Be sure to get a motorcycle that fits your height.
One of the most important decisions facing the beginning motorcyclist is what motorcycle to buy. With so many styles available, whether or not a bike is of a suitable height is an obvious concern.
By far the best way to pick a motorcycle to fit your height is to visit a motorcycle dealer and try several models for size. This will allow you to get a feel of the weight distribution of a motorcycle and distance from seat to foot and hand controls, as well as how easy it is to reach the ground. Published seat height measurements are a good way to compare motorcycles of a particular type. You can try out this nifty motorcycle ergonomics simulator, that allows you to input your height and inseam, and choosing a bike to see your fit.
One pitfall of using seat height is that different types of motorcycle have different seat shapes and widths, and those make a real difference in how easy it is to reach the ground. Off-road or motocross style bikes have some of the highest seat heights to accommodate more suspension travel, so one might assume that they would be too tall for shorter riders. However, the softer suspension on these bikes means they sag more under the rider’s weight, and also have rather narrow seats; so it can be surprisingly easy to reach the ground on an off-road bike.
Sport bikes, on the other hand, have fairly wide seat pads to accommodate wide engines, maintain an aerodynamic shape and have enough ground clearance to allow high lean angles during cornering. This can mean shorter riders will be on the tip of their toes trying to reach the ground.
Cruisers typically have quite low seat heights. It is often said that you sit in, rather than on, a cruiser. This makes them very popular with new riders, but some cruisers are also very heavy, so again it pays to actually sit on a motorcycle to see if it is suitable rather than relying on seat height measurements. It helps to keep an open mind as to what style of motorcycle you are looking for, but for those who have their heart set on a certain style, or even a certain make or model that is a little too high, there are still options available.
There are several ways to adjust the height of a motorcycle to make it fit. The easiest method is to simply change the seat, which works well for large touring bikes or cruisers, where standard seats can have a lot of padding. Swapping for an aftermarket seat with a different shape and less padding can make a significant difference to seat height and reach to the ground, as well as distance to the controls, and in a lot of cases, can actually increase comfort too. It is also possible to reduce seat height by lowering the motorcycle through the use of shorter shock absorbers or suspension linkage components. Some manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers offer kits specifically designed for this purpose. Having this sort of modification done can affect the handling of a motorcycle; test-riding one with a similar setup beforehand will make sure there are no unpleasant surprises in the handling department.