Seat height, suspension travel, and shorter riders

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by ZoomerP, Nov 15, 2020.

  1. Tripped1

    Tripped1 Smoove, Smoove like velvet.

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    My 1989 KDX has a ~35" seat height.

    Just saying. Its not a new thing.
    #41
  2. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

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    It’s not, but theres an underserved group of riders out there......thats who we are talking about
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  3. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    So then, what is the goal here ? To me, it looks like another quest for a unicorn. That's not meant as an insult , it's just that there's a lot not being considered here.

    A big bore thumper with enough power for interstate speeds is a tall engine by design. The airbox, battery, electronics, etc all have to go somewhere and that somewhere is behind the head and under the seat. Now, we can lower the bike down to 30" seat height but now it has 6 inches of ground clearance and 5 inches of suspension travel.

    A small CC thumper can do 60-65 mph all day long but it isn't an "interstate" bike. It's smaller engine would allow a lower stance with improved ground clearance but again, if we are talking cruiser seat heights like 30 inches then suspension travel will need to drop to around 7 inches and ground clearance will be around 8 inches. This would be a fine ADV bike for gravel roads and such, but it won't have the chops for any real offroad work.

    This whole game is a compromise and the reality is that there are a ton of very good motorcycles for folks that are intimidated by seat height. Anyone in that camp is simply not going to benefit much from top quality suspension. The overwhelming majority of these folks won't even use entry level suspension to its fullest (thinking bikes like the XT250 here). Sincerely, if learning how to ride a bike using proper technique doesn't interest them or worse, frightens them , then they aren't going to be the riders that are pushing the limits of a motorcycles capabilities.

    From the OP, a 450cc engine making 50 hp was also suggested. That's MX bike power in the hands of a person that is already too timid to handle an offroad machine. That also doesn't seem like a good idea, especially on a lightweight bike with abbreviated suspension travel.

    So here's an honest few questions:

    Rather than asking manufacturers to make extremely niche' bikes whose offroad capabilities are reduced to near street bike levels, wouldn't it serve riders and the community as a whole far better if we all stop perpetuating myths and bad advice (you need to be able to touch the ground, you need more power, etc) ?

    Wouldn't all riders be better served by learning how to properly and safely operate a properly designed performance machine if performance is something that they are actually seeking?

    And if off-road performance isn't the goal then what is wrong with the myriad of low seat and lightweight bikes that are currently on the market ?

    Having taught many a timid rider to overcome there fears and adapt to the bike rather than the converse, I don't see an actual need for the industry to cater to anyone that chooses not to do so. That's not because I don't want to see more riders in the ADV segment but more because a person whose fear overwhelms their ability to learn , may not be well suited to safely riding motorcycles.
    #43
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  4. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

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    That’s certainly a perspective.

    Some folk want to comfortably and pleasantly enjoy their motorcycle ride. That’s an equally valid perspective. Probably a lot more common than the suffer to enjoy perspective.

    Even sufferers will adjust the seat in a car, to make it more comfortable. Cars have had this for about a century now. And for decades they’ve had adjustable steering wheels, and even movable pedals.

    Motorcycle manufacturers have embraced none of this. They staunchly hold onto the “this is the bike, you bend and stretch to fit *it*” mantra. You don’t like the way it fits? Piss off, suffer, learn to ride, man-up, etc. All of which turns off a large segment of potential customers.

    There’s no real reason for it. Handlebars, pegs, seats can all be made adjustable, giving a bike a far larger market audience.
    #44
  5. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    I can completely understand this and I would suggest that such a rider not own a bike designed for offroad use. Dual sport and ADV riding requires a rider to be an active participant , not simply a "driver".
    #45
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  6. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

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    The term “off road” need to be dropped from this conversation. I think “off pavement” is a better way to describe the goals of the OP.
    #46
  7. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    With all do respect, they aren't underserved in the market. They are certainly undereducated and underskilled but that can be remedied with a little patience from their coach and a willingness to learn by the rider.

    As well, there are a ton of fun, low and lightweight bikes available. The DR200, KLX230, XT250, Van Van, Grom, Monkey,etc. are all fantastic bikes that are fun to ride and more than capable of ADV touring.
    #47
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  8. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    But then you eliminate fun routes like the CDR or the western BDRs or even just having the abilty to say "Let's see where that trail goes!". Seems like we'd be doing a disservice to these riders by placating them rather than teaching them, no? Personally I'd rather they be included "all in" rather than leaving them on the sidelines for some of the best adventures to be had. :dunno
    #48
  9. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    Point:
    Counterpoint:
    You both make good points.

    With regard to the red-faced fellow, you're right that putting a 50 hp MX engine in such a bike is asking for trouble. I'm also not sure that 30" seat height is going to happen without too much of a compromise in ground clearance & suspension travel. On the other hand, are there really that many ADV/DS bikes with a moderate seat height (call it 32"), sub-350 lb wet weight, that have a reasonable amount of power for highway travel?

    Foxtrapper, the OEMs will tell you to buy those handlebars, pegs, and seats on your own; problem solved. I don't completely agree with that attitude, but I can see why that's their line. Bultaco touched on that, and explained the business decisions behind the approach. I'd like to see OEMs do more, but maybe any change on this front will come from the dealers. Heck, maybe a short rider with dirt cred will find a way to work that to their advantage and develop a good, affordable bike setup with a dealership.
    #49
  10. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

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    I don’t see how putting a rider on a bike they are comfortable with is a disservice.
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  11. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    I get your point about rider education. No doubt that's a weak spot for many, myself included. While that could certainly help a shorter rider become more comfortable on a taller bike, that also assumes someone is willing to buy a bike they feel uncomfortable riding in the first place. Not an ideal proposition for most people.

    As far as seat heights are concerned:

    DR200: 32"
    KLX230: 34.8"
    XT250: 31.9"
    VanVan: 30"
    Monkey: 30.6"
    CRF250L: 34.4"

    Which of those would you want to ride much at highway speeds, or would have a hope of keeping up on pavement with even a 500cc bike? Throw a little incline or elevation at any of those, and they'll be even slower.
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  12. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    It's a disservice if it limits their riding ability or experience, but more over , it's always a disservice when we placate someone's fears or discomfort rather than teach them the right way to do things.
    #52
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  13. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

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    We’re gonna disagree n this.
    A rider out riding on something they are comfortable with is > than a rider on something they question.
    #53
  14. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    I wouldn't expect a person that can not ride a bike (at the most basic of abilities) to purchase one at all. I would hope that a new rider learns the fundamentals of their particular discipline of riding prior to a purchase, if that bike will be ridden on public roads.


    Those are all very low seat heights, especially under load. All perfect for short riders.


    Like I said, this sport is all about compromises. If doing highways and an occasional dirt road is what someone is after then there are bikes for that. If dualsport ADV riding is what someone is interested in then you compromise on the highway bit because lightweight with decent suspension and ground clearance are going to be more important. There's no unicorn, even for taller riders.
    #54
  15. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    And I'll say that if they refuse to learn how to ride a proper bike safely then riding simply isn't their thing and there's nothing wrong with that. I'd rather the industry focus on those willing to learn rather than allowing unsafe and unskilled riders to put themselves in danger.
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  16. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    It isn't about the "right way to do things," but we can run with that thought.
    The right way to do things is to adjust the machine to the operator when possible, not the other way around. This applies to much more than motorcycles.

    I don't think we're discussing an impossible accommodation.
    #56
  17. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    C'mon, you're dodging. I asked about someone buying a bike they were uncomfortable on because of your comments about them needing to be taught how to ride properly. You can't turn that around by saying they shouldn't buy a bike at all if they don't know how to ride it properly.

    Yes, those bikes have fairly low seat heights, but you didn't address how much of a compromise all of them are on the highway relative to the vast majority of ADV/DS bikes. Put a 450 in one of those without changing the seat height, ground clearance, or suspension travel; that's all that's being asked.
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  18. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    You are right in that we can adjust the bike to the rider...to a point. We can only go so far before the bike's abilities are adversely effected, at which point you get diminishing returns. It's at that point that it is impossible to accommodate which is why bikes made for off pavement riding are designed as they are.

    Again, I just don't come from the school of thought that a person should succumb to their perceived limitations, and that's especially true when these limitations are based upon myths and falsehoods. I have far more faith in people than that.
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  19. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    I wasn't dodging, just filling in blanks. I would prefer that they have a rudimentary understanding and comfort in the type of bike that they are interested in , prior to purchasing it. I don't think that's too outlandish.

    Yes, I said that they are a compromise. I said that you're looking for a unicorn that can't be built with current tech, which you are. That's why it doesn't exist. Put a 450 thumper in it and you will either gain seat height or lose ground clearance in order to deal with the much taller engine. Make it a 450 ptwin and now it's 400 lbs. At some point , a person has to choose where their priorities lie.
    #59
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  20. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    True, which is why having an OEM sign off on a shorty package would give me more confidence that the end result wouldn't compromise the bike, at least not to the point of impacting safety. I know a dealership or independent shop can deliver excellent results, but an OEM should be able to test a setup at a level that would be difficult for a third party to replicate.

    I'm completely with you here, but there's still the problem of someone not having enough faith in themself to tackle a challenge.
    #60
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