There’s no question that the best bikes for a snow bike conversion are 2-stroke dirt bikes with 450-550cc, fuel-injected engines. They provide a great power-to-weight ratio and can reach a top speed of 40-60 mph. Four-strokes usually prove to be too heavy while smaller 250-350cc bikes lack power. That’s why most riders stick to the 450-550cc, 2-stroke machines!
If you are wondering what type and brand of bikes are most commonly used for snow bike conversions, this post is for you.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all of them under one roof!
Factors to Consider When Selecting the Bike
Since turn-key snow bikes aren’t available off the shelf, the only way to get one is to build your own machine. There are many important factors to consider when it comes to selecting the best bike for a snow bike, but the most important ones are as follows:
- Engine power
- Price and availability
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about each in one in detail!
Powersport vehicle riders are typically looking for the most powerful engines, and snow bikers are no exception.
More engine power always results in more fun and safety. You never know when you’ll get into a situation in which you will need some extra HP!
This is why the most commonly used bikes for snow bike conversions are the 450-550cc, 2-stroke machines. These bikes crank out about 45-55 HP, which is significantly more than you can expect from a 250-300cc bike.
Keep in mind that you can expect a completely different performance on a track compared to wheels. This means that after the conversion the bike will be much less powerful.
This is because the track is large, heavy, and has a lot of drag, which robs engine power.
As a rule of thumb, riding on the snow always requires much more engine power, which is why regular snowmobiles come with high-performance engines.
What’s more, don’t forget that snow bikes are typically ridden in the backcountry. If you’re also heading into the mountains, you will need a powerful engine that offers adequate climbing ability.
You will also appreciate the extra power when you find yourself in a deep powder. Small dirt bike engines can’t handle many situations, so you may end in a stuck machine or even have engine damage.
Finally, even if you find a small-bore dirt bike fun at first, once you become more experienced you can easily get bored with it.
That’s why you should stick to the 450-550cc bikes, especially if you want to primarily ride off-trail!
Another reason why 2-stroke bikes are the best choice for snow bike conversions is their low weight.
The weight of a 450-550cc 2-stroke snow bike is in the ballpark of 280-320 pounds. In contrast, 4-stroke snow bikes with the same displacement often can reach the range of 350-370-pounds.
And this difference is always huge in deep snow!
It’s safe to say that most snow bikes are built using 2-stroke machines, and there is a good reason for that.
They are lively, lightweight, and offer great power to weight ratio.
Snow bike kits are typically universal, meaning that they can be mounted on all major dirt bike brands.
However, they always come with an install kit, which is already bike specific. (Sometimes this kit is sold separately.)
Before you make your purchase, you need to make sure that the installation kit is available for your bike or the bike you’re going to buy.
While most tracks fit on bigger (450-550cc) bikes, compatibility can always be an issue on a smaller bike.
Keep in mind that only certain tracks, especially the shorter ones, are compatible with small-bore bikes.
Since they have lower performance, they can’t drive large heavy tracks.
Price and Availability
And besides the conversion kit, you also have to budget for the bike and some gear as well. To the greatest of many fans, dirt bikes are not cheap either.
So, if you are on a budget, you can consider buying a used bike as your first machine.
Which is the Best Bike for a Snow Bike?
If you are looking for the best bike for a snow bike conversion, best practice is to stick with 450-550cc 2-stroke machines from the major brands. These are respectively Beta, KTM, Husaberg, Husqvarna, and the “big four” (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha). When it comes to specific models, some of the most popular bikes used for building snow bikes are as follows:
- Husqvarna FC450
- Yamaha YZ450FX
- Kawasaki KX450F
- Honda CRF450
- Honda CR500
- Husaberg FE 570
- KTM 450SX
- KTM 500 XCW (4-stroke)
Sure, there are many other great bikes out there for this purpose, but this list may help you get some idea.
Many riders say that one of the best dirt bikes that can be used to build a snow bike is the fuel-injected Yamaha YZ450.
It’s not only affordable but also known for its great reliability.
Keep in mind that if you want to ride in the mountains a fuel-injected engine is a must.
Another game-changer on snow bikes is the electric start. While kick-starting the bike is not an issue on flat terrain, it can be quite tricky after falling into deep snow or on a steep slope.
Are 250cc Bikes Sufficient for a Snow Bike?
As a rule of thumb, 250cc bikes are not recommended for a snow bike conversion. Although a few snow bike tracks can be fitted on a smaller 250cc dirt bike, its poor performance can be an issue in deep snow or on a steeper hill. And the last thing you want in these situations is a weak engine! However, if you ride primarily on flat terrain (especially on trails) then you may be happy with a smaller engine.
The main problem with small-bore bikes is that they usually do not have enough power to drive long tracks. And as we know short tracks don’t do a very good job on powder.
The general rule is that the average 450-550cc bike cranks out 45-55 HP, while the 250cc bikes provide only 40-45.
At first glance, the difference is not huge, but once you try to climb a steep hill you will realize why you need the extra power.
Because of the drag, driving the track of a snow bike is much harder than a rear wheel. Therefore, tracks are pretty hard on the engine even on bigger bikes.
Therefore, small-bore snow bikes work only on flat terrain and you should certainly avoid them if you want to ride in the mountains.
Besides, once you get some experience, you will instantly need more power to go more extremes. And it may happen sooner than you think!
Between these two worlds, you can find 300 and 350cc snow bikes. Some riders say that they could be a compromise as they work well under certain conditions.
But again, if you want to regularly ride in deep powder or on steep slopes, you should stick to one of the most powerful 2-stroke bikes.
Experts and riders agree that the best bikes for a snow bike are the 2-stroke 450-550cc dirt bikes. If you want to ride in higher elevations, you may want to go with a fuel-injected engine. An electric start can also make your job easier when you have to start the machine in deep snow. Regarding brands, it’s recommended that you select from the fleets of the major manufacturers. You can’t go wrong with one of these brands: Beta, KTM, Husaberg, Husqvarna, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, or Yamaha.
Keeping weight in mind, best practice to use a 2-stroke bike for the conversion. They are livelier and have a much better power-to-weight ratio compared to 4-strokes.
Although you may find a few 250 and 300cc snow bikes out there, keep in mind that they are recommended only for trails and flat terrain.
This is because their engines offer lower performance, which can be an issue in the mountains. When it comes to climbing or riding in very deep snow, you need a ton of engine power!
Besides, don’t forget that the tracks are very heavy, so the engine has to work much harder on snow than on dirt.
If you ride a small-bore snow bike very hard, it can lead to faster wear and tear or even a seized engine.
As a final word, more engine power always means more fun, more versatility and higher safety. That’s why you should stick to the bigger 450-550cc bikes!