What's the best motorcycle for snow and winter riding?

Many motorcyclists say the best winter motorcycle is the one you're most familiar and comfortable with. If possible, a second bike might be the best motorcycle for snow: one that's simpler, sturdier, and can take more of a beating without you being too concerned about it. When it comes to equipment, getting proper tires for your driving conditions is the most significant upgrade for a motorcycle you plan to ride in the snow.

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Can motorcycles handle riding in the snow?

Yes, there are motorcycles that are good in snow, but the rider's skill is most important. Riding a motorcycle in the snow is generally not recommended unless you’re properly prepared and equipped. Part of being equipped is having proof of motorcycle insurance, which is required in almost every state before you can register your bike and receive a license plate. Check your state's motorcycle insurance requirements and make sure you're protected financially if you're liable for injuries or if your bike sustains damage in a crash.

Because winter riding conditions aren’t limited to times when there's snow on the ground, you have to develop skill and practice at maneuvering when the road is wet, slippery, and —icy—the most hazardous winter condition. Make sure your bike has the appropriate tires, wear gear that will keep you warm and dry, and know how to handle slippery, changeable conditions so you can enjoy the winter landscape on your motorcycle.

What types of motorcycles are best for riding in the snow?

Riding a motorcycle in winter weather can be challenging. The best motorcycles for snow riding have fatter tires, greater engine displacement, low-end torque, and well-maintained brakes.

The following motorcycles have features that make them good for winter riding:


The BMW R1250GS has advanced technology features such as:

  • Remote keyless ignition
  • Dynamic traction control
  • ABS
  • Optional heated grips and seat
  • The option for mounting winter tires

Triumph Tiger 900

The Triumph Tiger 900 offers several features for winter driving, including:

  • Heated seats and grips with two temperature settings
  • Tire pressure monitoring
  • Electronically adjustable shock absorbers
  • Fog lights and spotlights that illuminate the road ahead
  • Switchable ABS
  • Traction control
  • Windshield to deflect cold wind

The Honda Africa Twin

The Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports motorcycle's features that make it a great candidate for winter riding include:

  • Switchable ABS
  • Traction control
  • DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission)
  • Electronically adjustable suspension
  • Heated grips
  • Heated seat option

Suzuki V-Strom 1050

Known for its reliability and comfort, the Suzuki V-Strom 1050’s Intelligent Ride System (SIRS) gives the rider comfort and control in varied road conditions with these features:

  • Traction control
  • ABS
  • Available heated grips
  • Aftermarket heated seats

What options can make winter motorcycle riding comfortable?

Heated seats and grips are two ways to fight off the cold. Hand guards or muffs offer additional protection, as does a higher windscreen. Riders sometimes disagree on the use of fairings. Fairings are the covers over the engine and other working parts of the motorcycle. They also reduce drag while riding and offer some wind protection.

While that may sound like a no-brainer for winter riding, other motorcyclists advocate for riding "naked" – without fairings – because it makes maintenance and cleaning easier. Fairings may also be damaged if you drop your bike, which goes back to the question of whether you mind your bike getting dinged up in the winter.

Some riders recommend hand guards and crash bungs to help protect you and your bike in the event of spills, which are more common in winter than any other time of year. Learn more about the best motorcycles for commuting and the best motorcycles for new riders.

Are there any specific winter motorcycle maintenance concerns?

Making sure you're up to date on your routine motorcycle maintenance is a must regardless of the season, or even if you're using a bike you don't mind getting beaten up. Your battery and brakes should also be in the best shape possible.

Because of salt and sand on the roads, you should wash your bike at the end of every riding day if possible. Once it's clean, you can apply an anti-corrosion spray to the engine and other metal parts before you store your motorcycle. Where you have joints, hinges, and the like, spray grease will help keep them working smoothly.

What's the best winter motorcycle gear?

Regardless of the motorcycle, you'll want great weather protection. Keeping your face, hands, and feet warm is critical for your mobility and responsiveness while riding in winter. As for the rest of your body, you'll want to invest in high-visibility clothing that's insulated and waterproof.

Riders also recommend leg shields, fog masks to help keep your visor clear, and balaclavas or some other form of protection to keep your neck warm and bridge the gap from helmet to clothing. There are also heated motorcycle jackets and pants that can plug into some motorcycles. It draws power from the bike to keep you warm wherever you travel.

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