The motorcycle seat: so simple, yet so vital. While it does happen to provide you with your largest contact patch with your machine (refrain from inserting butt jokes here), it is also more important than you might think. Here, we’ll take a quick look at why.
The first reason seat height is so important is because it is directly related to your inseam. You can basically determine whether or not you will be able to put both feet entirely on the ground by matching your inseam to a motorcycle’s seat height. It’s possible to go by the inseam measurement for your pants, but you’ll probably get a more accurate idea if you measure from the inside of your groin down to the floor.
If a bike’s seat height is more than your inseam measurement, then you’ll be lifting your heels to some extent (depending on the actual difference). On the other hand, if your inseam trumps your motorcycle’s seat height by a bit, then your legs may require more room, and the type of motorcycle you are riding (more on that later) will have an effect on this. You can essentially stray away from optimal comfort in two ways.
Despite the major connection to your inseam, seat height is also very important because it is one third of the ever-present rider’s triangle. The shape of that triangle dictates your overall comfort and the range of body positioning you can use on a particular motorcycle. The three points of that triangle are the seat, the foot pegs, and the grips of your handlebar. The seat-to-peg distance tells you how straight or bent your legs will be, both at the knees and at the hips. The seat-to-grips distance will tell you how upright or leaned over your upper body will be, and how straight or bent your arms will be. The seat, therefore, is the focal point of both measurements.
A motorcycle’s layout has a direct correlation to all of this. Different motorcycles offer different seat heights, of course, so expect rider triangles to vary a great deal.
Let’s take a rundown of each type of motorcycle:
- Cruisers – Offer the lowest seat heights due to long wheelbases and feet-forward riding positions. Seat-to-peg distance is fairly long, but sometimes too long in the case of forward controls, so be careful which model you’re considering.
- Touring bikes – Some touring bikes are based on cruiser platforms, which is a good thing because the weight can sit low. Even purpose-built touring rigs have friendly seat heights (plus some of the comfiest seats in all of motorcycling) as long as you can muscle around the heft. In terms of leg room, they’ll feel very chair-like and the reach to the handlebars will generally be moderate enough to allow for an upright stance.
- Standards – Depending on the model, seat height can be low to moderate. This is because of the general practicality and on-road versatility of these types of bikes. Some models will have chair comfort, while others might cause a slightly sporty knee bend and upper body position.
- Sport bikes – Also offer moderate seat height, but many can actually be too high for some. A relatively short wheelbase creates a tighter package. Sport bikes require good ground clearance and this often bumps up seat height. The rider triangle is often relatively tight on sport bikes, too.
- Sport-touring bikes – Seat height will be in the range of sport-bike seat height, but they will actually offer more leg room in the rider triangle, as well as greater upper body comfort. This is because they are meant to be a blend of comfort and speed.
- Adventure bikes – It is a shame that some of the most versatile bikes on the planet are literally beyond the reach of many. Although many models work better on the street than on the dirt, the off-road intentions of this genre require immense ground clearance. That means stratospheric seat heights. If you can handle that, then you’ll find that the rider triangle will offer quite a lot of room.
- Off-road bikes – For adults, the long suspension and ground clearance make dedicated off-road bikes impossible to ride for many. This is, however, the only genre of motorcycle in which some models are made for youths, so there are possibilities if you have an open mind.
There aren’t many ways to deal with seat height. One way is to use lowering links, but they do have their disadvantages and should be explored very carefully. Very few bikes offer seat adjustability, but if you are a lucky owner of such a bike, you can take advantage of this feature. If you can afford it, you can opt for an aftermarket seat, or have your current one modified. Whatever the case, keep in mind that the shape of the seat’s padding is actually more vital to your comfort than the material itself.
Ultimately, your best (and simplest) course of action is to buy a motorcycle that fits you. If you wish to get a decent idea of how you might fit on different motorcycles, then www.cycle-ergo.com is a handy tool.
Of course, nothing beats actually sitting on and riding a motorcycle. Now that you have some extra knowledge on how seat height affects your experience, you have what you need to ride in comfort as well as in confidence.