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LAST UPDATED: February 27, 2020

Best Motorcycle Shocks: Top Upgrades for Better Handling

Experience a smoother ride with these top motorcycle shocks

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PUBLISHED ON February 27, 2020

Whether you ride a Harley-Davidson, Honda, or Yamaha, you want your bike to handle well and ride as smoothly as possible over rough roads. The best motorcycle shocks will help that happen. The quality of your motorcycle's suspension can mean the difference between a really bumpy ride and a more relaxing one.

If you're looking to upgrade the shocks on your bike, do your research so you find the best ones on the market. Start by reading our buying guide below.

  • Best Overall
    Progressive Suspension Black Anodized Finish 12" Heavy Duty Low Buck Factory Replacement Rear Suspension Shock
    Summary
    Summary

    These shocks have a double-wall steel construction and can be adjusted in five ways. They have a nitrogen-charged, multi-staged velocity sensitive valve.

    Pros
    Pros

    They're an excellent upgrade and provide a smoother ride than stock shocks. They're easy to install and accommodate even very large riders.

    Cons
    Cons

    They may be stiffer than you expect and are too small for some Harley-Davidsons. There is also no dampening adjustment.

  • Best Overall
    Progressive Suspension Black Anodized Finish 12" Heavy Duty Low Buck Factory Replacement Rear Suspension Shock
  • Best Value
    BURLY Black Shocks
    Summary
    Summary

    These stubby shocks are for Harley-Davidson Sportsters. They work with the stock mounting hardware and can be tuned to the rider's weight.

    Pros
    Pros

    They're a great performance upgrade, look cool, and are simple to install. They lower your bike by 1.5-2 inches and will not cause your bike to bottom out.

    Cons
    Cons

    They are a bit stiffer than stock shocks, may squeak a little, and only work with HD Sportsters.

  • Best Value
    BURLY Black Shocks
  • Honorable Mention
    HD 159 Ohlins Shocks for ALL Harley Davidson FLH/FLT Touring Motorcycles
    Summary
    Summary

    These 13-inch shocks are adjustable for the rider's height and have a natural anodized finish. They are specifically designed for baggers.

    Pros
    Pros

    These shocks boost overall comfort, performance, and handling and are much better than stock shocks. Installation is simple, and they come with a five-year warranty.

    Cons
    Cons

    They're very expensive and are designed for specific Harley-Davidson touring bikes. They won't work as well unless other performance upgrades are completed.

  • Honorable Mention
    HD 159 Ohlins Shocks for ALL Harley Davidson FLH/FLT Touring Motorcycles

    Whether you ride a Harley-Davidson, Honda, or Yamaha, you want your bike to handle well and ride as smoothly as possible over rough roads. The best motorcycle shocks will help that happen. The quality of your motorcycle's suspension can mean the difference between a really bumpy ride and a more relaxing one.

    If you're looking to upgrade the shocks on your bike, do your research so you find the best ones on the market. Start by reading our buying guide below.

    Best Motorcycle Shocks Reviews & Recommendations 2020

    Best Overall

    These 412s are designed to improve suspension performance through their double-wall steel body construction. They also feature a nitrogen-charged, multi-staged velocity sensitive valve, which provides a smooth ride. The shocks can be adjusted five ways, depending on your weight, and are 14.25 inches long.


    These heavy-duty shocks are a great upgrade to the factory air setup and make the ride much smoother on hard roads, even if you're a very large individual. They make the bike handle better and lower it a little bit. They are also easy to install, and it can take as little as 15 minutes to replace the old shocks.


    However, the shocks may be a bit stiffer than you expect and maybe too small for some HD models. Also, while they have an adjustment for spring compression, there is no dampening adjustment.

    Best Value

    These dropped fork springs and stubby shocks are designed for Harley-Davidson Sportsters, model years 2004-2011, but they fit other models as well. They are designed to be used with the stock mounting hardware, and they come with several different bushings, instructions, and a spring adjuster wrench. Disassembling the forks is not required, and they can be tuned to the rider's weight.


    These slammer shocks are a great value and a great upgrade. They look cool, are easy to install, and overall are a huge performance improvement over stock shocks. Depending on your bike, they lower the stance by as much as 1.5 to 2 inches, which for some riders is all they need to touch the ground. Also, the ride is smoother, and there are no problems bottoming out, even on hard hits.


    One downside is the shocks are all black and don't feature the Burley sticker that's depicted in the picture. Also, they may be a bit stiffer than stock shocks. They may also be a little squeaky.

    Honorable Mention

    These 13-inch shocks fit all HD FLH/FLT touring bikes, model years 1998 and newer. They are adjustable based on the rider's height and feature a dividing piston-style damper. Since they are a pressurized gas and oil shock, you don't have to worry about the hassle of losing air.


    These shocks are designed for comfort, performance, and handling. They are significantly superior to stock shocks and work great even when riding over potholes. They aren't too difficult to install, and they come with a five-year warranty.


    The biggest problem with these shocks is they are very expensive, and they’re only designed for baggers. Also, their boost in performance is limited by the upgrades you do to your bike.

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    Benefits of Motorcycle Shocks

    • Improved handling. The best aftermarket motorcycle shocks make a huge difference when it comes to bike stability, particularly when you're riding on rough roads. Essentially, the ride is much smoother when your bike has a superior set of shocks.
    • Better support. Rear shocks are designed to support the weight of the bike using a spring that softens bumps. It also controls the suspension through damping, preventing any bouncing that would occur every time you hit a bump.
    • Lower stance. The best motorcycle shock upgrades can lower your bike to a more comfortable height. This is particularly important if you're a shorter rider and want a more relaxed stance when you're holding up your motorcycle.

    Types of Motorcycle Shocks

    Coil

    These shocks feature a large metal spring placed outside of a telescopic tube. This type of shock is common on less expensive bikes. In order to adjust them based on a rider's weight or riding style, you typically have to change the entire spring for one that is lighter or heavier. Those who ride fast and on rough terrain like them because they tend to be smoother, more plush, and more durable than air shocks.

    Air

    Air-sprung shocks have a compressed air spring inside the body of the shock. They are lighter than coil shocks and preferred by those who want their bikes to be lighter. It's easy to adjust an air shock to accommodate different rider weights and style preferences by using a shock pump to increase or decrease air pressure.

    Top Brands

    Progressive Suspension

    Progressive Suspension got its start in 1982 and is headquartered in California. It's the largest manufacturer of aftermarket suspension parts in the United States. The company makes suspension systems for a variety of bikes, including the Progressive Suspension Black Anodized Finish 12" Heavy Duty Low Buck Factory Replacement Rear Suspension Shock.

    Ohlins

    Öhlins Racing AB was founded by Kenth Öhlin in 1976. The company, based in Sweden, has been manufacturing high-quality suspension technology for more than 40 years. One of its popular products is the  HD 159 Ohlins Shocks for ALL Harley Davidson FLH/FLT Touring Motorcycles.

    Burly

    Two brothers built the Burly brand back in 1996. Based in La Palma, California, the company designs a wide variety of products, including air cleaners, fairings, footpegs, luggage, sissy bars, and suspension, such as the BURLY Black Shocks.

    Motorcycle Shocks Pricing

    • Under $100: Motorcycle shock absorbers come in a variety of styles and can be a relatively inexpensive upgrade. They are often made of aluminum alloy and feature some sort of corrosion protection.
    • $100-$300: Mid-range-priced shocks are some of the most common. They are often very high quality and work on a wide range of motorcycles. Many brand names such as Progressive Suspension sell shocks in this price range. 
    • Over $300: High-end motorcycle shocks can be very expensive and cost several hundred dollars, depending on the brand. Air shocks and pressurized gas and oil shocks are featured in this price range. These adjustable shocks provide excellent handling and are designed to hold heavy loads.

    Key Features

    Size and Type

    The most important thing to consider when upgrading your motorcycle's suspension is to make sure you purchase the correct shocks for your bike. They have to be the right size and must be compatible with your bike's make and model. Check the specs to make sure the product is appropriate for your specific bike.

    Quality Materials

    When shopping for the rear suspension, pay particular attention to the materials. Motorcycle shocks take a lot of abuse and need to be designed out of durable steel. Some rear shocks are painted black, while others have a chrome coating, depending on what your style preference is. But what's more important is the construction itself.

    Performance

    Why swap out your stock shocks for OEM equipment when you can upgrade with performance shocks? Shocks are designed to absorb vibrations and bumps that you may encounter when you're riding. The best motorcycle rear shocks provide a smoother ride and improved handling over factory shocks.

    Other Considerations

    • Frame Compatibility: It's not too difficult to swap a blown shock with a factory shock. However, if you want to upgrade the suspension, you must make sure it's compatible with the bike's frame. You can determine this through the shock's stroke length and eye-to-eye-measurement. You also have to use the correct connecting hardware, such as the end bushings and bolts that attach the shock to the frame.

    Best Motorcycle Shocks Reviews & Recommendations 2020

    Best Overall

    These 412s are designed to improve suspension performance through their double-wall steel body construction. They also feature a nitrogen-charged, multi-staged velocity sensitive valve, which provides a smooth ride. The shocks can be adjusted five ways, depending on your weight, and are 14.25 inches long.


    These heavy-duty shocks are a great upgrade to the factory air setup and make the ride much smoother on hard roads, even if you're a very large individual. They make the bike handle better and lower it a little bit. They are also easy to install, and it can take as little as 15 minutes to replace the old shocks.


    However, the shocks may be a bit stiffer than you expect and maybe too small for some HD models. Also, while they have an adjustment for spring compression, there is no dampening adjustment.

    Progressive Suspension Black Anodized Finish 12" Heavy Duty Low Buck Factory Replacement Rear Suspension Shock}
    Amazon

    These 412s are designed to improve suspension performance through their double-wall steel body construction. They also feature a nitrogen-charged, multi-staged velocity sensitive valve, which provides a smooth ride. The shocks can be adjusted five ways, depending on your weight, and are 14.25 inches long.


    These heavy-duty shocks are a great upgrade to the factory air setup and make the ride much smoother on hard roads, even if you're a very large individual. They make the bike handle better and lower it a little bit. They are also easy to install, and it can take as little as 15 minutes to replace the old shocks.


    However, the shocks may be a bit stiffer than you expect and maybe too small for some HD models. Also, while they have an adjustment for spring compression, there is no dampening adjustment.

    Click Here to See Prices on Amazon

    Best Value

    These dropped fork springs and stubby shocks are designed for Harley-Davidson Sportsters, model years 2004-2011, but they fit other models as well. They are designed to be used with the stock mounting hardware, and they come with several different bushings, instructions, and a spring adjuster wrench. Disassembling the forks is not required, and they can be tuned to the rider's weight.


    These slammer shocks are a great value and a great upgrade. They look cool, are easy to install, and overall are a huge performance improvement over stock shocks. Depending on your bike, they lower the stance by as much as 1.5 to 2 inches, which for some riders is all they need to touch the ground. Also, the ride is smoother, and there are no problems bottoming out, even on hard hits.


    One downside is the shocks are all black and don't feature the Burley sticker that's depicted in the picture. Also, they may be a bit stiffer than stock shocks. They may also be a little squeaky.

    Best Value: BURLY Black Shocks

    BURLY Black Shocks}
    Amazon

    These dropped fork springs and stubby shocks are designed for Harley-Davidson Sportsters, model years 2004-2011, but they fit other models as well. They are designed to be used with the stock mounting hardware, and they come with several different bushings, instructions, and a spring adjuster wrench. Disassembling the forks is not required, and they can be tuned to the rider's weight.


    These slammer shocks are a great value and a great upgrade. They look cool, are easy to install, and overall are a huge performance improvement over stock shocks. Depending on your bike, they lower the stance by as much as 1.5 to 2 inches, which for some riders is all they need to touch the ground. Also, the ride is smoother, and there are no problems bottoming out, even on hard hits.


    One downside is the shocks are all black and don't feature the Burley sticker that's depicted in the picture. Also, they may be a bit stiffer than stock shocks. They may also be a little squeaky.

    Click Here to See Prices on Amazon

    Honorable Mention

    These 13-inch shocks fit all HD FLH/FLT touring bikes, model years 1998 and newer. They are adjustable based on the rider's height and feature a dividing piston-style damper. Since they are a pressurized gas and oil shock, you don't have to worry about the hassle of losing air.


    These shocks are designed for comfort, performance, and handling. They are significantly superior to stock shocks and work great even when riding over potholes. They aren't too difficult to install, and they come with a five-year warranty.


    The biggest problem with these shocks is they are very expensive, and they’re only designed for baggers. Also, their boost in performance is limited by the upgrades you do to your bike.

    HD 159 Ohlins Shocks for ALL Harley Davidson FLH/FLT Touring Motorcycles}
    Amazon

    These 13-inch shocks fit all HD FLH/FLT touring bikes, model years 1998 and newer. They are adjustable based on the rider's height and feature a dividing piston-style damper. Since they are a pressurized gas and oil shock, you don't have to worry about the hassle of losing air.


    These shocks are designed for comfort, performance, and handling. They are significantly superior to stock shocks and work great even when riding over potholes. They aren't too difficult to install, and they come with a five-year warranty.


    The biggest problem with these shocks is they are very expensive, and they’re only designed for baggers. Also, their boost in performance is limited by the upgrades you do to your bike.

    Click Here to See Prices on Amazon

    Tips

    • When upgrading your shocks, it's also a good idea to do other maintenance on your bike, such as replacing leaky seals, lubricating the bushings, and changing the fork or shock oil.
    • If your bike's suspension has over 15,000 miles on it, there's a good chance it's time for a rebuild. Your motorcycle will perform much better, and it will also be much safer because you’ll have better control of the bike.
    • How you set up your shocks and suspension depends on the type of riding you do. Street riders, for example, prefer a more plush and comfortable suspension on rough roads.

    FAQs

    Q: Will aftermarket shocks improve the bike’s ride quality? 

    A: Yes. Any upgrade you do to your stock shocks will improve handling and braking. Overall, the ride will be much smoother.

    Q: When should I change the shocks on my bike? 

    A: Whether you buy a new or used motorcycle, you should adjust the suspension based on your weight and riding style. If the forks bottom out, the bike squats or slides on hard acceleration, or you can't feel changes in the road surface, you probably need new shocks.

    Q: How do I measure the rear shocks on my motorcycle? 

    A: Measure from the center of the mount holes at full extended length. For example, the best range for HD Sportsters is 12.5 inches to 14.5-inch dampers.

    Final Thoughts

    Our pick for the best motorcycle shocks is the Progressive Suspension Black Anodized Finish 12" Heavy Duty Low Buck Factory Replacement Rear Suspension Shock. This company is renowned for its suspension technology, and these heavy-duty shocks provide better handling and a smoother ride compared to stock shocks.

    For a more budget-friendly option, consider the BURLY Black Shocks.