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Banned and Illegal Motorcycle Modifications in California

When it comes to customizing motorcycles, motorcycle enthusiasts love to spend time and research altering their motorcycle to their personalized dream. However, sometimes their enthusiasm goes beyond what is street legal in California and depending on the modification, it can potentially increase the chances of getting into a motorcycle accident. Much like installing illegal car modifications, illegal motorcycle mods are a ticketable offense and if you are not careful, the following motorcycle mods can potentially lead to serious legal charges. 

Get Back Whips

A motorcycle with a whip on the handlebar

A motorcycle get back whip is an entirely decorative mod where a braided leather whip hangs from the handlebars. Its main purpose is to add some color and flair as a rider drives through the open road. In fact, there is a commonly held belief that motorcycle clubs crafted get back whips in order to represent the club’s colors. 

While get back whips aren’t necessarily illegal, the installation of this cosmetic biker mod lands in a gray area due to its potential as a lethal weapon in physical altercations. Depending on the length and placement of the whip, it can also potentially get caught along the tires of other vehicles and possibly cover up the rear license plate of a motorcycle. So an officer may issue a fix-it ticket for this motorcycle mod and require motorcyclists to ride without one for the sake of safety.   

Gatling Exhaust / Tailgunners

A gatling shaped exhaust for a vehicle

A tailgunner exhaust is a minigun shaped exhaust add-on that not only makes it look like your motorcycle is sporting two gatling guns, but provides motorcycles a more powerful, louder, and deeper sound to the exhaust. As to why, a tailgunner exhaust is an illegal motorcycle mod, there are two main reasons for it.

Firstly and the most obvious reason is the overall shape and design of it. While a minigun-esque may seem favorable to mod enthusiasts who are looking for a personalized military inspired design, but unknowingly citizens and local officers may be worried seeing a pair of gatling guns attached to a motorcycle. The other reason for its ban is the amount of noise it makes when in usage. According to California Vehicle Code 27202, any motorcycle made after 1985 must not exceed 80 decibels. Any violation to the CVC will result in a fine that can range anywhere between $50 to $100 for the infraction and for any continued violation will result in fines around $250 and possible legal actions. 

“Ape Hangers” / High Handlebars

A red motorcycle with a high handlebar

High handlebars or more commonly known as “Ape Hangers” are designed for motorcyclists who want to adopt a more comfortable riding position and reactive handling system. While high handlebars are generally not illegal, the height can potentially be illegal and subjective to fines. 

According to California Vehicle Code 27801, motorcycle handlebars cannot be more than six inches above the rider’s shoulder height when they are sitting on the seat. Any violation to this rule can potentially cause the rider to cause a severe motorcycle accident, so any on duty officers may issue a fix-it ticket to prevent an accident from occurring. 

Motorcycle Helmet Spikes and Mohawks

A custom green motorcycle helmet

An indirect illegal biker mod, spiked and mohawked motorcycle helmets are illegal if they do not follow motorcycle helmet guidelines. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have stated in a detailed helmet guideline that any helmet with features/accessories that extend further than two-tenths of an inch from the surface can potentially cause serious injuries to the rider when they are in an accident. 

In addition, the visual aesthetic of a spiked or a mohawked helmet can potentially be a distraction to other drivers on the road. As distracted driving is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents in the United States, any motorcycle helmet design that adds to the overarching problem is deemed illegal. 

Aftermarket Exhausts/Parts 

A custom motorcycle exhaust

Aftermarket exhausts and parts are often referred to as components designed to replace or enhance the original parts on a motorcycle. These parts are typically made by third-party manufacturers and are popular among motorcyclists due to the range of customization options they can access. 

Depending on the type of parts, aftermarket motorcycle exhausts and parts can be considered as illegal motorcycle mods, because these parts may not be compliant to California’s vehicular standards and may cause disturbances and/or accidents. California Vehicle Code 27156 is California’s anti-tampering law which prohibits the installation of any add-on or modified emission-related part to a motorcycle to ensure that riders don’t accidentally install mods that are not up to code. 

The only exception to this rule is unless the part has been exempted by California Air Resource Board, which gives riders some assurance in the overall performance standard and quality. In addition, these parts can also be up to proper emission standards set by the EPA. 

Colored Headlights

A light blue motorcycle headlight

While it may not seem such a huge problem, colored and super bright motorcycle headlights are an illegal biker mod that can cause a multitude of problems for drivers on the road. Due to the inherent brightness of customized lights, these customized mods can potentially blind drivers during the nighttime and customized colored headlights may cause some confusion that may lead both riders and drivers alike to cause a traffic accident. 

California Vehicle Code 25650 – 25651 states the guidelines for all motorcycle headlights from brightness, driving speed, and the number of headlights. The vehicle code states that motorcycle headlights must have a sufficient intensity level to reveal a person/vehicle less than a 100 feet away and anything more may cause a disturbance to other nearby drivers. 

Is It Illegal to Modify Your Motorcycle in California?

An assortment of illegal motorcycle parts on a wall.

There is a very fine line when it comes to the legality of modifying your motorcycle to suit your personal tastes. While personalizing your motorcycle is not illegal, it is illegal if you install motorcycle mods that purposefully goes against California’s vehicle codes and emission standards. So to prevent any tickets related to illegal motorcycle mods, it is important to check if the part in question follows all of the proper guidelines according to the DMV. 

However, if you are subjected to an unlawful motorcycle stop and would like to seek legal representation of the matter, contact us today by calling (213) 927-3700 or filling our contact form to schedule a free consultation with our compassionate and talented legal team.

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