Skip to Content

Picking The Right Street Legal Dirt Bike For You To Start On

Are you looking to buy a street legal dirt bike? Maybe you want to convert your off-road motorcycle to ride on the road.

Either way, this guide covers all of the basics that you need to know, as well as what the best street legal dirt bikes are.

Street legal Honda CRF230F
Riding my plated CRF230F in the mountains.

What makes a dirt bike street legal?

A street legal dirt bike is an off road motorcycle with knobby tires that is registered and plated for use on public roads.

A street legal dirt bike is often called a dual sport bike in the motorcycle industry.

Dual sport simply means that it is designed for two different types of riding, on and off-road.

Why Ride A Street Legal Dirt Bike?

A road legal dirt bike has one main advantage over a regular dirt bike or street bike. It can be ridden on a road legally, and you can ride it on trails.

What’s more fun than using your dirt bike to commute to work and then ride to a trail and do some single track without changing anything?

Street Legal Dirt Bike vs Dual Sport Bike

Maybe you just want to have your enduro bike plated so that you can ride from trailhead to trailhead legally.

Some states allow you to register and get a license plate for your dirt bike to ride on the road if it meets the requirements.

So which is better?

It really depends on what you want to use the bike for. If you’re just a trail rider that needs a plated bike to stay legal when riding through a town or backroads, then you don’t need a dual sport bike.

A dual sport bike is a better choice if you want to put on a lot of miles, dirt or asphalt. Also, if the trails are easy, then a dual sport is plenty capable even for a beginner rider.

Honda XR200 Dual Sport Bike Picking The Right Street Legal Dirt Bike For You To Start On

Disadvantages To Dual Sport Bikes

Obviously, a dual sport bike isn’t the “end all” of dirt bikes. While there are many advantages, let’s take a quick look at what they aren’t great at.

Buying a new street legal dirt bike that is designed for dual sport use means that it has compromises. 

The biggest disadvantages to a dual sport dirt bike are:

  • Tires
  • Weight
  • Gearing
  • Power

Dirt bikes that are street legal

There’s a lot of dirt bikes that are road legal, but it’s a wide range of sizes and what they’re good at. Dirt bike companies update, reveal, and remove models every few years based on popular demand.

This list covers the current 2021 dual sport list of street legal dirt bikes, as well as non-current models that are still good and relevant if you want to save some money buying used.

Honda Dual Sport Bikes

Honda has upped their game when it comes to street legal dirt bikes in the past 10 years. Before it used to just be an XR650, but now there’s an option for almost any of your needs.

  • XR650L – Bullet-proof, can handle freeway ride, but still able to do some off road riding
  • CRF450RL – The hardcore option of speed, performance, and off-road ability. Not the greatest for long highway runs, but still reliable and able to ride some single track
  • CRF250L* – The beginner’s choice (or if you’re short). It’s a little heavy for hardcore trail riding, but it’s a great 50/50 dual sport/off road bike
  • CRF300L – Just like the CRF250L but more power. A great entry level lightweight dual sport dirt bike for street riding and casual light-duty trail riding
  • CRF300L Rally – More options and a bigger gas tank for a better adventure bike experience than the standard CRF250L
  • CRF230L* – A lightweight dual sport bike based off of the CRF230F. It’s a great start bike with a very low seat height, but the power is underwhelming.
  • Trail 125 ABS – Just want to ride around town or country roads with a little bit of off-road capability? The Trail 125 is remake and is a good bike for beginners that gets great gas mileage

Yamaha Dual Sport Bikes

Yamaha only has two current dual sport dirt bikes to offer, and they’re both built for beginner riders.

  • TW200 – Beginner dual sport dirt bike with very low seat height and low power makes it very forgiving and easy to ride.
  • XT250 – Slightly bigger and more power for slightly taller riders
  • Yamaha WR250R* – Higher performance dual sport bike that makes decent power and is off-road capable, although considerably heavier than a lightweight trail bike
  • WR250X* – Supermoto model with full street wheels makes it a great town and hooligan bike. Doesn’t handle off-road as well with the street tires.

Kawasaki Dual Sport Bikes

  • KLR650 – It’s back with fuel-injection. If you want to ride around the world on a reliable dual sport bike, the KLR 650 is the standard choice for value and durability. It’s big and not great at trail riding, but it can handle fire roads and double-track well.
  • KLX230 – The lightweight street dirt bike based off of the KLX230R trail bike.
  • KLX300 – Bigger and more powerful than the KLX230 – a good beginner bike if you’re a larger/taller rider
  • KLX300SM – Supermoto version of the KLX300 with full street wheels and tires.

Suzuki Dual Sport Bikes

  • DR650S – Road legal dirt bike that’s similar to the KLR650 but slightly toned down and a little more off-road capable. A great adventure bike for touring on any type of road.
  • DRZ400S – A mid-size dual sport bike that’s been around for a couple decades. Decent performance, very reliable, and a good all-around dirt bike.
  • DRZ400SM* – Supermoto version
  • DR200S – Cheap street legal dirt bike that’s good for beginners

KTM Dual Sport Bikes

  • 500 EXC-F
  • 350 EXC-F

Husqvarna Dual Sport Bikes

  • FE 501S
  • FE 350S

Beta Dual Sport Bikes

  • 350 RR-S
  • 390 RR-S
  • 430 RR-S
  • 500 RR-S

*non-current models

Best cheap street legal dirt bike for beginners: Yamaha XT250

Best dual sport bike for adventure riding: KLR650

Best Dual Sport Tires

Factory tires on a dual sport are usually a 50/50 combo. This means that the knobs are halfway in between what a full dirt knobby and a full street knobby look like. The knobs are still aggressive enough to make you feel some confidence in easy off-road terrain. However, they’re conservative enough so that you can drive on the road smoothly with grip and control.

The problem? They’re not great at either dirt or the road.

You’ll want to pick the combo of dual sport tires based on the type of riding that you’ll primarily be doing. For example, you can get 80/20 tires that are 80% dirt biased, or 20/80 that are 80% asphalt biased. There’s many tires in between for the best compromise.

How Do You Carry Your Weight?

The weight of a dual sport bike isn’t a big deal if you’re sticking to the road. In fact, the extra weight will help keep you stable at highway cruising speeds.

The problem is when you slow down and jump into the woods. Single track riding requires a lot of maneuvering back and forth, as well as balancing. A heavier dual sport is going to feel exhausting compared to a regular trail dirt bike if you’re doing any kind of technical single track.

Gearing Up For Your Riding

Dual sport bikes have wide ratio transmissions. This means that each gear is spaced further apart. 

For example, when you shift from 1st to 2nd gear, the RPM will drop a lot more than a close-ratio transmission bike will.

Bikes with a lot of low-end torque can take advantage of this because you can lug them at low RPM and they will still accelerate.

Wide ratio transmissions are also great if you do a lot of highway riding. A tall 5th or 6th gear will keep the RPM lower at cruising speed, which equates to better fuel economy, less wear on the engine, and less vibrations.

The problem is that when you are riding single track trails with a lot of changing terrain or obstacles, you want to be in the meat of the power more often. Having a wide ratio transmission in a dual sport makes this more difficult because the gears are spaced further apart.

Power: How Much Is Enough?

Dual Sport Bikes are built for durability. Performance is often sacrificed for this reason. A Honda CRF250L has considerably less power than the CRF250R, but they produce power in different ways.

The CRF250L or Yamaha’s WR250R are great dual sport bikes for beginners because the power is smooth and predictable.

So, how much power do you need?

A smooth power-curve is easier to ride and better for all-around dual sport riding because it’s less tiring.

A 250 has more than enough power for beginners, but still enough to enjoy riding if you’re a more experienced rider.

Can I Ride A Dirt Bike On The Street?

Only dirt bikes that are legally licensed and plated for street use can be ridden on the road.

With that said, some small towns in rural areas allow off-highway motorcycles and ATVs to legally share the road with cars and trucks.

Are Dirt Bikes Safer Than Street Bikes?

It really depends on you and what kind of riding you’re doing.

In one sense, a dirt bike is safer if you’re trail riding at low speeds and are riding smart with safety in mind.

On the other hand, you may be racing motocross or other high speed riding that you might be more likely to go hurt doing than riding a street bike.

While accidents happen and are sometimes out of any of our control, it’s up to YOU to ride smart and wear proper protective gear when riding any kind of dirt bike or street bike.

Transitioning from a street bike to a dirt bike is harder than you think, even if you’ve been riding for years.

Should I Get A Dirt Bike or Street Bike?

I’ll answer that with another question:

What kind of riding do you want to do?

Dirt Bike vs Street Bike 2 1 Picking The Right Street Legal Dirt Bike For You To Start On
Dirt Bike vs Street Bike: Pick your poison

If it’s just trail riding or recreational off-road riding, then get a dirt bike.

Want to ride on the street in town or out on twisty country roads? Get a street bike.

Can’t decide and want to do a little of both? Then consider a dual sport motorcycle that can do both safely. Just know dual sport bikes have certain limitations that are mentioned above.

Are 50cc Dirt Bikes Street Legal?

A 50cc dirt bike is not street legal from the factory. 50cc mopeds can be ridden on the road because they meet the requirements for being street legal.

You must check with your local state laws and regulations because not all states are the same regarding mopeds and dirt bikes.

Lights and a mirror are components that every state will require for a street legal motorcycle.

Is A Supermoto Street Legal?

A supermoto can be made street legal in many states, but just the fact that a bike is a supermoto does not make it street legal.

Any motorcycle must meet the necessary requirements and/or registration to be ridden on the road without risk of getting a ticket.

What Is The Best Street Legal Dirt Bike?

There are a lot of good dirt bike options these days. The best models riding on and off-road that are street legal are:

  • Honda CRF250L
  • Yamaha WR250R
  • Kawasaki KLX230
  • KTM 500 EXC-F

How To Convert A Dirt Bike To Be Street Legal

Some states allow you to convert or “dual register” your dirt bike to get a license plate for legally riding on the street. There is a strict list of required parts that your dirtbike must have before being eligible for converting.

What Makes Dirt Bike Street Legal?

A head light, tail light, brake light and mirror are the most important parts needed. For a complete guide on how to convert your dirt bike to be street legal click here.

How to improve your off-road skills in less time

The quickest way to become a better rider is by learning proper riding technique, and I can show you how to do that quickly. If you want to ride with more control and confidence off-road, then click here for my free off-road training.