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The Best Motorcycles for Short People

Updated on September 13, 2010

Best Motorcycles for Shorter Riders

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Kawasaki Ninja 250RH-D Sportster 883 IronHyosung GT250RKymco Quannon 150
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
H-D Sportster 883 Iron
H-D Sportster 883 Iron
Hyosung GT250R
Hyosung GT250R
Kymco Quannon 150
Kymco Quannon 150

Motorcycles for Short Riders

For those of us who are "vertically-challenged," the spectrum of motorcycles we can comfortably ride definitely seems narrowed. I am 5'6" tall, for instance, and though I ride a 600cc sportbike -- not a machine you would think of as tall by any means -- I have had to shave down the seat cushioning to effectively narrow the bike enough so that I can touch both feet to the ground (and still I cannot flat-foot the bike). Which bike you choose also depends on what kind of riding you do, your budget, and your preferences. That said, there are definitely specific models which are better motorcycles for short people like me (and presumably you or your loved one, if you are reading this). We'll get into the specifics soon; for now, let's also look at a couple of underlooked considerations.

Motorcycle Length and Width - Not Just Seat Height

Before I got my first bike, I looked through a Motorcyclist Buyer's Guide to see which bikes had shorter seat heights, as this was one of the listed dimensions. However, seat heights can be misleading, as the width of the bike is also an important consideration. In my case, my GSXR600 seat height is about equal to my inseam. However, the bike is quite wide. Length is also an underestimated consideration. If you sit on a bike and cannot turn the bars from lock to lock without contorting your body, then the bike is too long. Before you choose a bike, make sure to have a professional or highly experienced rider analyze whether the bike fits you or not.

A Word about Lowering Kits

There is some debate about whether lowering kits are a good idea. Many experts do not recommend lowering kits because they alter the geometry of your bike in significant ways -- ways that differ from those carefully designed by engineers and tested in a multitude of ways. This is especially true if you do any spirited or sport-riding. Typically, you want to find a bike that fits you from the get-go; not a bike you have to modify to fit.

A Word About The Best Motorcycles for Short People

We have divided our list of the best motorcycles for short people into categories depending on the type of bike/riding you want to be doing. The bikes we have listed are decidedly novice-slanted, because:

  1. Many experienced riders are comfortable managing a taller bike
  2. If you already have a lot of riding experience, you probably already have a pretty good idea which bikes will fit you best

The Best Motorcycles for Short Women

We have not taken care to divide out which motorcycles are best for shorter women versus men. Largely, what works for males should work for females of the same stature, and vice versa.

Best Sport Bikes for Short People

Many people will tell you that bikes in the 600cc class are suitable for short riders. However, these bikes are definitely not suitable for beginners, and they also tend to be fairly wide, effectively raising the seat height to some extent. Let's look at some other options:

  • Kawasaki Ninja 250R:  this bike is often recommended as a great bike for novice riders, and a recent 2008 redesign updated the bike both inside and out. Curb appeal has been greatly increased, and fuel economy is superb from the 249cc parallel twin. Seat height is 30.5 inches, and weight is 375lb. Price: $4299
  • Kawasaki Ninja 500R: this next step up in the Ninja line has the same seat height as its younger sibling, 30.5 inches, while offers twice the displacement. This bike has enjoyed great success in everything from commuting to roadracing to sport-touring, but admittedly, it is now looking quite dated. It weighs nearly 60 more pounds than the 250R, and costs $5499
  • Hyosung GT250 and GT250R:  South Korean manufacturer Hyosung offers two entry-level 250cc streetbikes with 30.0 inch seat heights. The air-cooled V-twin engine in both bikes makes 27 hp, and both bikes offer an inverted fork and dual disc brakes. The regular GT250, a standard or "naked" bike, retails for $3500, while the full-fairing GT250R goes for $3800.
  • Kymco Quannon 150:  Kymco is a Taiwanese company which is best know for producing a wide spectrum of scooters. The lightweight (299lb) Quannon 150 is their first step into the streetbike market. The bike looks strikingly like a CBR600, and the 149cc SOHC air-cooled single is good for over 70 mpg! Seat height is 31.5 inches, but the bike is reportedly quite narrow. MSRP is only $2999, but this bike is still rather new and reviews of reliability are still quite slim.

Best Cruisers for Short Riders

Generally, cruisers are much lower than sport bikes, and therefore may seem like a better option for short people. However, remember that many cruisers are significantly heavier, and may be more difficult to "horse around" in parking lots, traffic, and at low speed.

  • Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low/Iron: These bikes offer seat heights of only 26.3" but weigh 565+ pounds. They are the most affordable step into the H-D world; however, they do cost $7000 to $8000 - more than twice the cost of many other options. There is also a "Low" version of the 1200cc Sportster, which is 28.0" tall.
  • Honda Rebel:  this 234cc parallel-twin bike is a staple at rider training facilities across the nation. Seat height is an uber-low 26.6 inches, and the bike weighs only a little more than 300lb. That said, it's not much of a "looker," and not quite as high in "cool" factor as many of the other bikes on the list. Price is $3999
  • Hyosung GV250:  this cruiser from the South Korean manufacturer has a 27.9" seat height and weighs 388 lb. The v-twin is about 250cc, as the name of the bike implies, and MSRP is about $3900. As with Hyosung's sportbike lineup, this 250 model is accompanied by a 650cc version, the GV650. This bike actually has an even lower seat height than the GV250, 26.5", but weighs about 100lb more and costs a whole lot more: $6699 and up.
  • Kawasaki Eliminator 125:  this is one of the smallest cruisers you can buy. It costs less than $3k new ($2799), and has a seat height of just 26.8". Power is low with only 125cc of displacement, but Kawasaki claims 95 mpg. This is a true beginner's bike in every way.
  • Kawasaki Vulcan Line:  Vulcan is Kawasaki's line of V-twin cruisers, and optional displacements range from 500 to 2000 cc. Seat height is rarely more than 28", though some of these bikes are very hefty (nearly 1000lb for the Vulcan 2000 Classic) and quite wide. Price for the Vulcan 500 LTD is $5500, while the top of the line bikes are nearly triple that. Novices may be more comfortable on the 500 LTD, while those with moderate experience may opt for one of the 900 editions such as the Classic LT or Custom.
  • Yamaha V Star Line:  Much like Kawasaki's Vulcan lineup, Yamaha's V Stars offer a very wide range of cruisers in terms of displacement, weight, features, and price. The V Star 250 has a 27.0" seat height, weighs only 324lb, and costs less than $4K. Riders with more experience, money, and need for power can opt for engines of much greater size and power. Not all of these are suitable for beginners, but most have relatively low seat heights.

Short Riders' Poll

Can you touch both feet flat-footed while you sit on your motorcycle?

See results


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