No, it’s not illegal to ride a motorcycle shirtless in Minnesota -- it’s just stupid

Don't belive what you might have read about biking topless in Minnesota.

Don't belive what you might have read about biking topless in Minnesota. Getty Images

Driving a motorcycle shirtless seems to be one of Minnesota’s poster children for pointless laws, like crossing state lines with a duck on your head. Multiple “dumb law” sites and posts hold it up as one more strange wart on the backside of state government.

Except it's not really true.

According to the Minnesota State Law Library, there’s nothing on the books that says you can’t go shirtless on your motorcycle. And while it's difficult to say if a local ordinance somewhere mentions the act (some laws tend to stay on the books long past their point of relevance), it's definitely not fair to call it a Minnesota law.

If you ask someone who actually rides motorcycles, riding shirtless is usually less about “can you” and more about “why would you?”

“Legally, there’s no law against it, but in terms of stupidity, it’s right up at the top,” says Peter Johns, a member of the Ton-Up Minneapolis vintage motorcycle club. He’s been riding for over 35 years, and he’s probably seen about three people riding shirtless.

“It’s honestly a point-and-laugh situation,” he says.

A shirt -- and ideally, a jacket -- is the only thing keeping your skin from becoming hamburger meat if you fall off a motorcycle. Even if you don’t fall off, a bumblebee hitting you at 70 or 80 mph feels kind of like getting shot by a pellet gun. Not to mention you’ll get drier than an Andy Borowitz column if you expose your skin to that much wind for too long. We dare not think of the nipple chapping.

Johns has actually heard the rumor before that shirtlessness on a bike could get you arrested, but he’s given it “almost zero thought.”

“It seemed like a protest without a problem,” he says.

For the record, here’s what you actually do have to have when you ride a motorcycle.

  1. Your license
  2. Protective headgear, if you’re under 18
  3. Protective eyewear, like glasses or goggles