As a height-challenged woman, I’ve been told I can ride any bike; size doesn’t matter. Sure, I’ll get on a tall bike, but feel happier when I can touch the ground.
I’m getting a new bike and want to lower it, but people I respect say leave it tall. What should I do? Does size matter?
If riding were only about pleasing others, I’d say get a tall bike and forget about your own sense of comfort. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Just as you are taught to ‘ride your own ride’ in classes, you need to honor ‘ride your own bike’ now that you’re shopping for a new one.
Lowering a bike changes the suspension, thus the way it handles in different conditions. Be sure to do your research before altering anything and make sure, if you do lower it, that it is done correctly. Many newer model bikes come factory lowered, so check to see if any of the models you are considering have this option. As an alternative, some shorter riders have also added height to the soles of their boots, and that can be helpful if done carefully.
There are several things to consider in your decision. Where and how do you ride, and what is it you want the bike to do? Will getting a bike that allows you to get your feet solidly on the ground help or hinder where you can comfortably go? Does the weight of the bike make a difference in how important it is to feel your toes touching? Have you practiced on a taller bike to see how it handles and what you might need to do when stopped to feel balanced and in control?
There is truth to the notion that size doesn’t matter; that a good rider can ride any motorcycle. I’ve seen women on large, heavily loaded bikes, sliding off the seat to stand on tiptoe to reach the ground and keep everything balanced, and I’ve seen others on bikes so small I’ve wondered how they can fit their gear, let alone their bodies, on them. What does matter is that you find the right fit for you since you’re the one that’s going to be asked to wrangle it in whatever conditions you find yourself, and if that means purchasing one, and lowering it to get your tootsies touching, then that’s the bike for you.
I have had little bikes (lowered G650 GS–it came that way), big bikes (Dakar 650), and medium sized bikes. The same could be said for men in my life. But, to give some advice, I feel it is important for you to feel confident that if your bike were lying on top of you, or if your bike were ‘napping’ in a large busy intersection, that you are able to pick it up and ‘get back on the horse.’ The techniques for getting the rubber side back down are not too complicated, but the confidence behind your maneuvers may vary with the size and height of the bike. I always felt a bit silly looking for parking next to a stoop so I could easily get back on the tall Dakar, and likewise shifting to the side so my feet could touch when coming to a stop (I’m 5 ft 7 in tall). When loaded down with gear, the lowered bike is much easier to manage. Plus, when you put a tall man in the ‘driver’ seat, it’s funny as hell to watch him look like a clown on the lowered bike.