Reviews

Best Motorcycle Shocks: Top Upgrades for Better Handling

Experience a smoother ride with these top motorcycle shocks

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook The Drive on Instagram

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON June 9, 2021

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 can help. 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, do your research so you find the best ones on the market. Start with our buying guide below.

Best Overall
BURLY Black 10.5" Slammer Shock
LEARN MORE
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
  • 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
  • Only work with HD Sportsters
Best Overall
BURLY Black 10.5" Slammer Shock
Best Value
Mallofusa 320mm Rear Air Shock Absorbers
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

A set of motorcycle shock absorbers with an almost universal fit that covers motorcycles, go karts, scooters, and other vehicles.

Pros
Pros
  • Made out of durable stainless steel and quality aluminum
  • Absorb even the bumpiest, harshest shocks for increased comfort
  • Available in simple designs or bright, standout colors
Cons
Cons
  • Shock absorbers don’t come with instructions, meaning you’ll need to search online for help if it’s your first time installing these parts
Best Value
Mallofusa 320mm Rear Air Shock Absorbers
Honorable Mention
HD 159 Ohlins Shocks
LEARN MORE
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
  • Much better than stock shocks
  • Installation is simple
  • 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

Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

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 2021

Best Overall
BURLY Black 10.5

These dropped fork springs and stubby shocks are designed for Harley-Davidson Sportsters, model years 2004-2011 but may 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
Mallofusa Motorcycle 320mm Rear Air Shock Absorbers

With a pair of Mallofusa Motorcycle 320mm Rear Air Shock Absorbers, you’ll be more comfortable and better cushioned against the obstacles, vibrations, and shocks you encounter while on your bike. They're made for several makes and models, including Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, and Kawasaki.


These shocks offer an almost universal fit that works on many different 150cc to 750cc vehicles. In fact, you can put them to work on your bike and other vehicles like ATVs and scooters.


Each pair of these motorcycle shock absorbers is made out of aluminum and stainless steel. You can choose between plain, simple colors like silver and black or opt for more style with brighter color patterns and pairs. Regardless of color, you’ll get a bushing hole size of 12 millimeters and a length of 320 millimeters. And they work to absorb even the toughest, bumpiest shocks you meet to keep you well-cushioned.

Best for Harleys
HD 159 Ohlins Shocks

These 13-inch shocks fit Harley-Davidson FLH/FLT touring bikes, model years 1998 and newer. They are adjustable 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 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.

Most Adjustable
Newsmarts Motorcycle Air Shock Absorbers

If you’re tired of taking the hits from road impacts due to your old set of shocks, upgrading to a pair of Newsmarts Motorcycle Air Shock Absorbers will make a world of difference. Made to suit Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki motorcycles, these shock absorbers can step up and offer you more comfort than a worn pair you’re riding on now.


Sold in a pair, these shock absorbers measure 15.75 inches (or 400 millimeters) in length and have a 12 millimeter eye diameter with bushings. They’ll suit most 150 cc to 750 cc motorcycles, though you’ll want to double-check the exact measurements to make sure you’re getting the right fit. Most importantly, these shock absorbers can be customized. You can adjust the strength of the shock, so you can give yourself as much “cushioning” or comfort as you’d like. 


There’s just one drawback: you will have to pay a professional to install these parts for you. They don’t come with installation instructions or a guide of any kind.

Honorable Mention
LIUYE 320 mm Motorcycle Air Shocks Absorber

Whether you’re in need of new shocks for a traditional motorcycle or for your dirt bike, the Liuye 320mm Motorcycle Air Shock Absorbers can provide just the right fit. These shock absorbers are meant to be used on either motorcycles or dirt bikes, and they work with an array of different makes and models. Each pair of two shock absorbers gives you a bit of versatility, especially if you have multiple vehicles and want parts that can work well in multiple uses.


These parts feature a 320 millimeter eye-to-eye length, with eye diameters of either 12 millimeters (with bushings) or 16 millimeters (without bushings). You can even adjust the air reservoir to work for your specific bike and comfort level. Whether you’re replacing worn-out shock absorbers, upgrading your style, or swapping out old parts, these make a great option that fits into just about any budget. 


Just keep in mind no installation instructions are included. You’ll need expert installation rather than tackling it yourself.

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 BURLY Black Shocks

For a more budget-friendly option, consider the Mallofusa Motorcycle 320mm Rear Air Shock Absorbers.