Dirt-bike riding is a very popular activity in all corners of Australia, making the most of our off-road spaces. But what if you want to ride your dirt bike on a public road? Is it legal? In this blog we’ll explain all you need to know about riding dirt bikes on public and private land in Australia.
Looking at a dirt bike and street bike side by side, you’ll notice that they generally look quite different. While street bikes will often be quite heavy and come with a range of technology like stability control, ABS and even electronic displays, dirt bikes tend to be quite minimalist, though with bigger suspension to absorb more impacts and tyres which are bumpy rather than smooth, to give greater grip in the dirt and mud.
For these reasons, street bikes will pretty much always be seen on the road rather than a dirt track, yet you’ll sometimes see dirt bikes on both tracks and the road. However, if you intend to ride a dirt bike on public roads, there are a few things you’ll need to be aware of.
Dirt bikes are usually only ridden on private land for recreational purposes, rather than on public roads for commuting. Therefore many riders choose not to register their bikes, as there is no requirement to do so if the bike is only used on private property. Also, you’re allowed to ride a dirt bike on private property even if you don’t have a licence, although you must ensure you have permission from the land’s owner in order to ride there.
However, as off-road riding can be dangerous, it’s still important that dirt-bike riders have insurance, and dirt bike cover is available from Swann Insurance which covers riders for accidental damage, theft, fire and damage from bushfires or grass fires. Keep in mind, though, that if your dirt bike is unregistered, you likely won’t be entitled to any compensation from your state transport authority in case of accident.
If you do decide to ride your dirt bike on public roads, then the main thing you need to do first is to have at least a provisional licence that permits you to ride the bike, which will often limit you to riding bikes that are 250CCs or less. The bike will also need to be registered with the relevant state transport authority.
Before doing so, you may need to make some modifications to the dirt bike, such as affixing a headlight which is permanently on when riding the bike, as well as adding turn signals, mirrors, a number plate, and brake lights. Also be aware that some types of dirt bikes may need modifications to their suspension, exhaust and brakes in order to comply with Australian Design Rules, although some MX dirt bikes won’t be able to be modified.
It is also still the case that in most states, it’s illegal to ride a dirt bike (whether you have a licence and registration or not) on public land which is accessed off existing roads, tracks and trails, such as in national parks, or in public reserves, sports fields, or on footpaths; these rules don’t apply to private property or to commercial tracks.