Biker Bites – The Importance Of Seat Height

One of the most exciting bits about being a motorcyclist is having a staggering range of motorcycle models to choose from. My fellow biker friends and I were having a recent discussion lately on bike shopping and I told them that my number one criteria was Seat Height.

Yep, it can be the sexiest or most powerful bike on earth, but I would never ride a bike where my feet are barely touching the ground when the bike is stationary.

In my opinion, a motorcycle needs to allow at least half of both feet to be in contact with the ground for the rider to safely push-peddle the bike around in a car-park or when he needs to back away from a faulty car-park gantry. Being on the tip of your toes means the bike is just too tall for you.

Bottomline: It’s better to be a tall biker than a short biker. But we can’t change our height to fit the bike!

What is the optimum seat height for you? You will know immediately when you sit on a demo bike in the showroom. If you want to do a quick check before you get to see the actual bike, learn how to read the seat height of different bikes on their online product webpages, and know what is your personal maximum seat height that you can ride without feeling uneasy and insecure (my seat height limit is 32.5 inches or 825mm for my Asian height of 1.71m).

Generally, most low-capacity bikes tend to be under 30″, cruisers at 28″ or less, sportsbikes at 32″, and touring bikes at 34″ (ridiculously tall for Asians).

Here’s a quick sample of different seat heights out there

From the info above, I can probably ride any bike but the ginormous BMW GS Adventure. Of course, BMW knows it makes gigantic bikes and made this marketing video below to show how a 1.59m tall lady can ride their GS bike with a lower seat. BUT I’d counter that she doesn’t have enough body mass to manage the sheer size and weight of that bike with ease. How many petite ladies do you see riding a GSA anyway?

BMW also created a nice online marketing tool called the BMW Seat Height Configurator that allows you to quickly filter out which of their motorcycles are suitable for you.

According to this tool, if you’re not at least 1.75m tall, you’re not tall enough for their R Nine-T or S1000RR sports bikes. As you can see in the screenshot below, I wasn’t recommended either of those lovely models because I’m 1.71m tall. Personally, I’d ignore that advice until you sit on the bike yourself. Some people have longer legs but shorter torsos, so a taller bike may actually suit you in that scenario.

BMW seat height

And if you are REALLY feeling lazy about checking product websites, there’s this great website called Motorcycle Ergonomics Simulator that allows you to key in your height and leg inseam, choose your bike, and instantly see whether it’s too tall for you and how your posture will be. It’s remarkably accurate from my comparisons with the real world bikes.

seat height honda wave
Here’s me on a Honda Wave. It’s quite low and my body is very upright.
seat height bmw gsa
The BMW R1200 GS Adventure is obviously too tall for me.
seat height honda s4
The popular Honda Super 4 is just right for me actually. That’s why so many Asians own one. But I dislike riding a bike everyone else owns in Singapore!
seat height daytona
The Triumph Daytona 675 is a pretty tall bike at 33″ seat height so when I owned one, I spent most of my time riding and trying not to stop!
seat height monster 1200
My Monster 1200S doesn’t allow me to flat-foot it completely, but it’s still ok. The ergos make my body crouch forward a little, but not too much.

By the way, I can lower the Ducati Monster 1200S seat a little more (a spiffy factory feature), but then it makes my knees too hunched and I will get a back ache after any ride lasting more than a few minutes.

So it’s not just the seat height that matters but the positioning of the foot pegs and overall ergonomics of the motorcycle that counts. Another factor is the width (or girth) of the seat itself – some seats are so wide that your legs go further apart, hence reducing the amount of foot contact with the ground. So you might have a low seat height, but still have difficulty flat-footing the motorcycle.

4 Replies to “Biker Bites – The Importance Of Seat Height”

  1. A very informative article, Ian. Seats play a crucial role in determining the comfortability factor of a motorcycle. They are a vital pièce détachée moto and must be chosen carefully. Sometimes, it is even better to change the stock seat with an aftermarket one to ensure more comfort. This article about the seat height will benefit a lot of new motorcycle purchasers.

  2. Hi. This maybe a little early to say but Ive been looking forward for the day I would get to ride my own bike. But heres my issue. Im 16 years old and Im 5 foot 3 inches. 160cm. Im all in for getting a bike but my height. Am I doomed to never ride a bike? Really bothering me, this issue.

  3. Hey,

    I have always wondered, what is a “kup chai” or a “kup kia”. I know what they mean (Honda wave or Yamaha spark kind of bikes), but how are they pronounced, how did the words originate? What language is that? I’m thinking Hokkien but then again, sounds a little Thai as well.

    Hopefully someone will be able to satisfy my ignorance and curiousity!

  4. Agree w Ian Tan about e height of motorcycle seat. Nevertheless, I’ve seen women no taller than 165 cm ride tip-toe on fierce bikes. Very likely, you may know e founder of Sheriders, Kelly Ho. She rides a Honda ST11. Then, there’s a Dawn Lim who owns a BMW S 1100 RR.

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