My Dual Sport: The Chameleon

Apr 19, 2014 View Comments by

My Dual Sport: The Chameleon

Bad things happen with alarming frequency when one rides a motorcycle in the woods. Not major league bad things necessarily, but bad things nonetheless. I rarely venture off-road without taking at least one spill, and I sometimes have several mishaps during an off-road outing, although they usually involve nothing more than dusting myself off and picking the bike up.

So what’s the problem, there are no injuries and no significant damage to the bike? Very simple; the only way I’m able to avoid costly damage to the bike is to ride something that’s not entirely street legal. While this isn’t an issue when trailering the bike to off-road riding areas, I often like to ride to my destination and double my fun so to speak.

Several years ago I purchased a very nice used 1999 Honda XR250R and decided to take up dirt riding again. I knew the bike wasn’t street legal, but it did have trail lighting, and after a friend told me how to get the bike titled for the street without performing major modifications, I decided to give it a try. I was able to fill out a form stating that I’d modified the bike and that it was legal, and was promptly issued a new street legal motorcycle title. I was then able to purchase insurance and license the bike, all without any actual inspection.

I attempted to make it as visually presentable as possible, but the bike had no turn signals, no horn, no speedometer, no license plate light, and no rear illumination at all until I hit the front brake. I did install a couple of flexible-stemmed enduro mirrors on the bike, fabricated a license plate bracket out of aluminum, and installed a switch that sends power to what was once a rear running light when I hit the front brake. My speedometer is a battery powered GPS unit that I only turn on when riding through towns, and I use hand signals for turns.

I chose to go the simple route because most of the kits needed to make an off-road bike street legal are fairly expensive and commonly require a re-winding of the bike’s stator or a battery to generate enough juice to run everything. If I installed one of the kits, I’d start breaking parts on each outing anyway, and that would defeat the purpose of having a bare-bones bike. I’ve rarely laid a motorcycle down without at least trashing a turn signal, but they can’t break if they’re not there. In short, I’ve got a bike that I can usually drop without sustaining damage. I can monitor my speed when desired, there’s a small headlight, a taillight that comes to life when I hit the front brake, and mirrors that don’t break easily. The bike is also fully insured and all paperwork is in order.

I’ve ridden the bike past numerous law enforcement officers, one of which was a few feet away outside of his cruiser, and no one has ever taken a second glance at the bike. I suspect that many of the truly street legal bikes are so extreme in appearance that mine doesn’t draw any attention to itself visually. Mirrors – check, license plate – check, not speeding – check…no problems here.

I suppose I may catch someone in a bad mood someday and pay the consequences for my quasi-legal ride, but I’ll deal with it if and when it happens. In the mean time, my knobby clad chameleon of a dirt bike will roll through the small towns and rural backroads with abandon. My biggest concern? That perhaps someone will steal it while I’m in a restaurant, because there’s no ignition switch or key. By the way, the picture of the bike was taken before any modifications. Not a bad looking decade old bike, is it?


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Tags: , , , , , , , Categories: Outside the Lines