Understanding the Legal Requirements for Different Types of Motorbikes and Dirt Bikes

Understanding the Legal Requirements for Different Types of Motorbikes and Dirt Bikes

By: Nick Todorovic, Partner, and Cierra Hurley, Summer Student


Motorbikes and dirt bikes have gained immense popularity due to their efficiency and versatility. From traditional gas-powered motorbikes to modern electric scooters, these vehicles offer a wide range of transportation options for commuters and enthusiasts alike. Whether you are riding a traditional motorbike, an electric scooter, or a fully electric bike, understanding the regulations is crucial to ensuring your safety on the road.

Types of Motorbikes and Dirt Bikes



Section 1(1) of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act defines a motorcycle as a self-propelled vehicle with a seat or saddle for the driver, designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.

Electric Scooters

An electric scooter (e-scooter) is a vehicle that has two wheels, a platform to stand on, a handlebar for steering, an electric motor that does not exceed 500 watts, and a maximum speed of 24 km/h.

There is currently a pilot program in place, due to end on November 27, 2024, that allows municipalities to establish bylaws governing e-scooter use, including rules on helmet use, a minimum age for riders, weight limits, and speed restrictions.

Electric Bikes

Electric bikes (e-bikes) are equipped with an electric motor. For an e-bike to be legally operated on Ontario roads, specific criteria must be met including having a handlebar for steering, working pedals, and meeting weight and speed limits. The maximum assisted speed permissible for the e-bike is 32 km/h.

Modifying an e-bike by removing pedals or increasing the motor power beyond the legal limits for an e-bike classifies it as a motor vehicle. Operating such a modified e-bike requires a licence, insurance, and registration, which are mandatory for motor vehicles under Ontario law.

Dirt Bikes

A dirt bike is a two-wheeled, motorized, off-road bike used for driving on uneven terrain. A dirt bike cannot be driven on public roads




A motorcycle is classified as a motor vehicle under the Highway Traffic Act. A motor vehicle is defined as:

An automobile, a motorcycle, a motor assisted bicycle unless otherwise indicated in this Act, and any other vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power, but does not include a street car or other motor vehicle running only upon rails, a power-assisted bicycle, a motorized snow vehicle, a traction engine, a farm tractor, a self-propelled implement of husbandry or a road-building machine

Electric Scooters and Bikes

Electric scooters and bikes are not classified as off-road vehicles or motor vehicles. The exception is an electric bike will be classified as a motor vehicle if the pedals are removed. Section 1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act defines a “power-assisted bicycle” as a bicycle that,

(a) is a power-assisted bicycle as defined in subsection 2 (1) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations made under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada),

(b) bears a label affixed by the manufacturer in compliance with the definition referred to in clause (a),

(c) is fitted at all times with pedals that are operable to propel the bicycle, and

(d) is capable at all times of being propelled on level ground solely by using muscular power to operate the pedals; (“bicyclette assistée”)

Although an electric bike is not classified as a motor vehicle under the HTA, it may be classified as such under the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code broadly defines a motor vehicle as “a vehicle that is drawn, propelled or driven by any means other than muscular power, but does not include railway equipment.” This means you cannot operate an electric bike if you are impaired or have a suspended driver’s licence.

Dirt Bikes

A dirt bike is classified as an off-road vehicle, which is defined in section 1 of the Off-Road Vehicles Act as:

a vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power or wind and designed to travel,

(a) on not more than three wheels, or

(b) on more than three wheels and being of a prescribed class of vehicle; (“véhicule tout-terrain”

Licensing and Insurance Requirements



To legally drive a motorcycle in Ontario, you need to carry an M Class licence. The type of M Class licence you will need depends on the type of motorcycle you drive, but the M1 or M2 licence allows you to drive a full-speed motorcycle. It is mandatory to have third-party liability insurance of at least $200,000 in Ontario, and proof of insurance must be shown before you can register your motorcycle.

Electric Scooters and Bikes

Insurance for electric scooters and bikes is not mandatory in Ontario. Although having insurance is not legally required, it is recommended to protect yourself from being held personally liable if you are involved in a collision. Having liability insurance can protect you from these financial repercussions.

Dirt Bike

In order to legally ride your dirt bike, you must have it insured under a motor vehicle liability policy. Section 15(1) of the Off-Road Vehicles Act states “no person shall drive an off-road vehicle unless it is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy in accordance with the Insurance Act.”


Understanding and adhering to Ontario’s legal requirements for motorbikes and dirt bikes are crucial for your safety. Whether you are a seasoned rider or a newcomer, consulting with a personal injury lawyer can provide invaluable guidance in navigating legal issues that may arise. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers are here to help you.

Stay informed, stay safe, and enjoy the ride responsibly.

Nick Todorovic


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