Finding the Right Type of Motorcycle
How to Choose a Motorcycle That Fits
How to Adjust Your Motorcycle For a Perfect Fit
Have you sat on a motorcycle, and it just didn’t feel right? Too high? Too low? Too wide and unable to reach the ground well? Does it seem to fit, but you don’t like the balance from side to side? Perhaps you’re just wondering what size motorcycle you need?
There are a lot of reasons why a motorcycle may not feel like it’s meant for you. Motorcycle riding is about comfort and feel, and lacking those key components can be unsettling. To get the most out of your motorcycling experience and ensure that your rides are as safe as they can be, you need to have a motorcycle that fits your height and size. This article will help you achieve that below.
Motorcycling is about balance. Here are some signs that you can use to help identify poor fit:
- Unable to sit with both feet flat on the ground
- Being on the tip of your toes while standing
- Unable to reach the controls
- Stretching excessively to reach the hand or foot controls
- Unable to sit comfortably on the motorcycle
It’s natural for a new rider to feel awkward when handling their first motorcycle. However, if you generally feel awkward while on your motorcycle, that’s reason enough to take a closer look at the ergonomics and see if changes can be made to accommodate you. If you have a question on how you should sit, check out this article on motorcycle ergonomics.
Everyone has their perfect motorcycle in mind, and the question of what fits is always associated with that perfection. So, to give you an idea about the different types of motorcycles, we’ve broken them down a bit to give you enough information to have an opinion on what style will work best for you. For even more information on different types of motorcycles, visit our Beginner’s Guide to Types of Motorcycles.
- Cruisers typically have pretty low seat heights. It’s often said that you sit in, rather than on, a cruiser which makes them a “comfortable” option with new riders. Cruisers come in various designs, from fundamental to intricate ones.
- Sportbikes are nimble athletes designed to be aerodynamic and allow high lean angles in the corners. This can mean shorter riders will be on the tip of their toes trying to reach the ground.
- Touring motorcycles are the comfortable La-Z-Boys of the motorcycle world. Designed to ride an extended period with all the comforts, they tend to be on the heavier end of available choices. They can vary slightly from brand to brand and are typically mixed with Sport Touring designs that offer fewer comforts and replace them with sports styling.
- Standard styling is a simple mix of function and visual appeal. They do everything on the streets well and aren’t designed with a particular focus. Standards come in a variety of engine sizes, and accommodating motorcycle sizes, so you should be able to find something that fits you well.
- Dual-Sport motorcycles can do it all. They can cruise across the country, on the highway, or the dirt, so if you want the one style that you could ride anywhere year-round, the dual-sport may be what you’re after. The seat height tends to be a little taller because of the off-road clearance, so be sure to consider that when sizing.
A couple of things to note about generalizing the styling as it relates to fitment:
- Engine size doesn’t always equate to the capability of the motorcycle. A 600cc engine on a Standard may have half the power of a 600cc engine on a Sport motorcycle. Be sure to define what you want the motorcycle for, and allow that to guide what you need to look for. If you plan to commute and ride a little on the weekends, it may not make sense to get something with a big engine if it’s not necessary.
- Allow your experience also to guide you on the choice. If you’re new to motorcycling, be sure to decide on a motorcycle that fits your needs and what you can handle. A Touring motorcycle may be more weight than you’re ready to handle, yet a small standard may not be enough if you’re a big person.
There are several ways to check whether the motorcycle you’re looking at is the right size for you. Try the following:
- Get the bike in front of you: Whether you’re buying used or from a dealer, the first step should be to actually sit on the motorcycle you’re looking at.
- Get a feel for the weight distribution: Lean from side to side, move forward and backward, and generally get a feel for how the motorcycle feels under you. If any of those motions feel unnatural or overly difficult, that’s a good sign that the motorcycle isn’t a good size for you.
- Check the distance from the seat to the controls: Make sure that you can easily reach the foot and hand controls from the seat. If you have to stretch or twist to do this, the motorcycle is not a good size for you. This is also a good time to check how easy it is to reach the ground.
If for some reason you aren’t able to test the motorcycle out in person, or if you’re just doing some casual online shopping, don’t worry! You can use the information available online along with your own measurements to size your bike.
- Use published seat height measurements: This information is always available on the manufacturer site when looking at the motorcycle, typically under the “specs” section, and is an excellent way to compare motorcycles of a particular type. The process is easy; you simply check the seat height against your inseam to identify a rough estimate of whether the motorcycle will fit you while standing.
- Using online tools: We found a nifty motorcycle ergonomic simulator that you can try out before you head to the dealership. You input your height and inseam and the potential bike you’re choosing to see if it’s a comfortable fit. It’ll give you a good head start on which models to try first.
Sometimes we get locked into a motorcycle in our mind, and we can’t say no. So if you’ve found the perfect motorcycle, but it doesn’t fit perfectly, here’s what we’d do to make it fit right:
- Adjust the suspension to fit you: Off-road, motocross, and dual-sport style bikes have some of the highest seat heights to accommodate more suspension travel. You might assume that they would be too tall for shorter riders. The softer suspension on these bikes means they sag more under the rider’s weight and have relatively narrow seats, so it can be surprisingly easy to reach the ground on an off-road bike. If you are riding around on the street, you may be able to replace the suspension or add a modified suspension system to lower or raise a motorcycle to fit your size.
- Replace the seat: One easy method to change the fit of a motorcycle is to change the seat. This 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 the distance to the controls. In a lot of cases, it can increase comfort too.
You might think of yourself as Goldilocks if you spend a day at the dealership sitting on bike after bike until you find the one that fits just right. We all have a reason why we want to ride. That may have a little input from styling or just the freedom of the open road. Whatever the case, whether buying new or shopping for a used model, be sure to try a lot of motorcycles until you find one that fits well enough. After all, motorcycles are an investment. If it doesn’t fit perfectly, there are ways to go from good enough to great. The options are out there, but be sure to check the safety and handling before you venture cross-country with new handling. All you need now is the proper gear and you’re ready to ride. As always, be safe out there!