Minibikes are essentially small motorcycles or mopeds that traditionally were built out of leftover parts from other machines. Lawn mowers, go-karts and dune buggies were frequently tapped for their valuable and reusable parts during the construction of a minibike. Old sheet metal and engines have also been commonly used in minibike manufacture. As the popularity of these vehicles has grown, some manufacturers began to mass-produce them. Today, you’ll find them used as recreational vehicles. There are certain laws that must be adhered to, however, when it comes to riding minibikes.
Mini Bike Laws in Michigan
If you live in the state of Michigan, you might be wondering, "Are mini motorcycles street legal?" When reviewing the laws in Michigan, you should know that minibikes are commonly referred to as “pocket bikes.” Legislation surrounding this sort of vehicle refers to them as such.
If the "pocket bike" has an engine displacement of 50ccs or less, produces 2.0 brake horsepower or less, is capable of a top speed of no more than 30 mph, and the operator is not required/allowed to shift gears, then it may be legally classified as a moped. The document titled "Moped Requirements" lists the operational and equipment requirements for such motor vehicles. Most "pocket bikes" will not meet those requirements and therefore will not be street legal.
The Michigan State Police explain the traffic laws surrounding minibikes as follows: if the pocket bike has an engine displacement greater than 50 ccs, it is classified as a motorcycle. In that case, it must meet the requirements applicable to motorcycles. They note that most minibikes will not meet the requirements for engine displacement.
Some of the requirements to make pocket bikes street legal, like mopeds, include a rearview mirror, a muffler (and resonator, if originally equipped with one), handlebars at least 15 inches from the top of the seat, front and rear brakes and a horn. Drivers of minibikes or mopeds must be at least 15 years of age and have a special license. Anyone riding a moped who is under the age of 19 must wear a helmet approved by the Department of Transportation. Note that the rules for motorcyclists require a helmet for anyone under age 21, however. All minibike drivers must stop at stop signs and traffic lights and otherwise follow the rules of the road.
Street Legal Pocket Bikes
Pocket bikes must either meet the requirements for a moped or those for a motorcycle, as outlined above. In either case, the vehicle must be outfitted according to state law for either a moped or motorcycle, whichever is appropriate. Drivers are also required to wear appropriate safety gear, like helmets, and abide by the rules of the road.
- Michigan State Police: Traffic Laws FAQ – Motorcycles (Can someone tell me what the laws in Michigan are for riding pocket bikes?)
- Michigan: Moped General Information
- MI Secretary of State: Motorcycle Operator Manual (Page #6 – Equipment, Handlebars)
- Michigan State Police: Motorcycle Helmets (First paragraph,(4)) (Michigan Admin Code – Rule 1.) (Recognizing Approved Helmets – Labeling)
- Roadkill: A First Timer's Guide to Building a Minibike
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images