You may have heard of CARB, the California Air Resources Board, even if you don’t live in the state. They’re one of the leaders in setting pollution standards for vehicles, and they’re the force behind the California emissions standards.
If you’re not a California resident you might not know they’ve been regulating “off-highway” motorcycles since the 90s. Most states issue off-road riding stickers for dirt bikes that are not road legal (and for bikes that are, if you want to ride them on trails). Californians must register their off-highway vehicles as green-sticker (comply with emissions standards) or red=sticker (don’t comply, and are to be used for competition only).
What’s Going On?
This entire program is coming to an end. You’ll still need to register your off-road motorcycle, because of course you will. Any bike that used to fall into the “red sticker” category, falls into the “no sticker” category, after 2021.
This will apply to all off-road motorcycles beginning in model year 2022. If you own a model-year 2021 or earlier motorcycle currently registered as a “red sticker” bike, you will register it next time as a “green sticker” bike.
Clear as Mud
Smog and air quality are important issues, don’t get me wrong. The state could have made all this a bit clearer, though. Word on the ground says guidance for dealers was thin, and they’re stuck in the middle of all this. The “red sticker” program was supposed to encourage manufacturers to reduce the emissions from racing motorcycles, but that hasn’t happened. Neither has the “competition or practice only” thing stuck – most ride “red sticker” bikes recreationally.
Now, California residents will have fewer options to choose from. If you are unsure about your own California dirt bike, take a look at the VIN. From CA.gov, “Vehicles not certified to meet ARB standards are required to indicate a “3” or a “C” in the eighth position of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).”
For further reading, see the state’s Rider Guidance here. If you want to read through the CARB presentation that kicked off the red-sticker sunset that’s here, and if you want more info visit the California Parks OHV page.