Adventure biking is the fastest-growing sector in the motorcycling industry today. These machines are becoming ever more sophisticated and capable as riders demand more and more. While these bikes increase in off-road ability, power outputs rise, and advances in technology, they become heavier, taller, and with increased ground clearances. That’s fantastic for taming the wilds and long-distance touring, but what about short riders looking for new ADV bikes?
Finding an adventure bike that won’t leave you stuck on tree roots due to low ground clearance or dropping the bike whenever you come to a standstill because your toes can’t reach the ground, is becoming a “problem” for shorter riders (and particularly women riders). Tall riders can hunch down on a bike (although it is uncomfortable), but a short rider can’t stretch their legs and feet to reach the ground or their arms to reach the bars.
Is Adventure Biking Only for Tall Riders?
They usually reserve small engine displacement motorcycles for shorter riders seeking the thrills of ADV biking. However, riders demanded more performance, more comfort, more technology, and wider capabilities from their bikes. Simply fitting long-range fuel tanks to dirt bikes simply don’t cut it for adventure bikers anymore: an adventure motorcycle must be as competent, capable, and confident off-road as it is on-road. Touring usually takes in hundreds of miles of highways and byways with jeep tracks and gravel roads for added fun.
Most manufacturers now offer low-seat options of their products for shorter riders. Some also offer suspension lowering kits, lowering links, and skinnier seats that shave off extra millimeters. The aftermarket industry also boasts an enormous selection of parts to adjust just about every motorcycle to better fit a shorter rider. However, the general rider would prefer the right fit direct from the factory.
With longer suspensions, taller ground clearance, and slender shapes like dirt bikes, they design adventure bikes to tackle off-road conditions, so they will always be on the taller side than other bike types. Manufacturers have started developing adventure motorcycles with short riders in mind.
10 Best Adventure Bikes for Short Riders:
#1: Triumph Tiger 900 GT Low – 29.9”
The Triumph Tiger 900 GT Low is a dedicated lower seat height model in their GT line-up. It is more than just a lowering kit and a shaved seat: it features a retuned suspension with new forks. It brings the seat height down by 1.9” lower than the standard Tiger 900 GT version to 29.9”. It is adjustable too, from 29.9” to 30.7” for the best fit. It weighs 400 lbs. unladen, but the 900cc triple cylinder engine makes it feel far lighter than that. The chassis is one of the best in its class, with the Tiger 900 GT Low favoring long stretches of paved and gravel roads. When it ventures off the beaten path, it has 7.8” of ground clearance for you to glide over the roughest trails you can find.
#2: BMW F750GS – 30.3”
The most popular adventure motorcycle manufacturer in the world knows a thing or two about pleasing customers. On this list we have two other BMW models, with the F 750 GS offering the lowest seat height. This model may be more road-oriented than its F 850 GS sibling, but it is no less capable when specced with the right off-road tyres. It features an adjustable seat height, dropping it from the standard 32.1” to 30.3” to make it more rider-friendly for shorter riders. It is heavier than the Triumph Tiger 900 GT Low, tipping the scales at 493 lbs. As with BMW, it is beautifully put together with a high-level component list. You’ll want it to soak up all 7.4” of ground clearance to keep your Beemer as neat as possible.
#3: Royal Enfield Himalayan – 31.4”
If you know, you know. This is an Indian manufacturer that’s developed fantastic machines for American riders. The Himalayan is a brand-new model in their line-up, perfect for new and shorter riders. The seat height is 31.4” and it weighs just on 438 lbs. unladen. The Himalayan’s seat is rather plush, so when sitting on the bike the seat height will decrease by half an inch. It has a generous 8.6” ground clearance so you can traverse any trail. While this bike isn’t the fastest or most powerful in the adventure motorcycle world, it is one of the most robust and low-cost alternatives – and is less than half the price of some other bikes in this review.
#4: Benelli TRK 502 – 31.4”
The Benelli TRK 502 sits in its own segment of adventure motorcycles. It is a full-sized ADV bike, but has a 500cc engine. That doesn’t mean you’ll be twisting the right grip to its stops all the time, though. It is a smooth and characterful engine that feels faster and more powerful than its paper figure of 47bhp reveals. This bike’s seat height is 31.4” and weighs 469 lbs. unladen, which is accessible to shorter riders seeking a full adventure motorcycle. The 7.4” of ground clearance and relatively low seat height make for a bike that’s capable on- and off-road for a wide variety of sized riders.
#5: Yamaha XT 250 – 31.8”
The reliable, robust, and dependable Yamaha XT250 is a perennial favorite of bike reviews the world over. It offers a 31.8” seat height that is manageable for shorter riders, and its low weight of 293 lbs. means it is highly maneuverable on the trails and in the urban jungle, too. It has the highest ground clearance in this review with 11.2”: this puts it into motocross and trials bike leagues for off-road capabilities and terrain response. Load this bike with luggage for a weekend’s backcountry camping and you’ll never feel the need for a bigger or faster (or more expensive) ADV bike than this humble Yamaha XT250.
#6: Honda CB 500X – 31.9”
Many shorter riders have praised the virtues and capabilities of the fantastic Honda CB500X. While it might not win the appeal and awards of its Africa Twin bigger brother, they equipped the CB500X with a parallel-twin that makes light work of moving its 429 lbs. weight around. The 31.9” seat height pitches it as one of the best adventure bikes for short riders. It is more road-oriented, but with 6.6” of ground clearance it is more than capable of taming gravel and truck trails.
#7: Kawasaki Versys-X 300 – 32.0”
The Kawasaki Versys-X 300 is a stellar adventure bike popular with many tens of thousands around the world and on America’s roads and gravel paths. It has a relatively low seat height of 32.0” which would be the perfect fit for a rider 5’ 4” and taller. This is an ADV bike ready to tackle long highway journeys and off-road trails with its 7.1” ground clearance. Comfortable, reliable, and practical, the Versys-X weighs 385 lbs. unladen. It is a brilliant choice for novice and experienced adventure riders alike.
#8: BMW G 310 GS – 32.0”
The GS badging on this motorcycle places it into the leagues of serious adventure bikes. Is the BMW G 310 GS worthy of the GS designation? With a relatively low seat height of 32.0” and a weight of 385 lbs., it is zippy in town and easy to maneuver off-road. It is a BMW through-and-through with its high-quality controls, build quality and performance. Off-road the 7.1” of ground clearance means it won’t be left behind. With a lowered seat ordered from the dealer, you will reduce the seat height of 32.0” to 31.1”, which makes for a tremendous difference to the riding and riders of this motorcycle. Fitted with the right off-road tyres, it most certainly is a real GS for those looking for a smaller engine displacement motorcycle without sacrificing ability or quality.
#9: BMW F850GS – 32.1”
The BMW F 850 GS is this manufacturer’s baddest mid-tier adventure motorcycle. It lines up against the likes of the Triumph Tiger 900 also in this review for top honors in this hotly contested segment of the adventure motorcycle market. The F 850 GS’s standard seat height is 33.9” but when optioned from the factory with a low seat and a low suspension kit the seat height drops to 32.1”. While it is a little over 2.0” taller than the Triumph, the BMW boasts a 9.8” ground clearance to make up for that.
This enables the BMW to traverse more technical terrain – in standard guise – than almost any other adventure bike for short riders. Powerful, reliable, popular, and excellently packaged, the F 850 GS has collected many awards for its usability, performance, and off-road abilities since they launched it. Throwing a leg over this bike just feels special.
#10: Suzuki V-Strom 650 – 32.8”
The tallest bike in this line-up, but not the least talented, the Suzuki V-Strom 650 was a hit with the buying public as soon as they released it. The seat height measures 32.8” – a stretch for short riders – but that gives riders more comfort for long-distance touring. The seat isn’t adjustable in height, but we’d look at swapping the seat for an aftermarket option in any case as these seats aren’t the most comfortable and that will mean we can shave off an inch or more in seat height. It weighs 469 lbs. unladen and boasts 6.6” of ground clearance: this is a full-on adventure motorcycle capable of crossing continents with comfort and ease.
Dirt biking is about confidence in your motorcycle and in your abilities. These bikes have not only to be comfortable and capable on the asphalt, but on dirt, mud, rocks, and narrow singletrack trails too. What are the aspects of an adventure bike you, as a shorter rider, need to consider when shopping for a new bike?
1) Seat Height
It goes without saying that you should sit on as many ADV bikes as you possibly can to get a feel for the different brands, designs, and seat heights. A few years ago, the engine displacement of an adventure bike would be a fair indicator of the size of the motorcycle, but today’s line-up of dual-adventure motorcycles are different: a 700cc doesn’t mean it will be shorter (or less capable) than a 1200cc.
By measuring your inseam (which you can do by measuring the height from your crotch to the ground) will help you know what height you would be comfortable placing your feet on the ground when on a motorcycle. You can safely add an inch to your inseam height and preferred motorcycle seat height as most riders don’t place their feet flat on the ground, usually just their toes.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that a few inches of extra height will be okay to deal with; on the street, you might be able to get away without dropping your bike, but on the rough stuff and uneven ground on trails, you won’t be that lucky. Check whether they offer the bike you like with an adjustable seat height setting or lower seat option. Also, can the seat be swapped for a skinner version? Is there a suspension setting to lower the bike’s seat height? Those mean that you will have the right fit for your bike for on- and off-road riding.
ADV bikes tip the scales from 330 to 580 lbs. When – not if, because everyone drops their bikes at some point – you drop your bike in loose sand or elsewhere, you need to be able to pick it up. As a shorter rider, you may not be able to pick up your 570 lbs. BMW R 1250 GS Adventure without a helping hand or two.
Your new adventure bike might weigh 400 lbs., but when you add 100 lbs. of camping equipment and other gear for a weekend away, you might not feel as comfortable on your bike as you would like. While the added weight won’t put a strain on your bike, it will however affect its maneuverability on- and off-road. If your full-laden adventure bike falls over, will you be able to pick it up? Weight is an important aspect when considering adventure bikes.
3) Ground Clearance
Can you safely put a foot down when off-road with the adventure bike? On the road it might be a non-issue, but as we have mentioned it is when the ground is uneven that using your toes to balance your bike won’t be comfortable. Longer suspensions and taller ground clearances enhance the comfort and capabilities of adventure motorcycles, but make sure you can ride it safely off-road before making the sale or venturing off-road for a weekend of trail riding.
The market for new adventure bikes for short riders is – ahem – growing. Shorter men and particularly women now have incredible choices available to them. Seat heights, weight, and ground clearances will continue to increase, but manufacturers are finding smarter ways to accommodate shorter riders with clever designs. From the Yamaha XT250’s decades-old design packed with reliability to the sheer abilities on- and off-road of the Triumph Tiger 900 GT Low, adventure biking is responding to the upsurge of women and men joining the ADV lifestyle. With our list of the best adventure bikes for short riders, we hope you find your next adventure bike.
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