Dirt Bike Laws in California 2022: Do’s and Don’ts!

James Albert is a dirt biker for about 6 years with a passion for helping others get into the sport without knowing anything. He shares...Read more

Riding dirt bikes is great for amazing adventures. Unluckily, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has defined dirt bikes as off-highway vehicles. And, you cannot legally ride it on public streets. So, would you miss riding your dirt bikes in neighborhoods and metropolitan areas? No, the new dirt bike laws 2022 allow street-legal OHVs on city streets and public roads. However, it goes through a process.

And my personal experience says that getting dirt bike street legal in California isn’t an easy job. It requires sophisticated legal processes to prove the public safety standards to get the confirmation.

Today, I am here to unveil all about the dirt bike laws in California. So, stay with me to learn your county’s legal processes for dirt bike legality. Please read on!

California Vehicle Code for Dirt Bike Riding

Section 38006 of the California Vehicle Code defines dirt bikes two wheelers OHVs. And the off-highway vehicles aren’t accessible on the public routes. It includes highways, city streets, and public parks. Moreover, you cannot ride your dirt bike on government-acquired lands, lawns, and restricted areas except on private properties. The privately owned parks and lands are free from the section.

Dirt Bike Laws in California

According to section 38600 of the California Code, a person must be of 16 years minimum to ride a recreational dirt bike. And the riders below 16 should be under close supervision of parents or guardians.

You cannot ride your dirt bike with a passenger on highways. Section 38604 discourages riding recreational off-highway vehicles with friends or family members. But it relaxes the section for the street-authorized OHVs designed for passengers.

The California Vehicle Code strictly prohibits the reckless riding of dirt bikes. It is unlawful to threaten humans and wildlife. The violation of section 38316 is a punishable offense that may impose a fine, imprisonment, or both. You might pay $50 to $500 or confinement for 5 to 90 days.

You must drive your dirt bike at a reasonable speed that poses no safety threats to civilians, animals, and properties. According to section 38310, the maximum riding speed is 15 miles within 50 feet of the campsite and the concentration of people.

Dirt bike operators must obey the street signals, signs, markings, and devices for public and wildlife safety. The Off-highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission regulates dirt bike riding by adopting traffic signs and signals under the 38285 section.

You cannot start, stop, and stand with your dirt bike here and there by violating street safety. So, ensure reasonable safety first to move, turn, halt, and park your dirt bike on highways and city streets.

Provision 38365 defines the required safety equipment for dirt bikes to ride on the public streets. You must move with headlights, taillights, horns, mirrors, brakes, and a properly maintained dirt bike muffler.

California Air Resources Board-CARB Guidance for Dirt Bike Riding

The OHV riders must follow air emission standards set by the California Air Resources Board. And the local Department of Motor Vehicle-DMV issues green and red stickers as per the air-compliance reports.

CARB Guidance for Dirt Bike Riding

Green Sticker reflects the legality of riding OHVs like dirt bikes in public open recreational fields. And you can enjoy year-long riding freedom by having the air standard certification once. However, it must cost $52 for two years of validity. You can communicate to your nearby DMV office to get the green sticker.

Like green sticker certification, the red sticker is important to ride dirt bikes in restricted areas. The red stickers are for reserved riding seasons in the recreational areas. If your dirt bike misses a DOT-compliant exhaust system, it will receive a red sticker from CARB. However, non-compliant OHVs aren’t eligible for modifications to meet the exhaust emission standards.

Fortunately, California Air Resources Board-CARB has rescheduled the red sticker OHV riding seasons to make it more accessible. You can find out more about the latest riding schedule.

How to Make Dirt Bikes Street Legal in California?

The California Vehicle Code has a distinguished chapter for off-highway vehicles to identify license, registration, safe riding rules, and more. Though the state law discourages dirt bikes on the public streets, it allows street legal bikes.

How to Make Dirt Bikes Street Legal in California

Let’s see how to turn a dirt bike into a legal street motorbike in California. And what does the state law say?

Mechanical Modifications

You must install safety equipment on your dirt bike to get street legality in California. Because the Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t directly allow dirt bikes on the public streets and neighborhoods.

1. DOT-Compliant LED Headlight

According to the California Vehicle Code, you cannot ride your recreational dirt bike in public places without a safety lighting system. And you must install a DOT-compliant LED headlight on your dirt bike to get street-legal certification from the DMV office.

2. DOT-Compliant Tail Lights

The Department of Motor Vehicles demands taillights to offer dirt bike street legality. It is one of the essential safety equipment to avoid unwanted collisions and fatal accidents on city streets and highways.

3. DOT-Compliant Horn

The California Vehicle Code urges the safety horn for motorcycles to operate in public spaces. And the horn must be suitable for the surrounding environment and residential areas.

4. DOT-Compliant Braking System

No off-highway vehicles are operable across the city streets and neighborhoods without safety brakes. Therefore, you must modify your dirt bike with a safety braking system to get street legal permissions.

5. DOT-Certified Mirror

The rear-view mirrors are necessary to make dirt bikes street-safe for riders and fellow commuters. You wouldn’t get a positive inspection report unless the rear-view mirrors are with your dirt bike.

6. DOT-Approved Tires

Most dirt bike tires aren’t street-friendly, which compromises safety standards to a large extent. Therefore, the DMV officials ask for installing DOT-approved tires on dirt bikes to award street legality.

7. DOT-Certified Exhaust System

The California Department of Motor Vehicle doesn’t declare any dirt bike street-legal except for an upgraded exhaust system. According to section 27202, the current decent sound limit is 80dbA in California.

8. Documentary Demands

You need some certifications and documentation for dirt bike street legality after meeting mechanical modifications. The Department of Motor Vehicle-DMV and California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulate these legal issues.

9. Inspection Report

Under section 6160 of the California Vehicle Code, you must call for an inspection report from a DMV-authorized motorbike inspector. Let the inspector investigate the safety modifications of your dirt bike.

Don’t hesitate to ask for the inspection report if everything goes fine. The inspection report reflects your dirt bike’s safety standards for riding on public streets. Therefore, you must be serious about inspecting your dirt bike by an expert officer. You must submit the inspection report to your local DMV office to get the street-legal certification.

10. Certificate of Title

You need the certificate of title when planning to make your modified dirt bike street-legal. The Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) issues the certificate of title for both new and old motorbikes.

If you don’t know the title of your dirt bike, meet the DMV officials to subscribe to the certificate of title. Section 6150 of the Vehicle Code regulates the ownership of motor vehicles.

11. Registration

None can operate dirt bikes on public roads in California without registration. Otherwise, the traffic welfare officers will impede you on your way to charge fines. Moreover, you cannot enjoy parking facilities on roadsides, electric poles, and pipes unless you operate a registered dirt bike. Your OHV dirt bike is subject to registration under Vehicle Code section no 4000.

12. Green Sticker OHV Decal

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) declares air-emission standard OHVs with green stickers. It means that your dirt bike is safe for the surrounding ambiance with lower noise and carbon emissions.

Moreover, the green stickered dirt bikes are operable in neighborhoods and wildlife environments. And you can ride your dirt bike across the seasons with a green sticker certification.

13. License Plate

DMV officials ask for the license plate to make dirt bikes street-valid. You can set a license plate under the tail light to make it visible, even at night. A license plate endorses your riding validity on the streets. Therefore, the traffic welfare officers don’t suspect you. And you can easily avoid legal bindings for compensations and trials on the streets.

What Are the Legal Dirt Bike Trails in California?

California is an appealing destination to dirt bike riders. All the beautiful natural landscapes of the state attract riders to have a joyful recreational moment. Let’s explore the legal dirt bike trails in California.

S. L Trail Name Destination on Google Maps
1 BALDY MESA OHV STAGING AREA Santa Fe Rd, Phelan, CA 92371, United States
2 AMAGO MX SPORT TRACK Pauma Valley, CA 92061, United States
3 PENNY PINES CAMPGROUND Three Crossing, CA 95988, United States
4 MT. PINOS EAST OHV TRAILS California 93225, United States
5 JAWBONE CANYON OHV AREA 8X6C+Q2 Rancho Seco, California, USA
6 BIG MEADOW CAMPGROUND P59C+84 Hume, California, USA
7 CHAPPIE SHASTA OHV AREA Redding, CA 96001, United States
8 TOPANGA STATE PARK 20828 Entrada Rd, Topanga, CA 90290, United States
9 CLAY PIT STATE VEHICULAR AREA 4900 Larkin Rd, Oroville, CA 95966, United States
10 FORT SAGE OHV AREA unnamed road, Doyle, CA 96109, United States

Though these OHV riding trails are open for all legal dirt bike riders, you must follow the California Air Resources Board (CARB) wildlife guidelines. You must register with the trail authorities before getting entrance.

The Department of Motor Vehicle in California regulates public safety issues in recreational areas. And you are solely liable for the property and human losses due to accidents and injuries.

So, be careful with your life, property, natural beauty, and wildlife while operating dirt bikes in these legally reserved forests or recreational areas.

Is It Legal to Operate Dirt Bikes in the Neighborhood Streets of California?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles discourages driving dirt bikes on the neighborhood streets. And it is a punishable violation of the California Vehicle Code unless the dirt bikes are street-legal.

Is It Legal to Operate Dirt Bikes in the Neighborhood Streets of California

However, you can ride your street-legal off-highway recreational dirt bike on the neighborhood streets under selective conditions. You must upgrade the exhaust system that emits sound up to 80dbA in the residential areas.

Dirt bike riders must take permission from their neighbors to avoid unwanted acquisitions. And you cannot create any hazardous environment with harsh horns and cacophonous noise. Don’t disturb pets and kids during their sleeping hours. And drive at decent speed near schools, hospitals, parks, and prayer houses. You must care about all required safety measures to hit the neighborhood streets.

Do I Need a Driving License to Ride a Dirt Bike in California?

According to the 12500 section of the California Vehicle Code, you must issue a valid driving license to drive your dirt bike in open places. Without an authorized driving license, no person can drive motorized vehicles like dirt bikes on highways, city streets, and neighborhood roads.

Therefore, you need a valid driving license from your local DMV office to avoid traffic penalties on the streets. It requires practical and written tests to get a motorbike driving license.

What is the Legal Age to Ride a Dirt Bike in California?

The Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) encourages guys at least 18 years old to operate all-terrain OHVs in California. And no person should ride dirt bikes under14 years until they meet the following conditions.

  • He/she must pass a safety training course with an all-terrain vehicle safety certificate.
  • Kids must be under close supervision of their parents with proper safety tools.
  • No violation of sections 38501, 38503, and 38504 of the California Vehicle Code

So, no person under 18 should all-terrain off-highway vehicles like dirt bikes in the open fields and public streets. However, the guys under 14 can legally ride dirt bikes on private or personal property.

Do I Need an Insurance Policy to Operate My Dirt Bike in California?

You need insurance coverages for your street-legal dirt bike to operate on highways, city streets, and neighborhood streets. The Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) counts all street-legal vehicles under motor insurance coverages.

There are two main liability insurance coverages (e.g., body and property liability). You must issue both the coverages to enjoy financial support for sudden accidents and injuries.

Property liability coverage $5000
Body injury liability coverage for one person $15000
Body injury liability coverage for two persons $30000

However, the dirt bike liability coverage can vary based on the bike conditions, changeable state laws, and insurance companies’ rebate policies.

Final Words!

Though California is a charming destination for dirt bike riders, the state Vehicle Code doesn’t directly permit dirt bikes in the open spaces. It has banned all forms of recreational OHVs on public streets and neighborhoods.

However, the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) allows street-legal dirt bikes on highways and public roads. The street-legal dirt bikes must be under the California Air Resources Board (CARB) green sticker standards.

Finally, if you are 18 years old and more, you can ride your street-legal dirt bike across the state. California is a heavenly home for dirt bike riders indeed. So, obey state laws and enjoy riding dirt bikes!

James Albert is a dirt biker for about 6 years with a passion for helping others get into the sport without knowing anything. He shares his expertise and reviews dirt bikes and related tools.

More Posts

Subscribe to Dirt Bike Wiki

Subscribe to our daily newsletter to get the latest industry news.

    By clicking the "Subscribe" button, I agree and accept the privacy policy of Dirt Bike Wiki.

    Leave a Comment