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HomeFeatureExperiencesHave you wondered if lowing motorcycle seat height is right for you?

Have you wondered if lowing motorcycle seat height is right for you?


How does one decide on lowering motorcycle seat height? I know for me, the decision was made as I stood in a parking lot on a moto camping trip. Looking down at my Versys-x 300 lying on its side on the pavement, a flood of different emotions washed over me. Embarrassment as people ran over to help. Disappointment in myself and my ability to ride this motorcycle. And frustration that this kept happening – it wasn’t the first time I’d dropped this bike.

Impetus for lowering motorcycle seat height

Maybe you’ve experienced it too – the unstable feeling of riding a motorcycle that is too tall for you. In my case my Versys-x 300’s seat height was 8” (20cm) taller than my inseam. It was nearly 100 lbs (45kg) heavier than the Ninja 400 I rode regularly. Every time I came to a stop, it was a gamble if I would land gracefully or nearly tip over. Dozens of times I had to use all my strength to keep from dropping it at a light or in a parking lot.

I couldn’t touch the ground with either foot if I sat on it squarely. I could flat foot one if I took my butt completely off the seat and left only my thigh. It was not comfortable or comforting, and certainly not confidence inspiring. 

Before I lowered the seat, the Versys was practically as tall as I was!

Should you lower your motorcycle seat height?

Maybe your bike has the same height issues as mine did, or you’re looking at purchasing one that will. I’m not here to help you learn about the process of lowering motorcycle seat height. Instead, I want to help you understand the decision process, so that you can decide if you should.

I’ll cover the standard reasons not to lower motorcycle seat height, plus reasons why I didn’t mind… and didn’t listen. Finally, I’ll go over my experience of lowering motorcycle seat height. By the end, you should be better informed about whether lowering your bike will work for you too.

My Versys-x 300, shown at stock height here, was difficult for me to maneuver at slow speeds and when parking.

Reasons not to lower motorcycle seat height

You have possibly heard “LoWErInG a BiKe MeSsEs Up ThE gEoMeTrY” from people who probably don’t even know what that means. One of the best ways to manage this is to understand the relevant reasons to avoid lowering a bike – especially if it’s done poorly – to decide if it’s right for you.

Issues if motorcycle seat height is done poorly

It’s important for a motorcycle to have a neutral chassis attitude. This is just a fancy way of saying that it needs to be even in the front and the back. You would never lower just the front, and you would never lower the front or the back more than the other. They need to be done equally to maintain the proper – you guessed it – geometry of the bike.

Some people will max out adjusting the rear shock preload. This lowers the bike, but at a cost. The preload is designed to be adjusted for your weight. If you max it out, but it doesn’t align with your weight setting, then you are not riding at the optimal setting.

Another issue is raising the front fork tubes excessively. This can affect handling and decrease high-speed stability. If done too much, the front fender can even hit the wheel, causing the front to lock up – not a good thing.

Failing to raise the fork tubes in the triple clamps evenly on both sides can also pose a problem. Just remember that whatever you do to the front, you must do equally to the back. And whatever you do to one fork tube, you must do equally on the other side.

I struggled on this trip to Tennessee because of the seat height of the Versys. This is before I lowered the motorcycle.

Negative byproduct of lowering seat height

There are a couple of negative byproducts of lowering a motorcycle’s seat height, even if done properly. The first is that the shock can bottom out from the adjustment. The front wheel can hit the fender if the fork tubes are raised too much. The rear wheel can hit the rear fender if the shock is bottoming out.

The ground clearance is reduced after you lower it. This means that you could hit the bottom of the motor or header on the ground in a rut, or on a big rock. This is obviously not ideal.

Finally, the lean angle will be reduced because the pegs are now closer to the ground. You may find yourself scraping pegs in turns if this is the case.

I had already scraped my peg at stock height, so I knew scraping after lowering the seat height could be an issue, but I felt like it was something I could manage with some solid body positioning.

What could you try instead?

There are a few things you can try instead of lowering the motorcycle. Consider these before committing to lowering it.

You can watch YouTube videos on how to ride a tall motorcycle as a short person, such as how to scooch your butt off the seat and stop on one leg.

Also try practicing in parking lots to get used to the height and weight of the bike. There are YouTube videos showing drills that you can easily run in a parking lot with just a few cones or cut-open tennis balls.

Some motorcycles have aftermarket lowered seats. Or you could custom lower by shaving foam off the seat and having it reupholstered. The downside to this is that it can be less comfortable. This option will also cause the positioning of your body, relative to the pegs and handlebars, to change. You may sit lower, but the pegs and handlebars haven’t moved.

Another option is to try thicker-soled boots to feel more secure. Or you can find height increase insoles that fit into your boots to raise up your heel. This may help you when trying to flat foot with one foot.

I love my Alpinestars Corozal Adventure Drystar Boots. They did help with riding the tall motorcycle, but not enough to stop me from lowering the seat height.

The peer pressure factor

An element of peer pressure can exist when it comes to lowering a motorcycle. People may claim that other short riders can manage to ride a tall bike, so you should be able to as well. I had many people, especially women, tell me that they rode tall bikes so there’s no reason why I couldn’t. I know they were just trying to be encouraging, and I know they are technically right. After all, I did ride the Versys-x 300 at full height for several weeks before lowering it. But I also know what is comfortable and fun for me and riding at full height was neither of those. I found myself dreading riding and even avoiding it, which is totally unlike me. I knew I had to do something. In the end, I had to do what was best for me. Let me share the reasons why I didn’t listen to anyone and decided to go ahead with lowering my motorcycle.

Reasons why I chose to have a lowered motorcycle

I approached my decision by nailing down what is best for me and my riding experience. This included:

  • how I would do the lowering modification
  • how/when/where I would be riding the bike
  • whether I could live with the drawbacks

In the end I decided that lowering the seat height was best for me.

How I did my modification

I had purchased MotoWerk lowering links. I knew that I would be able to lower the rear by 1” (2cm) without messing with the preload settings of the shock. I could also lower the front by an equal amount using Motowerk handlebar risers. Oh, and FYI…I learned later that even only lowing by 1″ (2cm) meant I also needed the T-Rex lowered kickstand, even though Motowerk’s website said I didn’t!

By using these products, I was lowering the bike in an acceptable way. This helped me to minimize the risk of creating issues with handling, geometry, wheel clearance, and ground clearance.

How, when and where I would be riding the Versys

Advanced off-roading wasn’t something I planned on doing with this bike. I would be riding mostly gravel or dirt roads with minimal ruts and minimal large rocks. Ground clearance, and the fact that the shock might bottom out, didn’t bother me.

This is the type of off-roading I have done and plan to do more of. Sometimes I encounter gravel or dirt on my moto camping trips, so it’s important that I have some skill and experience on this type of terrain.

With only a 1″ drop, The Motowerk lowering links weren’t known to rub the fender. I wasn’t worried about that. Despite potential ground clearance issues, I also knew that I could get a skid plate to help protect the motor.

Reduced lean angle didn’t bother me, because I know good body positioning to avoid scraping a peg. Let’s face it, I won’t be taking this bike to the track.

What I personally needed was a bike that I can ride with a good deal of weight on it, through both city and rural roads, with occasional light off-roading. Most importantly, I needed the ability to park and maneuver easily in parking lots and on side streets. I needed to be able to maneuver it slowly, stop comfortably, turn sharply, park easily, and take off again gracefully. All without dropping the bike or having a thousand close calls.

The other options I tried

Having already tried different riding techniques (after watching countless YouTube videos), I noticed I could in fact ride the bike. However, I wasn’t strong enough to properly hold up the bike if it’s weight shifted or it started to topple over. This was because of it’s height, weight, and center of gravity. I was having a lot of scary close calls and two instances of actual drops, because I just couldn’t keep it upright.

I bought thick-soled motorcycle boots with strong calf support. They certainly helped, but not enough. The height increase insoles didn’t interest me as they didn’t seem comfortable or even particularly safe. What if they shifted inside my boot?

I attempted to buy a lowered seat, but they don’t actually make one for the Versys-x 300 (they do make an extended one though, grrr!). After looking into a custom option, I found someone who could shave my existing seat. But I could see there is not much foam to begin with, so I’m not sure how much it would help. I also didn’t want to make it uncomfortable. It was an expensive job, regardless, so I just wasn’t willing to try it.

The peer pressure factor again

I want to acknowledge that other short people do ride tall bikes. That’s awesome for them! But, there are many factors why they might be able to, where I cannot. For example, we could be the same height, but my inseam could be 3” (7cm) shorter than theirs (#shortlegs). They could also be significantly stronger than me. This is especially true when you compare men to women.

Of most importance to me is that I’m getting out there to ride, being safe, and having a great time. My options were to lower the motorcycle, or sell it and give up on my dream of moto camping on an adventure bike. I chose lowering – so I did.

My experience with lowering motorcycle seat height

What happened when I lowered my motorcycle? I became a calm, confident rider again. One who is always in control of her motorcycle.

The process of lowering with lowering links was fast and easy. It only took about 30 minutes to modify.

I can flat foot one foot without scooching off the seat, and I can get the toes of both feet down if I need to paddle my way around. The center of gravity is lower, so it handles easier at low speeds, which is a huge perk for what I need the bike to be able to do. It’s very easy for me to keep the bike upright if it starts to topple.

It is fairly noticeable in the front that it has been lowered, if you know what you’re looking for in terms of the forks.

I haven’t scraped my peg yet. After going off-roading on gravel, dirt, and rock, I had no issues with ground clearance. Although, I still plan to buy a skid plate for extra protection and peace of mind. My shock did bottom out once or twice, but it didn’t affect the handling. And the wheels never touched the fenders.

I have not dropped it while parking or had any close calls. I feel comfortable and confident again, especially at low speed and while stopping.

It feels so good to love riding my Versys-x 300! It was disappointing when I bought a brand new bike only to discover that I didn’t love riding it.

Conclusion

So there you have it – why I decided lowering motorcycle seat height was the right choice for me. Now you’ve heard about the reasons people give for why someone shouldn’t lower a motorcycle. And you heard my rebuttal for why I didn’t mind the drawbacks that might occur. My experience since lowering it has been nothing but positive.

I can’t wait to go on a moto camping trip now that my bike has been lowered. I want to feel what it’s like to have the weight on the bike, and the pressure of being far from home.  

Hopefully hearing my reasoning for why I lowered it, plus my experience since, can relieve any stress you’re experiencing about your own current bike situation. I also hope that it can empower you to do what’s best for you – no matter what that might be. Feel free to leave a comment about your own experience of lowing a bike.

Carly
Carlyhttps://2wheels1girl.com
Carly never gave motorcycles a glance until she rode a scooter for the first time in 2019. Now, she looks at practically nothing else! Motorcycles are life for her, and if she’s not actively riding, she’s working on her business, 2 Wheels 1 Girl. Her website was founded after Carly traveled long-distance for the first time, as that trip started a quest for more motorcycle tours and moto camping trips. As she learned from her experiences and pushed the limits from each previous trip, Carly wanted to help other riders who are just starting out with their motorcycle travels or who have experience but want to improve. Her day job as an Instructional Designer offers her the perfect skill set to share her passion of motorcycle riding with others. She loves writing almost as much as riding, and never leaves home without her notebook and favorite pen. If Carly’s not out moto camping on her Kawasaki Versys-x 300, you might find her tracing the raceline at the track on her Kawasaki Ninja 400, or just enjoying time spent with her Goldendoodle, named Toast, and husband at home.
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