured in 2003 or later to be eligible for a permit.
Texas, on the other hand, only allows dual sport bikes and requires complete DOT-approved accessories for licensing, with limited riding areas.
If you’re a dirt bike enthusiast in New York, unfortunately, you won’t be able to take your bike on the streets due to the state’s laws prohibiting it.
But with the high traffic and population, you’re better off heading to a nearby state with race tracks and trails for dirt bike riding.
How to make your dirt bike street legal
Looking to ride your dirt bike on the street for convenience or to save on transportation costs?
Whatever your reason, here’s how to make your dirt bike street legal:
Contact the DMV in your area for the requirements
Before making your dirt bike street legal, verify the DMV requirements in your state, which typically include:
- Driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement
- Manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO)
- Application for Title and Registration
- Proof of ownership (e.g. bill of sale or certificate of origin from manufacturer)
- Proof of insurance
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
Get DOT-approved dirt bike tires
Your dirt bike’s tires must comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Standard 119 to make it both street legal and safe for street riding.
This standard covers tire performance in areas like strength, durability, resistance to punctures, and the ability to maintain shape.
It also requires minimum traction level, wet weather performance, and rolling resistance for all motorcycle tires, including dirt bike tires (learn more about directional dirt bike tires).
To be street legal in the US, your tires must have DOT markings and pass DOT-approval tests to ensure they meet the minimum NHTSA Standard 119, particularly for road conditions.
To ensure safe riding on the highway, your dirt bike tires should be DOT-approved.
These tires have additional rubber layers and meet the requirements set by NHTSA.
Look for the DOT marking on the side wall of the tires to ensure they are suitable for street use.
Can you put street tires on a dirt bike?
Converting your dirt bike into a supermoto is the most popular and safest option for making it road-safe and legal.
The conversion includes installing:
- Road-legal tires
- Lighting and reflectors
- Adjustable suspension
- Street legal brakes
- Comfortable handlebars
- Street legal exhaust system
Converting to a supermoto can be time-consuming and costly.
Before investing, review your state’s requirements for street legal dirt bikes and weigh the cost of converting your bike versus buying a used street legal one.
Supermoto bikes are also heavier and less agile, so they may not be ideal for racing.
If you’re keen on converting your dirt bike into a supermoto, here’s a comprehensive walkthrough playlist:
Install other essential safety equipment
Aside from street legal dirt bike tires, make sure to install these safety pieces of equipment on your bike as well:
- Headlight: Easily switchable between high and low beam, visible during day and night
- Tail light with brake light function: Also doubles as turn signals and license plate light
- Horn: Required by all states; consider an electric horn for extra safety
- Mirrors (two side mirrors required in some states, but a wide-angled mirror can work too)
- License plate bracket: Place it in a visible location on the back of your bike
- Turn signals
- Chain guard
Note: Not all of these parts are necessary for registration.
Check local regulations for minimum requirements, and add additional components when the budget allows.
If all else fails, go to your trusted mechanic
If you want to ensure that your dirt bike is fully street legal, consider bringing it to a trusted mechanic.
They can advise you on all the necessary modifications and ensure that your bike meets all the legal requirements for street riding.
Dirt bike tires are not designed to meet the standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) for street legal vehicles.
However, with the proper modifications, equipment, and paperwork, it is possible to make your dirt bike street legal.
Before anything else, consider first if making your dirt bike street legal is necessary for your riding needs.
If you still decide to register, take your time to research your local laws on dirt bikes properly.
If you want to save money on modifying your dirt bike, install the minimum requirements first.
Lastly, check your tires every time you plan to ride on the road.
Your safety is still the top priority, even if you already have DOT-approved tires!
P.S. Just a note that this guide is for general knowledge and is not intended as legal advice.
Please contact your local council for up to date information and advice before making any decisions.