Can Motorcycle Seat Height Be Adjusted? (Explained!)

Can Motorcycle Seat Height Be Adjusted? (Explained!)

Different motorcycle models come with different seat heights. While there are abundance of choices when it comes to seat heights, you might still wish for adjusting the seat height of your cruiser.

So, can motorcycle seat height be adjusted? Motorcycle seat height can be reduced to benefit shorter riders to get their feet close to the ground. There are several options available from from simple adjustments to re-engineered modifications to reduce the seat height from 0.5 inches to 3.0 inches.

Another way to tackle this seat height problem is to wear height increasing shoes. There are shoes that can raise the rider height as much as 3.0 inches. It is worth giving a try.

Now, let’s deep dive into seat height adjustment a bit more technically.

Why Motorcycle Seat Height Is An Issue?

When buying a new motorcycle from the market, punters can be spoilt for choice as there’s a staggering range of models to choose from. With such abundance, the perennial question is which one to go for? 

Buyers can choose from plain Jane commuter models to exotic super bikes and also those that fall in-between. 

But there’s a catch. It’s not always that you walk in and ride out with the motorcycle model of your choice. This limitation is somewhat dictated by the stature of the rider. A short rider is seldom seen riding a tall motorcycle in stock form. 

The ergonomics of most motorcycles are designed by their creators with average height and weight of riders in mind.

Specification data from current production motorcycles available in the country indicate that the seat/ride height ranges from 675mm to 840mm. Even these figures can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer even in the same class or category.

Which Motorcycles Have The Lowest And Highest Seat Heights?

The lowest seat height are with cruiser type motorcycles and highest with off-roader or adventure type of machines.

This important aspect usually determines what type of machines riders can choose depending on their height. For tall motorcycle riders reaching the ground is a breeze, but shorter riders struggle due to the raised seat height of the motorcycle.

An ideal ergonomic situation is when the rider astride a motorcycle can flat foot both legs to the ground comfortably and without stress.

Shorter riders have no choice but to tiptoe on the ground to maintain their balance or position themselves towards one side of the seat to reach the ground with one leg.

The thought that comes into mind is that shorter riders should not be deprived of the opportunity of enjoying the motorcycles of their choice. 

As riding techniques have evolved, there are some exceptions where shorter riders are able to make up for some of their height issues. 

But what happens in a situation when a short rider who desires a particular motorcycle finds the seat height too high?

Watching a short rider struggling to balance his/her motorcycle standing on toes isn’t entertaining at all.

Experts will flag it and suggest it’s not an ideal situation for the rider in terms of safety and manoeuvrability, especially when the bike is large and heavy. However, seasoned motorcyclists are able to comfortably balance their machines with one leg.

What are the solutions to reduce motorcycle ride/seat height?

If there were no technical solutions for reducing seat height available then it would have been the case of straight forward elimination from the desired list for the rider. Thankfully, not all is lost.

Actually, short riders can rejoice with the fact that there are various solutions to compensate for ride/seat height problems. While some are simple and cost effective, some will need specialist advice and can be expensive.

In either case, these are permanent solutions for the rider.

We take a look at the hardware and try to understand the best options before we go further into an application. 

As a broad guide, depending on the method chosen, seat/ride height of a motorcycle can be reduced from .05” to 3.0” safely.

How To Lower Motorcycle Seat Height

Here is a brief guide on how to lower your motorcycle seat height.

While it might be best to leave the height adjustment to your dealer or service center, it still pays off to know the broad mechanism that’s undertaken in lowering the seat height.

Begin with suspension set-up

Most modern motorcycles come fitted with pre-load type rear suspension set-ups as original equipment. 

The sealed hydraulic shock absorbers (dampers) are easily identified from their spring surround and are usually calibrated for compression and rebound for an average 75kg rider. 

When the motorcycle is unladen, it will register a specific height. With the rider alone or with a passenger, the suspension travel will compress a little and settle. How much it will compress also depends on the weight of the rider or rider with pillion rider wherever applicable. 

This means that a lighter rider (less than 75Kg) will experience less compression from the factory-tuned suspension set-up. This aspect offers an opportunity to reset the ride height by adjusting the damper settings manually. This exercise should help the motorcycle suspension compress and lower the ride height a bit. If this arrangement works, fine. 

The flip-side is that the suspension may become a bit stiffer due to marginally lesser compression and rebound. But that’s acceptable with most riders once they get use to the idea.

If the drop in height is 3” or more, then the front suspension set-up may need some attention.

Ceriani-type front suspension is designed to optimise damping qualities and is recommended not to be tampered with. It doesn’t get impacted when the rear shock absorber pre-loads are adjusted. 

Options haven’t exhausted: Tackling the seat 

Even after suspension pre-loads have been reset and one notices the need for marginal adjustment to compensate for shortfall in height, then the seat is the main target here. 

Seats are relatively easy to modify. In dual seat or motorcycles with step seat design, there’s a possibility to shave off some of the foam and reduce its height.  

Around half an inch can be removed from the dual seat without sacrificing comfort. In step seats, it can be more. 

Motorcycles with step seats tend to be wider up front and narrower at the rear. The extra advantage for a short rider is that the sides of the seat foam can be shaved off and narrowed. 

A good seat maker will be able to re-profile the seat to match the original design and comfort. It’s a relatively cheap fix and will cost around $20 to do so. Depending on seat design and padding,  0.50” to .75” can be safely removed. 

Lowering Kits: The Most Effective Solution

There are two more options that come after the above two options have been explored and activated. These are expensive and it is advised to consult a service provider or expert for an opinion.

The cheaper of the two solutions proposed below is getting a suspension lowering kit installed. Suspension lowering kits are offered in various sizes and shapes with or without adjustable mount points. 

These conversion kits are usually available from specialists or on-line and some motorcycle manufacturers offer them for specific models.

Usually, such fitments are recommended to be carried out by specialist or manufacturer approved service centres.

An important fact that is often overlooked is the chassis attitude or balance when such conversions are done. 

Chassis dynamics is dependent on the geometry and altering it will also impact its performance.

Models like Yamaha R15 V3 can be lowered as much as by 3.0” with lowering kits without hampering its performance or handling. 

Bespoke lowering kits can also be made to suit the rider’s height requirements. 

As the rear end suspension gets the appropriate lowering kit, in rare cases, the front suspension may also have to be shortened to maintain the chassis balance. 

To reduce the front ride height, it is in some motorcycles as simple as loosening the triple-tee bolts and sliding the fork tube. 

In cases where this facility is not available, then a specialist machine shop can shorten the length of the fork tube to the desired measurement.

Do note that when lowering the suspension at both ends, the ground clearance of the motorcycle will be impacted and this aspect needs to be factored in given the road conditions.

Wheel Combinations

The last option is the most expensive one and requires both front and rear tyre/wheel combinations to be altered.

This is a relatively new idea that is catching up and even some motorcycle manufacturers have favoured this idea. For instance, some of the new 2021 Royal Enfield models now sport 18” rims as opposed to the 19” rims previously to encourage shorter riders. 

Likewise, different tyre profiles are available that can reduce height of the machine at the cost of some ground clearance.

For a stock motorcycle riding on say 19” rims, the smallest you can go is 15”. While ride height will be lowered considerably, the final drive chain and sprocket combination may have to be changed. 

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Plan your manoeuvre and investment carefully.
  • When in doubt about what to do, consult a specialist.
  • Avoid making impulsive decisions. 
  • A motorcycle with an aftermarket bolt-on lowering kit can be restored to its original configuration.
  • If you are planning to change rim and tyre combinations, you can expect some differences in handling and performance.
  • Reconfirm with a specialist whether the drivetrain sprocket set needs to be changed to get optimised performance. 
  • Converting stock wheels to smaller diameter wheels can dampen the initial acceleration of the motorcycle.
  • Always consider the ergonomics before and after the conversion.

Conclusion

It is possible to reduce the ride height of motorcycles to benefit shorter riders to get their feet close to the ground. 

Various options are available that can be very simple adjustments to complicated or re-engineered modifications allowing seat height to be reduced from 0.50” to 3.0”. 

Another option to overcome the seat height problem is the rider to wear height increasing shoes. Some of these shoes can raise the height of the user as much as 3.0”!