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State Laws And Requirements For Dirt Bikes

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Riding off-road does not require an operator’s license or liability insurance in nearly all states, but about half have age restrictions on riders’ ages (most just requiring supervision of minors while they are riding), and about a third require a rider training certificate (in most cases just for minors). States have different requirements on dirt bike registration and titling. In most states there are different laws for ATVs (three and four wheelers) with regard to all these things, especially rider age and safety certifications.

Half of the states require spark arrestors (a device in the silencer/muffler that traps any possible spark) and nearly as many enforce sound restrictions (requirements vary by state). Riding a quiet bike should be a point of pride and duty—nothing will annoy others and close riding areas more quickly than loud, obnoxious bikes.

Most state-run Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) riding areas require an annual pass/sticker or daily entry fee to use the trails. Most racing requires being a member of the event’s sanctioning group, and this is usually the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). This group also lobbies in Washington, D.C., for the right to keep riding areas open.

If you plan to ”link” trails with roads by riding a dual-sport bike, you will obviously need a street bike license for those paved (read: ”dangerous”) sections between trailheads. Just because your state might not require you to take a skills or safety course doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take one. Some areas have dirt bike rentals and riding instruction available. Not only is this a great way to get a cheap taste of the sport, but learning some fundamentals now will pay for itself tenfold if it prevents a bonehead mechanical blunder or a crash that causes damage to the bike or injury to you.

You also might pick up a few riding buddies who can learn the sport along with you. Searching the internet is always a quick and frustrating first step (Hint: If you find a course near you, call and make sure they regularly teach off-road riding). Dropping by your local motorcycle shops—the ones that carry offroad bikes and gear—is way more fun and also a great way to find local training courses in your area.

And maybe the biggest point here: Dirt bikes (other than dual-sport bikes) are not legal on the roads. Don’t ride your bike down your street or on your sidewalk or in an alley or through a parking lot. Anyone who rides a dirt bike in any of these areas is a bad neighbor, an even worse representative of the sport, and is breaking the law. The impression you make forms the opinions of others.