Height is a major problem for motorcycles. Tall seats and wide saddles are the enemy of the short legged and many bikes require an above average height simply to swing a leg over. Here’s 11 great bikes that are great to ride, even if you’re short.
What To Look For
Accessibility for the shorter rider isn’t merely a case of seat height. The width of the seat and the angle at which it splays your legs is a major factor too. With reduced leverage, both outright weight and center of gravity are going to be issues too. So, you want a bike that’s short, thin, light and carries its weight low and centralized.
Some manufacturers, BMW foremost among them, offer low seat heights as no or low-cost options. Aftermarket companies like Corbin and Sargent also specialize in custom saddles and can tailor them to your individual requirements.
Modifying a motorcycle’s suspension (beyond the provided adjusters) to lower the height is a bad idea because it reduces both a bike’s performance and ground clearance. By reducing the height of the suspension you increase the likelihood of bottoming out or dragging parts in corners. Often, poorly-designed lowering kits alter a bike’s suspension geometry too.
You can also learn to support a motorcycle in such a way that height becomes less of an issue. Scoot one butt cheek off the seat in the direction you plan on putting a foot down and you’ll gain some reach with your leg by reducing that splay. Avoid parking with the motorcycle facing down an incline, such as that created by the crown of the roadway. On lighter bikes, you’ll simply be able to support the bike leaned over at 10 degrees or so. Practice off the road in a safe, quiet environment and you might be surprised by what bikes you’re able to manage.
You see this little Honda in a lot of our lists, and there’s a reason for that: it’s simply awesome. As fun and carefree to ride for the fast guys as it is non-intimidating. It’s also incredibly cheap to buy and sips fuel at 77mpg. If you’re new to bikes and want something that can do it all, start here. We strongly recommend the optional ABS, it boosts safety wet and dry.
The seat height of 30.5 inches may not sound that low, but the bike is so slim and light that pretty much anyone is going to be able to easily manage it.
A first bike needs to be simple, light and low. Factors which also happen to describe this little Suzuki perfectly. The 30.3-inch seat is made slim by the single-cylinder motor and an all-up curb weight of just 326lbs makes it exceptionally manageable. Classic styling rounds things out, making this a great choice for both short and new riders. You’ll be reading more about this one in the near future.
The name probably gives this one away. Harley has reduced the seat height on its Sportster as much as possible to create a model specifically targeted at short-legged riders. If you need a low seat and want a Harley, this is your best option, but harsh suspension, a vibey motor, bad brakes and an incredibly porky weight of 573lbs reduce its outright practicality and capability and make all of the other motorcycles on this list a superior choice.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: A full 100lbs lighter than a Triumph Bonneville, equal quality and reliability, better handling and an optional 30.7-inch seat height make this thing a winner. All the Italian looks and character you want, too.
Adventure bikes have to be tall and heavy, right? With the NC700X, that’s no longer true. Its seat is just 32.7 inches tall and very slim, so it doesn’t splay your legs out wide. At 472lbs with a full tank of fuel, it’s lighter than most other ADV bikes and carries its weight much, much, much lower thanks to an engine that cants forward at 62 degrees to lay almost flat and an underseat fuel tank. The NC is one of the easiest bikes there is to ride, but good handling and strong torque make it equally practical for the experienced rider. Surprisingly capable off-road too, once you fit knobby tires. This Honda makes more expensive Adventure bikes look silly; regardless of cost this is our pick of the mid-capacity ADV segment.
Want a full-on sportsbike? According to our Buyer’s Guide, the GSX-R has the lowest seat height of all of them, at 31.9 inches. An incredibly sorted bike straight off the showroom floor; 124bhp makes it fast and it’s among the best handling bikes available, too. Suzuki’s 0% APR deals also make it very easy to buy.
A nice combination of accessibility and performance if you want to ride dual-sport. The CRF250L’s 34.7-inch seat may sound tall, but it’s so slim, light and just plain manageable, that you won’t have a problem. Equally at home off-road and on, this would make as good a commuter as it would a tool for exploring local trails.
BMW offers low seat options for all of its bikes; the R1200RT’s takes it as low as 29.5 inches. That makes it a good option for short riders that want to do serious distance. That the boxer twin BMW is all-day comfortable won’t come as a surprise, but how good this thing handles will. There’s a reason the CHP uses these, they’re fast and practical, as well as manageable.
We love Honda’s new 500 range for their blend of accessibility, affordability and fun. The CB500F is the cheapest and its slim, 30.9-inch seat makes it plenty manageable.
A slim, v-twin engine helps make this one of the most accessible Ducatis, making the 31.5-inch high seat very narrow. That new, 803cc motor gives it great performance too, with 87bhp and 58lb-ft of torque. A stylish, fun, easy-to-ride performance bike.
This little café racer’s seat is just 28 inches tall, it only weighs 296lbs and costs just $3,195. Cheap, simple fun.