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Motorcycle Modifications For A Shorter Rider

Chaparral Motorsports
|
March 9, 2020

If you are on the shorter side, this circumstance can certainly affect your riding experience. However, it also does not mean you necessarily have to limit your options to shorter bikes. Sometimes, a bigger bike really is perfect for you on all other fronts. Typically, most people shorter than 5.5 feet will have trouble with even a standard bike, as seat heights tend to start at 31 inches. This can vary depending on the length of your legs. Although it is not strictly necessary to be able to put both feet on the ground, you should be able to comfortably use one foot. You should also be able to reach everything you need to operate your bike safely and easily.

While you cannot make yourself taller, there are some ways to modify a larger bike to create a safe and comfortable ride for you. Most of these methods are fairly simple and do not typically cost a lot.

New Motorcycle Boots

Though you just read that you cannot make yourself taller, that is not actually completely true. If all you're missing for a perfect fit on your bike is an inch or two, thick-soled motorcycle boots can do the trick. If it works for you, this option is the most cost-effective and easiest modification you can make. Test your boots to make sure you can reach well enough to shift and use your pegs. Make sure they are proper motorcycle boots that let you feel and operate the brake and the clutch. Do not use high heels for this purpose. You need a shoe with a thick platform all around, covered toes and ankle support.

Change Out Your Motorcycle Seat

Another fairly simple way to get your bike to accommodate your height is changing your motorcycle seat. A shorter, thinner seat brings you closer to the ground and within reach of everything you need. This is another good way to bridge the difference of a couple of inches.

You can buy and install a new seat, or have your current seat modified to be thinner by taking off the cover and removing some of the foam. There are also companies that can professionally customize your seat to make it thinner without reducing comfort. This is done by replacing some of the foam with a gel or memory foam. If you own a dirt bike Seat Concepts offers a Low Seat Foam and Cover Kit that comes with everything you need to lower your seat height by 1 inch. It's also really easy to install on your stock seat.

Keep in mind that a seat's width and shape can be just as much of a factor here as its height. If you're relatively short, getting a narrower seat can make a substantial difference in improving your reach to the ground. If your motorcycle has forward controls a new lower seat or one that pushes you further forward on the bike can make it easier and more comfortable to reach the foot controls.

Adjusting Your Motorcycle Suspension

Another modifiable factor that affects your bike's height is its suspension. These days most motorcycles come with adjustable suspension that allows you to set the suspension for compression, rebound and preload. If you are too short for your bike, it was probably designed not just for a taller rider but also for a heavier one. Therefore, your motorcycle suspension may be too firm for you.
The first thing that you or whoever is working on your bike should do is to make sure the rider sag/loaded sag (the preload adjustment) is set according to your weight. 

Take a look at your owner's manual and you should find the standard (or baseline) settings and then begin to adjust accordingly based on your weight and/or preferences. Most motorcycles come with front and rear suspension that can be adjusted to suit your height/weight/riding style. Softening your suspension is a good way to adjust the bike both for your height and your weight. Not only will this modification improve your fit on the bike, it can also make for better performance. However, it is important to be careful not to lower it too much. Even if the bike won't bottom out, a suspension that goes too low can affect handling and cornering clearance.

You can also lower your bike's height by replacing the rear shock(s) or accompanying components. In some cases this method can drop the rear of the bike by up to 1.5 inches. For dirt bikes you can look at lowering links Like the ones offered by Zeta.

For street bikes and cruisers you can look at replacement shocks or lowering kits. If you want to lower your rear suspension, it is important to be sure to do so correctly. Making a mistake when performing this modification can negatively affect how your bike will handle. In general, lower links will change the balance of your bike and decrease its clearance on turns. You may also need to get a new kickstand as well. Generally, this method is safest for riders who do not plan on aggressive speeds and turns.

If you opt to install lowering links or shorter shocks yourself, it is vital to make sure that you lower the front and rear height by the same amount. Lowering the front reduces the space between the wheel and the radiator, as well as between the fender and the lower triple clamp. You need to make sure that these components will not be coming into contact with one another when the suspension is compressed. Because this process needs a solid knowledge of bike mechanics, many riders turn to a professional to handle it.

Reposition Or Change Your Hand Controls

Cruiser with beach bars

In addition to modifying your seated height, you need to make sure you can reach all the controls. If you have shorter arms and find that you are really stretching to turn the handlebars all the way left or right you should see of the handlebars can be adjusted or rotated back so that you can comfortably reach them. If you can't adjust the handlebar or that can't be adjusted enough then you should look into either installing new handlebars that pull back closer to your body or installing handlebar risers that have some pull back to them so that the bars ends will sit closer to you.

Turning that dial will move the front brake lever closer to or further away from the handlebar.

Some bikes have adjustable levers that you can move so that they are closer to the handlebar. Another option is to purchase aftermarket levers that offer the ability to adjust their position so that you can comfortably operate the controls. This is a good solution for people who have smaller hands and have trouble properly covering the hand controls.

Chaparral Motorsports offers wide selection of OEM and aftermarket parts to customize and upgrade your bike. Visit us online or call 1-800-841-2960 to speak with one of our expert representatives.

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