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I've heard of many cases of shorties like me - let's say "petite", shall we?! - getting the seats lowered on their motorcycles.
Is this a relatively easy - and not too expensive - thing to do? Can all bike seats be lowered, regardless of make/model or does that need to be considered up front when buying a particular bike? And how far can they be lowered from their original height?
I've been sizing up potential bikes for Africa and all the ones I like the look of so far - XT250, TTR250, TW200... - have seats that would be too high for me. I'm 5'2 and currently riding a bike with a very comfortable seat height of 28 inches. Another couple of inches higher and my feet would only just reach the ground. Is it realistic to think that if I got, for example, an XT250, I could get the seat lowered to a comfortable height for me?
There is usually some sort of link mod for the rear suspension or seat modding along with dropping the forks through the yolks a bit.
You will loose some ground clearance with suspension mods, but that will be offset a little if you are light
A modified seat and or seat mount would seem best if you can get it low enough... modify the subframe?... like Sub-Frame Lowering Kit Main Page
I've heard of many cases of shorties like me - let's say "petite", shall we?! -
Jeannie, in motorcycling parlance you suffer from "duck's disease".
My recommended option would be to avoid offroaders. I'm 180cm and find most offroad bikes - even 250s - too tall for me.
You really don't need an offroad bike to travel through Africa. I did it, including 3,000km straight sand across the Sahara, on a 350cc road bike 30+ years ago - something which to this day I have other international riders tell me was impossible.
Two years back I travelled from Korea to Italy on a scooter which included 2,000kms+ of offroad in Russia and Kazakhstan.... and on that same journey I travelled 8,000kms around China and Mongolia on a little Chinese 125cc road bike.
To me offroad bikes are like 4 wheel drive cars, they might look macho but they sure aren't necessary.
For the TTR250; Kouba make lowering link for the rear, I've just removed one.
Dropping the yolks down the forks is restricted by the handlebars, but you could fit bar risers to give more clearance for the fork tops. You can also remove the seat cover and remove/reshape the foam, a good opportunity to fit softer or harder foam or a gel pad, find someone who does bike seats/upholsterers. You can also reduce pre-load, fit softer springs so the bike sags more and sits lower but watch it doesn't bottom out when loaded with luggage.Even with the lowering link the TTR is still quite high.
As you get more competent/confident seat height becomes less of an issue, the more you ride the easier it gets, there'll come a point when it's all second nature.
I have to agree with Garry, as young idiots we used to ride anything anywhere, from mopeds to a 650 Bonny were all taken to the woods and disused quarries. Good tyres and the right approach helps as does the ability to bounce and ignore pain.
As you are a newbie rider, I would have to agree with farquar and say, avoid dirt bikes, they are NOT designed for sitting down and despite going onto dirt roads on your travels, I would think a lot of your time will be on pavement. You will then want a decent seat, unless you intend to stand on your pegs all the way around the world
I am 5'4" and ride the Vstrom 650, but I have lowering links, raised the forks 20mm, modified the seat as well, so I gain another 1" there and even loaded up with all my gear, I am still on the balls fo my feet. This meant NO legs stretched out to either side and it was the direct cause of many of my bike drops, because as soon as the bike moved, one foot was no longer on the ground and the bike went down.
I would honestly be looking at a more road oriented bike and if you intend doing some dirt, throw on a set of knobbie tyres, they look mean and do a good job.
My recommended option would be to avoid offroaders. I'm 180cm and find most offroad bikes - even 250s - too tall for me.
You're taller than me yet I have no problem with my 400EXC & 950SE on or off road?
Most offroad bikes tend to be on the light side, rarely needing you to get both feet on the ground. My partner, at 1.67m rides an R1150GS & a slightly lowered DRZ400S offroad, it's more about confidence & practice rather than overall height or leg length (more important).
Note that dirt bikes in general have longer travel but softer suspension & squat quite a bit once you're sat on them.
Hmm, well this thread has certainly taken a very different turn from where I thought it might go! I guess I'd taken for granted that an off-road bike would be the only thing for Africa, but it appears maybe not...
I'm realising that choice of bike, regardless of its intended journey, is a very individual thing. But, like acquiring my first bike recently, sometimes the choice actually comes down to something that "just feels right" when you sit on it! Think I will be sitting on a lot of bikes over the coming weeks/months to find the one that "just feels right" for Africa...
Its not only how it feels in the showroom but after several hours of hard riding, and then being able to do it day in day out. you also have to consider how easy it is to work on and adaptability for luggage etc. I hired a XR 250 which was a great little bike but the seat almost reduced me to tears after just a few hours, really affected my frame of mind!
Both myself and the better half are 5ft 4" and both ride XT600's with out any issues her one has a corbin seat and the forks pushed through about an inch and it still has its off road ability. Its fine (in my opinion) to take a road bike, and it has been proven that you can visit every country in the world on them, but if you have that bit of off road capability you can explore just a little more, if that is what you want of course. Also, again in my opinion whilst riding through Thailand in the early part of this year I had 10 days on a hired road bike and I really wanted the suspension of the off road bike back after a couple of hours on the only bad road we found there.
Top Tip: If you do trim your seat remove the foam from the underside that way the cover will fit back almost perfectly.
My husband Paul called me over and suggested that I reply to your question on seat height. Firstly, I will say I am no expert, I have not been riding for very long but I will tell you of my experience. We too are doing a ride thru Africa, in fact in just a few short weeks time we leave. Initially I was going to take my Beemer(650) but came to the realisation that it may be a bit too heavy especially with luggage for the sort of trip we are doing, and I am no goliath! Anyway, after much deliberation and some investigation I settled on a Yamaha XT250. Although still quite tall for me(I too am 5'2), I really liked how you sit in the bike rather than on it, as was the case with the other makes. By this I mean the seat is much lower than the tank so you dont feel as though you are riding vertually on the handle bars. I was on my tippy toes, but the difference in weight gave me a lot more confidence handling the bike, even so I have made some modifications so that I am a bit lower. Firstly I cut the seat down as much as possible - it made a little difference, but I must be short in the legs as I still found that although not on tippy toes, I was only just on the balls of my feet. I am also wearing boots that have a bit more sole. I do however have to be mindful of where I pull up as if there is a down gradient in the road I could loose my footing by leaning over too far.
Now, having said all that my bike is in getting new tyres put on and I asked them to pull the forks through slightly and the mechanics suggested softning the back a little to even it out - technically I don't know how they do all this but they said that It would certainly help with my footing a bit better. So until I get the bike back I cannot let you know how much it has helped, but will give it a test ride on the weekend.
The decision on which bike to take is really a personal one, I suggest sitting on a few to get the feel of them. I have to say however that I am really happy with the Yamaha, I have been away on a fairly good trip and was impressed with its performance - It does feel like it needs another gear or so, but you get used to that, in fact once you get to about 100klm it seems to run quite smoothly and I kept up pretty well with Paul on his BMW800 - and I am no rev head either - quite the opposite. What I liked about it too was that it sat pretty well on the road especially when a truck passes you - and I let most of them pass me, I figured size before stupidity! Its pretty nifty in traffic, but if you have to pass someone on the highway just make sure you have more than enough time - it is a 250 after all! haha.
Anyhow, best of luck, I hope I have been of some assistance, I know how hard it is to make that decision, I did give up some comfort but feeling confident to tackle some of those challenges with ease of mind, I think outweighs the comfort.
Jan, is it worth going up a tooth or two on the front sprocket, I don't know if it's possible but it would reduce revs,stress and fuel consumption, then you could carry the smaller one as spare/option for nadgery sections. If a bigger front wont fit you could go with a smaller rear sprocket -4teeth ish.
Jan, thanks so much for your post, I really appreciate it!
It seems like there are a variety of ways of customising a bike for a shorter rider - not just lowering the seat - so all that info you gave about your own bike modifcations is really interesting to read.
I'm going out at the weekend to a Yamaha dealer to just sit on a few of their bikes, including the XT250 and the TW200, and get a feel for what they're like. I'm still thinking that, with Africa in mind, some kind of off-road capability would be good but still VERY open-minded at this stage!
Meantime, here's wishing you all the best for your own Africa trip... you must be in the throes of all your preparations right now, so here's hoping that's all going well and you're getting excited about being on the road soon. I'm very jealous!
I just lowered my Bandit 1250 the seat was down as low as poss so i lowered the rear Shock and can now touch the ground, i am 5ft 5 inch
I have found if you lower the front & rear the bike will turn 'sharper' & unless you know some one to do it can cost.
If you lower the rear the steering becomes heavier/slower,you've increased the rake. Lower the front and the steering becomes lighter/quicker, decreased the rake. If you lower them both by the same amount you should be back where you started, with less ground clearance. Race bikes tend to be raised at the rear and dropped at the front, makes the steering much quicker and maintains/increases ground clearance, but if you go too far the steering becomes too light, unstable and can result in tankslappers, not recommended!
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