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How to Make Any Motorcycle Work for Shorter Riders

How to Make Any Motorcycle Work for Shorter Riders

Motorcycling is becoming a worldwide trend, and more and more people are trying it. The craze and love of motorcycling are also evident in the U.S. Motorcycle culture is at its peak and on the rise. Despite the increase in popularity, is motorcycling for everybody?

Well, the motorcycle industry has never claimed to be only accessible to a certain group of people. It is open to all. However, a few factors naturally exclude certain riders to a certain extent. The type of motorcycle, power specs, size, and weight of the bike can make it specific to be used only by a group of riders.

However, regarding the size and capabilities of riders, they have to narrow down their choice and pick a bike that suits them the most. Almost 80% of the motorcycles made by the manufacturers are designed to fit average-sized riders. If you fall in the taller or shorter riders category, most of the bikes available in the market are not mainly designed for you.

What should be done in such a situation when the bike you love the most is not made to fit you? Should you quit motorcycling? That is not the choice. Riding techniques and modifications can be done to a motorcycle to make it ideally suited for shorter riders. These modifications are not always complex and require a highly skilled mechanic.

Continue reading this article to learn in detail how to make any motorcycle work for shorter riders.

How to Make Any Motorcycle Work for Shorter Riders
How to Make Any Motorcycle Work for Shorter Riders

1. Find a Motorcycle that Fits Your Size

Before you start looking for different solutions on the internet and asking your friends how to make a motorcycle work for shorter riders, you must find a motorcycle from those 20% that is made for shorter riders.

If you are a vertically challenged rider, you may need help finding a best-fit bike. However, it is not impossible. Here are a few options that you must consider if you are a short rider:

1.1 Small-Displacement Motorcycles

Most small-displacement motorcycles are made to suit shorter riders as well. They are small, lightweight, and can be easily maneuverable. It can be a perfect first bike for you if you are about to start your motorcycling career. On top of the suitability, you can buy a miniature motorbike at a very affordable price. So, it not only resolves the suitability issue, but it is also light on your pocket.

1.2 Cruisers


You can also go for a cruiser because these bikes usually have low seat height and are lower to the ground. However, most of them are pretty heavy. If you can handle that much weight, buying a cruiser is preferable. Otherwise, you can also find a small-displacement and relatively light cruiser to ride it comfortably.

1.3 Do Your Research

Most cruisers in the U.S. market have a seat height below 30 inches. You can also find some good options with a seat height of around 25 inches as well.

So, make sure you research a lot and look for motorbikes in different marketplaces. You will surely get the best deal.

However, if you still haven't succeeded in buying a motorcycle that perfectly fits your size and you don’t want to give up on your dream bike, there are ways to make any motorcycle work for shorter riders.

2. How to Make Any Motorcycle Work for Shorter Riders

2.1 Improving Your Riding Technique

Improving Your Riding Technique

Before you make any changes to your motorcycle, you can improve your riding technique to ride any motorcycle while being a shorter rider. Being a shorter rider, you must not abandon riding your favorite or dream motorcycle.

Many vertically challenged riders are seen riding tall and heavy motorcycles. It may not be easy for them to ride such a bulky motorcycle, especially on busy roads. However, they have gained confidence through learning and improving their riding technique.

The biggest trouble a shorter rider faces while riding a taller motorcycle is when the bike is not in motion. For example, start riding the motorbike when stopping the bike and lifting the bike from the kickstand. Such situations can be highly terrifying for a shorter rider as you may not be able to afford to drop an expensive motorcycle.

Practice is the Key

If you are a shorter rider, it is recommended that you train your mind. Practice is essential. Convince your mind that you can ride any motorcycle you want to ride.

Skills Vs. Strength

After that, skills play the most crucial role. It is always your riding skills that can make you confident about riding any motorcycle, regardless of your shorter stature.

Most shorter riders are seen using their strength alone to ride and manage a bigger motorcycle than their size. Always remember, though strength is a good advantage, it is not a replacement for your riding skills. In most cases, you prefer using your skills, not strengths.

Be Responsive

Be very responsive and use your body movements and muscles as a weapon. Stretch as much as you can to avoid any mishaps and tackle difficult situations while riding a bike that is bigger than your size.

It Is Okay to Be Uncomfortable

It is okay if you feel uncomfortable while riding a taller bike. However, don’t panic and lose your confidence. Getting used to being a little uncomfortable can help you stay active and respond well to any challenge.

Use Your Whole Body

If you are a shorter rider and riding a bigger bike than your size, it is advised to use your whole body. This is how you can be efficient and safely ride a bike. Don’t put too much pressure by only using your upper body. Your lower body must be solid as it must bear the most load.

Practice Balancing

Though balancing the motorbike with both feet on the ground as anchor is preferable, a bike can be balanced with just one foot as in the case of shorter riders. Practice can make you perfect.

Do not use only one leg to balance the bike. Learn to switch the foot and do it efficiently. The transition must be rapid. You can learn this technique anywhere, even with a bike that is powered off. Rather than balancing the bike on your toes, using only a single foot to ensure a solid base is better.

If you get comfortable with these things, particularly removing the bike from the kickstand, starting to ride the bike, stopping the bike, and riding again, you are ready to ride any motorcycle.

3. Motorcycle Modifications for Shorter Riders

3.1 Lowering the Seat for Shorter Riders

Aftermarket Seat

The most common method of lowering the seat for shorter riders is to replace the seat with a new one. You can find a variety of aftermarket seats that can considerably lower the seat height to make the bike comfortable for you.

It can lower the bike to an extent where you can balance the bike with both your feet touching the ground.

Removing the Padding

You can lower the seat height of a motorcycle by yourself using this technique. By removing the padding or shaving the foam off the seat, you can make a considerable difference. You can either do it by yourself or hire a custom motorcycle builder to do the job for you. 

Adjustable Seat Height

There are a few modern motorcycles, like the Honda Africa Twin that offer an adjustable seat height option. You can comfortably adjust the seat height without having to use any tools.

3.2 Handlebar Modification for Shorter Riders

Besides the seat, handlebars also play an essential role in making things easier for shorter riders. It depends on how easily approachable handlebars are for shorter riders. If riders have to stretch their arms fully to reach the bars, it can get tough for them to take a turn or steer the handlebar.

Handlebar modification does not make your bike closer to the ground. However, it does help in making the rider triangle and riding position considerably comfortable for a shorter rider. It can also give a shorter rider the ability to control the bike effectively.

There must be a lot of pull-back angles to make handlebars comfortable for shorter riders. They can reach the bars easily with a certain level of bend in their elbows to help them take turns and steer the bike.

The height of the handlebar is also crucial in determining the handlebar or grip position. For instance, sports bikes or cafe racers have clip-on or low-mounted bars. The rider has to lean forward to reach the bars.

Handlebars with a reasonable height and a decent amount of pullback are very helpful for shorter riders. You can use risers to increase the height of the handlebars.

If you are opting to install an aftermarket handlebar, you must consider the below options if you are a shorter rider:

  • Buckhorn handlebars
  • Reach handlebars
  • Sweptback/pull-back handlebars
  • Handlebars with pullback risers
  • Custom handlebars

3.3 Brake and Clutch Lever Adjustments for Shorter Riders

While adjusting the handlebar to make it adjustable for shorter riders, the brake and clutch levers must be adjusted too. The hand controls are one of the most essential riding elements and if you find it challenging to engage the clutch or front brake, you are not riding safely.

Therefore, the brake and clutch levers must be within a comfortable reach of your fingers and palms. Some modern bikes feature adjustable lever options. You can easily adjust the position of the levers without having to use any specialized tools.

Similarly, you can also contact a mechanic to adjust the brake and clutch levers so you can engage them comfortably.

3.4 Footpegs Modification for Shorter Riders

Footpeg repositioning is another very important modification that does not lower the bike to the ground. However, it makes the bike more approachable to shorter riders, the rider triangle more compact, and suitable for vertically challenged riders.

By moving the forward foot controls to the mid-mount position, a shorter rider with a shorter inseam and limbs can comfortably place his/her legs.

This is a tricky modification as the foot controls, including the rear brake and gear shifter, will also need to be moved. Therefore, you will need to consult a professional mechanic for this modification.

3.5 Suspension Modification for Shorter Riders

Not Recommended

After trying every option mentioned above, your last resort should be to modify the suspension. However, it is not recommended as there are several drawbacks to this option. Modifying the suspension to reduce the height of your bike can alter several ride characteristics. It can change your bike's cornering clearance, handling, wheel travel, and comfort. Your bike will not feel the same as before.

Adjustable Suspension Settings

Some advanced modern-day motorcycles feature adjustable suspension. You can easily adjust the suspension setting with only a button push. For instance, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure is one of the most technologically advanced adventure bikes with electronically adjustable suspensions. You can select a suspension setting on the screen, and the automated system will implement the change.

Some modern bikes have preload-adjustable suspension settings. You can use a wrench to change the setting to tune the bike's performance and height.

Replacing the Linkage Connected to the Rear Monoshock

In motorcycles with a single rear shock absorber, a linkage is attached to the mono-shock. It is also known as the “Dog Bone” because it looks like one. Replacing this linkage with a smaller one can considerably reduce the motorbike's height.

Reducing the bike's height using this method can also affect the spring rate and performance of the rear suspension. It can make the rear shock stiffer. If your bike has the adjustability feature, you can adjust this stiffness to make the rear mono-shock feel softer.

Installing Aftermarket Suspension

If you are opting to modify your suspension to lower the height of your bike, replacing the stock suspension is another option. You can install a shorter suspension to drop the bike. However, remember, that it will completely alter the riding experience.

Shortening the Suspensions

Another way to modify the suspension to lower your bike is to shorten your suspension. Your motorcycle’s front fork and the rear suspension can be shortened to lower the bike.

Whether installing aftermarket suspension or shortening the suspension, it will cost you more than replacing the linkage. It is entirely up to you and your preferences and what you want your motorcycle to be. Make sure to analyze whether lowering the bike is more beneficial to you than compromising the cornering clearance, handling, wheel travel, and comfort.

3.6 Best Footwear for Shorter Riders

Best Footwear for Shorter Riders
Photo Credit: Visor Down

Most vertically challenged motorcyclists are often seen wearing special motorcycle boots while riding. These motorcycle boots have thicker soles to provide shorter riders with some extra inches to reach the ground comfortably. However, it is essential to check that the extra sole doesn’t interfere with the safe operation of the bike. Motorcycle boots with thicker soles must not hinder your ability to engage the foot controls.

4. Takeaway

If you are a shorter rider looking for a motorcycle, you will have limited options. This is because most motorcycles (almost 80%) are designed with average-sized riders in mind. It is better to go for a small-displacement motorcycle or a cruiser, as they are quite suitable for vertically challenged riders.

On the other hand, if you are still adamant about riding your dream bike larger than your size, this article also covers the different ways the bike can be lowered. However, you must ensure that you are not compromising on safety. Modifications that are not natural and change the bike's geometry will also compromise its stability, handling, and balance.

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