Are Dirt Bikes Street Legal In California? Everything You Need To Know

With its rugged trails and wide open spaces, California is a dirt biker’s paradise. But before hitting the streets, it’s important to understand the complex legal landscape around operating dirt bikes on public roads.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In most cases, dirt bikes are not street legal in California. There are some exceptions, but in general dirt bikes lack the necessary equipment to make them road safe and compliant with state laws.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain the ins and outs of California’s dirt bike laws. You’ll learn about registration, titling requirements, allowable modifications and more. With a full understanding of the regulations, you can ride your dirt bike legally and avoid fines.

Definition of a Dirt Bike in California

In California, a dirt bike is typically defined as a motorized vehicle designed for off-road use. These bikes are lightweight, have knobby tires, and are equipped with features that make them suitable for navigating through rough terrains such as dirt trails, sand dunes, and rocky paths.

Unlike street motorcycles, dirt bikes are not built to meet the requirements for on-road use, such as having turn signals, mirrors, and a license plate.

Off-Road Use Only

According to the California Vehicle Code, dirt bikes are strictly designated for off-road use only. This means that riding a dirt bike on public roads, highways, or sidewalks is generally illegal. However, there are designated off-road areas and private properties where dirt bike enthusiasts can legally ride their bikes.

It’s important to check local regulations and obtain proper permits or permissions before riding your dirt bike in these areas.

Registration and Licensing

Unlike street-legal motorcycles, dirt bikes in California do not require registration with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Since they are not intended for on-road use, they are exempt from the registration process.

However, if you plan to transport your dirt bike on public roads, you may need to obtain a transportation permit from the DMV. This permit allows you to legally transport your dirt bike to off-road areas or private properties.

Safety Regulations

While dirt bikes are not required to meet the same safety regulations as street motorcycles, it’s still important to prioritize safety when riding off-road. Wearing appropriate safety gear such as helmets, goggles, gloves, and protective clothing is strongly recommended.

Additionally, riders should adhere to local off-road riding rules and regulations, including speed limits and trail restrictions.

Legal Consequences

Operating a dirt bike on public roads or in areas where it is not permitted can result in legal consequences. Offenders may face fines, impoundment of their dirt bike, and even criminal charges in certain situations.

To avoid these issues, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations regarding dirt bike usage in your area.

California Street Legality Requirements


One of the key requirements for a dirt bike to be street legal in California is the presence of proper lighting. This includes a headlight, taillight, and brake light. These lights ensure that the bike is visible to other road users, especially during low light conditions.

The lights should be in good working order and meet the specifications set by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Turn Signals

In addition to lights, dirt bikes used on public roads in California must also have working turn signals. Turn signals are crucial for indicating the rider’s intention to change lanes or make turns, enhancing safety for both the rider and other vehicles on the road.

The turn signals should be clearly visible and in compliance with the DMV regulations.


Having mirrors on a street-legal dirt bike is essential for maintaining situational awareness and ensuring safe riding. The mirrors allow the rider to see vehicles approaching from behind and help with making lane changes and turns.

California law requires at least one rearview mirror on the bike, positioned to provide a clear view of the road behind.


A functional horn is a legal requirement for dirt bikes operating on California streets. The horn serves as an audible warning device to alert pedestrians and other road users of the bike’s presence. It should be loud enough to be heard from a reasonable distance and easily accessible to the rider.


California law mandates that street-legal dirt bikes must be equipped with a functioning speedometer. The speedometer helps the rider maintain awareness of their speed, ensuring they adhere to speed limits and ride safely.

It provides valuable information to avoid accidents and potential traffic violations.

Emissions Standards

California has strict emissions standards in place to reduce air pollution and promote eco-friendly transportation. Dirt bikes seeking street legality in California must comply with these standards. They should have the necessary emissions control systems and meet the emissions limits set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Noise Limits

Another crucial requirement for street-legal dirt bikes in California is compliance with noise limits. Excessive noise from vehicles can disrupt the peace and tranquility of residential areas. Dirt bikes must meet the noise standards outlined by the DMV to minimize noise pollution.

This typically involves using an approved muffler or exhaust system that reduces noise emissions.

It is important to note that these requirements may vary based on the specific regulations of different cities or counties within California. Riders should consult the DMV or local authorities to ensure they meet all the necessary criteria for street legality.

Registering and Titling a Dirt Bike

If you own a dirt bike in California and want to ride it legally on the street, you’ll need to go through the process of registering and titling it. This ensures that your dirt bike meets all the necessary requirements set by the state.

Verifying Engine and VIN

The first step in registering and titling your dirt bike is to verify the engine and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) numbers. These numbers are crucial in identifying your bike and ensuring that it is not stolen. You can usually find the VIN number on the frame of your dirt bike.

Pro Tip: Make sure to double-check the numbers to avoid any mistakes when filling out the application forms.

Obtaining a VIN Inspection

Once you’ve verified the engine and VIN numbers, you will need to obtain a VIN inspection. This inspection is typically done by a law enforcement officer or a licensed vehicle verifier. During the inspection, they will check the numbers on your dirt bike to ensure they match the ones on the paperwork.

Did you know? Some law enforcement agencies offer free VIN inspections, so be sure to check with your local department.

Filing Registration and Title Applications

After completing the VIN inspection, you can now proceed to file the registration and title applications for your dirt bike. You will need to fill out the necessary forms, provide proof of ownership, pay the required fees, and submit the applications to the appropriate agency, such as the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Important: It’s crucial to follow the instructions provided by the DMV carefully and include all the required documentation. Failure to do so may result in delays or even rejection of your application.

For more detailed information on registering and titling a dirt bike in California, you can visit the official website of the California DMV at

Legal Modifications for Street Use

When it comes to making dirt bikes street legal in California, there are several modifications that need to be made to ensure compliance with the state’s laws. These modifications not only make the bike safer for street use but also help increase visibility and overall functionality.

Here are some of the key modifications that need to be made:

Supermoto Wheel Swap

One of the first modifications that need to be made is swapping out the dirt bike’s off-road wheels for street-legal supermoto wheels. Supermoto wheels are specifically designed for street use, with a smaller diameter and wider tires that provide better grip on paved surfaces.

This modification not only improves the bike’s handling but also ensures that it meets the necessary legal requirements for street use.

Headlight and Taillight Installation

Installing a headlight and taillight is essential for making a dirt bike street legal in California. These lights not only improve visibility but also help other road users identify the bike during nighttime or low-light conditions.

It’s important to ensure that the lights meet the state’s legal requirements in terms of brightness and positioning.

Turn Signals and Mirrors

Adding turn signals and mirrors to the dirt bike is another crucial modification for street use. Turn signals help indicate the rider’s intentions when making turns, while mirrors provide better situational awareness on the road.

These additions help enhance safety and make the bike more compliant with the state’s regulations.

Horn and Speedometer

A horn and speedometer are also necessary additions for making a dirt bike street legal in California. The horn allows the rider to alert other road users in emergency situations, while the speedometer helps maintain safe and legal speeds.

It’s important to install a horn that meets the state’s requirements in terms of loudness, and a speedometer that accurately measures the bike’s speed.

Where It’s Legal to Ride Dirt Bikes on Streets

When it comes to riding dirt bikes on streets, the legality varies from state to state and even within different regions of a state. In the case of California, it is important to understand the specific regulations and restrictions in order to determine whether dirt bikes are street legal.

Off-Road vs. Street-Legal Dirt Bikes

In California, there is a distinction between off-road dirt bikes and street-legal dirt bikes. Off-road dirt bikes are designed specifically for riding in off-road environments such as dirt trails and motocross tracks.

They are not equipped with the necessary features required for riding on public roads.

On the other hand, street-legal dirt bikes are modified versions of off-road bikes that meet the necessary requirements to be legally ridden on public roads. These modifications typically include the addition of lights, mirrors, turn signals, and other features mandated by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

California’s Laws on Street-Legal Dirt Bikes

California has specific laws and regulations governing the use of street-legal dirt bikes on public roads. In order to ride a dirt bike legally on the streets of California, the bike must meet certain requirements set by the DMV.

  • The bike must be equipped with the necessary safety features such as headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and mirrors.
  • The bike must be registered with the DMV and display a valid license plate.
  • The rider must have a valid motorcycle license or endorsement.
  • The bike must comply with noise restrictions set by the California Vehicle Code.

It is important to note that these requirements apply specifically to street-legal dirt bikes. Riding off-road dirt bikes on public roads is generally illegal in California, unless in designated areas such as OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) parks or trails.

Designated Riding Areas

If you’re looking to ride your dirt bike legally in California, there are designated areas where you can enjoy off-road riding. These areas include OHV parks, trails, and private properties with permission from the landowner.

It is crucial to respect the rules and regulations of these areas to ensure a safe and enjoyable riding experience.

To find more information about legal riding areas in California, you can visit the official website of the California State Parks OHV Division:


While dirt bikes are designed for off-road use, it is possible to legally ride them on California streets if properly registered, titled and equipped. Very few meet the stringent requirements from the factory. With some strategic modifications, you can convert your dirt bike and open up a whole new world of California backroad exploring. Just be sure you understand the laws before hitting the pavement.

With this comprehensive overview, you now understand the ins and outs of making your dirt bike street legal in California. Ride safely and responsibly while enjoying the dual sport capabilities of your machine.

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