So you’re thinking about making the jump from dirt to street? Thinking you’d rather buy a street legal dirt bike than build one? Welcome to the wild side my friend.
It doesn’t matter what your riding background is, or even if you’ve ridden anything before at all. Even if you’ve ridden a horse, you’ve probably got the moxie to handle a street legal dirt bike. Probably…
Are You Ready for a Street Legal Dirt Bike?
Are you a Nun of Anarchy or a dirt biking legend just waiting to happen? Time to find out.
The big question is, does all the dirt-slinging awesomeness of dirt bikes work on the street? Of course it does! But before you’re riding wheelies and hopping medians, you need to find a bike that suits your needs and fits your ethos, your personality – who you are and the way you live your life. Your bike should fit that to a T!
Of course, it’s super easy to make any old dirt bike street legal, and that’s exactly what we do at Dirt Legal. You can build a bike that outperforms most of the factory street legal dirt bikes on this countdown for way less money, and then get a title and license plate for around $300. Sound good?
CLICK TO GET LEGAL
If you prefer to buy a turn-key street legal dirt bike there are plenty of options to choose from. That brings us to an age-old question: is it better to have more power or less power? What are the pros and cons to each? Are small bikes for noobs? Time to find out.
If you’re the type of person to grab life by the balls and hang on for the ride, you’re going to want to start on a small bike. I know that probably goes against your whole macho man Randy Savage thing, but bear with me. A small bike will keep you from getting hurt early on, and the longer you live the longer you can ride. Trust me… I did the math.
Small-displacement dirt bikes don’t have a lot of power. That means you can make mistakes without paying the price – within reason.
They’re light, nimble, and efficient": most small dirt bikes weigh under 300 lbs and get over 70 MPG. They’re simple and reliable, so they can take a beating and keep coming back for more. And when you drop one – which you will – parts are cheap and easy to come by.
Riding a small dirt bike will teach you to conserve momentum instead of relying on power to get you through. Jump and stunt to your heart’s content, ride ‘em hard and put ‘em away wet, small dirt bikes won’t mind a bit. Many people have ridden one of these for years without getting bored of it, and you could too.
These are the small factory street legal dirt bikes you should consider:
280lb wet, 14hp (yeah, 14)
The Honda CRF230L follows the same recipe as the Yamaha XT250, Suzuki DR200S, and Kawasaki KLX250. These are air-cooled single-cylinder classics that haven’t changed in decades because they don’t have to. Choosing between them basically involves picking your favorite color, and you’ll find a dozen of each at any dirt bike event in the world.
You really can’t go wrong with one of these unless it’s been thrashed to hell and back.
256lb wet, 28hp
This one is far more modern than those Hondas and Kawis. Released in 2008, the Yamaha WR250R is a race-spec dirt bike with a 6-speed transmission, fuel injection, liquid cooling, titanium valves, fully adjustable inverted forks, and a fully adjustable rear shock.
In plain English, that’s like comparing a new Mustang to an old Civic. Of course, that makes it more expensive too. This is the small factory street legal dirt bike most people dream of having: find them being envied on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tinder.
After you’ve learned the basic principles of riding on a small factory street legal dirt bike, or if this isn’t your first rodeo, you might be tempted to move up. These are the bikes most people settle on if they want a formidable street legal dirt bike that’s great in the dirt and wild in the streets.
But the power here is different. If you’re used to a Japanese crotch rocket with 120 hp, you’ll be surprised how fast 50 hp feels on a street legal dirt bike. Chalk that up to weight and torque: a little of one and lots of the other.
Choosing one of these big bikes is a tougher decision, but if your primary use is street riding – and you’re a patient person – you should be fine to start on one as long as you take your time.
319lb wet, 39hp
To most, this is the quintessential factory street legal dirt bike. Choose from one of a thousand exhausts, and find one of a million videos or forums to walk you through troubleshooting and repairs. The DRZ is tried and true, liquid-cooled, and very capable on any terrain.
But like its smaller compatriots, the DRZ is also going on 20 years old. That makes it a perfect used bike, but in the world of new factory street legal dirt bikes, all the new blood is European.
KTM 450 EXC
247lb wet, 51hp
One of the fastest and most iconic supermotos in the world, the KTM 450 is a savage speed demon that’s well-balanced on the road and on the trails. A modern chassis, suspension, and brakes are complemented by a huge world of aftermarket parts, and as for the signature KTM orange – you either love it or hate it.
Aprilia SXV 450
275 lbs wet, 60 hp
In typical Italian fashion, this Aprilia is nothing like the rest. A hearty v-twin engine plays the sound of its people and delivers menacing torque, giving supercars and sportbikes alike a run for their money. If 60 hp isn’t enough for you, the 550 model adds an extra 10 hp, making this one of the most powerful factory street legal dirt bikes on either side of the pond.
Needless to say, this is not a bike for the faint of heart or the light of funds – and neither is our winner.
Husqvarna FE 501
265 lbs wet, 58 hp
The Husqvarna 501 is the undisputed posterchild of dreamy supermotos.
And that means it’s expensive AF… $10,000 expensive. That’s 5 used DRZs, 10 of those smaller dirt bikes, or one used BMW S1000RR – that’s about the most advanced sportbike in the world. So what makes this rebadged KTM EXC500 worth that much?
For starters, just look at it! It’s ultra-modern and ultra-fast, and it’s styled in a suave yet brutal fashion. It’s built of the finest advanced lightweight alloys and the most mathematically precise calculations. The product is a bike with the speed, quality, and feel of a Ferrari on pavement and dirt.
Yeah, it’s that good.
Of course, you have to maintain it like a Ferrari and parts are expensive. But in the world of street legal dirt bikes, the Husky 501 makes all the other bikes look like child’s play.
Which factory street legal dirt bike would you ride?
There are plenty of bikes we didn’t mention here – did we miss one that deserves to be recognized? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author
Justin Dake once caused a traffic jam on the Oakland Bay Bridge. His most recent motorcycle sent a rod though the radiator while he was riding it. He expects his good luck to continue. Find his work at jstn.dk.
Rungu’s Three-Wheeled Electric Dirt Bike Is Insanely Capable
Is this strange three-wheeler a dirt bike, electric bicycle, or laughable oddity? We’ll let you decide.
Trade BRAAPs for Zaps with the Honda CR Electric Dirt Bike
Will this be the competitive electric dirt bike we’ve been waiting for? Or will other OEMs beat Honda to the punch? Only time will tell.
The 2020 Husqvarna Dirt Bike Lineup Explained
The 2020 lineup of Husqvarna dirt bikes and cross country machines is here. A lot has changed, yet a lot has stayed the same.
SWM RS 500: An Affordable Dual Sport Aimed at the Big Guns
Under the skin, this is largely a tried-and-true bike sporting a new name and new owners - and it costs way less than the competition.
These Are the Facts and Statistics Behind Dirt Bike Safety
We did some research into how dangerous dirt bikes really are. As a result, one of our best tips for staying safe on two wheels is to avoid danger. Impressive.
Peak Aesthetic: The 10 Best Looking Vintage Dirt Bikes
Travel back to the days when red was king and styling was unrestrained. Which vintage dirt bike is your favorite?
Towns are Destroying Confiscated Dirt Bikes to "Send a Message"
Hot take: impounding illegal dirt bikes and ATVs is the message. Destroying them is a PR stunt.
With gasoline coursing through our veins, the idea of converting to electric power is a hard pill to swallow, but these e-bike concepts certainly help.
How to Register Your Electric Dirt Bike
Are you waiting on an electric dual-sport bike to be released so you can finally drive a street-legal electric dirt bike? Don’t wait! Dirt Legal will get your electric dirt bike registered and tagged, so you can feel the wind in your face.
Dirt Bike Tires: Everything You Need to Know
Is there a break-in period for new tires? What tire compound is best for what terrain? Should you store your tires next to explosives? This guide will answer all your burning questions.