Wyoming and Montana have some of the best riding roads in the United States. Sweeping curves, endless views and alpine passes combine to offer riders everything they could want—and most within a day’s ride of the picturesque towns and natural parks for which Wyoming and Montana are well-known.
Before you plan your next motorcycle trip in, to or through Montana or Wyoming, here are some key pieces of information you will want to know:
Montana and Wyoming Motorcycle Helmet Laws and Helmet Safety Info
Montana and Wyoming both have “partial” motorcycle helmet laws. In Montana, only riders under 18 are legally required to wear a motorcycle helmet, while the law in Wyoming applies to riders age 18 and under. Of course, even if you are not required to wear a helmet by law, wearing a helmet is still a very good idea, and all riders should choose helmets that are either DOT-rated or Snell approved.
According to data from the Insurance Information Institute (III) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle helmets save an estimated 1,872 lives per year. As the III explains:
“Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.”
While the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) does not approve motorcycle helmets, to place “DOT” stickers on their products, motorcycle manufacturers must self-certify to meeting the DOT’s motorcycle helmet safety standards. To place a Snell sticker on their helmets, manufacturers must meet the Snell Foundation’s heightened safety standards.
Additionally, while other types of riding gear are not required in Montana or Wyoming, it is best to suit up every time you ride. This is true whether you are going into a town like Billings or Worland for dinner or exploring the open roads outside of Cody or Powell. Motorcycle-specific safety gear such as boots, pants, jackets and gloves are specifically designed to protect riders from the impact and abrasive forces resulting from high-side and low-side accidents. They can save riders from serious injuries, expensive medical bills, and potentially long-term effects when they go down.
Of course, no helmet or other piece of motorcycle riding gear can protect you completely. As a result, in addition to suiting up, the best thing you can do to protect yourself when riding in Montana or Wyoming is to stay within your limits and remain alert at all times. So, pay attention to your surroundings (make sure you do not get distracted by the states’ world-class scenery); watch out for dangerous and distracted drivers; and, when in doubt, always err on the side of caution. While you may never know if your actions protect you from going down, your loved ones will feel much more comfortable knowing that you are doing your part to stay safe on the roads.
Montana and Wyoming Lane Splitting Laws
While you may have heard that the Montana legislature introduced a bill to legalize lane splitting in 2017, that bill never passed. However, as Montana does not have a law that explicitly prohibits lane splitting, the practice remains somewhat of a grey area. This stands in contrast to Wyoming, which has passed a law which states that “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”
Does this mean that you can lane-split in Montana? From a safety perspective, lane splitting generally is not recommended. Furthermore, even if Montana’s lane-splitting bill had passed, it only would have legalized lane-splitting at a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour and only when traffic is moving at less than 10 miles per hour. As a result, lane-splitting is intended to be reserved for circumstances in which heavy traffic has come to a virtual standstill. For example, when a truck accident or debris from a rockfall or landslide is blocking the road. However, as discussed above, when in doubt, it is best to remain cautious, and this generally means staying in your lane unless you are (safely) passing or merging.
The Best Roads for Riding in Montana and Wyoming
Given all that Montana and Wyoming have to offer, it is not surprising that many of these states’ roads are ranked amongst the best in the country. Many of Montana’s and Wyoming’s roads are bucket-list routes for avid riders, and each year riders from across the United States come to Montana and Wyoming to explore the states’ vast open roads. For example, according to Best Biking Roads, some of the top routes in Montana and Wyoming include:
- US 12 (Lolo Pass) from Lolo to Kooskia
- US 212 (Beartooth Highway) from Red Lodge to Cooke City
- US 14 (Baldy Pass) from Lovell to Dayton
- US 20 and WY 789 from Thermopolis to Shoshoni
- WY 14 in Sheridan
- WY 270 from Lance Creek to Hartville
- US 93 from Missoula to Twin Falls
- MT 49 (Looking Glass Hill Road) from Kiowa to East Glacier Park
- US 16 (Ten Sleep Canyon/Cloud Peak Skyway) from Buffalo to Worland
- Grand Loop Road (Dunraven Pass) from Bridge Pay to Mammoth
Of course, perhaps the most famous route in either state is Montana’s Going to the Sun Road. The only road to traverse the entirety of Glacier National Park, Going to the Sun Road crosses the Continental Divide and offers roughly 50 miles of unparalleled views. The road can get busy during tourist season and portions of the road are generally closed for long periods in the winter due to substantial snowfall; so, if you plan to ride this one-of-a-kind route, it is best to plan your trip carefully.
Montana and Wyoming Motorcycle Legal and Safety Resources
As a motorcycle rider, it is incumbent upon you to do everything you can to keep yourself and your fellow riders safe on the road. This means obeying the law, riding within your limits and avoiding confrontations with dangerous drivers. Here are some important safety and legal considerations for motorcycle riders who are planning to visit Montana and Wyoming:
- As discussed above, while riders over the age of 18 are not required to wear a helmet in either state, wearing full riding gear is still highly recommended.
- As discussed above, lane-splitting is illegal in Wyoming, and the law is not entirely clear in Montana. However, it is always best to exercise caution, and getting stuck in traffic just affords you more time to enjoy the scenery.
- The speed limits in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and other national parks and landmarks are relatively low. For example, the speed limit on the entirety of Going to the Sun Road is no greater than 45 miles per hour, and it is 25 miles per hour for many stretches. Watch your speed to stay safe and avoid expensive speeding citations.
- No-passing zones and other signs and lane markings apply to all motorists, including motorcycle riders. Following the rules of the road will help you stay safe and avoid causing concern for others around you.
- Operational headlights, taillights and turn signals are required for all motorcycles except those that qualify as collectors’ items.
- Motorcycles may ride no more than two abreast per lane in Montana and no more than three abreast in Wyoming. A functioning mirror, muffler and horn are required as well.
You can visit the Montana Department of Transportation’s Motorcycle Safety page or the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s Motorcycle Safety page for more information and safety resources.
Weather Considerations For Motorcyclists
When riding your Motorcycle in Montana or Wyoming, it is possible to leave somewhere sunny and warm in the morning and be riding in heavy snow by the early afternoon. The weather can turn quickly in many parts of these states as well, and this is important to consider when you are planning a ride. Always check the weather before you leave; and, if it looks like you may run into snow, ice or heavy rain, make sure that both (i) you are comfortable with your riding abilities and (ii) you have a backup plan (and adequate safety gear) in case you get caught in bad weather.
As explained in the State of Wyoming Motorcycle License Manual:
“In a very heavy rain, snowstorm, or thick fog, you may not be able to see more than 100 feet ahead. When you can’t see any further than that, you cannot drive safely at any speed. Whenever you cannot see well enough, pull off the road and wait until it clears.”
This is important advice; and, when you are on a motorcycle ride, you always need to prioritize your safety. It is never a good idea to speed to try to “beat” a storm; and, when the road is slick, it only takes one small slip to potentially turn your motorcycle sideways and cause you to lose control. While this is dangerous enough on its own, if another vehicle is traveling behind you or in the opposite direction, losing control in bad weather with limited traction and limited visibility could be disastrous.
Safety Tips for Riding Two-Up and in Groups
While some riders come to Montana and Wyoming for solitude, many come to enjoy new experiences and forge unforgettable memories with their spouses, significant others and friends. Riding two-up and riding in groups both present certain additional safety risks. It is important to consider these risks when riding with someone else on your motorcycle or with other motorcycles in your close vicinity. With this in mind, here are some tips to consider before your next two-up or group ride:
Safety Tips for Riding Two-Up on Your Motorcycle
- Having another rider on your motorcycle increases your stopping distance and your turning radius. Practice riding two-up in a safe location (i.e., an empty parking lot) before taking to the open road.
- Even if you and your co-rider have communication devices in your helmets, it is a good idea to have a manual communication plan just in case they stop working. Having signs or signals for stopping, slowing down and road hazards will allow you to communicate key information while still keeping your eyes on the road.
- Adding another rider over your motorcycle’s rear wheel will place additional stress on your motorcycle’s suspension. Make sure it is tuned appropriately for two-up riding.
- Motorcycle passengers should have a dedicated seat and footrests or foot platforms. Make sure your motorcycle is appropriately equipped for two-up riding.
- While it is acceptable to communicate with your passenger, you need to avoid becoming distracted while riding two-up. Before you lift your kickstand, make sure you set clear expectations about talking, tapping, pointing and other potential distractions.
Safety Tips for Riding in a Group of Motorcycles
- Plan your route, and try to make sure everyone is as familiar with the route as possible. Accidents often happen when riders unfamiliar with the group’s route attempt to turn too late or fail to stop in time.
- Have a quick meeting before you set off. This does not have to be anything formal, but it can be worthwhile to set clear expectations that everyone will obey the law, prioritize safety, and remain focused on the road.
- Ride in a staggered formation as much as possible. While riding two-abreast is permissible in Montana and riding three-abreast is permissible in Wyoming, this limits each rider’s buffer zone and maneuverability. Riding staggered gives each ride a better opportunity to react to hazards on the road.
- When changing lanes to pass a slower vehicle, do so one at a time. Once the lead rider has passed safely and resumed his or her position in the travel lane, then the next rider in the formation can follow suit.
- Always ride within your limits. While it can be tempting to push yourself if you are riding with more-experienced riders, you must resist the temptation to do so. If you need to arrive a few minutes later than the rest of the group, your fellow riders will respect your decision not to put yourself and others in harm’s way.
Motorcycle Dealerships in Montana and Wyoming
If your motorcycle needs repair or replacement parts while you are riding in Montana or Wyoming, stopping by the nearest dealership can be a good option. Many dealerships sell helmets and other riding gear as well—in case you need to purchase something additional or one of your pieces of riding gear gets damaged. Here is a list of some of the motorcycle dealerships in Montana and Wyoming:
Montana Motorcycle Dealerships
- Beartooth Harley-Davidson, 6900 Frontage Road, Billings, MT
- Beartooth Pass Harley-Davidson, 14 N. Broadway Avenue, Red Lodge, MT
- Big Sky Motorsports, 2315 South Avenue W., Missoula, MT
- Helena Cycle Center, 1825 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT
- Montana Honda & Marine, 2124 Goodman Road, Billings, MT
- Penco Adventures, 2310 South U.S. Highway 93, Kalispell, MT
- Sports City Cyclery, 101 57th Street S., Great Falls, MT
- Staacks Motor Sports, 102 E. Galena Street, Butte, MT
Wyoming Motorcycle Dealerships
- Buffalo Bill Harley-Davidson, 1137 Sheridan Avenue, Cody, WY
- Casper Mountain Motorsports, 3401 Cy Avenue, Casper, WY
- Deluxe Harley-Davidson, 3300 Conestoga Drive, Gillette, WY
- Flaming Gorge Harley-Davidson, 440 Unita Drive, Green River, WY
- High Country Harley-Davidson Of Cheyenne, 3320 E. Lincolnway, Cheyenne, WY
- Mountain Valley Motor Sports, 422 W. Yellowstone Avenue, Cody, WY
- TNT Motorsports, 2061 Snowy Range Rd., Laramie, WY
- Wild West Powersports, 10655 State Highway 789, Riverton, WY
Montana and Wyoming Motorcycle Clubs and Organizations
If you are interested in meeting other riders during your time in Montana or Wyoming, getting in touch with a local motorcycle club or organization can be a good option. Many of these clubs and organizations are welcoming to new members and are happy to share their favorite routes with fellow riders who take the time to inquire. Some of the motorcycle clubs and organizations with chapters and affiliations in Montana and Wyoming include:
- Billings Motorcycle Club
- Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club
- Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association
- Iron Order International Motorcycle Club
- Montana BMW Riders
- Veteran Bikers Motorcycle Club
- Wyoming Valley Motorcycle Club
Additional Safety Considerations for Riding Your Motorcycle in Montana or Wyoming
When it comes to riding your motorcycle, you can never be too safe. This is especially true when riding in unfamiliar areas where the weather and terrain can potentially be unforgiving. With this in mind, here are five additional safety considerations for riding your motorcycle in Montana or Wyoming:
- Make sure your motorcycle is ready to ride. Give your motorcycle a thorough inspection (or have a professional do it for you) before you set off. Check all of your fluid levels, check your lights and tires, and take care of any lingering issues you may have been ignoring.
- Bring an emergency kit, just in case. Due to the risk of getting stuck in bad weather, it is good to carry a small emergency kit. You might not need it; but, if you do, you will be glad you have it. Pack things like flares, carbon dioxide cartridges, a poncho, an emergency blanket, hand warmers, and some spare food just in case you need to wait somewhere for help to arrive.
- Do not overload your motorcycle. When packing for a long trip, be sure not to overload your motorcycle. This won’t be an issue on most cruisers, tourers and adventure bikes, but it is worth checking just to make sure if you have multiple tail bags or pannier boxes.
- Be prepared for the possibility of strong winds. In addition to rain, ice and snow, when riding in Montana and Wyoming, there is also a good chance that you will experience some strong winds. Be ready for it, and keep a relaxed grip if you need to lean into the wind.
- Let someone know your trip plan. Finally, when going on a motorcycle trip, it is always a good idea to let someone know where you are going. Share your trip plan with a family member or friend, and make arrangements to check in from time to time.
- Utilize Apps to make your ride smoother and safer. There are mobile apps to help you almost anything like tracking the weather, mapping your route, troubleshooting problems with your bike and more. Check out this list of helpful apps.
What to Do if You are Involved in a Motorcycle Accident in Montana or Wyoming
Unfortunately, even if you wear the right gear and ride within your limits, it is still possible to suffer serious injuries in a crash. If you are injured in a motorcycle accident involving another vehicle in Montana or Wyoming, you should call 911 from the accident scene, seek medical attention, and consult with a local personal injury attorney to find out what you need to do to protect your legal rights.
Depending on the circumstances involved in the accident, your motorcycle insurance, and the other driver’s insurance policy, you could potentially have several different options for recovering your losses. In addition to the cost to repair or replace your motorcycle, this includes the cost of medical care, your loss of income, pain and suffering, and other losses as well. As a motorcycle rider, it is important to have adequate insurance, and you will want to consider purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage before your trip if you do not currently have this coverage under your policy. UIM coverage protects if: (i) you are hit by an uninsured driver; (ii) you are injured in a hit-and-run accident; or (iii) the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage is insufficient to cover all of your accident-related losses.
We hope you have found this guide to riding in Montana and Wyoming useful, and we hope you have found some information that you can take with you on your next ride. Stay alert, stay safe and keep both wheels down.