Intro To Street Legal Dirt Bike: What You Need To Know

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 Is A Street Legal Dirt Bike?

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.

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

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?

Weight 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.

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: 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.

Kelley Fager

Kelley started riding a Honda 50 at the age of 6 years old. The passion for dirt bikes started there and grown into a lifelong pastime of riding and learning how they work. Motocross Hideout is the result of sharing his past, present, and future knowledge and experience.

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