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.
The Best Motorcycles For Short Riders
Best Affordable Pick
Best Commuter Pick
BMW F 900 R
Best Overall Pick
Triumph Bonneville Bobber
Best ADV Bike
Triumph Tiger 900 GT LRH
Yamaha Niken GT
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.
- Sports custom & retro-inspired cafe appearance
- Offers incredible bang-for-your-buck
- Super approachable 26” seat height
- Has USD fork & adjustable mono-shock
- Is both freeway & 2-up-friendly
- Low-quality components
- Lacks dealer & service network of larger marques
Best Affordable Pick: 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
BMW F 900 R
- Fantastic & affordable commuter bike
- Fitted w/ adjustable handlebars & seat (30” to 34”)
- Does 0-60 in 3.7 seconds
- Has adaptive LED headlight & connected TFT display
- Equipped w/ electronically-adjustable Dynamic ESA suspension
- Gear Shift Assist Pro feature allows for clutchless shifting
- ABS is non-switchable
- Uncomfortable stock seat
- Price quickly adds up when fitted w/ factory options & upgrades
Best Commuter Pick: 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
Triumph Bonneville Bobber
- Super popular retro-inspired factory bobber w/ host of modern tech & safety features
- Based on Triumph’s iconic Bonneville platform
- Has 10,000-mile service intervals
- Can be fitted w/ over 75 optional factory upgrades & accessories
- Loaded w/ tech including torque assist clutch, multiple ride modes, & ride-by-wire throttle w/ switchable traction control
- Not passenger-friendly
- Completely devoid of luggage/cargo space
- Stylish but uncomfortable seat
Best Overall Pick: 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″
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 1,200cc Parellel-Twin
Power: 76.9HP & 78.2FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 553LBS
Triumph Tiger 900 GT LRH
- Adjustable seat height is 2” lower than standard model
- Fitted w/ top-shelf Brembo Stylema brakes
- Has all-LED lighting & 7” TFT display
- Features electronically-adjustable Marzocchi suspension
- Boasts 6 rides modes, traction control, cornering ABS, & slew of other tech
- Expensive maintenance (compared to Japanese-made counterparts)
- LRH- variant not offered in Pro or Rally Pro trim levels
Best ADV Bike: As one may glean from the model variant, the Tiger 900 GT Low Ride Height (or LRH model) 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: 30.32”
Style: Adventure Bike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 888cc Inline-Three
Power: 93.9HP & 64.2FT-LBS
Dry Weight: 423.3LBS
Yamaha Niken GT
- Dual front-wheel configuration affords ample stability & confidence
- Doesn’t require rider to put foot down when slowing or stopping
- Super comfortable ergonomics
- Offers great performance in the wet/rain
- Powered by MT-09/XSR900’s proven CP3 inline-three engine
- Expensive price
- No longer sold in U.S. market (though still available used)
- Additional front fork adds extra weight
Best Tourer: 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”
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 847cc Inline-Three
Power: 115HP & 64.5FT-LBS
Curb Weight: 580LBS
The 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.