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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

3. Install Lowering Links

Many Dual Sport and Adventure Motorcycles have a single rear shock connected to the swingarm via a linkage system. The link arms multiply swingarm movement, allowing for a rising-rate of shock damping. The first movement can be soft for small bumps, then progressively harder for larger hits. Longer “lowering” links, effectively move the bottom shock mount closer to the ground, thus reducing the seat height.

how to lower a motorcycle with lowering links
Lowering links can be a fairly cost effective way to lower a motorcycle in the rear, costing as little as $70 for a set. (Photo courtesy Devol Racing)

Lowering links are able to lower a motorcycle anywhere from a half inch to 2 inches (12.7mm – 50.8mm) depending on the motorcycle and lowering links available. Some companies that manufacture lowering links include Kouba, Devol and Moose Racing. Lowering links can be a fairly cost-effective way to lower your rear end and they are easy to install. Suspension travel is also not affected by installing lowering links.

Drawbacks: The linkage system is an integral part of the rear suspension. Each linkage system is designed to work with specific shock damping, spring rate, ground clearance, etc. When you add longer lowering links, it changes the leverage ratio, which can cause all sorts of problems. You might find that the rear shock bottoms out sooner and feels softer in the last portion of the stroke, or sometimes the effects can be unpredictable. By lowering the shock position, you also make it more vulnerable to impacts on the trail. Another danger to keep in mind is that you’ve moved the rear wheel closer to the rear fender without reducing suspension travel. This can cause the rear tire to touch the fender on big hits, which can lead to a crash. Check with the lowering link manufacturer to ensure their lowering links offer enough rear fender clearance for your model.

4. Shorten the Suspension


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Most Dual Sport and Adventure Motorcycles have more than enough suspension travel for the casual off-road rider. You may be willing to sacrifice some of that suspension travel in an effort to gain a lower seat height. Shortening the rear shock and front fork requires disassembling delicate components and requires specialized tools. This is definitely a task best performed by a trained suspension technician that understands how to lower a motorcycle properly. When done correctly, it can be one of the safest and most effective ways to significantly reduce your seat height.

lowering a motorcycle with a low shock
Some aftermarket shocks like this Progressive Suspension 465 Series have a low option that can lower the rear suspension by 1 to 2 inches.

Another option for shortening the rear suspension is an aftermarket shock. Some aftermarket shocks come in a “low” version that can lower the rear of your motorcycle by 1 to 2 inches (25.4mm – 50.8mm). Swapping your rear shock is a fairly easy project and aftermarket shocks tend to be higher quality than stock units. The advantage of having your suspension professionally shortened is that the shop can customize the ride height, damping and stiffness to match your specific weight, height and riding style.

Drawbacks: Getting your suspension professionally lowered at a suspension shop is not cheap. You’ll spend anywhere from $200 to $300 to lower either the front or rear suspensions. Aftermarket shocks can also cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500. Also keep in mind that if you do significantly reduce the suspension travel, you reduce the bikes ground clearance and its ability to soak up big bumps, holes and rocks in the trail.

5. Get a Shorter Seat

A shorter seat can help you avoid all the unintended consequences of lowering a motorcycle’s suspension, like reduced ground clearance, less suspension travel or a harsher ride. You can lose up to 2 inches with a low seat and it’s a quick and easy install. Some “low” replacement seats can be bought right off the shelf from manufactures like Corbin, Seat Concepts and Touratech. Custom seat makers such as Renazco Racing, Seat Concepts and Fisher Seats are also able to craft a lower seat from your stock pan. Just send them your stock seat, tell them what you’re after, and wait for them to send it back. Seat Concepts also offers low seat kits for some models that includes a seat cover and foam you can install yourself.

lowering a motorcycle with a lower seat
One of the easiest solutions for lowering your seat height is to buy an off-the-shelf low seat for your bike

You can always try modding your own seat. But like many things in life, such work is easier said than done. Those staples, for one, are driven into hard plastic with an air stapler. You’ll need something similarly heavy duty to get them back in. How will you know how much foam to shave off? And what will you shave it with? Will you be able to stretch the cover tightly enough so it doesn’t look wrinkled and baggy? If none of this puts you off, do a little research on the basic kinds of foam used in motorcycle seats (DIYMotorcycleSeat.com is a good resource), find a foam supplier (local upholstery stores might have what you need), and have at it. It’s the cheapest way to go.

Drawbacks: Complete aftermarket seats can be expensive, ranging from $160 to $600. Seat Concepts’ low foam kits start at about $140, add $20 if you want them to install it on your seat pan. If you decide to fabricate your own low seat, you’ll need some special tools and your seat may end up looking like a 1st grade art project when you’re done. The other thing to be careful of with low seats is the thinner foam, which may be uncomfortable on long rides. A deeply “scalloped” seat can also trap you in one position, causing discomfort and restricting your body movement during off-road riding.

Final Tips

Whenever you lower a motorcycle’s suspension you lose ground clearance and this may cause the bike to touch down and bottom out sooner. So it’s smart to be conservative with how low you go. Getting both feet on the ground may help you build confidence as a rider but it’s not necessary to be completely flat footed.

Don’t forget to measure the height of the front and rear of the bike before and after you make changes to the suspension, to ensure you maintain a neutral chassis attitude. Also keep in mind, that if you lower your bike significantly, you may need to get a shorter kickstand.

Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

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Author: Bob Whitby
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26 Comments
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Sarat
Sarat
March 9, 2016 9:24 pm

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

Peter Jowett
Peter Jowett
March 11, 2016 10:11 am
Reply to  Sarat

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!

ADV Pulse
ADV Pulse
March 11, 2016 4:37 pm
Reply to  Sarat

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

shorepig
shorepig
March 13, 2016 1:54 pm

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.

Jones
Jones
June 11, 2016 7:57 am

Ah, great compilation of tips for motorcycle enthusiasts who are vertically challenged like me.

Mike B
Mike B
November 1, 2016 6:39 pm

What about putting smaller wheels on bike? If there is 21″ wheel switch to a 19 and to a 17″ on the back??

Eric A.
Eric A.
October 15, 2017 10:02 pm
Reply to  Mike B

That is expensive! Not sure I would consider that as top option.

ernest noyes
ernest noyes
December 28, 2017 8:03 am

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
.

ADV Pulse
ADV Pulse
December 28, 2017 8:24 am
Reply to  ernest noyes

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!

wade
wade
January 20, 2018 10:58 pm
Reply to  ernest noyes

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!

Liu
Liu
December 17, 2021 1:53 pm
Reply to  wade

man you are inspiring! u have my respect !

Lee
Lee
September 13, 2022 4:49 am
Reply to  wade

Really detailed and thoughtful for the shorter rider – we’ll done my friend…this Bud’s for you

wade
wade
January 20, 2018 11:25 pm
Reply to  ernest noyes

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!

Richard Alfredson
Richard Alfredson
March 25, 2021 9:41 pm
Reply to  wade

That or get a heel kick if you’re on a cruiser.

wade
wade
January 20, 2018 11:30 pm
Reply to  ernest noyes

Hey ernest
Wade once again. I see my email is not on the post. Here ya go:
volcano2@comcast.net

Gaston Joya
Gaston Joya
August 28, 2019 8:20 pm

Awesome! This article was very helpful. Thanks.

Marley
Marley
May 28, 2020 10:31 pm

Working on Dropping a 98 900 rr , slipped fork tubes up and put handlebars on top of triple clamps. Pros or cons of this ? In addition to tightening the front preload and loosening the rear preload what else is there to consider. Thanks

Sheryl Thomson
Sheryl Thomson
July 23, 2020 10:07 pm

I have had my Klr 2015 model lowered, just had a centre stand attached but don’t have the power to lift and get the bike up. Onto the stand, I’m 5,8 female, has anyone had the same problem, seems the actual stand if shortened might help???? Please if you have any information offer would be greatly appreciated thsnks

Robert Pinder
Robert Pinder
November 3, 2020 6:30 pm
Reply to  Sheryl Thomson

Sheryl, you may have done this but there is a “knack” to get a bike up on the center stand. Ask an experienced rider to show you. It kind of involves pushing the foot of the stand forward as you pull the bike back.

Warwick
Warwick
April 16, 2022 8:21 pm
Reply to  Sheryl Thomson

run back tire up on inch timber

MARION WHATLEY
MARION WHATLEY
May 3, 2022 3:06 pm
Reply to  Sheryl Thomson

another way – put your SIDESTAND down – lean it over a bit then step on your centerstand to get it to pivot over

william j Waldroop
william j Waldroop
October 27, 2020 7:06 pm

I Really need to lower my 2016 thunderbird commander.
please help

jim w. Tulsa Ok

Revzly
Revzly
November 27, 2020 10:07 pm

Good job! Keep it up!

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