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Top 10 Adventure Motorcycles for Shorter Riders

 Find an Adventure Bike that will let you put both feet on the ground

Published on 01.20.2014

Trying to find an Adventure Motorcycle with a reasonable seat height can be a frustrating experience. Adventure Bikes are some of the tallest motorcycles in existence. Their long-travel suspension smooths out the bumps off-road, but it also gives them a tall seat that makes it hard to touch both feet on the ground.

Some Adventure Bikes are too tall to ride even for people of average height. For example, the KTM 640 Adventure and Honda XR650L both have a seat height of 37.0 inches (940 mm) making them difficult to ride by anyone under 6 feet tall (1.83 meters).

Seat height is not the only problem. Some bikes like the Yamaha Super Ténéré or BMW R1200GS may not be too tall, but stabilizing a motorcycle that weighs over 500 lbs can be unsettling if you are of smaller stature.

These days more and more women are becoming adventure bike riders. If you are an average height woman or even an average height man with relatively short legs, your Adventure Bike options are limited. The best adventure motorcycles for short riders will be light weight and have a low seat height. You also want a seat that is not too wide. A wide seat can increase the angle of the legs and the distance to the ground. A lighter weight bike will make it much easier for you to control the bike and pick up if you fall.

Are you a smaller rider? We have compiled a list of 10 adventure motorcycles for short riders that might work for you. Bikes have been chosen that can be ridden by someone in the 5’3″ to 5’7″ (1.6-1.7 meters) height range. Your comfort level with each bike may vary based on your riding skill and physical strength. If these bikes are still too tall, you may need to look into suspension modifications or aftermarket seats to get the bike down even lower.

Each motorcycle in the countdown has a progressively lower seat height, so you can work your way up or down the list. We recommend you give these bikes a test ride and see if they allow you to get both feet comfortably on the ground.

Author: Rob Dabney

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19 thoughts on “Top 10 Adventure Motorcycles for Shorter Riders

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Adventure Motorcycles for Shorter Riders | Cheryl & Leslie's Motorcycle Adventures

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Adventure Motorcycles for Shorter Riders...

  3. Pingback: Choosing the Best Adventure Motorcycle for New ADV Riders » ADV Pulse

  4. Pingback: Top 10 Adventure Bikes for New Adventure Riders » ADV Pulse

  5. Good list. I’d recommend moving #10 to be combined with #9. The G650GS single cylinder was/is the replacement for the old F650GS single cylinder. I call those two the same bike for the purposes of this list. The new #10, with the shortest seat height on this list should be the twin cylinder BMW F700GS (formerly the F650GS from 2009 – 2012, but not to be confused with the other F650GS from earlier years, which was a single cylinder), got it?!

    The F700GS is available down to 30.1″ seat height with optional low seat and optional low suspension. If you’re considering the G650GS, you should look at the added highway-worthiness of its twin cylinder sibling. More money, yes. But, a heck of a lot more bike. And only about 20 lb more weight.

    • The cheapest way would be to try dropping the fork tubes in the triple clamps. Then crank down the preload on the rear shock to lower the rear. This might get you an extra inch. Otherwise, you may be able to get lowering links for the rear shock or give the suspension to a shop that can lower it for your. The LC4 is a really tall bike, so it may ruin the suspension if you get it down too low.

  6. There are 2 bikes on here that I would consider appropriate for shorter inseam (mine is 30″). The BMW 650′s. The rest of them are 32″ and higher. Also, I have ridden the Suzuki V-Strom. It is top heavy and was a disaster for a short rider such as myself.

  7. I’m 5’8 with a 29″ inseam and I love my DR650, V-Strom and Kawi KLX250S. I’ve had to lower all three of them, but they work fine now. The DR lacks ground clearance due to being lowered, and the V-Strom REALLY lacks ground clearance to the point that I only take it on gravel roads. The Kawi, however, still has over 10″ even after lowering it so it does quite well.

    I like the older BMW 650 singles; a friend has a 2007 Dakar and it’s quite nice. I can ride it just fine at stock height. Only downside is it’s about 60 lbs heavier than my DR650.

  8. You came really close, but did not get my wife’s bike. She tried 22 different ADV style bikes before we found the BMW F700GS, factory lowered, in Red that suits her just fine. Thanks for this list, which we very much hope will help others in the same boat.

  9. As others have mentioned, it is possible to lower a bike by getting different links for the rear suspension (and then adjusting the forks in the triple clamps to “even it out”). However it is a compromise. I did this with my 650 VStrom to gain an extra 15mm. Whilst it means I am not on tippy-toes any more (I am 5″4), it means I have lost some cornering clearance.

    With so many “serious” female riders these days, and a lot of shorter males as well, why don’t bike manufacturers put more thought into this????? Being told to buy a cruiser or a sports bikes is just not a good option in Australia.

  10. This list was basically junk and misleading to anyone that is in need of advice! What bike can not ride on “graded dirt roads”? Obviously ground clearance is an issue, but even a low riding cruiser can ride on a GRADED dirt road. Big deal! Now get some ruts and soft spots and puddles and the places you pad along with your feet and the places where you are a long way from fuel and the places littered with rocks liable to punch thru your engine or crack your cast wheels or crush your low mounted exhaust pipes and you can cut that list in half.
    Is a 250cc trial bike like the Sherpa an adventure bike? In really rough conditions I sure would rather that than some behemoth I can not pull out of a ditch, but when the speed can pick up it would be limited and less comfortable, but it would get you there. I often wonder if the recent interest in adventure bikes, especially big ones has resulted in derelict bikes being abandoned deep off road.
    The issue of seat height is confusing I am sure to a newer rider. In general better riders will keep their speed up at a more steady and higher pace, they will not need to put their feet down often and they will use more suspension travel because they are going faster and hitting the bumps harder so long suspension is more valuable than a low seat height. A less experienced rider will be moving slower ,dabbing the ground if not actually stopping more and will want to reach the ground easily for confidence. Part of the image of adventure riding includes carrying a lot of stuff which at the very least raises the CG of the whole package making things a little more tippy-one must think carefully about how much to carry as well as how to pack it, I would suggest low soft luggage like Giant Loop makes.
    The bike’s weight is at least as relevant as seat height, to the new rider I would generalize that this is why most dirt bikes have single cylinder engines. The second or more cylinders in an adventure bike always brings a weight penalty to be compared to the speed/ power/load capacity benefits. Tend to disbelieve manufacturers or dealers that suggest you need or even should have ever larger engines and crazy horsepower. Offroad that is just more weight!
    Concrete parking lot barrier stops are all over, I would suggest as a basic test, can you ride your “adventure bike” over one of those? It really does not matter how you do it or what speed works for you. If not, for whatever reason stay out of the boonies, at least on that bike

    • @Stephen…huh? hold off on the coffee a bit bro….

      Great list guys! Was a very helpful guide for finding my wife an ADV bike that fits her. After trying out many bikes the F650gs finally put a smile on her face so we just got the newer version (F700gs). She couldn’t be happier. Thanks again for the recommendations.

      • Alex, How was I wrong? Several of those bikes are just not offroad bikes and just do not belong offroad. Your bmw is fine, certainly I did not say every ride on the list was bad-did I offend you? My comments regarding weight being as/more relevant than seat height to a shorter rider were are not wrong and were especially meant to help newer riders, if a person is well experienced they get this. Seat height is very easy to measure but does not mean that much. Consider the ride over a barrier self test I suggested. When one wheel of ANY of these bikes is lifted up 8 inches or so going over the barrier the rider is not going to be able to dab a foot down. Many would stand on the pegs for better balance control, for others staying seated would feel fine at a slow speed. Riding up and down various curbs is similar. Is this not a reasonable skill test to master and if you own a bike that is so low the engine bottom is bottoming out during this do you think you want to be on it in rough conditions? 21 and 19 inch front wheels are best for offroad. The 17 inch rims that work so very well on virtually all modern sporty street bikes are truly awful in soft conditions being pulled side to side with little straightline stability. They are associated with a chassis that is close to the ground and they more easily roll into instead of over holes,etc. Cast wheels on street bikes easily bend and can even crack hitting rocks offroad ( remember you often lower the air pressure compared to what is used on the street) Bent, the tubeless tire is likely to lose air. Bikes best for offroad have spoked wheels for a couple reasons. The rim itself is made of extruded, not cast, aluminum. It can bend and be hammered back with little chance of cracking. Bent castings often crack! Inside there usually is a tube that holds the air even if the rim is slightly bent away from the tire bead. This list includes some with 17″ cast front wheels and as the writer says are ok on graded dirt ROADS. An adventure bike should be able to cover trails, single track and in general not need graded roads. To go the other way, lots of areas have graded dirt roads that are traversed on by any and all types of cars and bikes .
        My original complaint was that this writer included as adventure bikes some models that simply are not. To expand on that some manufacturers also are guilty of claiming a particular model is an “adventure bike” when it’s really better kept on paved roads for reasons of weight, wheel size, ground clearance, vulnerability to damage, etc. The Ducati Multistrada comes to mind here.

        • Where did I say I was offended? I simply disagree with your blanket statement “This list is junk”. Those bikes are considered Adventure Bikes by the industry like it or not. And the author is pretty clear about the limitations of each bike. If you have your own personal “rule” of what an Adventure Bike is that is great but you should target all your energy on the industry itself then.

          • The industry does NOT suggest an NC 700, CB 500 or Versys to be “Adventure bikes”, but this writer did. The 800 Triumph is a lot of weight to manage for anyone, I tend to imagine a shorter rider as also less strong. My bad.
            Several comments refer to lowering various light bikes and that is a great idea but not included by the author. I might suggest a Husky Terra or an old BMW R 80GS if you can find one or stripping down an old BMW airhead in general to build your own/ that is in essence what BMW did.
            A rider new to this genre is in serious danger of believing the hype and thinking both that he needs some monsterous cycle to go adventuring and that if the dealer calls it an adventure bike it therefore is one. The Ducati Multistrada I mentioned because with its small wheels, low clearance, emphasis on hp and vulnerable construction it would be best kept on roads, preferably paved ones. I suspect the new Ducati Scrambler might be better outfitted for actual offroad duty than the Multistrada. The 75 hp aircooled engine, minimal bodywork, low seat and wire wheels are a better start than The Multi with twice the hp, complexity and cost. At the low end of both height and price small singles like the 250 Yamaha and Kawasaki Sherpa are a lot more capable offroad than some might think and I am glad to see they were included on this list.
            If you ride much offroad you will fall down, consider that a given. Keep in mind, “Can you pick it up afterwards and will it be rideable ?” No one wants the adventure to end because of the inevitable drop!

    • Alex, I did not know Honda called these Adventure bikes. In Europe they also call the “610 lb vf 1200 crosstour” an adventure bike! I guess “adventure bike” sounds more exciting and sells better than “standard bike” or “basic bike”. To really bastardize the bard, “you can call a pig a rose, but it still is a Pig!” I feel confident in guessing the Honda most used as an adventure bike here is their 650 single. Europe had the “Afrika twin” but not us in the US. This does not elevate my opinion of the article, it just tells me the writer is very gullible and is getting paid to share his limited knowledge. Ask your BMW dealer if they, in the industry ,would consider those rides to be Adventure Bikes. And then ask anyone with offroad riding experience about weight on an offroad bike.
      Harley virtually invented the “Cruiser” genre. Today most companies have mimicked the style with some model. But go into a Ducati dealer and ask for a cruiser-they will offer the Diablo. Tell me how is that a cruiser outside of the Ducati brochure.Can we agree that cruisers have especially low seats, forward mounted controls, lots of metal and chrome and generally moderate performance at best. The Ducati seat is not low, the pegs are not forward. there is a lot of plastic but not chrome and the performance is pretty high.
      But the dealer calls it a cruiser- do you believe him? It may be the closest thing to a cruiser he has and he does want your cash!
      The magazines are a little better at categorizing models but they too get steered sometimes by their advertisers.
      Lest it be thought I am just voicing nonsense I know little of, I have been riding for 46 yrs now and recently counted up over 90 bikes I’ve owned. Currently I am fortunate to own 2 “adventure bikes”. In 2005 I bought the quintessential model, the KTM 950. I really like it for all sorts of mixed riding and touring. Then I heard of the Trans America Trail. Realizing the 950 Adv at around 450 lbs bare was more than i would care to wrestle with in serious offroad conditions, I got a 690 Enduro KTM , about 140 lbs less weight but a higher seat. I lowered it 2 ways to help my 30″ inseam, first swapping out the suspension (forks and rear shock) for the shorter 2008 model units. Then I slid the forks up thru the clamps almost an inch and installed the Kayaba link to drop the rear. For luggage my Giant Loop horseshoe bag is lighter than any kind of hard bags. Of course this is not a great highway ride but it’s capable. and I have already verified how comfortable I feel in very rough going. Deep offroad nothing beats less weight!

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