Motorcycle culture is ever-changing. Trends come and go, only the best designs stand the test of time. However, as some modifications tend to be a little more ‘creative’ than others, moto modders often find themselves on a the wrong side of the law.
Motorcycle laws in the US and Canada are actually more lenient than in other countries, but that doesn’t stop some of these mods getting motorbikes seized by law enforcement every year. When it comes to road safety, custom parts are difficult to get right and often require a number of tests to ensure they're up to standard.
Most of the mods on this list are either aftermarket parts that are illegally fitted, custom fabrications or older motorcycle parts that have become illegal over time. What they have in common is that they're all sure to catch the cop's eye when out on the road, and land the owner a hefty fine or even confiscation of their pride and joy.
They might look good (maybe not all of them...) but with obvious added parts, louder engine sounds and dangerous side effects, these motorcycles are not safe for riders or other drivers and riders they share the road with.
14 Get Back Whips
Get back whips have a long and somewhat ambiguous history, with no two sources being able to agree on where they actually come from.
Some claim that they're only used by biker gangs to show off club colours, some say they used to be a backup weapon if things got hairy back in the day whilst some claim that they were used a speedometers for bikes that didn't have a working one (the closer to horizontal the leather whip is, the faster you're going!)
However they were invented, the get back whip is illegal in some states in the US as it can be used as a weapon and is seen as dangerous to other road users. No matter what it's use is, be careful rocking a get back whip on your ride if you don't want to get pulled.
13 Pressurised Air Horn
The horn is one of motorists' most useful tools. Give someone a toot on the horn to let them know you're there, beep a friend you see walking down the street or blast it at the guy who just stole your parking space, the choice is yours.
However, for motorcycle riders, having a pressurised air horn might not afford you all of that freedom. Pressurised horns have been made illegal on motorbikes in a number of states, so be careful where you ride.
Air horns are usually found on semis and trains, as they need to alert other road users of their presence from further away due to their heavier weight and longer stopping distance. This isn't really a problem for bikes, so fitting an air horn could get you into a more hassle than it's worth.
12 Too Many Headlights
Obviously, motorcycle riders need to be able to see at night. But there's a limit to how many lights are actually useful and when they become a hindrance. This bike features over 25 headlights, some of which obscure the rider's view.
The law in most states bans too many headlights, limiting the maximum number to three (which still seems like more than is actually needed!) This is enough to put front lamp mod lovers in a sticky situation. The guy whose bike is pictured above is in serious risk of having his ride confiscated!
Being able to see clearly at night is crucial, but being able to see at all during the day is even more crucial! Motorcyclists who love lamps beware, having more lights than a Christmas tree will get you pulled over faster than you can say ho ho ho!
11 Having No Headlights
On the other end of the spectrum; having a total lack of headlights is arguably even more dangerous. This mod will not only make your bike unrideable at night, it's also a surefire way to get pulled over. If it's easy to spot a broken tail light, imagine how easy it is to see a headlight that is totally missing!
The motorcycle above is a MotoGP bike, they tend only to race during the day and on closed circuits. These bikes are engineered specifically for racing, hence the splitters (yes, splitters on a motorcycle!). They aren't road legal, and for a good reason.
So, keep your headlights attached and working. You never know when you might need them, and removing them will make you an easy target for patrol cars.
10 Fitting a Jet Engine
Ok, this one kind of goes without saying. It might seem like a cool idea, and it'll certainly ensure that you win every drag race you ever enter, but fitting a jet engine to your motorcycle is definitely illegal.
The speed at which your motorcycle with go with a jet engine fitted is the first problem. You WILL get pulled over if you're doing over 200 mph on a jet propelled motorbike (some jet engines are capable of going 500mph, although that probably wouldn't be possible on a motorcycle).
Another problem is the safety of the jet engine. As any motorcycle owner knows, oil leaks happen, especially on older models. A jet fuel leak however, is much more dangerous. Jet fuel is highly flammable, making crashes on this bike even more hazardous than usual.
9 Fitting Racing/Drag Slicks
Whilst they might offer superior grip on a dry racing circuit, slicks are not a road legal tyre. In fact when it comes to rainy conditions, or uneven surfaces, slicks are pretty useless. One slight mistake and you could end up with a face full of tarmac.
It might be tempting to emulate Valentino Rossi or other motorbike racing favourites, but these tyres are not the way to do it. They're not cheap either, coming in at around $150 per tyre, making slicks a bad idea for both your body and your bank account!
If you still want the performance on the track, without having your bike confiscated on the road, you can still fit these tyres to a separate set of wheels that you reserve only for track days, giving you the extra cornering speed when it matters and the safety of a road legal tyre when you get back on the street.
8 Red Or Blue Underglow Lights
Underglow lights may take your mind to the cars of Fast and Furious or Tokyo's flamboyant car culture. However, motorcyclists also like to show off with some eye-catching illuminations, as you can see!
The problem here is when bikes feature red and blue flashing lights. These are illegal in most states in the US and many other countries too. The lights emulate police cars and other emergency vehicles, which could cause disruption when real emergency vehicles are around.
By disrupting legitimate emergencies, your bike, light show and all, could be confiscated. Remember to choose lights that are yellow, green, pink, purple or anything else that won't confuse fellow motorists when sirens and flashing lights are nearby, it could save your motorbike, and possible someone's life!
7 Removing The Rear Fender Or Plate-holder
Adding a custom fender and removing the bike's plate holder is illegal for obvious. It means you won't be displaying a licence plate, making it impossible for the cops to identify the bike should they need to.
Another thing to watch out for when adding a custom seat/fender is the balance of the bike, as this is a crucial part of the motorcycle's weight distribution and could seriously affect the handling.
Overall, its best to keep important parts of the bike stock, in order to prevent issues with the balance and weight distribution, but it's also crucial to keep the licence plate on the rear of the bike. When cops see a missing licence plate, they're sure to pull you over as soon as they can.
6 High Ape Hanger Bars
So called because they make the rider look like a monkey hanging from a branch, ape hangers are as much a part of chopper culture as leather jackets and bucket hats. However, there's a certain height where even bikers draw a line.
Not only do these super high ape hanger bars look ridiculous, they're also dangerous. The higher the bars are, the longer the distance from handlebar to wheel, making the bike twitchy at high speeds. Not to mention the natural riding position they put the rider in.
It's best to give bars like this a miss for a number of reasons. First, they don't look as cool as you think (looking like you have no control over your bike isn't cool guys!), second, you're more likely to fall off and eat asphalt, and third; you're going to get pulled over by the cops as soon as you hit the highway.
5 Aftermarket Sound Systems
Everyone loves a good tune to sing along to on a long road trip. But belting out 'don't go chasing waterfalls' whilst you roar down the highway might not be a fun as you first thought.
In some states, using an aftermarket sound system is against the law, as well as being pretty annoying for everyone else on the road! With no enclosed cabin, motorbike sound systems act like loudspeakers for the whole road, whatever you listen to, everyone else has to listen to, so choose your tracks wisely.
Some motorcycles come with build in sound systems (see the Honda Goldwing and BMW K1600 GT), these have been specially designed for the rider to hear whilst still being able to hear traffic around them. It also reduces the amount of 'escaping sound' coming from the cockpit.
4 Front Brake Removal
Removing the front brake of a chopper might make it look sleek and minimalistic, but it's also an easy thing for the cops to spot. The lack of disk on the front wheel is obvious to say the least and, without a front brake you'll be looking at a vehicle confiscation.
What's more, the front brake of a motorcycle generates 75% of its stopping power, so by removing it, you're left with only 1/4 of the braking force needed to stop your bike safely. This could cause some serious problems on the highway!
Overall, this mod is not great for your bike's performance or legality. You'll need a larger area to slow down or stop and the cops will see the naked front wheel coming from a mile away. Pump the brakes before trying this mod!
3 Exhaust Amplifier Or Muffler Removal
Motorcycles are loud. That's a given. But with modern mufflers and quite engines, the sound pollution these machines kick out are becoming minimised more and more each year. But that's only when bikers abide by the law.
Fitting specialist loud bore exhausts or removing mufflers can greatly increase the noise a bike makes. Granted, they sound great, but they're also sure to surpass sound pollution levels and land you in trouble with local law enforcement.
Some older bikes that predate mufflers or feature louder engines might be exempt from this, as they were built before sound pollution levels came into play. Either way, mufflers and quieter bikes are sure to save your ears and keep your neighbours a little happier!
2 Obscured Turning Signals
Knowing what other manoeuvres other road users are about to make is important. It can prevent accidents and makes Gary in his huge truck less likely to tail gate you for 5 blocks...
However, if a bike has some stealth level indicators that are hard to see, it can be difficult to know its intentions, whether it's indicating or not. Having turning signals that are hidden, like in the image above, can cause some serious problems on the road.
Primarily: when the blinkers are not being used, it looks like the bike doesn't have any. This makes the rider a sitting duck for traffic cops. Secondly; it's much more difficult to find replacements when you're mid-road-trip if your blinkers are custom build LEDs that were custom made for your bike!
1 Trike Conversion
This mod isn't for the faint hearted, or the weak stomached! Trikes aren't exactly renowned for their looks, and for good reason. But adding another wheel into the mix when it comes to motorcycles could also land you in serious trouble with the law.
The law in most states dictates that converting your bike into a trike changes the nature of the vehicle from being a motorcycle into being a car. This means that all the papers you have regarding your vehicle, including insurance and tax, will have to be changed to the car version.
This can be very expensive, so think twice before you make the move to three wheels. If not for the paperwork, for the poor eyes of everyone else on the road. Just look at that rear bumper. Aghhhhhhh!