Finding the Right Type of Motorcycle
Can I Make the Motorcycle Fit Me?
How many times 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? There are a lot of reasons why a motorcycle may not feel like it’s meant for you. Motorcycle riding is all about comfort and feel, and lacking those key components can be unsettling. In order to get the most out of your motorcycling experience, you need to have a motorcycle that fits your height and size.
One of the best ways 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 for the weight distribution from side to side and the overall feel of the motorcycle. An additional check can be made for the 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, and you can check them against your inseam to identify a rough estimate of whether it will fit you while standing. We found a nifty motorcycle ergonomic simulator that you can try out before you head to the dealership. You simply 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.
Motorcycling is about balance. Being on the tip of your toes while standing offers little balance, and trying to stop and hold a motorcycle up on your toes is dangerous. Never buy a motorcycle that you can’t sit with both feet flat on the ground. Riding when you can’t reach the controls is another dangerous indicator that it’s ill-fitting. Stretching too far to reach the hand or foot controls, not sitting comfortably on a motorcycle, or just feeling awkward is a definite sign it’s not meant for you. If you have a question on how you should sit, check out this article on motorcycle ergonomics.
Everyone has their own perfect motorcycle in mind. Fast, comfortable, able to go everywhere and do everything. The question of what fits sometimes can enter in that perfection. To give you an idea about the five main categories, we’ve broken them down a bit to give you enough information to have an opinion on what will work best for you:
- Cruisers typically have quite low seat heights. It is often said that you sit in, rather than on, a cruiser. This makes them a very popular option with new riders, and they come in various designs, from basic to intricate ones.
- Sport bikes are the 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 the choices available. They can vary slightly from brand to brand, and they are typically mixed with Sport Touring designs that offer less creature comforts and replace it 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 on the dirt, so if you want the one style that you could ride anywhere year-round, the dual-sport may just be what you’re after. The seat height tends to be a little taller because of the off-road clearance, so be sure to sit on it before making your purchase.
A couple things to note about generalizing the styling as it relates to fitment:
- Engine size doesn’t always equate to 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 be a guide of what you need to look for. If you plan to just 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 to also guide you on the choice. If you’re new to motorcycling, be sure to decide on a motorcycle that fits you need 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.
Sometimes we get locked into a motorcycle in our mind and we just can’t say no. I understand that. 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 also have rather narrow seats; so it can be surprisingly easy to reach the ground on an off-road bike. If you are just 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 simply 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 distance to the controls, and in a lot of cases, it can actually increase comfort too.
You might think of yourself as Goldilocks if you spend a day at the dealership sitting on motorcycle after motorcycle 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, 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 perfect, 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. As always, be safe out there!