Best Motorcycle Shocks: Top Upgrades for Better Handling
Experience a smoother ride with these top motorcycle shocks
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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED 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 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.
These stubby shocks are for Harley-Davidson Sportsters. They work with the stock mounting hardware and can be tuned to the rider's weight.
- 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
- They are a bit stiffer than stock shocks
- May squeak a little
- Only work with HD Sportsters
A set of motorcycle shock absorbers with an almost universal fit that covers motorcycles, go karts, scooters, and other vehicles.
- 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
- 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
These 13-inch shocks are adjustable for the rider's height and have a natural anodized finish. They are specifically designed for baggers.
- These shocks boost overall comfort, performance, and handling
- Much better than stock shocks
- Installation is simple
- Come with a five-year warranty
- 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
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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
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-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.