Category: Guides for New Riders

How to Lower a Motorcycle

In this article, Motorcycles for Short Riders shows you how to lower a motorcycle.  As there are a number of methods to lower a motorcycle, we highlight the pros and cons of each method, as well as provide and approximate costs.  If you have yet to pick up your first motorcycle, check out our Top 10 Motorcycles for Short Riders.  Find out the best way for you to lower your motorcycle today!  

There are 2 categories of lowering modifications one can make are:

Motorcycle Seats Mods for Short Riders

Shaving the Seat – DIY

Shaving a motorcycle seat is the easiest and safest DIY way to lower a motorcycle.  This process involves removing the seat cover, shaving foam off the bottom, and re-installing the seat cover.  Done well, this method does not reduce comfort, and retains an OEM look.

The foam should be shaved from the sides of the seats especially towards the front. ideally, once you shave the most foam from the front sides of the seat. Shaving foam from this area makes reaching the ground easier compared to other areas of the seat without reducing comfort.  Removing foam from the middle seat will slightly lower the seat, but will reduce the cushioning that seat provides.


Pro’s:

Reduce seat height up to 2 inches

Can maintain comfort and OEM look

Maintains performance of motorcycle

Lowest cost option

Con’s:

Shaving seat incorrectly may reduce comfort

The end result may not be pretty

 

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Difficulty: 3/10

Cost: minimal


For more information how to shave a motorcycle seat, check out: diymotorcycleseat.com

 

Low Aftermarket Seats

For riders trying to find the easiest way of how to lower a motorcycle, buying a shorter seat is the answer.  Aftermarket seat manufacturers such as Corbin, Sargent, Seat Concepts, and Touratech make seats for certain bikes that are up to 2 inches shorter than OEM.  These seats are generally designed with comfort and style in mind, and could be at your doorstep in a few days.  


Pro’s:

Plug and play – easiest way to lower seat height

Quality fit and finish

Known level of comfort – most aftermarket seats are designed with comfort in mind

No downtime from riding – use your stock seat now, replace when the new one comes in

Con’s:

Price- expensive compared to shaving a seat

 

Time: <1 hour

Difficulty: 1/10

Cost: $200-$600

 

Seat Kits – New foam and cover for current seat

Some companies such as Seat Concepts offer kits which include new foam and covers for the seat pans already on your motorcycle.  These kits can lower the seat height up to 2 inches vs stock.  At the time of writing, seat concepts also offers installation service for an additional $25 on top of the seat kit price.  This way, you send in your seat, they install the kit, then a new seat shows up at your door a few weeks later.   

 

Pro’s:

Lowers seat, takes the risk out of shaving the seat yourself

Competitive prices compared to aftermarket seats

Con’s:

Turnaround time can be long if sending in the stock seat for upgrade

 

Time: 14+ Business days turnaround time

Difficulty: 1/10

Cost: $80-$180

 

Custom Seats

Corbin, Sargent, and many other companies offer custom motorcycle seats.  As they’re custom, these can be designed to be lower, with greater comfort using more advanced (see: pricier) materials, and to look however you like.  Some manufacturers also can mold seats to conform to your body, improving comfort and allowing for support where needed without significantly increasing seat height.  

 

Pro’s:

Greatest reduction in seat height

Looks – great, just the way you want them to

Comfortable – can be molded specifically for a rider

Con’s:

Cost – the priciest way to reduce seat height

Turnaround time longer than most other methods

 

Time: 21+ Business days

Difficulty: 2/10

Cost: $450+

 

Getting your suspension tuned by a professional

 

Getting a bike’s suspension set for your weight improves handling, braking and acceleration; all key aspects to most safely controlling a motorcycle.  

Even a cruiser riders stand to benefit from such as setup, and in my experience, is well worth the ~$40 most suspension technicians charge for a 1 time setup.  As part of the suspension setup, a train mechanical sets ‘sag’, a setting allowing the bike’s suspension to function in the range it is most effective.

Alright, that’s nice and all, but you may be thinking I was trying to figure out how to lower a motorcycle, how does this help?  Suspension technicians start by setting  ‘sag’ to the bottom of its recommend range, helping keep one’s bike from being unnecessarily tall.  Adjusting suspension preload, and changing springs can also make a difference.  As suspension tuning is one of the more complex aspects of motorcycling, this is an area I recommend entrusting to a professional when starting out. 

In the SF Bay Area, there are a number of reputable suspension tuners including Catalyst Reaction Suspension Tuning in San Carlos and Evolution Motorcycles in Santa Clara, as well as Dave Moss Tuning, who often teach suspension courses at Moto Guild in San Francisco.


Pro’s:

Can slightly reduce seat height

Improves safety – makes the bike handle better and react more efficiently to your inputs

Con’s:

Going to a suspension shop or bike night, being around motorcycles and experienced riders could be intimidating


Time
: ~30 minutes

Difficulty: 1/10

Cost: ~$45

 

Lowering links aka. dog bones

Lowering links physically lower the rear suspension bringing it closer to the ground, which in turn reduces the seat height.  However, this also reduces ground clearance, which may cause problems going over speed bumps and dragging hard parts when cornering at higher lean angles.  As most new riders are unlikely to be pushing motorcycles anywhere near lean angles where hard parts start dragging, the increased confidence of being on a lower motorcycle may be worthwhile.  If just cruising around, a new rider would be unlikely to notice significant difference in handling.  

Additionally, lowering the rear suspension using lowering links drastically affects the handling of the motorcycle.  The suspension was designed with a certain geometry from the factory.  As such, to help the suspension work as well as possible with lowering links, one should also lower the front forks in the triple clamp the same amount the rear was dropped.  

Additionally lowering a motorcycle with this method may lower the bike to the point that an aftermarket kickstand is required.  Given then downsides, I rarely recommend this route to friends who ask about how to lower a motorcycle.  

 

Pro’s:

Lowers motorcycle .5 – 2 inches

Con’s:

Negatively affects handling of the bike, significantly

Decreases ground clearance

May require shortened kickstand

Most labor intensive  lowering method

 

Time: 1-2 hours

Difficulty: 4/10

Cost: ~$80(parts), 1-2 hours of labor at a reputable shop

 

Now that we’ve covered how to lower a motorcycle, feel free to leave comments or questions, especially if you aren’t sure what will be the best fit for you.

The Short Riders Guide to Motorcycles

Riding a motorcycle is quite possibly the most exciting thing one can do with their clothes on.  I’ve compiled a handful of guides to share help short new riders get on their feet:

The act of riding rewards precision, smoothness, and absolute concentration.  Riding also quickly punishes lapses in judgement and inability to cope with pressure.  It has been proven at the highest levels or motorcycle racing that height is not big factor when it comes to being able to push a bike to the limit.  Get your start into riding with the guides above.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

The average motorcyle is made for a rider who is 5’8.  What happens when you a mass produced, fun educing machine isn’t made in your size?  You adapt!  Find your inspiration to ride today.

What are the best motorcycles for short riders? 

The best motorcycles for vertically challenged new riders are relatively light, have low seat heights, and relatively narrow seats.  See our guide for What to Look for in Your 1st Motorcycle – Short Rider Edition and our Top 10 Motorcycles for Short New Riders

How tall do you have to be to ride a motorcycle? 

Tall enough to be able to reach controls on both sides of the handlebars while standing up.  This badass below uses the side dismount technique to great effect.

short rider side dismount technique

That said, a more conventional way to sitting on a motorcycle at a stop is on the seat.  One way to get a sense of how a motorcycle will fit you can be found at cycle-ergo.com, which simulates how a rider would sit on a bike both while at a stop, as well as in a typical riding position.

cycle ergo screenshot

 

What is “Flat footing”

Flat footing is being able to get both heel’s onto the pavement while sitting on a motorcycle.

flat foot technique for stopped motorcycle

Do I need to be able to flat foot a bike to ride?

It is a ‘nice to have’ ability, but far from necessary to enjoy riding a motorcycle.  With the right techniques, anyone with a certain level of coordination can ride any motorcycle they choose.

What if I drop my bike, is it true that in order to ride a bike, you have to be able to pick it up?

First off, hopefully you’ll be able to keep your bike shiny side up, but if not, the right technique will allow the shortest of riders to pick up just about any motorcycle.

 

 

 

How to Buy Your 1st Motorcycle – For Short Riders

Key Considerations for Your First Streetbike – Short Riders Edition

Kawasaki ninja EX300 side view white background

There are countless guides for finding your first motorcycle, but I created this guide specifically to help shorter riders get comfortable with bikes.  We break it down for what to look for in this guide:

 

Size – Seat Height, Wet Weight, & Riding Position

Engine Sizes, Types, and Recommendations

Other Factor – Costs, Parts, and Support

 

Size – Seat Height, Wet Weight, & Riding Position

  • Seat Height – Lower is better, narrower is better.
    • Most motorcycles released in the past couple decades list seat height in the manufacturing specs.
    • Narrow seats are better for shorter riders.  Narrower seats make it easier to get your legs to ground.  The width of seats are not listed on spec sheets.
  • Weight – Lighter bikes are easier to handle
    • Wet weight- the weight of a motorcycle with all fluids including a full tank of oil, gas, coolant, etc.
    • Dry weight – the weight of a motorcycle without fluids such as gas, oil, etc.
  • Riding Position – Relatively upright bikes  are easier to turn, and more comfortable.
    • aggressive ergonomics found on 600cc sportbikes lead riders to place more pressure on their arms, tightening forearms/shoulders, making it more difficult to turn.  On my first motorcycle, a Kawasaki EX500, I replaced the stock bars with clip ons after lowsiding the bike on a hill.  I noticed that riding the same bike in a more aggressive riding position made me more likely to wand to go faster.

Engine Sizes, Types, and Recommendations

  • Engine Size: Usable Power – Bikes producing predictable amounts of power are better.  Even the least powerful production motorcycles are faster than 90% of cars on the road.  Parallel twin or V-Twin engine bikes are more ideal for street riding, as they have more torque, as deliver power more consistently through the RPM range.  600cc sportbikes look cool, generally have inline 4 engines (i4) and are powerful at high RPM’s, but gutless below 7k.
  • Recommended Engine Sizes for New Riders
    • Twin Engines – 250-300cc – Produce around 30HP and 18 lbs of torque
    • Twin Engines – 650-750cc – Produce ~65HP and 45 lbs of torque
      Compared to bikes which have the engines below, most motorcycles with twin engines are slightly smaller, more ideal for the shorter rider to start making their mark.
  • Engines not recommend for beginners
    Having power is fun, but having above a certain amount makes it really easy to get in trouble.  On many modern motorcycles, the moment you think about going faster, you’ve already twisted the throttle ever so slightly, and have already picked up 10 MPH.  Developing the vision to see all the threats in front of you, as way to avoid such threats, and muscle memory to maneuver a motorcycle are especially important on bigger bikes.

    • 4 Cylinder Engines
      • Inline 4 (i4) 600 cc’s and above – Produce 100+ HP with 45 lbs of torque
      • These engines are found mostly on sporbikes such as the R6, CBR600rr, and others
    • 3 Cylinder Engines
      • 675cc’s and up – These produce 100+ HP and 50 lbs of torque
    • 2 Cylinder Engines 800cc’s and above
      • Twin engines over 800cc’s tend to go on physically larger, heavier motorcycles.  There is a saying that when it comes to producing power: “There is no replacement for displacement.”  Having a more powerful bike makes it easier to get into trouble much more quickly, and heavier motorcycles are more difficult to handle at low speeds.
Other Factors – Costs, Parts, and Support
  • Affordability – This depends on your budget, but ideally, a starter bike can be bought and sold for around the same amount.  Most riders drop their first motorcycle, period.  It hurts pride and wallet a lot more to drop a shiny new bike.  While there are exceptions, it’s better to get a relatively inexpensive used motorcycles, ride it for a little while to build up skills and confidence, then sell it for nearly the same amount when ready to upgrade.
  • Non-Bike Costs to Start Riding
    • Gear: Ideally, this would include at least a helmet, gloves, jacket, riding jeans, and a decent pair of riding boots.
    • Bike insurance:  May be required in your state, is generally the most most expensive for younger riders on 600cc+ sportbikes
    • DMV Fees for registration, transfer of title, etc.
    • Tires: Tires are your connection to road, and similar to a good helmet, isn’t a good place to be cheap.
  • Part availability – Mass produced motorcycles from reputable manufacturers tend to have lots of parts available.  When you first get a bike, you’ll probably want to be riding it as much as possible. If something breaks on the custom or exotic motorcycles you just got, parts can take much longer to arrive, and are less likely to be available at local motorcycles shops.
    • The most famous Italian brand of motorcycles gets most parts shipped worldwide from warehouses in Italy.  During the month of August, most people in Italy are on vacation, which result in significant delays.
See additional resources available for buying motorcycles both new and used including:

Top 10 Motorcycles for Short Riders 2017

The Best motorcycles for short riders are…

the ones you like the most! Seriously, seat height and bike weight don’t particularly matter once a rider has built the muscle memory and techniques to ride.  That said, when getting up to speed, having the right bike makes a huge difference.  Thus, we compiled the 10 best bikes for new riders who are short below.

#1 – Honda CBR300R 2015-2017

On of the few modern motorcycles designed with shorter riders in mind.  Replacing the CBR 250R in 2015, this bike is slightly lower, and nearly 10 lbs lighter than its predecessor.  Compared the Ninja 300, this bike is lighter, has more torque, and less top end power.

Honda CBR300r white background

      • Seat Height: 30.7 inches 780mm
      • Wet Weight: 366 lbs (CBR300R) 166kg

2 – Kawasaki Ninja 300

The ninja 250/300 series is quite possibly the longest selling entry level motorcycle sold in the USA.  Endearingly known as the ‘ninjette’, these motorcycles have a formidable presence in the used market, and are also popular among club racers.  It is not uncommon for a rider to buy one of these bikes, ride it for a few months, then sell it a few months later for the same price.  Note- the former versions of this bike are 2 generations with 250cc engines, also worth considering for a starter bike.

Kawasaki ninja EX300 side view white background

      • Seat Height: 30.9 inches, 785 mm
      • Wet Weight:  385 lbs, 174kg

Honda Grom

These bikes are pure fun. Even experienced racers enjoy riding these little bikes around. They’re small, a bit quirky, but just a blast! Unlike some of the smaller cc sportbikes listed below, these also aren’t in the same class of motorcycles one might ride to be the coolest poser with a big bike at the local coffee shop. If I was learning to ride motorcycles now, I’d consider getting a Grom, and keeping it as a second bike.  Known for getting – 100+ MPG.

white honda grom gold wheels transparent background

      • Seat Height: 29.7 inches, 750mm
      • Wet Weight: 229 lbs, 104kg

Yamaha R3

The Yamaha R3 is an entry level sport bike which has been sold in the US since 2015.  It is known for handling well, and having slightly more power than its closest competitor, the Ninja 300.

Yamaha R3 side view white background

      • Seat Height: 31 inches, 780mm
      • Wet Weight: 368lbs, 167kg

KTM RC390

A single cyclinder entry level motorcycle from KTM.  These bikes are fun to ride and have even more torque than the Honda CBR300R.  Good bikes if you’re looking for something a bit different, although because of that, parts are less common.

ktm rc 390 side view white background

      • Seat Height: 31 inches, 800mm
      • Wet Weight: 338lbs, 153kg

Cruiser style bikes

Honda Rebel 250 

A very light bike, low seat height, and used by learn to ride courses throughout the nation for the past couple decades for a reason.  These are some of the easiest motorcycles to learn to ride on, and on the used market, are relatively abundant and inexpensive.

Honda Rebel 250 side view white background

      • Seat Height: 26.6 inches, 676mm
      • Wet Weight: 325 lbs, 145kg

Harley Davidson Street 500

If you’re dead set on getting a Harley, this would be the recommend first bike to get for a shorter new rider.  Although the heaviest motorcycles on this list, the low seat height gives short riders a much better chance of being able to get both feet on the ground, inspiring confidence.

HD street 500 white background side view

      • Seat Height: 25 inches, 640mm
      • Wet Weight: 480lbs, 220kg

‘Standard’ Naked Motorcycles 

These motorcycles are good for people looking to ride who feel like a 300cc motorcycles isn’t enough, and want something they can grow into.  Compared to the above bikes with full fairings, standard or naked bikes do not have windscreens or fancy plastics that easily break if and when a bike gets dropped.  Having dropped my first motorcycle at a stop light a quarter mile from home on the first day riding it, I can attest to the brittleness of most motorcycle plastics when kissing the pavement.  After riding regularly for over 7 years, I picked up a SV650s to use for racing at racetracks, and can attest that bikes in this category are plenty of fun for new and experienced riders both.

Suzuki SV650 2017

Suzuki SFV650 side view white background

The SV650’s have been around for years, with extensive aftermarket support, and a dedicated following at svrider.com  Compared to previous models, the 2017 edition has a slightly lower seat height, along with Suzuki’s proven 650cc motor.

      • Seat Height:  30.9 (2017 edition), 785mm.
        • 1999-2014 SV650s were between 31.5 and 31.9 inches (800-805mm)
      • Weight: 434 lbs, 197 kg (2017)

2006 – 2011 Kawasaki ER-6n 

Kawsaki’s entry in to the standard and naked bike space.  With an aftermarket exhaust, these bikes are often described as sounding like a helicopter.  The models produced between 2006 and 2011 are the most ideal for shorter riders, before the seat height was raised in 2012.  The newer models are also good bikes, but since this article highlights the best bikes for shorter new riders, the 2006-2011 models are the most ideal.

kawasaki er-6n white background side view

      • Seat Height: 30.9 inches , 785mm
        • Note: The Kawasaki 650R with full fairings has a slightly higher seat height of  31.1 inches (2006-2011), 790mm
      • Weight: 449.7lbs 204kg

Yamaha FZ-07

While the seats are higher than most other bikes on this list, a relatively narrow seat, linear power delivery, and reasonably forgiving suspension for a street bike mean there is a lot to like about these bikes.

Yamaha 7z-07 side view white background

      • Seat Height: 31.7 inches, 805mm
      • Wet Weight: 397 lbs, 180 kg

The Best Motorcycles for New Riders Who are Short

What makes a motorcycle one of the best for new riders?  Lower seat heights, narrower seats, rider-friendly ergonomics, and more forgiving power-weight ratios are a start.  There are two types of riders: Those have gone down, and those who haven’t yet.  Don’t get discouraged people saying a bike is too big for you, but also realize that riding can be a life-long passion, and if you hope to have a long riding career, a few months on a starter bike is just a blip on the radar.

What to look for in your first motorcycle

  • Seat Height – Low seat height narrow seats are ideal
  • Weight – Lighter is better
  • Power  Less is more.

Still not sure what to look for?  Check out our free guide to what shorter riders should look for in their first motorcycle.