When it comes to the snow bike vs. snowmobile debate, there is a lot of rumors out there. Many riders say that a snowmobile is better than a snow bike as the latter is too slow, offers no protection, and has a worse climbing ability. Others argue and say that a snow bike is better as it’s much smaller, easier to handle and more playful!
If you’re hesitating between a snow bike and a snowmobile, you are in the right place.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled the key differences of these machines into this comparison post!
Snow Bike vs. Snowmobile
Snow Bike vs. Snowmobile Comparison Chart
Without further ado, let’s compare the key specs of these two machines head-to-head!
|Top Speed (mph)||80-120||40-60|
|Overall weight (lbs.)||400-650||280-320|
|Seat height (“)||25-32||38-40|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||9 -12||1.5 – 3|
|Riders||1 or 2||1|
|Mobility||More stable||More agile|
|Risk of getting stuck||Higher||Lower|
|Speed on flat areas||Faster||Slower|
|Great in tight spaces||No||Yes|
|Great on trails||Yes||No|
This chart is for informational purposes only! Snow bike weights and dimensions are calculated based on 450-550cc dirt bikes.
Snow Bike vs. Snowmobile: By the Numbers
There’s no question that the biggest difference between snowmobiles and snow bikes is their different sizes and weights.
Snow bikes are typically 120-130” long while the overall length of mountain sleds ranges from 130 up to 175”. Snowmobiles are also significantly wider (42-50”) compared to bikes, which are only as wide as 32-33”.
The track of snow bikes is also significantly smaller and lighter, and they feature only one ski.
Don’t mention their weight!
You can expect the weight of the average mountain sled to be in the ballpark of 400-500 pounds, while snow bikes weigh about 280-320 pounds.
Thanks to their lightweight and small body, snow bikes are much more nimble and playful!
But there’s a lesser-known disadvantage of snow bikes. Since they are built on bigger 450-55cc dirt bikes they typically feature a very high saddle.
The seat height of these machines ranges from about 37” up to 40” or more.
This can be an issue, especially for shorter riders!
Another common complaint about snow bikes is their low speeds.
A few of them can reach 60 mph even in stock condition, but this is not typical.
Finally, don’t forget that snow bikes feature tiny gas tanks with a capacity of only 1.5-3 gallons.
According to RoadRunner, snow bikes get about 10-25 mpg, which results in a very low fuel range. This is why carrying extra fuel on a snow bike is a must on longer trips!
In contrast, snowmobiles are manufactured with much larger, 9-12-gallon fuel tanks.
Although they can burn more gas in powder than bikes, thanks to this fuel capacity you can expect a better fuel range on them.
Let’s move on and talk about the riding experience!
On the Trails
“Anywhere you want to go” – This is the slogan of Timbersled, which suggests that snow bikes are primarily designed for off-trail riding.
And yes, you can really go anywhere you want on a snow bike, except for state trails!
This is because snow bikes can’t be ridden legally on trails. Why?
Simply put, snow bikes are not legal on state trails because they are not originally designed for riding on snow. They also lack lights and feature completely different controls than sleds.
But even if they were legal, snow bikes don’t really do a good job on trails.
They are much slower than sleds, so they typically lag behind if they are riding in a mixed group. And being much slower on the trails than sleds is never safe!
What’s more, don’t forget that unlike snowmobiles, bikes don’t feature any windshields or fairings.
This means they don’t offer any protection, which leaves you completely exposed to the cold and wind.
This is not an issue on a backcountry ride as it involves lower speeds and more physical effort, which can keep you warm.
In contrast, when you ride fast on a trail the cold air continuously hits you, which can be very uncomfortable.
On top of that, just as snowmobile skis tend to dart, the ski of snow bikes is also prone to following the ruts on the trails.
But since the bikes are much more unbalanced, there is a higher risk of the ski ripping out, which can lead to an accident.
This is another reason why riding a snow bike at high speeds on a trail is not a good idea.
Although they are not the best on trails, snow bikes shine in deep snow and on mountains.
Compared to snowmobiles bikes are lighter, more nimble and easier to maneuver. Therefore, they are playful, responsive, and really fun to ride!
Thanks to their easy handling, beginners can go further and higher on bikes than they could on a sled.
It’s safe to say that bikes can really do things and can go anywhere that sleds can’t.
Another key advantage of snow bikes is that unlike sleds they are less prone to getting stuck.
All of these are great points, especially for unskilled riders!
However, sinking with a snow bike is not impossible as you can see in this video:
On the other hand, keep in mind that snow bikes are very nimble, so you have to move more to control them.
This means snow biking can be a little more challenging, especially on harder terrain. That’s why snow bikes are so popular among younger riders!
But surprisingly, thanks to its lightweight, riding a snow bike is not only easier but leads to less fatigue as well.
Some riders say that the feeling they get of snow biking is halfway between riding a jet ski and a dirt bike.
When it comes to climbing ability, riders say that snowmobiles do a better job. It’s especially true if you want to go straight up! Sleds are more stable, and their wider tracks offer better traction.
On steeper slopes, snow bikers prefer to ride in “figure-8” or side hill while going up. But don’t worry, as in most cases snow bikes can go up almost anywhere that sleds can go.
Since side-hilling with a bike is very close to normal riding, going uphill with a bike can cause far less fatigue.
However, it always depends on the terrain and snow conditions. No two hills are the same!
Since they are lighter and less exhausting to ride, snow bikes are certainly recommended for female riders as well.
Another key strength of snow bikes is their much narrower body, which comes in handy in densely treed areas.
You can easily snake the bike through these terrains as it’s much less likely you would get stuck or slam into a tree.
Finally, don’t forget that a snow bike can’t accommodate any passengers.
Sure, it’s quite rare to ride with passengers in the mountains, but snowmobiles can be used to carry other riders or gear if needed.
This may come in handy in emergencies, for instance if one of the sleds gets stuck or breaks down and towing it is impossible.
In such a case another snowmobile can carry the rider of the broken sled, which would be impossible on a snow bike!
Another common problem is that there’s less and less snow each year, which means a shorter season for snowmobiles.
But thanks to their versatility, snow bikes can be used all year round. A shorter winter season only means that you have to replace the track with wheels on your bike earlier!
Unlike a snowmobile, it won’t sit and hog space in your garage most of the year.
Snow Bikes and Snowmobiles – Riding Together
Since snow bikes are gaining in popularity, you can see more and more of them riding together with sleds.
But do these mixed groups work?
Well, it always depends on the terrain and the riders, as a degree of tolerance is usually required.
Some riders say these machines can ride together without issues as bikes can keep up with sleds in most cases.
Sleds can go faster when climbing or in flat open areas, but tight places can slow them down. This means bikes can easily catch up with them!
In general, these machines take different lines as bikers prefer playing around in the bush while sledders typically head to the more open and “predicable” areas.
Because of this, some bikers claim that they can easily get bored when riding with sleds. Let’s face it, open areas don’t hold many challenges for a snow bike!
On the other hand, when it comes to climbing, bikes typically lag behind as they can’t go straight up on steeper slopes. Besides, they are also much slower on the flat.
So, it is not uncommon for sleds to wait for bikes, which can lead to frustration after a while.
When it comes to the evergreen snow bike vs. snowmobile debate, it seems there’s no clear winner here! It seems that both machines have their pros and cons.
As a takeaway, the main advantages of snow bikes are as follows:
- Smaller and lighter
- Easier to handle
- More playful and agile
- Riding it is less exhausting
- Offer more success for beginners
- Less prone to getting stuck
- Can go into tight places
- Takes up less space in the garage
- Can be used all year round
That’s why snow bikes are perfect for backcountry rides!
But don’t forget that snowmobiles also have their own strengths:
- Faster and more powerful
- Better for tricks and jumps
- Greater stability and reliability
- Better climbing ability
- Higher fuel range
- More storage capacity
- It can be towed if it breaks down
- Can carry a passenger in emergencies
- Legal on state trails
- Does a better job on trails
As a final word, don’t forget that snow bikes are primarily designed for riding in powder.
Therefore, if your area has a lot of trails but no mountains, you should consider a snowmobile instead.
Another important factor is what your friends ride. If all of your buddies have a sled, purchasing a bike may prove to be a bad decision.
Keep in mind that bikes are slower on flat areas or when going uphill. This means your buddies will have to regularly wait for you, which they may not be happy about.
This is our short snow bike vs. snowmobile comparison. We hope you find it useful!