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There are many motorcycles for short riders with lower seat height (26ʺ to 30ʺ) for street riding.
However, problems arise when shorter riders want to ride sportbikes and off-road motorcycles where the seat height can be anywhere from 31ʺ to 34ʺ or more. Even a 5′ 6″ rider may struggle to put their feet firmly on the ground at that seat height.
This article makes an effort to explain the different methods that are available to lower a motorcycle seat and their pros and cons.
- Before You Lowering Your Motorcycle Seat
- How to Lower a Motorcycle
- Pros and Cons of Lowering a Motorcycle
- Is it bad to lower a motorcycle?
Before You Lowering Your Motorcycle Seat
You will feel more comfortable and confident when you can sit on your motorcycle with your feet firmly on the ground.
However, this may not always be possible if you are a shorter rider. You may want to rush out and get your motorcycle seat lowered.
Consider the following options before opting for that major alteration for your bike. Lowering your motorcycle seat can be expensive and you may have to compromise on some aspects of the ride.
- Have you thought of increasing your height by 1 inch or more? Yes, you may be able to do it by selecting a taller pair of riding shoes or boots.
- If you are planning to buy a new motorcycle, you can ask your local dealer if they can customize the motorcycle seat height for you.
- There are motorcycle riding schools that can teach you different techniques to manage your motorcycle safely even when your feet do not firmly touch the ground when you sit on the motorcycle.
How to Lower a Motorcycle
There are four different ways to lower your motorcycle seat:
- Check the suspension sag of your motorcycle and correct it to your weight.
- Reduce the thickness of your motorcycle seat.
- Lower the motorcycle shock absorber by changing the linkages.
- Shorten the rear shock absorber and front forks.
1. Adjusting the Suspension Sag
The suspension of your motorcycle works in two directions, when it hits a bump, the suspension gets compressed (the wheel moves up nearer to the chassis/fender) and then rebounds (the wheel moves down away from the chassis).
The suspension is required to be set to work correctly in both directions considering the preload (weight of the rider and the luggage) being carried by your motorcycle.
The motorcycle sag can be set according to the weight of the rider.
When the motorcycle comes out of the factory, its suspensions are set considering an average rider weighing 180 pounds.
Shorter riders or women motorcyclists might weigh much less than 180 pounds, and the suspension needs to be softened according to the weight.
The suspension is designed to work when the rider is seated on the motorcycle.
The height of the motorcycle seat is more when parked and comes down when the rider sits on it.
Setting the motorcycle suspension according to the weight of the rider may improve its performance since that is the intention of the manufacturer.
The sag indicates how much your motorcycle settles on its suspension at rest.
You can measure the sag in the following steps. You may need one or two of your friends to help you with this.
How to check the suspension sag of your motorcycle?
Put your motorcycle on the center stand and lift the rear wheel up by pressing the handle.
Take a measuring tape and measure the straight distance between the rear axle and the top of the seat.
Do a similar measurement for the front suspension by choosing a reference (you can lift the front wheel up by pressing the back end).
Let’s call these measurements B1 (rear suspension) and F1 (front suspension). This is the measurement of your motorcycle suspension with zero sag.
Remove the center stand and allow the motorcycle to stand on its two wheels.
Put some pressure on the handlebar and the seat a couple of times and allow it to become normal.
Now tell your friend to hold the motorcycle upright and take the two measurements once again.
Let’s call this measurement B2 and F2.
You will observe that the weight of the bike has compressed the suspension. The difference between B2 and B1 or F2 and F1 is called static sag.
Now, put on your normal riding gear (including helmet and shoes), sit on the bike with your feet on the pegs, and take one of your friend’s help to keep the motorcycle upright in this condition.
Ask your other friend to take the dimensions once again. Let’s call this dimension B3 and F3.
Now you can calculate the average sag for your motorcycle as B1-[(B2+B3)/2] or B1 minus the average of B2 and B3.
Suspension sag is the quantity by which the suspension will get compressed due to the rider’s weight and indicates how much suspension travel is available for the motorcycle when it gets into a pothole or a hump.
Setting the sag implies setting it according to your weight.
Generally, the sag should not be more than 1/3 to 1/4th of the total suspension travel.
Most motorcycle shock absorbers enable adjustment for the rider’s weight and doing this adjustment can effectively lower your riding seat height.
Adjusting the rider sag should not go beyond an recommended range since it will make your ride a rough and bumpy one on a rough road and may disturb the basic geometry.
Study your owner’s manual and to fully understand how to do it on your specific motorcycle. If you are in doubt please consult your mechanic.
Adjusting the Front Suspension
Modern motorcycles have sophisticated suspensions in the front with front fork preload adjustment.
Refer to your owner’s manual and use the preload adjuster to adjust between the maximum and minimum sag recommended by the manufacturer.
If your motorcycle does not have a preload adjuster for the front suspension, please refer to the owner’s manual and understand the procedure and limits for doing it.
Normally it is done by raising the fork tubes in the triple clamps.
There are two triple clamps in the front of your motorcycle and these triple clamps hold the fork tubes in place. You will notice that the fork tubes protrude out slightly at the top (it may be reverse in some motorcycles).
Loosening the bolts on both the triple clamps (upper and lower) enables you to slide the fork tubes up (or the triple clamps down) and doing so will lower the front end of your motorcycle.
Exercise caution, when you push the forks up, you will be sacrificing the clearance between the fender and the lower triple clamp, wheel, and radiator.
Ensure that you have moved both the fork tubes equally and use a ruler to eliminate any error.
The distance moved should be within the allowable range mentioned in your owner’s manual. After the adjustment is completed tighten the bolts on the triple clamps.
Adjusting the Rear Suspension
When you have lowered the front of your motorcycle, naturally you must do it for the rear also to keep the chassis geometry.
Some motorcycles provide a preload adjuster dial and you can turn it to vary the preload, while for others you may have to loosen the bolt on the threaded collar. Please refer to your owner’s manual before doing it.
You can lower the seat by reducing the preload, however, do not go beyond the adjustment allowed by the manufacturer. Doing so will affect the handling of your motorcycle.
Following issues can pop up if the adjustment of the sag is either overdone or not done correctly-
- The clearance between the front tire and the fender is reduced and the tire can hit the fender when going on bumps and may lead to a crash.
- Chances of the fender hitting the triple clamp.
- Difficulty in steering at moderate and high speeds.
- Stiff rear shock absorber leading to an uncomfortable ride.
2. Reduce the Thickness of the Seat
Your safest and easiest option to lower the seat height may be to reduce the thickness of your motorcycle seat and also reduce a bit of its width (at the tank end).
When the seat is narrow (less width at the tank end), you need not have to stretch your legs around the seat to reach the ground
Reducing the thickness/width of the seat can lower your seat height from 0.75ʺ to 1.5ʺ.
If you have some skill and want to do it yourself, you can remove the seat cover, take out the foam seat and give it a nice shave with a sharp knife.
There will be many DIY YouTube videos on this subject.
However, if you are not confident it is better to take the help of a professional company.
You can spend some money and select a professional company to do it for you.
These companies will make your seat thinner, and reshape it to make it more comfortable, and knows how to customize the shape to comfortably fit your legs and butt. An internet search will help you to select a company near you.
You can also order an aftermarket seat for your motorcycle model to reduce your seat height.
3. Lowering the Shock Absorber Using Aftermarket Linkages
If the first two methods of lowering your motorcycle seat won’t work, you may have to try lowering the rear suspension mechanically.
However, this should be your last option as you may have to forgo many advantages – including the riding quality – of the original motorcycle.
Normally the rear suspension system use linkages and the seat height can be lowered by installing new linkages of varying lengths. Some call these linkages “dog bones”, due to their shape.
Some companies offer a variety of aftermarket linkages or kits to lower the seat height along with an adjustable side stand so that you need not forgo the convenience of a side stand.
The linkage comes in different styles and allows you to fine-tune the seat height.
When you lower your motorcycle seat height by lowering the shock absorbers, it is necessary to do it by the same height at the front and rear, to maintain the original chassis geometry.
The front suspension can be lowered by loosening the triple-clamp bolts and sliding up the fork legs.
Lowering linkage kits may be able to lower your seat from 1/2ʺ to 2ʺ.
Lowering the suspension this way will result in sacrificing the clearance between the fender and the lower triple clamp, wheel, and other components.
You must ensure that there is more than sufficient clearance between the fender and the lower triple clamp, wheel, the radiator, and any other parts during heavy brakes/bumps, or at any time the suspension undergoes complete compression.
Lowering the suspension using a linkage kit should be attempted only if you have experience and a very clear understanding of the chassis geometry and dynamics of riding, and attempting to DIY can be risky.
You must consider all the pros and cons of doing this before a final decision is taken. It will be wise and safe to entrust this work to an expert suspension mechanic.
The suspension of your motorcycle is designed and assembled by the manufacturer to a specific geometry and lowering the motorcycle suspension to achieve a lower seat height will alter many things including:
- Suspension travel.
- Motorcycle handling.
- Lean angle.
- Ground clearance.
Some of the following issues may show up when you lower your motorcycle seat by lowering the suspension.
- The ground clearance is reduced and this will affect the functions of the shock absorber.
- The leverage ratio of the suspension linkage is changed. The results of this can be unpredictable.
- The rear tire is moved close to the fender without modifying the rear shock absorber and this can make the rear tire touch the fender on bigger bumps and may lead to a crash.
- The clearance between the front tire and the fender is reduced and the tire can hit the fender when going on bumps which may lead to a crash.
- Taking a pillion rider will further aggravate the above problems.
4. Shorten the Suspension
Another option is to shorten the rear shock absorber and front forks, either by shortening the existing shock absorbers or replacing the existing shock absorbers with a shorter one available in the aftermarket.
This is the best and the safest way to lower the suspension of your motorcycle, however, you should entrust the work to an expert suspension mechanic to shorten the front suspension fork and the rear shock absorber internally.
This method is better (and gives you better riding quality) than changing the linkage (dog bone) but will cost you more.
Normally dual-sport and adventure motorcycles will have more than sufficient suspension travel for an occasional off-road rider.
You may be able to forgo a part of the suspension travel to achieve a lower seat height. Reducing the suspension travel on the rear shock absorber and front forks can be done by the expert suspension mechanic.
The mechanic should know the motorcycle geometry, riding dynamics, and has special tools for disassembling and assembling the related parts.
This is typically the safest way of lowering the seat and you will still be able to enjoy most all of the handling and fun of riding the original motorcycle.
When you get your shock absorbers shortened by a professional mechanic, it can be customized considering your specific height, weight, and riding style.
However, there is a reduction in ground clearance, and you must be careful when driving off-road or on bumpy roads.
Pros and Cons of Lowering a Motorcycle
Here are some pros and cons to consider for each method described above.
Pros of Adjusting Suspension Sag
There can be a marginal gain in the reduction of the seat height and the amount of gain depends on the rider’s weight.
Cons of Adjusting Suspension Sag
When not done by an expert, this can lead to:
- Sacrificing the clearance between the front fender and the lower triple clamp, wheel, and radiator.
- The front tire hitting the fender/lower triple clamp when going over big humps and may lead to a crash.
- The rear shock absorber becomes stiff and uncomfortable.
Pros of Reducing the Thickness of the Seat
There can be a reduction in the seat height from 0.75 inches to 1.5 inches.
Relatively easy fix that won’t affect how the bike handles.
Cons of Reducing the Thickness of the Seat
The thin seat may not be comfortable for all riders and riders may experience back pain.
An aftermarket thin seat for your motorcycle model can cost you around $160 to $200 including fitment. Getting your stock seat modified can be equally costly.
Pros of Aftermarket Linkages
This can lower your motorcycle seat from 1/2ʺ to 2ʺ.
Cons of Aftermarket Linkages
The suspension of your motorcycle is designed and assembled by the manufacturer to a specific geometry and lowering the motorcycle suspension to achieve a lower seat height will alter many things including suspension travel, motorcycle handling, lean angle, ground clearance, etc.
The side stand will become useless and may have to be modified if the aftermarket kit does not have a modified side stand.
This may make your motorcycle suspension stiff and uncomfortable.
The ground clearance is reduced and this will affect the working of the shock absorber and riding quality.
The leverage ratio of the suspension linkage is changed. The results of this are unpredictable.
The rear tire is moved close to the fender without modifying the rear shock absorber and this can make the rear tire touch the fender on bigger humps and may lead to a crash.
The clearance between the front tire and the fender is reduced and the tire can hit the fender when going on bumps and may lead to a crash.
Pros of Shortening the Shock Absorbers
This can lower your seat from 1/2ʺ to 2ʺ.
Cons of Shortening the Shock Absorbers
Getting the shock absorbers and front forks of your motorcycle shortened by an expert suspension mechanic is not cheap and can cost you around $500 and aftermarket shock absorbers will cost you much more than that.
There is a reduction in ground clearance, and you must be careful when driving off-road or on bumpy roads.
However, this method is far better compared to lowering the shock absorber using aftermarket linkage.
Is it bad to lower a motorcycle?
It is not bad to lower your motorcycle.
However, you must understand that lowering your motorcycle can make you compromise on riding quality and handling of your motorcycle, and it also costs you money.
You must discuss with your mechanic to understand the implications before proceeding further.
Naturally, when you alter the original design, you can’t expect that there will be no compromises. There will be differences in how the bike handles and you may have to decide how much you want to compromise for a lower seat.