The Easiest Motorcycles For Shorter Riders

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The Easiest Motorcycles For Shorter Riders

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, these are truly the best motorcycles for short riders.

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.

Honda CBR250R

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.

Suzuki TU250X

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.

Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow

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.

Moto Guzzi V7 Stone

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.

Honda NC700X

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 under-seat 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.

Suzuki GSX-R600

Want a full-on sportbike? 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. Continue Reading On Page 2 >>

  • Tuscan Foodie

    Honda Shadows. Seriously, anyone can touch the ground with them and have full control of the bike at rest. Plus, they are decent bikes, both to tour and to commute. Their engine is indestructible and the shaft transmission makes them a worry-free choice for novice bikers. Check them out.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yup, the Shadow is pretty rad for a cruiser.

  • JC Maldonado

    “This is awesome.” -Dani Pedorsa look alike

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      “This is awesome.” — Every GP rider ever.

  • http://stellarplum.tumblr.com/ Marie Delgado

    Where’s the Brutale 675, Wes!? 31.89″ seat height is a piece of cake to manage at 362.8lbs for this little 5’1″ 105lbs girl.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Still too much bike for you :)

    • JC Maldonado

      WOW.

  • EchoZero

    Nice list (and appropriate, given my vertically-challenged friend just asked about bikes for short people).

    Why the Ducati 796 over the 696? The 696 has a seat height of 30.3″ and still makes 80hp/50.6 ft-lb.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      It’s just a better bike. The engine is more flexible and feels stronger than that little difference in specs suggests.

      • EchoZero

        Interesting. I’ve only tried the 696; I’ll have to get my hands on a 796 and compare.

  • Bryan Woody Wood

    Is the Suzuki TU250 ever coming to California?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      I don’t think so, there’s issues with CARB. It’s such a low-volume bike that Suzuki isn’t too bothered.

      • Piglet2010

        Why does the Sportster have a better RideApart rating (7) than the TU250X (5) if it “make(s) all of the other motorcycles on this list a superior choice”?

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          Amongst cruisers, the sportster pretty good. Amongst standards, the TU250X is average.

    • Mark Vizcarra

      Unless you buy them used with 7500 miles

  • Blixa

    Good tips. On all bike forums I visit, without fail every day there’s a new thread from a guy asking for recs for a small bike for his wife or gf. I’ll just post this link every time I see it :)

    I checked out a Tiger 800 roadie recently with the stock seat in the low position (there are two settings – low and high). It seemed pretty small (I think the seat height was ~31″). I heard Triumph sells a reasonably priced low seat for it that’ll bring it down even further.

    • Kevin

      I have a 29″ inseam and I bought a pair of those boots. Had me flat-footing a VFR800 whose seat height is 31.7″ if I recall.

      By the way, all seat height ratings tell only half the story. You have to get on the bike to see how much of your foot you can actually get down, and how much you *need* to get down. For me, I’ve found that for real manageability I need to be able to get the balls of both feet down alternately as I’m backing the bike up just to get leverage. This obviously becomes more important the heavier the bike, the steeper the incline and the softer the road surface. On one of the heavier tall bikes I would definitely want a lower seat. On my Multistrada I sometimes have to get off and push to get it backed up–not a maneuver I would recommend for someone smaller and slighter than me at 5’8″.

  • Cameron Evans

    I’m sure the CCW is fun, but I don’t understand why it gets a 7 when the Sym Wolf 150 gets a 2. The Sym is lighter, cheaper, more powerful and the brakes don’t fall apart when you’re riding it.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      The CCW is a quality product, that’s why. That brake thing in the episode was a dealer failing to PDI the bike, at all.

      • Cameron Evans

        The Sym is a quality product too, though.

      • motoguru.

        What is short exactly? My GF is 5’3″ and the SuperLame is the only one of these she can touch flat footed on. Just sat on a Sym Wolf 10 minutes ago. That’s a rad little bike.

  • grindz145

    Learning to use foot when stopped can really allow for nearly any bike fill fit nearly any rider. At 5’5″ with stump legs, the only bike I’ve ever found unmanageable is a GS Adventure. Even most other big “dualsports” and sport-tourers are comfortable. Short legs mean always being comfortable :) Edit: I should mention that your hips will eventually get tired in heavy stop-go traffic though.

    • eviladrian

      Yeah, if you use the official “ready position” stance (left foot down, right foot on the brake) you should be able to get your foot down when stopped. That said, there’s nothing wrong with making things easy on yourself and going for the lower seat!

  • jonoabq

    Speed Triple, Street Triple?

    • Kr Tong

      Sure they have risers. They’re still taller than a lot of bikes.

  • Kr Tong

    Rc45 if you’re secretly a midget.

  • alex

    duc monster for low miles and the gixxer for high miles / sport – ceeber 250f to cater to impulses just to wreck shit up

  • Zachary Church

    Awesome! I am planning on getting the Honda CRF250L for myself.

    • Brianna J.

      I would seriously caution you against buying a 250cc bike. You’ll outgrow it in no time. Although the smaller bikes tend to hold their value well, anyone who rides on a fairly regular basis will become bored with it in a few short months. That’s especially true if you plan to participate in group rides, in which case you’ll be unable to keep pace with the other riders, and you’ll become the constant subject of everyone else’ teasing.

      • Zachary Church

        Thanks, Brianna!

        I currently have a Ninja 600R and a Harley Street Glide but I am getting this bike for the purpose of owning a duel sport! Going camping, off roading, just taking the road nice and easy. I agree on what you mean though, it is a small motor but I know it will be a lot of fun :)

      • LS650

        C’mon. Not everyone wants or needs a 60+ HP bike. There are plenty of people riding around on 250s.

  • TraderJoesSecrets

    Lowering a bike by expertly modifying the suspension doesn’t have to reduce ground clearance to any significant degree. Bikes that are cornering at maximum lean typically have their suspensions almost fully compressed. So taking travel out at the top doesn’t have to change the geometry at the bottom.

  • runnermatt

    Just for the reference of others. I have a 30 inch inseam and I can flat foot both feet on my CBR250R.

    Also, I imagine seat heights are measured without a rider so suspension sag with rider will put it a little lower than the measured height. Also, as mentioned in the article, the width of the bike and shape/width of the seat can make a huge difference because of the position they allow you to put your legs when stopped.

  • Mykola

    Any particular reasons why the R1200RT is selected over the F800GT? My own experience isn’t exactly apples to apples, but it seems the F800GT is about as good at the large distance/long time/high speed thing as the R1100RT I’ve ridden was, and far better for lightness and agility in city traffic and day-to-day style use. Were the model redesigns to the R1200RT significantly more refined, or is there something else to it?

  • Peter H Hoffman

    It would be interesting to know what the real
    numbers are for average seat heights over the years. I remember when
    the Lowrider came out with what was, at the time, a ridiculously low
    seat height of 27″. The advertising tagline was ‘Fly 27″ inches off the ground’.

    Has the average seat height on a street bike really gone up that much
    since the 60s (and, if so, why?) or have our perceptions changed?

    • LS650

      I think what’s going on is that more and more women are getting into riding. For someone with a 26″ inseam, even 27″ is too tall.

    • Brett Lewis

      Back in the late 70sl, me and my friends thought a CB360 was a big bike. I had a CB125. Cruisers haven’t changed much that I can tell, but everything else has gotten bigger.

  • Eran Journo

    The CCW should not be on this list. You obviously were not looking at the just cheap bikes. There are a hundred other bikes I would pick to troll around town before I would pick that one. Seems like you guys are really pushing this bike every chance you get.

    • Matt Hardwick

      can you list the 100 other bikes that are under $3200 brand new with a low ride height?

  • Ian Betts

    The Monster 796 over the 696? The 696 has a lower seat height.

  • Rokster

    I bet you couldn’t write a thing about best bikes for taller (normal) people because except for adventure bikes there is no such thing.

    • bob

      Really? So there’s no such thing as a dual sport with a 38 inch+ seat height? Hmm. Okay. Derp.

  • Erich Rienecker

    OK, now where is the article for Tall Riders?

    • eviladrian

      That’s every other article on this site, just let us shorties have our day in the sun! ;-)

  • Brianna J.

    This article mentions only new bikes, but there are plenty of older bikes on the market that are perfect for height-challenged riders. My all-time favorite is the 1999 – 2003 Honda Magna. Its cruiser styling lets me ride flat-footed, even though I’m only 5’1″. Its 748cc V-4 engine puts out plenty of power, and it’s a good-looking bike, as well. It’s very low maintenance, and there are plenty of after-market accessories available for it.

  • LiberalNightmare

    Victory motorcycles – On a roadking, Im on my tiptoes, but I can flatfoot anything in the victory line up.

  • Jodi Parker

    I’m 5’3″ 110lbs on a good day,I am on my 3rd bike because I can’t find the right “fit” for me.My husband bought me a Vulcan 650 as my first bike but I wasn’t comfortable with it being a new rider at the time,.it was front heavy to me,my 2nd was a Suzuki savage which was a very easy bike to ride,handled great but lightweight and I always felt like the wind was going to blow me over,I rode it for 3 years and just sold it last summer and now have a Vulcan 750 but I can’t back it up (I have bad hips and knees) and after riding my back aches for a day or two,so now looking for something else that’s a better fit? Any suggestions? I really don’t want to downsize from 750 I like the power but don’t want something that I’m going to get blown around on a windy day..needless to say,I haven’t rode once this summer

    • Jan Nelson

      Go look at some Honda Shadows.

  • Travis Clark

    I’m 6’4″ I always wished I was shorter because I wouldn’t look like such a gorilla on most motorbikes. I can’t imagine being short posing as a problem in finding a cool bike with the right geometry.

  • Heather McCoy

    Great article, Wes! I’ve been riding short for a long time now (currently on a Monster 796), so this is near and dear to my heart. Being able to master the one-cheek-slide maneuver for everyday rides is one thing, but nothing is as reassuring as having both feet down, especially in unpredictable riding conditions (stopping on hills, etc)!

    Thank you for pointing out that a lot of stuff well-intended riders recommend for this problem is just bad advice. You can’t just drop a bike 2″ and not have it act differently. Aftermarket lowering kits will adversely affect handling, as you point out, and like any after-market mod’, they’ll also void any new bike’s warranty if performance is implicated in an accident. Something to keep in mind.

    Lowering the suspension is also not realistic. You just have to adjust the bike TOO MUCH to make any noticeable difference in height, and the ride is alltogether different. As in, not as good. Not helpful.

    As for the newer 250s (including the Ninja 300), they’re nothing like the 250s of yore, and promise a totally positive riding experience. Isn’t that really what riding should be all about?

    My only negative comment: what were you smokin’ when you threw in the CRF250? My son has one…no way can I ride that beast!

  • Garrick Vance

    Still can’t get a 2013 CCW in California–stuck in approval limbo with the Air Resources Board. After 6 months of waiting and pestering CCW, finally got something else.

  • DerekB

    Bonneville’s seat height is 29.1 vs the v7 31.6. Gotta try a v7 eventually to see if it handles better, I keep reading different opinions.

  • Arno

    Great article, I’ve had the privilige of riding most of these, while I am average, I felt a bit constrained myself, so I imagine the same for the shorter riders

  • octodad

    Honda CTX 700n. seat is big and low. acceleration pushes you into the bike, not off of it. have 29″ inseam and fits perfectly. still weighs >450lbs, so can be cumbersome for smaller riders. want to check out new Hero for the less mass lovers….