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ADV NewsCalifornia to Phase Out Gas Dirt Bikes. What You Need To know

California to Phase Out Gas Dirt Bikes. What You Need To know

 Gasoline-powered off-road vehicles to go to zero-emissions by 2035.

Published on 09.27.2020

California is at it again, making news with its ambitious energy directives, including an executive action that would ban the sale of new gas and diesel burning passenger cars and trucks, as well as all off-road vehicles, which includes dirt bikes, side-by-sides and ATVs by the year 2035. Purchase of new medium- and heavy-duty trucks (think commercial) would be phased out by 2045. 

Note this directive does not challenge ownership of fuel-burning vehicles purchased before 2035.

It also fails to mention the fate of street-legal motorcycles like our beloved adventure and dual-sport models, which has our hopes up that the Golden State, which encourages motorcycle riding to reduce congestion on its busy freeways, is giving a further nod to their inherently small carbon footprint. In any case, the motorcycle industry is already self motivating toward e-power, as we reported last week. 


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Further evidence the omission of street legal motorcycles from California’s rigorous plan was intentional is a recent report from MCN that states the UK’s Department of Transportation has confirmed it is not including motorcycles in that country’s similar ban on sales of new petrol and diesel passenger vehicles by 2035. On the other hand, the 13 additional countries committed to phasing out sales of non-zero emissions vehicles by 2035, including China, France and Germany, have not made an exception for two wheelers.

California dirt bike ban
Photo courtesy of KTM

So at least for now, as far as two-wheelers go, it looks like it’s only dirt bikes on the chopping block for 2035. Not great news, but imagining electric-or-nothing adventure bikes feels like a far greater compromise.  

And while it might seem like this directive came out of left field, it’s hardly idle chatter. “As California goes, so goes the country” is an oft-used adage rooted in fact, especially when it comes to the state’s pollution-bashing measures. Just take a look at the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) track record. Back in the fifties and sixties the state had the worst pollution in all of the country and much of the world. Fast forward to the eighties and air quality was back at healthy levels, thanks in large part to California’s very strict rules about emissions levels emitted by new vehicles sold within its borders. 

Remember when there were “California bikes?” What a bunch of hoops manufacturers had to jump through to create a separate version of each model to conform to California’s demands. Today most motorcycles are delivered as 50-state models. How many civilians even noticed?

The point being, California is once again foretelling the future of what will someday be the entire country’s reality. 

California dirt bike ban
Photo courtesy of Yamaha

Still, California’s plan to phase out our beloved petrol-burning dirt bikes, side-by-sides and ATVs has hurdles to jump, some of them self-implemented, such as the caveat that implementation needs to match with “technological feasibility and cost-effectiveness.”

On this note, the governor’s talking points include how his ballsy directive is intended to spur forth the creation of viable infrastructure to support more growing numbers of zero-emissions vehicles already being purchased in the golden state. Just yesterday, in the California Bay Area, I had to chuckle at a long queue of Teslas waiting for a “quick” charge. 

Certainly it’s hard to wrap your head around having enough infrastructure to power just the new vehicles to be sold in the year 2035. For reference, California saw nearly two million new car sales in 2019. And how to make all that juice green enough? 

A possible stumbling block is that Newsom’s order could be challenged at the federal level. California has long led the country in emissions standards, having been granted a waiver to set stricter standards than those of the federal government under the 1970 Clean Air Act. California is currently battling the Trump administration in the courts over its desire to remove the waiver, which could block California’s ability to set tougher state-level emissions standards. Whether this attempt to revoke the waiver will happen, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, a decade and a-half is a lot of good days of grabbing that ol’ petrol-igniting throttle until new gas-burning dirt bikes are phased out in the state. And while the visceral elements of the combustion engine make us feel so alive today, motorcycles in the year 2035 are probably going to be pretty fantastic. They may well prove less expensive in cost and maintenance, too.

And besides, no one said we couldn’t keep a real toy or two tucked away in the garage. Measures like this might put the traditional gas station on the endangered list, but it’s unlikely we’ll see a total extinction of braaping in our lifetime. 

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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155 thoughts on “California to Phase Out Gas Dirt Bikes. What You Need To know

      • So how’s that fighting worked out for you so far? I left Oregon a couple years ago after 55 years of “fighting”. Life’s too short. I have stuff I want to do and it doesn’t include “fighting” liberal idiocy in that state anymore.

    • This is great news. Once again California is leading the way. This is completely realistic considering the rate technology is advancing.

      • There’s enuff emissions restrictions in California the animal farms, fires, traffic, and pot farms generators put out more pollution then all the dirt bikes evermade6. That said 95% of dirtbikes are 4 stroke now, an even the small Amount of 2 stroke Dirt bikes that are,still riding Are probably using the new stuff companies Scientifically studied Tested and tested again that are Specifically designed and made special 2cycle oils, And designed to be not only the cleanest burning efficient ,clean burning , Smokeless oils and synthetics that burn so clean that you can hardly even tell.
        And definitely do not put out any more pollution than a diesel big truck or any , which many are still Around for sure driving and creating way more pollution than a few dirt bikes ever well.
        But then I guess unless you really Are a doctor Of mechanical and otherCombustion Engines and, Graduated Scientist of Engineering and just really can’t stand something with 2 wheels and a small engine God-bless ya..
        In this case I guess the CHP better get rid of all their motorcycles and might as well not allow any motorcycles to ride on the highways either. If this is the case. Nothing wrong with progress and going all electric with motorcycles and what not. But there is nothing like riding a real Combustion engine powered motorcycle or dirt bike.

      • Your brains are fried and you ignorance shows like the governor this is the reason why we’re having problems with a dry forest : There are over 1,400 named dams and 1,300 named reservoirs in the state of California.! And this is the reason across the nation is what’s causing climate change ! 84,000 dams
        The following is a partial list of dams and reservoirs in the United States. There are an estimated 84,000 dams in the United States, impounding 600,000 mi (970,000 km) of river or about 17% of rivers in the nation !

        • Get these idiots out of CA . Open the dam Gates and let the water flow like it’s supposed to we have solar power now there’s no need to hydro power any longer . That’s our problem not motorcycles or motor vehicles . Plants trees eat carbon monoxide and give off clean oxygen if they are watered probably . These fools cut of their water supply . Your brains are fried and you ignorance shows like the governor this is the reason why we’re having problems with a dry forest : There are over 1,400 named dams and 1,300 named reservoirs in the state of California.! And this is the reason across the nation is what’s causing climate change ! 84,000 dams
          The following is a partial list of dams and reservoirs in the United States. There are an estimated 84,000 dams in the United States, impounding 600,000 mi (970,000 km) of river or about 17% of rivers in the nation !

  1. I live in the HD motorcycles are a major part of my family’s life. My dad still rides and he is 78 he is one of the lucky ones he won’t be around to see all this crap. Gov. Newsom is the biggest turd that has ever been in office and need to be kick out now.

      • cali law always starts with one then progress after that. The clean air act was a good example. I was trucker and started at the port then to farming etc.

      • Really? How quickly we all forget about the past. CA smog in the 60s and 70s was absolutely terrible. The only reason the federal government is currently fighting CA is to push more business development and less of nature in the state. I would have thought riders on here would support more nature and wildlife over big industry business.

        • In the 60s and 70s we didn’t have the clean burning engines and fuels of today. It’s not as if there’s less automobiles on the roads now as was 50 or 60 years ago.

        • I was stationed at Camp Pendleton in 1975 and I remember my first ride through LA. I was astonished to find by the time I got to my destination I was wearing blackface. The smog was so bad it could cover a face with soot very quickly. That was quite a shock to someone who grew up under the crystal clear skies of the high plains (the orange/brown skies of LA was another shock). But that was 50 years ago. As others have pointed out today engines are a lot cleaner running.

  2. Wow the governor – and his like-minded colleagues – arrogance, sense of entitlement and blatant power mongering have brought them to pretend to believe that they will convince the general public that eliminating the internal combustion engine will bring a clean environment to our planet – at least starting in the great state of California. Never-mind that what makes ALL cars – gasoline, diesel, hybrid and fully electric (AND MOST OF LIFE’S APPLIANCES) even remotely practical – is the harvesting and transport of raw materials by diesel burning heavy equipment. Electric cars are great but they’re not practical for several categories and scenarios of vehicle transportation. If these proponents of the all electric vehicles watched a theoretical video called ” How your Tesla is made” they would slump in their chairs in disillusionment at the overwhelming prominence of fossil fuel burning machinery that is used to accomplish the manufacturing of these vehicles. Not to mention how fossil fuels are used to power the machinery that in turn manufactures the machinery that manufactures the vehicles. These policy makers are in fully conscious denial of how critical fossil fuels are to industry. Dirtbikes and other OHVs don’t amount to a hill of beans.

  3. does the “author” mean 2-stroke dirt bikes with gasoline/oil mix??? oh….and H-D hasn’t won a world championship in the dirt since 1975!

  4. Excellent news. Glad to see someone committing to improving our plant instead of destroying it. This is 15 years from now, so it gives manufacturers plenty of time to adapt to what will, hopefully, be a norm a for the rest of the country. There are already a few “decent” electric dirt bike options now…not great, but decent. You can bet that over the next 15 years the technology will improve and the costs start to decrease.

    • Actually electric vehicles are worse for the environment. Do your homework, the mining process for batteries is terrible for environment and in that battery it’s still energy that they get from mostly fossil fuels.

      • Thats correct.
        Then they find out that recycling batteries.isnt cost efficient.
        So people stop recycling them.
        Picture a world with batteries tossed in fields.and along the highway. Poisoning the ground water.

      • Let’s see if you did your homework. Mike, what’s the carbon foot print of an electric battery/motor compared to a gas engine? …especially considering the amount of fuel/oil being used compared to electricity over the life of the bike.

        Where in California is/will electricity still produced with fossil fuels?

        I love my old bikes, but I’m willing to give electric a chance. We all have to do our part, right? I wonder if California will still allow gas bikes on tracks? …

        • No matter what. Unless you want to walk everywhere, your vehicle will always produce a sizable carbon footprint. No matter what. Its just how it works. The law of equivalent exchange isn’t going anywhere.. this is a bandaid to the situation at large.

    • yep……the way he’s a goin’ judas-trump and his bukakke-barbie wife might not be around much longer either!(pence will be a terrible temporary president)!

  5. If you lived in an area where dirt bikes scream through neighborhoods day and night and the sheriff’s dept doesn’t enforce ohv laws, this legislation can’t happen soon enough. Imagine if I drove through your yard and property for ‘fun’ knowing I can ‘get away with it,? If they would ride where it is legal, I would be on their side. But they wantonly destroy private property.

    • Not sure how changing to electric motorcycles will stop the behavior you are concerned about. The same people can still ride through your property on electric bikes, but you and the police won’t realize it because you won’t hear them.

      • And in fact with the torque of the electric motor could also easily do more damage to the property. And you would never know until you saw it.

  6. I’d like to pop off many things about Gov. Weasl but instead I’m remembering great times as a kid in the 80’s on my RM80, west of Rosamond.

  7. You might as well bann perfume in public.
    Pest control.
    Restaurants.
    Electric cars.companys mining to get lead & copper.are blasting putting harmfull dust that travel the globe.
    Stop building new houses.these trees filter the air.give us and plants oxygen.these people ñeed to live in tents.on a island.all they need is a fishing net.fire pollutes the air.no cooking.eat raw fish.and a recycling center.that’s everything they need.

  8. Sounds good, but right now Calif can’t even provide enough power to supply homes. Add all those vehicles to the grid only makes it worse. “Sorry boss. Can’t come in cause car not charged”.

  9. The 50 state bike is a lie. I tried to bring a so called 50 state 2016 Beta 500 RS into California only for it to get flagged and permanently banned from the state. I contacted Betausa about articles stating it was a 50 state bike and they blamed the media even though their own brochures also stated that they where 50 state bikes. So I got burned and had to sell the bike out of state at a huge loss.

    • Weird. My family has three Betas in Ca. Including a ’16 500rs. Never had one problem. I even plated a ’13 WR450 a couple years ago. Someone at your DMV must not like you.

      • Went to 2 different dmvs and was verified by chp. It was marked off as meeting EPA specifications but not California. Check your emissions sticker out should have California listed on it mine doesn’t and neither does any of the other 49 states. The only way they would have allowed it was if it had 7500 miles. After 7500 miles it magically becomes California smog legal. I spent 2 months trying to get it through and it is permanently banned from this state.
        Some people do luck out when they bring them in and the DMV misses it. But not many.

  10. Just because you can’t buy a new gas burning vehicle doesn’t mean the current gas burners will simply dissapear, nor will people stop importing them by buying them in other States and then bringing them over the line. I mean, they tried to do this with burdensome regulations on older Diesel trucks, but people simply get around that by getting an address in AZ or NV and registering and insuring those vehicles there, and continue to drive in CA. Nor like a lot of smart pissed off people, they just LEAVE the over reaching State Legislators.

  11. How can they expect this to fly when Cali can’t keep the power going all year. All these electric vehicles and rolling black outs won’t mix well.

  12. Well it’s 15 years away, so there’s time to “figure all this out” for us two-wheelers (dirt, road, adventure or DS). That said, to my knowledge (and I’m a California resident who would love a ZeroDS if I lived in a city or with trials close to home), there currently are no viable mass market alternate power motorcycles for avid motorcycling for anything more than short ranges (<120 miles at best) and the current prices for alternative power motorcycles is prohibitive. Hopefully the new Japanese big four collaboration on a electric battery standard will help everyone, so we can at least "swap out" batteries between many brands of motorcycles without waiting hours for a recharge. Or maybe something entirely better comes along that's lightweight, provides a great power to weight ratio, and makes us grin ear to ear like we did before 2-strokes were "mostly" phased out. Finger's crossed.

  13. How the heck is california planing on charging all these vehicles, they can even keep up with electric demand in the summer! Good luck with that!

      • This comment is inherently wrong. 90% of people when they come home at night will be plugging their cars in. At a rate of 70% of jobs being a 9-5 work schedule that means easily most of the EV’s most definitely will be plugged in and charging at the same times..

        • humans working from home then?️some of us have no jobs NOW!or “savings”!your figgers are skewed and screwed! (trump loves the under-educated)!

    • hmmm…..three or four anti-california statements from different entities who may or may not be americans at all! russian or hillbilly trolls?

    • All this from a State that can barely provide enough water to flush a toilet, let alone provide power through their hydroelectric facilities. On top of that they want you to waste a few gallons of water per day to rinse out a bean can or mayonnaise jar so’s that in can be recycled. They’re already low on water! They’re gonna have to plaster the state with solar panels! Those mental midgets couldn’t organize a party at a brewery.

  14. I’m ashamed to call myself a Californian. Dirt bikes have virtually no effect on the overarching problems they are trying to address. It’s just dumb.

  15. With the torque that electric bikes are able to produce, I’d jump on an electric dirtbike in a heartbeat.
    It’s the direction the market’s headed, anyway – I’m pressed for a reason to fight it.
    Politics be damned – It’s not unreasonable to think that new ICE bikes might not even exist in 15 years.

  16. Well 7 years ago moved out of cali glad i did before they make it illegal to move out they want your guns your cars an bikes an your life real sad cali has become a place full of eco terrorists they are going to get the rest of the western states to put up walls an not let any of those liberal ass hats out remember escape new york

  17. Times change! Sometimes by nature others by legislation. I love dirt bikes, I love them but I love Earth more. I can ride an electric bike or an ebicycle. It won’t kill us to change. How many of us used a typewriter? Hum? How many of us had a 454 truck and now we have a 3.5 ecoboost. Stare into the mirror for a minute and look and listen to yourself. It’s the sport, not the machine you do it on. Take some responsibility and don’t blame California for throwing some water in your face and saying WAKE UP.

  18. This is great news. Once again California is leading the way. This is completely realistic considering the rate technology is advancing.

  19. The earth is being scratched like adog and the flea.the earth is going to be hit by a meteior then what ban meteiors good luck.

  20. (CARB) Is the one starting the California fire’s just put new Law Blame it on the Semis Truck on Bikes and Cars it’s all about the Money thwy don’t care about us it’s Money Money thank u (C.A.R.B)

    • If the government wants us to have a mission free vehicles they should purchase it for us because the rest of the world don’t care about emissions especially Russia China North Korea all these third world countries even Mexico no one appreciates science so what I suggest is making a new type of vehicle a hydro water powered vehicle which turns into a bong of course thank you for your time

      • All of the United States could go electric in 15 years but if the rest of the world doesn’t then it’s like throwing a cup of water on a barn fire. Most everything in the world today relys on fossil fuels at some point even the manufacturing and disposal or recycling of batteries. The world won’t stop using fossil fuel until they’ve been used up.

  21. So, I go to the desert for the weekend to ride. First night back in camp I need to charge my bike/atv. Ah, let’s see solar panels barely charge my camp site. Generator is electric too, right? Oh no, hold on, that isn’t right. That wouldn’t work. And Governor Nuisance outlawed a gas Generator. So those guys are out of business too. No generators at all doesn’t sound good! Man, wish I had a 100 mile extension cord to reach my house…now what?

  22. This is another example of leftist extremists ideology. The very idea that gas fueled motorcycles are an environmental threat is baseless. Cars and tractor trailers emit twenty times more ” green house gases/ pollutants. Its time for all “MC Bikers to unite and stand for our freedoms. Live to ride , Ride to live.

    Gerald t Freehoffer

  23. Another freedom they take away from us in California first it was our weapons now it’s our motorcycles what’s next anyhow I believe California should be the freest state to have everything that they acquire that they want California is the biggest state budget out of all the United States so why can’t they write dirt bikes think about it whoever is doing this thinking is irrational and should be we thought thank you for your for your thought and your time have a good day go right out at the glamis sand dunes iv county

    • What is causing global emissions is nuclear testing can’t you see that is melting the global ice stop nuclear testing even a genius knows that the hot temperatures of this atomic nuclear weapons melts hotter than the sun so don’t you think it will melt the ice it’s nothing to do with cars bikes or emissions or aerosols it has to do with nuclear weapon testing no more nuclear testing

    • Yup. Offering laws with pretty sales pitches for people to vote on without fully understanding the consequences that are brought about because they think they won’t be affected. I’m all for saving the environment but these laws are so under-thought that they’re going to cause more harm than good. They plan on this applying to all vehicles not just dirt bikes and who is going to pay for everything? They’ve already restricted 1-ton and larger diesel trucks and so many small companies suffered, wait until it applies to every vehicle residents own.

  24. Considering the black outs and high electricity bills we Californians just experienced this summer, 2020, is this really a good idea?

  25. Please leave our dysfunctional State. The fires, taxes, refs—all if it will undoubtedly just get worse. The great northern states beckon you. The freedom to Brampton, pollute, and be your true self awaits you.

  26. What’s next? Chainsaws? Generators? I can hardly wait to be required to use a battery powered generator that backs up our off grid solar powered home. I’m not in CA but close enough that some of their craziness is adopted here.

  27. It’s an Executive Order so it can be cancelled by a future governor. This has nothing to do with Trump, so save your ammo, but Californians have got to toss those hardcore progressives out of office before there’s nothing left. Besides, as storage gets better, EV’s of all stripes will eventually win in the marketplace. You don’t have to ban them. That’s just an ego trip.

  28. That’s BS!…only in that state. Glad I never even visited it.. another reason too give young generations too end up inside all say, an or letting them get involved in drugs or crime..
    Give every kid a dirt bike, an a nearby track or trail too ride, gurentee it’ll change them for the better. Instead of sitting at there computers, being arm chair einstein,know it all trolls..
    All well.. lets smoke the legal weed all day then..

  29. Hmmm…california is 1.3 trillion in debt, will not even trim vegetation from power lines and the lanes under them(causing fires), has rolling blackouts, taxes its WORKING citizens into bankruptcy, discriminates against Christians, pushes uccess out of its own borders, major cities with needles and feces all over them, is going to “outlaw” gas driven motorcycles? I guess they will kill anyone they find they owning or riding one…. Seig Heil democrat! Seig Heil!

  30. Stupid BS…..not gonna work…..just buy the bike in neighboring state….no way to stop or keep track……these wild fires have done more damage than a million dirtbikes over 1000 years

  31. Go enter Newsome is a total moron! Just think the way he’s going he won’t be in office much longer. Remember him at the voting place and vote for his opponent

  32. I would really like to see a piece written about the strip mining needed to get materials for all the batteries that will be required to power all these “green” vehicles along with the disposal issues with batteries as well. And the state can’t supply adequate power to homes and businesses, i. e, can you say rolling blackouts/power outages let alone charge millions of cars.

  33. I read the majority of the comments, and sadly no one even mentioned the very good possibility that no one will be riding dirt bikes of any kind in 15 years.
    Even if we stopped all CO2 emissions right now we would heat the planet up by at least 1C, which is a catastrophe. The real debate is moral- if we should even try to save the next generation or just ride two-strokes into the apocalypse and screw everyone else.
    Please convince me I’m wrong!
    (And if you can’t name 5 climate scientists off the top of your head than you don’t know enough to comment)

    • if you read any of my comments you’ll know some of us natives care.(the way things used to be)☹️the future bleak and dismal w/I CHANGE!

    • harley-davidson gas golf carts haven’t been made since they were AMF,grampa.(’70’s)electric mowers,weed whips,blowers have been electric for decades!

  34. Looking at your posts I believe you have issues. Try some more of that California Koolaide and some Prozac…or try actually riding instead of yapping like a pup.

    • as stated earlier, I’m a 64 year old NATIVE,I ride a PLATED 1987 yamaha TT 350,(every day)! other than that,just stay in whatever shatter-hollen state you exist in.

  35. more like the “city” in soylent-green.over populated.no social services.police pay for their own bullets.filet of dog at the butcher shop.$20 beers. rusting,dead cars that whole families live in.no gasoline available (except for the one percent,who live in unheard-of luxury,in guarded enclaves) a bicycle will be a status symbol among the poor.so…yeah…blame the governor.and not the government.

  36. If all the dumb asses that make up these laws. Knew exactly what kind of pollution that is being made in order to make just 1one TESLA ELECTRIC CAR “BATTERY”. Which equals the amount of ten regular gasoline car’s or truck’s pollution for a “liftime”. That’s correct, the the amount of pollution from “MINING COAL” (because it takes “COAL” to make these “ELECTRIC CAR BATTERIES”) Just enough “COAL” mined for 1one “ELECTRIC CAR BATTERY” equals the same amount of pollution ten gasoline car’s or truck’s pollution for the lifetime of those ten gasoline vehicles. So let me ask those dumb ass lawmakers and friends of Governor Newsom and environmentalist this: please explain to me in detail how is going ELECTRIC TRANSPORTATION GREENER, LET ALONE BETTER FOR THE ENVIROMENT? The city and state is asking us now to cut back on our electricity. How do they think they’re going to power a bunch of electric cars that need to be charged continuously? The power companies cannot handle the power shortage now how do they think they’re going to manage the power shortages at the time of “no gasoline vehicles or diesel vehicles” in the year 2035. Which is a very short ways off from today’s date…..

  37. im only 12 but i have learned a lot from these beautiful machines and am very sad there going away as i have just started learning to use a clutch and the freedom of a bike gives most dirt bikers there happy times and i don’t want them to turn into memory’s.

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