You know that it is illegal to ride dirt bikes in certain parts of town. Being a resident of the state of Florida with a brand new dirt bike, you are not sure where you can and cannot ride without breaking the law. Are Dirt Bikes Street legal in Florida?
Dirt bikes are one of many types of motorcycles which are designed for off-road riding. They are made for unpaved roads and are usually lightweight machines. Other types of motorcycles are standard, sport, touring, cruiser and touring bikes.
One of the biggest drawbacks of investing in a dirt bike is that it cannot be used for every day transport on US roads. In Florida, it is illegal to ride a dirt bike in its original form on the street. If you own a dirt bike, it can be inconvenient because you cannot use it for anything else.
There are some modifications which can be done to make a dirt bike street legal. These include addition of headlights, tail lights, turn signals, mirrors, horns and speedometers.
Specific requirements vary from state to state.
Why Dirt Bikes?
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Apart from the fact that dirt biking is one of the most exhilarating bike activities you could choose, there are some health benefits to be enjoyed from it.
It increases your heart rate to levels comparable to jogging or light endurance exercises. The average off-road ride raises your heart rate to the mid-130s while a hilly ride with lots of obstacles helps you get your heart rate into the mid-150s.
Endurance and balance is enhanced because riding engages both your arm and leg muscles while bracing for bumps makes you tighten various muscles to be able to maintain balance.
The one disadvantage to owning a dirt bike is that you cannot hop onto it and dash over to the store like you would with a car. It is illegal to ride these bikes on the street in most states, including Florida.
How to Make Your Dirt Bike Street Legal in Florida
It must be mentioned that there are lots of street legal dirt bikes available in the market for reasonable prices so buying one is an option.
However, if like many dirt bike owners you are too attached to your off-road only dirt bike, but want to be a legal street rider, there are some modifications you can make to have your cake and eat it.
Different states have different specifications where these are concerned but you will be looking at modifications related to these components.
- Tail and brake lights
- Turn signals
You are required to install a DOT (Department of transport)-compliant headlight to enable you ride comfortably and safely after dark.
This headlight must have switchable low and high beam options which can be used during the day and at night. It must also have an indicator light which tells the rider which of the two beams is engaged.
Tail lights and brake lights:
The ability to see where you are going is just as important as letting other drivers know where you are and when you intend to take a turn. The DOT insists that the rear light should not only be a back light but a brake light as well.
Turn signals are not mandatory in Florida but are highly recommended for safety purposes. Although traditional hand-signals do sometimes suffice, it is not advisable to ride without functional signals because some drivers may not be familiar with hand signaling.
Let’s not forget that these cannot be used at night when the rider is not clearly visible to other road users. Using one hand to communicate your intention to take a turn up ahead also forces the rider to control the bike with one hand and this compromises on safety.
These are another component which is mandatory for conversion of a dirt bike into a street-legal vehicle. All states require mirrors but differences arise in the number of mirrors required. In some states you are only required to install one mirror while in others, you must have two.
In Florida, you are only required to have one mirror but two are always best. The bigger the picture you have of what is behind you, the easier your ride and the safer you stay.
There is a wide variety of options in the market. With mirrors, try to go as high as you can in terms of quality. Low quality ones will give you sub-par visibility, poor chrome and you will be dealing with rust in no time.
It does sound strange but yes, a horn is a legal requirement for street legal dirt bikes in all states. No, the traditional squeeze bulb hooter just won’t do. There is however a slight grey area in regards to this component. In some states a non-electric horn is acceptable while in others it must be a fully electric one. To be on the safe side, get yourself a fully electric horn.
Horn set ups are inexpensive, easy to find and easy to install.
Wouldn’t it be strange to be cruising down the road and have no idea how fast you are moving? With a speedometer, a quick glance tells you exactly how fast you are moving. Getting stopped for speeding could easily happen if you have no way of keeping track.
Dirt bikes are not designed for the road so their tires are different from those on road vehicles. Their rubber is not strong enough to handle highway speeds. All vehicles in the country which are legally on the road have tires which meet strict DOT requirements.
To make your dirt bike street compliant, you will need a different set of tires. It doesn’t really matter what type or brand of tires you choose, as long as they have the DOT seal of approval which is usually on the tire’s sidewall.
Motorcycle Laws in Florida
Ever state has slightly differing laws when it comes to operating motorcycles. Here are some key highlights of motorcycle laws in Florida.
To obtain an endorsement, you are required first to have a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit. After that you must take a rider safety training course, usually the MSF Basic Rider Course.
On completion of the course you are required to visit a DMV office where your driver’s license is endorsed. Motorcycle endorsement means that your Florida driver’s license has the words ‘Motorcycle Also’ or ‘Motorcycle Only’ added.
Helmets and Eye Protection:
The universal motorcycle helmet requirement which required all motorcycle users to wear a securely fastened helmet was repealed by the state of Florida in 2000. Now, it is only mandatory to wear a helmet for riders below the age of 21.
A rider aged 21 and above is legally permitted to ride without a helmet on condition they are covered by an insurance policy which can provide at least $10,000 in medical benefits. Such benefits must include payments for injuries incurred as a result of a motorcycle accident.
Helmets being optional, eye protection is mandatory for all riders regardless of their age. The law is in place to protect riders from foreign objects entering the eye while riding.
The state of Florida allows anyone over the age of 16 years, with a valid class E driver’s license to operate a motorcycle.
If they are under the age of 21 they must have a different, unique plate tag which identifies them as such. What is most commonly used is a plain white plate with the words ‘under 21’ in large, bright red letters.
So are Dirt Bikes Street legal in Florida? They are illegal when in their original form but can be modified to make them legal.
This modification is not particularly difficult but it will cost you a fair amount of money and time for installations. Most requirements are the same for just about all states in the country but there are some particular details which apply to Florida only.
If you live in Florida and wish to convert your dirt bike into a street-legal vehicle, be sure to check specific state requirements to make sure you stay on the right side of the law.