Why is it important to consider the seat height?
If you are familiar with tests or information about motorcycles and scooters, you will have read about seat height. It is usually measured in inches, and it is an important factor when choosing your next motorcycle or scooter. Some may think that a few millimeters won’t matter, but once you are on the bike, you’ll realize it does make you feel more or less comfortable.
First of all, it is necessary to have a clear understanding about what seat height means. It is measured from the ground to the lowest point of the seat while the bike is resting on its two wheels in its upright position (no tilt). That being said, it is common for this measurement to vary once you start riding due to different conditions: rider and passenger weight, suspensions settings and so on. In fact, you can soften the preload so that the bike lowers a little more when carrying the rider. This, in turn, will have an impact on the motorcycle’s behavior so you better think about it before tampering with the suspension settings.
Now, what is the recommended seat height for my bike? There is no one size fits all answer as it depends on the type of bike you choose and what you’d like to do with said motorcycle. However, it’s common to see a certain pattern depending of each bike type. Here are the current bike-to-seat height trends:
- Custom bikes: These bikes usually have the engine sitting in front of the pilot, regardless of their displacement. This allows for the seat to be very low, so they are usually the bikes with the lowest seat heights. It also helps to keep the gravity center very close to the ground, allowing for greater weight control and easier access to the bike. Remember, Continental’s custom range features ContiTour and ContiLegend tires.
- Sport and supersport bikes: Due to their design, the seats tend to have very little cushioning and the suspensions are hard. Stiffer suspension settings plus a rather firm seat makes for a not so comfy ride and the seat position does not vary much once the bike is loaded. Nevertheless, seat height usually stands within reach of the average pilot. In this segment, the latest tires developed by Continental are the ContiSportAttack 4 and the ContiRaceAttack 2 Street.
- Naked bikes: Similar to the previous ones, seat height is usually in a fairly accessible range. But unlike sportsbikes, their suspensions tend to be a tad softer (thus enabling the pilot to “lower the seat” once their weight does its job) and the seat itself is also plushier and gives in a bit. Versatility being one of their major assets, the preferred tire in this segment is the spectacular and award-winning ContiRoadAttack 3, to which we must add the trusty and brand new ContiRoad.
- Touring and sport-touring bikes: They are not much higher than the previous ones, but their seats are wider to improve their comfort. This forces the pilots to spread their legs a bit further away and, turn, one reachies the ground with less confidence. Seat height is key, but inner leg curve is also crucial (determined by both the seat height itself and the seat width). For trips with heavy touring motorcycles, there are variants such as the ContiRoadAttack 3, with a casing that has an extra strength.
- Trail and maxi-trail bikes: Due to their off-road nature, their wheels are usually bigger and the ground clearance has to be bigger in order to not to scrape the ground. Shorter riders can face problems while riding these bikes due to the combination of a high seat height and a heavier weight that must be carried while standing. Continental is undoubtedly the leading brand in this segment, offering asphalt oriented models as the ContiTrailAttack 3, all-round TKC 70 and TKC 70 Rocks and TKC 80 for maximum fun when riding off road.
- Enduro, motocross and supermoto bikes: Off-road riding is very specific when it comes to defining the motorcycle’s size, particularly when it comes to ground clearance. Large diameter tires, long travel suspension and the high seat itself contribute to possibly the tallest seat height you can find. Undoubtedly, a wonderful practice; but one that needs getting used to. Especially if you’re not the tallest pilot out there. In this case, remember that the TKC 80 is perfectly suited for enduro bikes aiming at a more ‘traily’ use. On the other hand, the ContiAttack SM EVO for supermoto bikes should be highlighted.
- Scooter and maxiscooter: This is a quite particular case: they tend to have a fairly accessible seat height, but as they increase their displacement, they also tend to increase their width and this is where complications can arise for some riders (remember the inner leg curve measurement mentioned earlier). In this segment, Continental offers the ContiScoot, a very interesting premium option.
The perfect seat height
It seems that we don’t want to answer; but the truth is, there is no correct answer! It depends on many factors: The first thing we can suggest is to get on the bike in order to check how all those conditions behave. The bike’s ergonomics overall, how the suspensions give in thanks to your weight and, more importantly, the width of the seat. These are key points for you to feel comfortable and safe when riding your bike or scooter.
There is one condition that we have not yet talked about, but key nevertheless: your ability and your taste! Even if you are ‘on the shorter side’, you may have acquired certain skills in order to be able to stand on just one foot on either side when not moving and you know how to ride a big bike overall. Also, if you’re an off-road pilot, you’ll usually go for the taller setting even if it’s harder to manage when stopping.
In short, the important thing is that you feel safe and comfortable on the bike.
Tips when facing a bike that is too high
When you check the data sheets of some motorcycles and scooters, figures might be frightening. However, sticking to the figures is ill-advised: you should go further. As we said before, there are other factors that you must take into account: go pay a visit to your favorite dealer and climb on the bike of your choice. No need to ride it; you will already have a grasp on how you may feel on the road and when you have to hold it still.
If the seat height is still too high for you but you refuse to let go of that bike, here are some ways out:
- Lower seat: Some brands offer lower seat options to grant easier access to the bike – every inch matters! Higher seating options are also available for those who have the opposite problem or want a more dominant position.
- Special models: There are specific versions designed to reduce the height of the seat, not only with an adapted seat but also with adjusted suspension sets with less travel, such as the Triumph Tiger 900 GT Low / 1200 XRx Low.
- Boots with special sole: Typical in some enduro and motocross boots, these have a thicker sole that helps reach the footrests and the ground better.
- …Lower the suspension?: Many riders will think about choosing this option first as it looks like the easiest. To tell you the truth, it’s not the most recommended alternative: The bike is to serve a certain purpose, with specific sizes, suspensions and settings. Tampering with the suspension makes the bike less efficient than expected. In fact, we end up modifying the bike’s geometry, riding height and original performance of the suspension, so we will not enjoy the output it will deliver and, therefore, it will have a worse performance.