Seat height, suspension travel, and shorter riders

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

  1. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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  2. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    Scott Summers is one of my childhood idols! I had that exact pic as a 3 fold tear out from a magazine, hanging on my wall.
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  3. davenowherejones

    davenowherejones short old guy

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  4. Jeathrow Bowdean

    Jeathrow Bowdean Been here awhile

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    I don't know why the Bike manufacturer's dont compress the frames too make better ground clearance bikes with lower seats for us vertically challenged riders...

    My tall bike days are long gone,,, 32" would be my max,,, 25" is what I will build for my self in 200 or 250cc...

    My 5th build coming up,,, just enough ground clearance too dragging my boots along the ground,,, and side hilling the mountain sheep trails on the sheep Cage mountains...
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    Can zig zag the cliff edges like nothing with the light weight low profile trail bike...
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    The only way past the saddle is too side hill the none trail cliff side,,, it would be very challenging for a 200 lb tall bike...

    It was super easy on the pit-bike,,, I'll build a bit larger twin too this unit based on a DS bike

    Good times for sure...

    J.T
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  5. Ladybug

    Ladybug Bug Sister Supporter

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    The subject of short legs and tall bikes is frustrating. Too many people who aren't in the short leg camp have too much to say about it because they know someone who can or see a Pro who does but they really don't have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to try to learn to ride a bike when your feet don't reach the ground. If someone learned to ride as a kid (no fear) with short legs it is much different than an adult (who has fear) learning to ride. Just because one person can, doesn't mean everyone can.

    One of my motorcycles is a BMW F650GS and for most people that is on the small side of motorcycles. I had the seat cut down and I can touch tip-toed but the bike feels big. For me at 5'0" it's about the equivalent of a 6'0" person riding a full-sized GS. Not many people will try to learn to ride, especially on dirt, a full-sized GS.

    When I was about 40 years old I decided to start dirt riding, single track, again. I hadn't ridden single track since I was a teen but had been riding street and dirt road all those years. For single track I was riding an XR185 which was too tall for me. I could touch tie toed on one side and my other toe was about an inch off the ground. I did great as long as I was moving but stopping was a bugger and always a chance of falling over if the terrain wasn't perfect. In technical terrain, if the bike started to go over I couldn't correct it by dabbing because by the time I had enough foot on the ground to make a good dab the bike was usually over too far to be able to bring it back up. I rode it for two seasons but no matter how much I rode it was more work than it was fun. I finally decided I was either getting a smaller bike or I was giving up single track. To the dismay of many people, I bought an XR100. Everyone said I couldn't ride that small of a bike, it's a kids bike etc...... Hello, I about the size of a kid. I had to buy kids sized riding boots. I still couldn't flat foot but the balls of my feet are on the ground and that makes a huge difference.

    Last summer I was riding my DR200 on the IDBDR and hit a rut wrong and went over. The area was a mess, full of ruts and with only being tie toed I couldn't get started since the ruts were bouncing me all over the place and dumped it again. It's difficult to come up with the confidence to just throttle out of it when I know it's going to bounce me off to who knows where. The DR200s suspension isn't the best. I couldn't touch well enough to duck walk it out of the mess and I was very frustrated. The gal with me who is about 10 inches taller than me had already gotten her bike beyond the rutted mess and offered to take mine out of it. She was able to easily duck walk enough to get it going and out of the ruts.

    Not only the leg length there is the rest of the ergonomics that go along with the bikes that are built for taller people. Small hands working the clutch and brake. The reach to the handle bars, & foot pegs. Short upper body and arms affect the leverage when handling the bike. When I walk a bike I have to learn it over against my hip so the outside hand can reach the bar. People trying to help me push a bike have rushed over, straighten the bike, and pulled it out of my one hand. I have also been stopped and balancing on my toes and have someone walking by bump my bike just a little and over I go.

    Those are some of the realities of being a small person riding motorcycles. For me, it's worth it but for many, it's not because it can be very frustrating.

    For years I have wished manufactures would build bikes that fit me better but they build them for the "average" rider because that's where the money is. If there were smaller sized bikes more smaller sized people would ride but it would take a while to get there, if it ever did. Would it be enough to make it worth it for the manufactures?

    Last year I went to a Harley shop with a friend who was looking for one. While I was there I spotted one that looked like a mini bike alongside all the other Harleys. It's an XG750 Street and since I had never seen one I walked over and sat on it. To my surprise, it fit me perfectly in every way. I took it for a super short test ride and it handled easier than my F650GS. My friend didn't buy a Harley that day but I did. I was so thrilled to find a bike that actually fit without any modifications I wasn't leaving without buying it.

    That Harley is the first bike that has fit me since the late '70s, street or dirt. What does all that mean? Probably nothing, that's just my story about being a short rider. That Harley is marketed as a city bike, I bought it for touring and after I put the breaking miles on it and had its first service done I rode it to WI.

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  6. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

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    Only a longer legged person would call a 32” seat height low.
  7. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    32.1" also appears to be as low as you'll find in an ADV/DS from the factory with the Versys-X 300.

    I wonder what @Ladybug's HD is at unladen - the website shows it at 25.7" with a 180 lb rider. I know it's a different kind of bike. Just curious.
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  8. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    I'm not sure why you keep making this personal but it doesn't suit you well.

    At 5 inches lower than an MX bike, yes, 32 inches is quite low for an offroad bias bike. I can understand how someone 5' tall may see it as tall proportionately but that doesn't change that it is low for its segment.
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  9. Ladybug

    Ladybug Bug Sister Supporter

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    Since the thread is about seat height for shorter riders and as a shorter rider I would never call a 32" seat height low. Longer legged riders and the majority would because for them it is but that doesn't make it a low seat because it isn't for everyone. When I said this subject is frustrating this is one of the reasons it's so frustrating.
  10. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

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    I should have included that goofy faced emoji, eh?

    I stripped the snarky comments I put in the original post because they served no useful purpose and hurt conversation.

    We probably are in a lot more agreement about this than we can find on a web forum. We should try it over coffee and crepes. I’ll buy.

    We’ve been all over the place in this thread. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with big bikes, or little bikes. They’re just different. No manufacturer owes me anything. I do think adding adjustability to bikes would be nifty and helpful. Just because bikes are built one way doesn’t mean that it’s the only way.

    As a dwarfish, garden gnome sized rider, I do get tired of normal/tall riders dismissing the challenges as simply poor riding skills. Not that being short is all bad. You have to slow dance with a basketball player girl to experience what I enjoy with the many merely tallish women. :lol3
  11. Ladybug

    Ladybug Bug Sister Supporter

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    I was researching 1966 motorcycles to see what I could find that would work for a ride I plan to do. I decided not to go with a 1966 since my mechanical skills aren't adequate. During this research, I discovered even back in 1966 rider height or leg length was considered. The Triumph Bonneville had an adjustable seat that went from 30.5" to 34". I'm not sure but I think there were more than the two adjustments. I could only find one source that had the highest seat height listed. The others specified "30.5" at its lowest setting" that let me know it was adjustable and I started looking for what the other settings were.

    OK, so clear back in the 60s seat height was an issue manufacturers, or at least Triumph, was aware of so why are we now where we are and there isn't something better out there? I know there are some of the motorcycles that are now coming out with higher or lower seats but it seems it's only minimal. Back in the 60s and 70s I could buy a bike I could reach the ground on but then suspension got better and better so seat heights went up. Of course, there are cruisers that manufacturers think is the answer for short legged riders. Not everyone wants a cruiser, I sure don't.

    I remember when the Harley 883 came out and friends encouraged me to go check them out. I did and found the battery box stuck out and cut into my leg when I was sitting on the bike. The sidestand had a strange way of flipping up, I think it went forward (it's been a long time and I might be remembering wrong). What I remember was the side strand flipped up and I couldn't reach it, my leg was too short. I had to call for a salesperson to come over and put the stand down for me so I could get off it. It was wide and it didn't fit any better than the full dressed Harleys but it was rated with a lower seat height. That was Harley's answer to a bike for women and short riders.

    @ZoomerP the specs indicate the unladen seat height for my Harley is 30.1 however it doesn't feel that tall when I'm getting on it.

    My DR200 has a 31.9 height and my F650 has a 30.7 per the specs. Both the 200 and the 650 have had their seats cut down with the foam removed and replaced with gel pads. The F650GS feels taller than less than an inch than the Harley but then again I have aluminum panniers on the 650 which brings it down a little. I tried riding it once without the panniers and couldn't touch the ground. :lol3 With them on and the cut down seat I'm on the balls of my feet with legs fully extended. On the DR200 I'm on the balls of my feet since the seat is narrower I end up being about the same as on the 650.

    Over the years I have tried the different options for lowering bikes so I can ride them but I found cutting down my seats is the best option for me. I have used lower links but then the suspension bottomed out. I have tried aftermarket shocks to lower a bike which it did lower it but it handled a little different. Not terrible but different. It can be done but it does change things so I try to find bikes that fit me as well as possible and have the seat cut down.
  12. davenowherejones

    davenowherejones short old guy

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  13. johnkol

    johnkol Been here awhile

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    No, nothing would change, and the perfect example of that is Mountain Biking: people can buy pro-level bikes that will fit a 4'8" person, but the percentage of women I see riding MTB trails is about the same as the percentage of women riding off-road trails on motorcycles, that is extremely low.

    It has nothing to do with the machinery, it has everything to do with commitment to the sport; if you're looking to ride because you think it's cool and you're going to have fun... you won't. The truth is that, much like MTB, dirt riding is a difficult sport, and requires that you invest considerable time, effort, and resources to be able to reach a level where you can begin having fun.
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  14. shinyribs

    shinyribs Thumpers for life

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    Man, that XL looked huge in that video! And they're not big bikes :D

    Great video. Thanks for sharing that
  15. Tripped1

    Tripped1 Smoove, Smoove like velvet.

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    You laugh, Icon used to actually make them, they were a full protection touring boot with a 3 or 3.5" wedge heel, one of my ex's swore by those things, she was also like 5'2 (and three quarters if you asked her) and rode 900 Super Sport. Daytona also has "M series" models that have an 1" or so lift front to back.

    @Ladybug just because we grew up doesn't mean that a lot of us didn't experience riding bikes that were WAY to tall for us, eventually we grew up, I had a 510 Husky CR before I hit puberty, that thing was both comparatively heavy at over 300lbs it also had something like a 37-38" seat if I was square on the seat my feet dangled by almost a foot.....dealing with clay was a.....interesting to say the least.

    Luckily I was young enough to bounce amazingly well at that age
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  16. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    I hope you can see that in each post, I've tried to be clear that these bikes are low in their segment and not that a shorter rider would view them as being low overall.

    Regarding your other post, congratulations on the new bike. It looks well sorted for touring.

    It seems that in your original post, you've come to a bit of an understanding that a compromise had to be made in order to find a bike that works for your specific needs, which is great.

    As I mentioned before, making offroad capable bikes with full sized wheels, larger displacement engines and long suspension travel is physically impossible with current tech. Worse still, you'll be very hard pressed for big companies to produce extremely niche bikes. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have options.

    It doesn't seem like your DR200 is quite right for your dual sport trips. Have considered replacing it with something like a Honda Monkey? It's a package that has proven its durability and seems to make a great dualsport bike with a few small upgrades (there's a huge aftermarket!). A properly set up Monkey might be just the ticket to having an absolute blast in the backcountry.

    Several members here have them and have been putting them through their paces with great results!

    https://advrider.com/f/threads/chillis-rolls-out-of-vegas.1432206/page-131
  17. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard Instagram @motopossum

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    I like coffee and I like crepes. I also enjoy the company of fellow riders. :D

    I don't think that adjustable ergos would do what's needed for someone like Ladybug. Her specific needs require stepping outside of the conventional box and understanding that by design, some pretty big compromises must be made. I'd be looking at bikes like the Monkey, Grom or even the GPX ADV 190.

    Of course I love the Honda Monkey so maybe I'm just trying to live vicariously through other members since I don't have room for one right now. :lol3
  18. Tripped1

    Tripped1 Smoove, Smoove like velvet.

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    This is going to be my wife's first bike if my buddy ever stops fucking around with it.
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    Says 50 on the title but it'll really be a 125cc

    She's never ridden or driven anything with a clutch, so that is the least threatening we could come up with, the KDX was too much for her after she nearly flipped it.

    Plus I get a pit bike so win win.
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  19. Amphib

    Amphib A mind is like a parachute....

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    How much of this just falls on exceptional dealers with capable shops?

    This summer I stopped into eurosport asheville wanting to try on some gear. There was a very short gal, probably under 5' easy. She was being shown different things on a bike. Fast forward a couple of hours later, I was stopped at an overlook on the parkway and she rolls up. Chatted with her a long time. It was a bmw f750gs. I immediately asked about any height issues and she expressed the frustration of finding a bike in her size until she went to that dealer. She said they had recepies, methods, and a willingness to accommodate her to make the bike fit. She was gearing up for the tat and was absolutely over the moon with the customer service and that it was important to that establishment to make something work for her.

    With all the bad stories about dealers, I love hearing good stories like this.

    It seems there's room in this industry if more pressure gets put onto dealers to up their game and provide better service and education. Everyone benefits.
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  20. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

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    According to some.....she should just learn to ride a real bike :rolleyes: