Riding a motorcycle to its limits is a matter of strength, technique, focus, and endurance. To understand the influence of stature on riding a bike, we’ll take some examples from motorsport.
When we talk about motorsport disciplines, one could actually say that size does indeed matter. When riders are tall, they also become heavy and generally are less agile in their movements. This defeats the purpose of trying to move an object at speed in the shortest amount of time possible. Think about horse racing and jockeys, for example. The shorter and lighter the jockey, the better.
But not all disciplines require the same characteristics in a rider.
Let’s take now 4 of the top motorcycle racing categories: MotoGP, Enduro, Motocross, and Rally. If physical strength and height actually mattered, champions like Dani Pedrosa (5’1″, ex MotoGP Repsol Honda factory team), Ignacio Cornejo (5’4″, Dakar Monster Energy Honda factory team), and Tony Cairoli (5’5″, Motocross RedBull KTM factory team) respectively, wouldn’t have been able to succeed.
It is fair to say that there are also some pretty successful “big” dudes in those categories too! Valentino Rossi managed to dominate in track racing, from 125 cc to the MotoGP class, regardless of his 6’0″ height.
It seems that somehow in all fast disciplines, like motocross and MotoGP, being light and agile is actually quite beneficial. Being short helps keep the center of gravity lower, which keeps the bike more balanced in its weight distribution.
In the Rally division instead (for races like the Dakar or the Africa Eco Race), it seems that physical strength and mass used to play a big role. Most of the old Dakar legends like Meoni were actually tall and heavy guys, same as the motorcycles they used to race back in the day.
Most of the top Dakar riders nowadays though, are actually not tall or ripped at all, consequence of the fact that modern Dakar bikes are now 450 cc and much lighter than the old 1000 cc models. So, even for the Rally category, stature it is not a game changer.
In motocross people like Benny Bloss, a staggering 6’5″, are pretty much a rarity. Most of the motocross and Supercross champions are of average height and pretty lightweight. Most top riders also follow a strict diet to maintain body weight and fitness at a high level.
One recent rising star, a former trials champion, is Pol Tarres, who just finished Romaniacs (one of the hardest enduro races in the world) on board a massive Tènèrè 700; he clearly can move around a 200 kg beast easily with his 6’5″ height.
In this sense then, being big and tall allows a rider to clearly have an advantage on maneuvering the bike at low speeds, especially in disciplines like hard enduro, where putting the feet down or simply handling an overweight machine is a standard requirement. It is easy to imagine how big an enduro bike looks for a 5’1″ guy, compared to a 6’5″ rider.
Overall then, we can say that with modern motorcycles the size and weight of a rider does not matter much if skills are on point.
Lighter and more technical riders can have an edge in motorsports disciplines, however, as their lower weight keeps the c of g at a lower point.
But manouvering a fully loaded adventure bike while traveling could be difficult if your legs are not long enough to comfortably reach the ground. Still, skills and balance can help a great deal, even if a fully loaded 1000 cc motorcycle could be a struggle for a person to handle.
Most people have average riding skills, though—so stature may help in handling big motorcycles, which seem to be quite popular at the moment.
In conclusion, it seems that stature does not matter much for riding motorcycles successfully, and skill and experience can compensate quite well for a limited inseam length. But if the skill level is moderate or low, having those extra inches and some extra muscle can be useful, though size is never going to be as helpful in riding as that matter of skill.