The 10 Best Motorcycles For Short Riders

Jun 3, 2021

Category: Rides

Motorcycles are engineered for specific purposes and riding applications and aren’t typically developed around the intended rider’s height, with the vast majority of manufacturers opting for a one-size-fits-all approach. And while it is true that entry-level and small-displacement models tend to be smaller in stature, there is no one single genre of motorcycle that we’d describe as “ideal for vertically challenged pilots” — though cruiser models do tend to have the lowest seat heights across the board.

Amidst the sea of available production models, however, there are a select few motorcycles that are particularly well-suited for accommodating shorter riders thanks to low-placed seats, a compact rider’s triangle, and more often than not, a low center of gravity. And it’s this group of bikes that we’ll be highlighting today in this guide to the best motorcycles for shorter riders where, in addition to our picks for the ten greatest options on the market, we’ll also be delving into what features make a scoot more conducive to shorter pilots and what elements one should take into account when shopping.

Getting A Foot Down

The Traits That Make Motorcycles Ideal For Shorter Riders

A motorcycle’s ergonomics and seat height admittedly play pivotal roles in determining whether or not a particular bike does a good job of lending itself to riders on the shorter side, though there are a few supplementary areas that are more than worth your time to explore before landing on your final purchase.

Motorcycle Type: While it will often vary from model to model, certain types of motorcycles tend to make for much better choices for shorter riders. Low-slung cruiser bikes are often ideal, as they boast low seat heights and low centers of gravity, though their ergonomics are often well-spaced out and big-bore models tend to be extremely heavy which can make maneuvering at low speeds challenging. Generally speaking, sportbikes tend to be a poor choice as they possess incredibly high seat heights, as do adventure bike and dual-sport models to an even greater extent on account of their long-travel suspension and high ground clearance. So, while genre can be a great jumping-off point, it’s worth exploring the specifics of each specific model as there are numerous outliers from each segment in the two-wheeled realm.

Seat Height: A motorcycle’s seat height (i.e. how far the saddle is from the ground) is arguably the important figure to review for shorter riders when shopping for bikes, as the seat height will ultimately determine if the rider’s leg (or inseam) will be long enough to comfortably place a foot on the ground when stopped. While discussing seat heights, it’s crucial to note that quite a few modern-day motos come equipped with adjustable seat heights or low-height seats that shave a few inches of the standard seat’s height.

Riding Position: The riding position (or “rider’s triangle) of a motorcycle is comprised of the bike’s seat, foot-controls, and handlebar and is another hugely important area for shorter riders to factor in when shopping for a bike. Higher, more pulled/swept-back handlebars will be easier for shorter riders to reach while the foot-controls will also play a determining role in a motorcycle’s overall comfort and conduciveness to shorter riders, whether commuting locally or long-distance touring.

Suspension: The ride height of any given motorcycle largely boils down to its suspension and its respective length and travel. Off-road-focused machines tend to come outfitted with much taller suspension setups, though there are models with adjustable suspension setups and ride heights, and even some models offered with factory lowering kits.

Aftermarket Options: In addition to the slew of optional low-height seats and ride height lowering kits available straight from the factory, there’s also an even bigger assortment of aftermarket upgrades and offerings catering to shorter riders. This includes tuning shops that can re-valve (and re-spring) suspension setups to be lower, as well as aftermarket seats made specifically for shorter riders.

CSC SG250

At less than $2,500, the California Scooter Company’s San Gabriel (or “SG”) 250 is a great entry-level option for riders interested in a contemporary cafe racer, though, with a sub-275lb (dry) weight and an ultra-low 26” seat height, the Chinese-engined standard is also a fantastic choice for shorter riders. Offered in numerous livery options including a blacked-out variant, the SG250 also features an inverted front-end, adjustable rear shocks, LED lighting throughout, blacked-out reverse cone mufflers, a humped cafe seat, and a knee-dented tank that allows for some surprisingly spirited riding in the corners. Despite the incredibly diminutive nature of the bike, the SG250 is also capable of freeway speeds, plus comes equipped with a robust instrumentation setup complete with a gear position indicator and a fuel-gauge — amenities that are very seldom present on budget-minded offerings.

Seat Height: 26”
Style: Cafe Racer
Engine: Air-Cooled 229.5cc Single-Cylinder
Power: 16.1HP & 13.5FT-LBS
Dry Weight: 273LBS

Purchase: $2,395

Sinnis T125

A pint-sized adventure bike capable of taking on a wide array of uses, the Sinnis T125 boasts pretty much all the features one would expect on a full-size ADV mount, albeit in a much more affordable, roughly $4,000 package. This includes a full suite of LED lighting, a liquid-cooled, Delphi fuel-injected powertrain with a high-mounted exhaust and a grilled radiator, a full set of crash bars, a skid plate, USB charging ports, and a set of aluminum panniers with a top case that afford a collective 66.5 liters of storage space — all as standard fare. Like the SG250, the T125 is also freeway-capable, and as such is good for practically any riding application imaginable save for track-use. With its generous host of stock goodies and relatively low 30.7” seat height, the quarter-liter Sinnis is a great motorcycle for any new biker interested in dipping their toes into the world of adventure riding, short, tall, or anywhere in between.

Seat Height: 30.7”
Style: Adventure Bike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 124.2cc Single-Cylinder
Power: 12.7HP & 7.75FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 357LBS

Purchase: $4,075

Kawasaki Vulcan S

If ever there was something of a perfect motorcycle for shorter riders, it’s the Kawasaki Vulcan S. Powered by the same tried-and-true powertrain found in the popular Ninja 650, this nimble cruiser motorcycle is built around a sportbike-derived chassis that feature’s Team Green’s ERGO-FIT system that allows the rider’s triangle to be adjusted to any of the 18 available settings in order to accommodate a wide range of different sized pilots. This svelte sub-500lb cruiser was also engineered and tuned with a focus on low and mid-range power which admittedly sacrifices top-end oomph, though allows for much more tractable power and torque in the majority of real-world riding situations. Kawasaki also sells the Vulcan S in both ABS-equipped and non-ABS-equipped versions, as well as a lightly dressed-up Cafe-spec.

Seat Height: 27.8”
Style: Cruiser
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 689cc Parallel-Twin
Power: 60.4HP & 46.5FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 498.3LBS

Purchase: $7,199

BMW F 900 R

BMW’s F 900 R is a recently-released roadster that, despite being a full-sized 900cc sport-naked model, is still plenty conducive to use by shorter riders. This is primarily owed to the roadster’s seat, which in stock form can be adjusted to anywhere from 34” all the way down to 30”. Even though boasts a sub-$10,000 MSRP, the F 900 R still comes with a wide array of thoroughly premium components and features including adaptive LED headlights, electronically adjustable Dynamic suspension, a top-of-the-line Bluetooth-connected 6.5” TFT display, the German brand’s Gear Shift Assist Pro feature which allows riders to change gears without using the clutch, and a robust suite of rider aids including BMW’s ABS Pro, Dynamic Traction Control, and Engine Braking Control. The Bavarian naked also sports a decidedly sleek, aggressive, and attack-ready appearance that’s further emphasized by its sharp radiator shrouds and removable tail cowl.

Seat Height: 30”
Style: Naked / Roadster
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 895cc Parellel-Twin
Power: 99HP & 67FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 465LBS

Purchase: $8,995

Triumph Street Twin

Triumph’s Street Twin is another stellar full-sized motorcycle that can be comfortably ridden by shorter riders. The Street Twin does lack some of the power and more performance-focused hardware found on models like the Thruxton, though it no doubt retains the iconic appearance of a classic Triumph. The Street Twin is also a terrific choice for riders that are looking for a passenger-friendly motorcycle, as the bench-style saddle on this British parallel-twin offers one of the best pillions on a standard motorcycle. What’s more, this model also represents an incredibly popular choice for riders interested in modifying or customizing their bike, as there’s an enormous amount of bolt-on aftermarket parts for the Street Twin — and the rest of the expansive Bonneville lineup.

Seat Height: 29.9”
Style: Retro Standard
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 900cc Parellel-Twin
Power: 64.1HP & 59FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 476LBS

Purchase: $9,400

BMW F 750 GS

Widely recognized as the first modern adventure motorcycle, BMW’s original R80 GS was an incredibly influential motorcycle that has spawned an enormous slew of successors, including most recently with the mid-sized F 750 GS. Like the F 900 R, the 750 GS comes with an adjustable seat that can go as low as 30.3” — a figure that’s pretty unheard of on adventure bikes — as well as the roadster’s TFT display, a suite of rider aids, and electronically adjustable suspension setup. The GS, however, also gains adjustable hand levers, dash-located USB ports, and additional riding modes including Enduro and Dynamic, as well as an optional Low Suspension spec. With a top speed of nearly 120mph and a four-gallon tank affording a nearly 230-mile range, the GS is also perfect for eating up miles on road trips and long-distance rides — as the GS moniker would suggest, being German for “Gelände and Straße” meaning “Terrain and Road.”

Seat Height: 30.3”
Style: Adventure Bike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 853cc Parellel-Twin
Power: 77HP & 61FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 493LBS

Purchase: $10,995

Triumph Bonneville Bobber

Taking its name from Utah’s land speed salt flat proving grounds and first introduced in 1959, the Triumph Bonneville is one of the most legendary motorcycles of all time, remaining in production to this very day in numerous forms. In 2016, the Hinckley firm introduced a Bobber version of the Bonnie, taking ample inspiration from the custom motorcycle scene and offering customers a bespoke-looking bobber that’s backed by a factory warranty and adheres to government safety standards. Responsible for numerous all-time sales records at Triumph, this Bonneville variant’s floating adjustable bobbed saddle and faux hardtail frame result in a seat height as low as 27.17”, making it an objectively stellar choice for shorter riders. Despite its retro appearance, the Bonnie Bobber actually comes with a host of tech including multiple ride modes, cruise control, Showa suspension, Brembo brakes, and all LED lighting.

Seat Height: 27.17″
Style: Bobber
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 1,200cc Parellel-Twin
Power: 76.9HP & 78.2FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 553LBS

Purchase: $13,150

Triumph Tiger 900 GT Low

As one may glean from the model variant, the Tiger 900 GT Low is a touring-focused adventure bike that’s specifically meant for shorter riders with a seat height that goes down to below 30”. Even with the reduced ride height, the Tiger 900 GT Low still possesses a commanding, upright riding position giving the rider plenty of leverage to control the 423lb machine as well as an ideal view of traffic when splitting lanes. The Tiger’s approximately $16,000 sticker price is admittedly a lot to pay for a mid-sized model, though it does come with some decidedly high-end componentry such as top-shelf Brembo Stylema brakes, a slipper clutch. and Marzocchi suspension. Other standard items worth mentioning include a 7” TFT display, a long-range 5.3-gallon tank, four ride modes including an off-road setting, heated grips, cruise control, all LED lighting with daytime running lights, and an electronics suite with adjustable traction control and cornering ABS.

Seat Height: 29.9”
Style: Adventure Bike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 888cc Inline-Three
Power: 93.9HP & 64.2FT-LBS
Dry Weight: 423.3LBS

Purchase: $16,020

Yamaha Niken GT

With a seat height of almost 33” and a wet weight just south of 600lbs, Yamaha’s Niken GT may at first seem an odd choice for a motorcycle for shorter riders, though the three-wheeled nature of the leaning trike means its pilot never has to worry about putting a foot down when coming to a stop. The Japanese motorcycle brand also claims the addition of a second front wheel — coupled with Yamaha’s “Leaning Multi-Wheel Chassis” — affords the Niken double the grip — and therefore double the confidence — of a regular sport-tourer. Powered by the immensely popular CP3 inline-three engine also found in Yamaha’s MT-09 and XSR-900, the Niken GT also looks profoundly different from pretty much every other bike on the road, though unlike traditional trikes like those from Can-Am, this one maintains the leaning nature of a single-track vehicle.

Seat Height: 32.9”
Style: Sport-Tourer
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 847cc Inline-Three
Power: 115HP & 64.5FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 580LBS

Purchase: $17,299

Zero SR/S

The first fully-faired model from Zero, the SR/S is an insanely fast fully-electric superbike with a short rider-friendly 31” seat height and a more practical upright riding position. The proprietary Zero Z-Force motor and battery pack setup allow the bodywork-adorned EV to reach a top speed of around 125mph, though it gets there incredibly fast, with a 0-60mph time of just under four seconds, placing it on par with the Porsche 911 Carrera. The bike’s lightning-fast off-the-line speeds are owed to the monstrous 140ft-lbs of torque that it produces instantaneously. As a point of reference, Ducati’s latest homologation special superbike in full race trim makes 83ft-lbs, so the SR/S’s 140 is pretty otherworldly for a machine on two-wheels. Unsurprisingly, this state-of-the-art electric motorcycle also comes brimming with cutting-edge technology with GPS tracking and connectivity to a smartphone app for real-time tuning or monitoring.

Seat Height: 31”
Style: Electric Superbike
Engine: PMAC Motor
Power: 110HP & 140FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 505LBS

Purchase: $19,995

The 12 Best Small Displacement Motorcycles

Still haven’t found the ride that speaks to you? Well, our guide to the best small-displacement motorcycles includes an additional dozen small-bore options that all make for stellar choices for more vertically challenged riding enthusiasts.

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