Can You Put Snow Chains On A Motorcycle?

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There are many types of vehicles that use snow chains during the winter months to help gain better traction in the case they run into a road with heavy snow or ice. In fact, many vehicles are required to have snow chains when entering a certain area. Many may wonder if motorcycles are included in this category of vehicles.

So, can you put snow chains on a motorcycle? It is possible to put snow chains on a motorcycle in the case of an emergency. However, it is highly recommended that motorcycles stay off the road in winter conditions unless it is absolutely necessary. Motorcycle snow chains should be used as a last resort.

There is a lot to contemplate when thinking about adding snow chains to your motorcycle tires; this should not be done without careful consideration. If you live in a climate with harsh winters or you are planning on travelling somewhere on your motorcycle that will have winter conditions, you should understand the best way for navigation when it comes to your safety and the safety of others.

When It’s Appropriate To Use Snow Chains On A Motorcycle

Many people assume that adding snow chains to a motorcycle is a simple task and can easily be done. Most other vehicles are capable of having them, so why would a motorcycle be any different?

There are only a few reasons where it becomes appropriate to add snow chains to your motorcycle. If it is below freezing or it is snowing and icy outside, you should consider not riding your motorcycle at all. Street bikes were not made to travel through such harsh conditions and can be especially dangerous for the less practiced rider. See my article here that discusses when it’s too cold to ride a motorcycle.

The physics of the situation is simple. The vehicles that use snow chains have at least four tires carrying the vehicle. Motorcycles have two. Motorcycles are extremely susceptible to slipping and hydroplaning on ice and cold water. Even if your motorcycle is your sole source of transportation, your life is more important than the destination you need to be at. Wait it out.

Snow chains also hold a risk to the function of your motorcycle. If one of those chains were to break while you were riding in snow, the chain could flail into the drive chain which can cause catastrophic damage to your motorcycle. The worst part is that this scenario could potentially leave you stranded in the middle of a storm.

The only time it is appropriate to use snow chains on a motorcycle is if you are in an absolute emergency, your motorcycle is your only source of transportation, and you don’t have knobby winter tires on your motorcycle.

People are often mistaken with the idea that motorcycles can handle such conditions because dirt bikes are capable to doing so. Motorcycles are not the same as dirt bikes; dirt bikes were engineered for rough terrain and similar conditions and a street motorcycle was made for road use.

If you are going to use snow chains on your motorcycle, buy a good quality set; this is a purchase you don’t want to go cheap on. Be sure to install them correctly; have a friend help you install them if possible.

Tips For Adding Show Chains On A Motorcycle

I have personally never put snow chains on my motorcycles, but several of my colleagues have. After some discussion with them, they were able to describe some helpful points and tips that can make you feel safer and ride with more confidence if you find yourself in a situation where using snow chains on your motorcycle tires is the only option.

First, closely follow the directions that come with the chains. Don’t skip steps or assume you know how it goes on without reading the directions because you’ve put chains on a car tire before. If your snow chains did not come with instructions, look up the instructions online and on YouTube, you shouldn’t have trouble finding them.

Installing snow chains on a motorcycle is a lot different than than installing snow chains on any other vehicle because of the minimal clearance available between the chains and other vital parts of the motorcycle itself.

If possible, try using zip ties or extra chains to additionally fasten the chain to the tire through the tire rim. It’s pretty easy for the chains to slip off to one side, so having the fasteners will prevent the chains from doing so. If you’re going to loop some extra chains or zip ties through the tire rim, make sure to use at least 5 or 6 fasteners on each tire so there is an even distribution. Be sure the zip ties you use are thick and heavy duty.

Once the snow chains are installed on your motorcycle, do a quality check and make sure it is tight and won’t slip off. Pay special attention to any part of that chain that may rub on any part of the motorcycle frame, the drive chain, or any other part of the motorcycle.

While you are riding your motorcycle with snow chains on them, be sure to drive slow. Having snow chains on your motorcycle usually means you’re riding through some snow and ice, so you don’t want to go too fast and risk slipping.

Listen for any eerie clinking noises that don’t feel right to you; you don’t want the chain to be rubbing on places it shouldn’t be because it could cause expensive damages to your motorcycle. Also try to ride on paths that are already paved in the snow but not completely pounded down to ice.

Lastly, if possible, pull over several times during your ride to ensure the chains are in place and make adjustments accordingly. Bring some extra zip ties with you to help with those adjustments.

Alternatives To Motorcycle Snow Chains

As stated before, there should be some alternatives considered before using motorcycle snow chains. The first alternative to consider would be to simply wait out the storm and plan on travelling when the weather clears or the roads have been plowed. Many people end up staying in a hotel or hanging out in a gas station as they wait for the roads to clear. This is your safest option.

The second option would be to have a second set of knobby winter tires available and stored somewhere at home. This alternative requires a bit of work as you would have to have the winter tires mounted to your motorcycle rims before you can use them.

If you must ride in the snow and ice, using your motorcycle winter tires will give you the best results during your travel.

If you must travel somewhere and have to take your motorcycle with you, you’re third best option would be to simply rent a truck and haul your motorcycle wherever you need to go. If you’re stuck somewhere away from home, try renting a truck. You can usually return vehicles at a different location than where you picked it up. Some rental companies will even come pick you up if you’re not able to ride to their location.

The Laws About Motorcycle Snow Chains

Before ever considering adding snow chains to your motorcycle, you will need to check with your state laws concerning vehicle chains. Each state is different with their rules, so if you’re travelling to multiple states you’ll need to know the laws of all the states you’re travelling through.

Most states are pretty relaxed about their snow tire laws with most of them stating that you can use them if you deem it necessary and safe to use them, but there are a handful of states that have specific restrictions on them.

There are several states, such as Alaska, that do not allow chains at all in certain parts of the state between May and September. Other states, such as Utah and Wyoming, legally require that all vehicles have snow chains if travelling through certain roads that has posted signs stating as such.

Watch out for state laws that specifically express that only commercial vehicles and buses are allowed to use chains in winter conditions. Also note that in most states it is illegal to use snow chains on motorcycle tires, or any tires, if there is no snow or ice.

Chains can damage the road underneath it and state authorities don’t take too kindly to things like that. Click here to see this helpful resource that describes chain usage laws for each state in the U.S.


It is completely possible to put snow chains on a motorcycle. In fact, people do it every day. However, it should not be the first option and should only be used in an emergency since there are several risks involved. Motorcycles should only be used on roads not covered in snow.

If you must use motorcycle snow chains, ensure they’re installed correctly and proceed slowly. Make frequent stops to ensure the chains are still in place. Feel free to contact us with your experiences or if you have further suggestions. Be safe out there my fellow riders!

Related Questions

Are there any states where it is illegal for motorcycles to use snow chains? There are no states who have said that it is illegal for motorcycles to use snow chains, however motorcycles are still required to follow the same laws and regulations as any other vehicles concerning snow chain laws.

Can you make your own studded motorcycle tires? It is possible to make your own studded motorcycle tires. You simply need to take the tire itself and push the screws through from the inside. It will require screws installed through most of the surface inside the tire.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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