The 70s’ were the best time for bikers because that is when they could speed through any road or highway with their two-stroke motorcycles. Ask any 70s biker about the Kawasaki H2, and you’ll trigger an unending conversation about how amazing the bike was.
However, two-stroke motorcycles aren’t being mass-produced nowadays and are banned from street use. This leads motorcycle enthusiasts to question, can 2-stroke motorcycles be street legal?
Yes, they can be, but there’s more to it than that. In this article, we’ll discuss this in detail. Let’s dive right into it.
Are 2 Stroke Motorcycles Illegal?
The fact that 2 stroke motorcycles aren’t being mass-produced gives the impression that they’re illegal. However, they aren’t illegal.
These motorcycles are made using a single-cylinder design. This design makes them cheaper to manufacture, more efficient and helps them provide a better power-to-weight ratio.
However, there’s a massive design flaw in the 2 strokes or 2 cycle motorcycles. These require to be lubed in a way that’s often referred to as “Total Loss.” In this way, the lubricating oil is mixed with the fuel.
Subsequently, the 2 stroke engines produce a higher amount of unburnt hydrocarbon in the exhaust. Although the level of emissions produced by these bikes still matches emission laws, factories stopped mass-producing them.
During the 70s’, when the 2-stroke motorcycles were at their prime, people started becoming more environmentally conscious. Once the authorities had found that the 2 stroke motorcycles produce higher emissions, they enacted laws that narrowed down these vehicles’ production scope.
Consequently, manufacturers moved on to producing 4-stroke motorcycles as they reaped greater profit. By the ’90s, most of the manufacturers stopped producing 2-stroke engine bikes, and the number of 2-stroke bike users fell dramatically.
You’ll find a lot of older models of 2-stroke motorcycles on the streets. These were produced before stricter emission laws were enacted. So, they can be driven legally and are “Grandfathered.” However, the number of such motorcycles is decreasing gradually.
Can You Make a 2-Stroke Motorcycle Legal?
In most states of the US and other countries, you can’t make a 2-stroke motorcycle legal. That being said, there are some workarounds to this.
Most of the authorities don’t care what type of or design of engine you’re running on your bike. What they care about most is the level of emissions your vehicle is producing.
It’s been proven statistically that 2 stroke motorcycles and buggies produce more emissions than their 4 stroke counterparts. Due to this, they are banned from street usage despite offering higher efficiency.
Here are some ways in which you can make a 2-stroke motorcycle street legal.
Get an Old Model
This is perhaps the safest option you have. Only the 2 stroke motorcycles that were produced after the emission laws were enacted are banned. The 2 stroke motorcycles produced before that event are still legal to drive.
That being said, these are quite rare nowadays, and they’re becoming extinct over time. So, now would be the perfect time to get one of these. With an older model, you won’t have to face any obstacles in registering these bikes in your state.
As 2-stroke bikes haven’t improved since the ban, there’s nothing wrong with getting an older model. You’ll even find two-stroke bikes from the 70s much more efficient than the modern 4 stroke engine bikes.
Get a 2 Stroke Bike That Complies with the EPA Laws
Although most manufacturers abandoned the production of 2 stroke bikes, brands like Yamaha and Honda continued to produce them. This is one of the major reasons behind pros using 2-stroke engines well into the 90s’.
By the end of the 20th century, most of the pros had shifted to the four-stroke engines. It’s a common observation that mass users tend to use whatever the professionals are using. So, a majority of the public switched over to four-stroke bikes as well.
This forced Honda and Yamaha to stop the mass production of 2 stroke bikes, as they weren’t making any real profit out of these.
However, KTM still proceeded to manufacture 2 stroke engines. The best part is this company manufactures 2 stroke bikes that comply with the strict EPA laws.
So, even though these models were produced recently, you’ll be able to drive them anywhere without any hassle. The only difference is that you need to get these checked for possible levels of emission by local authorities.
Should You Get a 2-Stroke Motorcycle Now?
Thanks to KTM, the sole savior of 2-stroke bikes, the demand for 2-stroke bikes has risen considerably since 2016. This led the company to invest further in the development of 2 cycle engines. Other than KTM, big companies such as Gas-Gas and Beta are also investing in these bikes.
Moreover, KTM declared their latest innovation, the transfer port fuel injection technology. This technology promises even higher efficiency than what the older models delivered.
That being said, even the old 2 stroke engines offer much higher efficiency than their four-stroke counterparts. So, this innovation is a step in the right direction.
Moreover, KTM also promises that its new technology will operate on even lower emissions. So, you’ll finally have street-legal 2-stroke bikes that perform like their predecessors from the 70s’.
So, now would be a perfect time to get a 2-stroke motorcycle. You can either get an old model or one of the recent models manufactured by KTM. We’re sure that these won’t disappoint.
As you can see, there’s no definite answer to the question – can 2 stroke motorcycles be street legal?
You can’t possibly manufacture a 2-stroke bike that doesn’t comply with the EPA laws.
However, you can still get yourself a bike manufactured before the enactment of the laws and drive it legally. Or you could just get a 2-stroke bike from KTM, Honda, or Yamaha that was manufactured complying with the EPA laws.
No matter which choice you make, you won’t regret getting a 2 stroke bike.
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