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ADV PreppingConsider These 5 Tips Before You Lower a Motorcycle

Consider These 5 Tips Before You Lower a Motorcycle

 How to lower a motorcycle to help you reach the ground.

Published on 03.09.2016

how to lower a motorcycle

It’s a common complaint: when sitting on your dual sport or adventure bike, your feet barely touch the ground. While being “vertically challenged” doesn’t impair veteran riders (they just slide their butts off the seat and stand on one leg at a stop), not being able to get both feet solidly on the ground can be intimidating for some.

We can’t make you taller. But we can describe the most common ways to lower a motorcycle. Each has exactly one advantage — a lower seat height — and some shortcomings (pun intended), which we detail below.


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1. Raise Fork Tubes in the Triple Clamps

In the front of your bike, there are two metal pieces called triple clamps (upper and lower) that clamp the fork tubes in place. The triple clamps pivot on the steering stem, allowing the bars to turn.

Notice that on most bikes, as they come from the factory, the fork tubes stick out through the top slightly. Loosening the pinch bolts on both upper and lower triple clamps allows you to slide the fork tubes up (or the triple clamps down, it’s all relative), which effectively lowers the front-end of your motorcycle.

how to lower a motorcycle by dropping the forks
On certain bikes, the handlebars may limit how much you can slide the fork tubes up through the triple clamps.

Make sure you move both fork tubes up by the exact same amount and use a ruler to be precise. There is no exact measurement you are shooting for, but it’s best to be conservative (one inch is a lot) to avoid a major change in handling. When you are done adjusting, re-tighten the pinch bolts using the factory torque specs for your specific bike.

Drawbacks: Lowering the front end in relation to the rear changes how the bike handles. Manufacturers set fork height for neutral handling. By lowering the front end, you are manipulating the bike’s rake and trail settings. Without getting too technical, this will make your bike quicker turning at the expense of reducing high-speed stability. If you stay conservative, you may not notice any handling differences. Go overboard and it can start to upset the balance of the bike, or worse, the front tire can hit the fender over big bumps (or with a low fender the fender hits the lower triple clamp), which can cause you to crash. To check your front wheel clearance, you can use tie-down straps to compress the front suspension until it bottoms out.

2. Adjust Suspension Preload

If you’ve lowered the front end significantly compared to the rear, you need to get the chassis back to a neutral attitude. The easiest way to do this is by adjusting the rear shock preload. Preload is the amount of tension applied to the rear shock’s coil spring as the bike sits without a rider on it. By changing how much the spring is compressed in a static state, you can adjust the height of the rear of the bike.

Preload comes set from the factory for an average weight rider. Heavier or lighter riders compress the spring more or less than average when they sit on the bike. When you adjust preload to the factory recommended range for your weight (setting the Sag), this ensures good handling characteristics.

how to lower a motorcycle by adjusting preload
If you’ve lowered the front, you’ll want to lower the rear as well to achieve a neutral chassis attitude. This can often be achieved by adjusting your rear shock preload.

Adjusting the rear shock preload is typically done by loosening a pinch bolt on the threaded collar at the top of the spring and turning the collar counterclockwise. Some bikes come with a preload adjuster dial that can be turned by hand. By reducing preload, you can lower the rear ride height. Start by lowering your ride height to the lowest possible setting that still falls within the factory recommended Sag range. If you are still not happy with the height reduction, you can continue lowering the bike further but be aware that this will negatively impact the handling of the bike.

Some motorcycles with more sophisticated suspensions also come with a front fork preload adjustment. This is another way you can lower the motorcycle in the front. The same rules apply for adjusting the front preload. Adjust it to the low end of the factory recommended Sag range first to see if it’s enough, then if you need to lower it further, just know that you’ll be sacrificing your ride.

Drawbacks: Springs have a working range, determined by the weight of the rider, passengers, luggage, etc. If you stay within the recommended Sag range for your bike, your bike will continue to handle the way it was designed to. Check the sag settings on your bike to determine how low you can go. If you can’t get the bike low enough by reducing preload within the spring’s limits, you may need a different spring. If you choose to go lower than the recommended range, you’ll bottom out sooner and increase the harshness of the ride.

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Author: Bob Whitby
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12 thoughts on “Consider These 5 Tips Before You Lower a Motorcycle

  1. You missed one more point – get taller boots. Not as glamorous, but sometimes it is the most effective way to reach the ground for the shorter riders

    • lol I was typing this and saw you had already dealt with it. My wife did all of the other mods, this was the one that finally made her comfortable. Life’s tough for the petite motorcyclist!

    • Not really a way to lower the bike but great tip. And actually a quite glamorous one Sarat 😉 Keep’em coming guys!

  2. Another method #7, look for tires that have a lower sidewall. Some offroad tires have very tall nobbies compared to say a more road type tire. Also, if you only ride your adv bike while loaded up with your camping gear and spares, etc, remember that the bike will sit way lower with all that gear.

  3. I am 5′ 6″ tall with a 24″ inseam at 52 with far to many years
    Spent in heavy construction I have difficulty sliding to
    One side and hooking a knee over the seat like a ” experienced”
    Rider. Any tips on a 28 ” seat height dirt road adventure bike?
    *
    I am currently looking to mod my 650 suzuki boulevard.
    They make a scrambler kit. I just have to ship front and rearends
    from Maine to Europe
    .

    • Hi Ernest. A 28″ seat height is a hard ask. But your scrambler solution might be a good one for basic dirt road rides. Put a good skid plate on it and some knobbies and give it a try. Good luck!

    • I’ve had a 2014 DR650 I put 28,000 miles in 28 months ’till a butthole ran me off the road & totaled my bike. Just got a new 2018 in the same bike. I have a 24.5 inch inseam as well.
      Here’s what I did. Had both bikes lowered at the dealer, (front & back) Then, got the factory lowering links. Then sent the factory seat to the best seat guy in the world. Spencer Seats at Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Tell him what you are trying to accomplish. He uses a product from the Space Shuttle program called Supracore to build the seat. Amazing stuff. After break-in, the most comfortable seat I ever rode. ALL DAY LONG! Fixes that killer back issue. Get the lowered foot pegs from Procycle.com Then take a good quality pair of slip on work boots, such as Ariat H20 workhogs (waterproof) then take ’em to a good boot/shoe repair shop and have them build up the sole like Gene Simmon’s (the Kiss guy!) Mine are 3 inches. I have to climb up on my DR650 with the kickstand down, and people may laugh & point at you. But, at least I can touch the ground easy, believe it or not. Pay no attention to the yahoo’s. I ride the shit out of mine, no problems. Just be careful what you get yourself into on rougher terrain. It helps to lift weights and strengthen your upper body muscle’s if you ride by yourself like I do most of the time. As you know, she’s a heavy bike. I actually carry an inflatable airbag like the firefighters use for heavy lifting in a tank bag in case I fall and can’t crawl out from under it.
      I know it sounds like a lot of hassle, But it depends on how bad you really want to ride a big boy bike. I ride all over the Northwest by myself all the time in the middle of nowhere. Good idea to have a rescue signal transponder as well, just in case. (Like a Spot Gen3) I absolutly love the way everything turned out. Such a fun bike. Do this & you’ll be glad I sent you these suggestions. I promise.
      Good luck. Hope this helps.Email me with questions if you want to, & good luck!

    • Hey ernest,
      Wade here again…
      One other thing I forgot to mention. You will need to take the shift lever to a welder and have him customize it by cutting off the front end part you get your toe under to accommodate your custom boots. All it needs is a little piece of metal welded upright, about 3″ tall, the same amount of added boot sole difference. Then weld the rubber toe part back on. Any good welder can do it. Got mine done for $25. If ya need a picture, let me know!