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Advice for the Short and/or Feeble

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Bendy
Mrs Sensible



Joined: 10 Jun 2002
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PostPosted: 16:58 - 30 Sep 2011    Post subject: Advice for the Short and/or Feeble Reply with quote

It's probably #3 on the BCF most-often-asked biking questions.

Oh Noes, I'm a bit short and a bit wussy, what bike can I get?!?

Stumpy bikers, here's the deal: Most of it is in your head.


First up, lets look at what constitutes 'short'.
As far as motorbikes are concerned, it has nothing to do with your actual height. What matters most is how long your legs are.
How long your arms are may occasionally be a factor, there are some of the more extreme-positioned bikes where a stubby-armed rider might find the stretch to the bars a bit uncomfortable.
How much you weigh also changes things a little bit, purely cos a fattie (or for the boys, one who is obviously built of pure wobbly muscle) will squish the suspension a bit more than a featherweight.
But basically, it's all in the legs. Bum to floor is the thing that stops you falling over. Now what is classed as 'short' really depends on what bikes you're looking at and how hard you're prepared to work. As a sweeping generalisation - cruisers are low, adventure bikes are tall and everything else plonks into the middle somewhere.

Seat Height
So you're perusing the manufacturers website and looking at the seat height of the CBRX-Z 9000 and sobbing into your keyboard. Stop.

Seat height is a largely pointless measurement because it doesn't take into account the seat WIDTH. Think how you can reach the ground on a bicycle cos your legs are going straight down, but you can't on a horse cos you've got your legs far apart. And cos horses are like, way tall. Bad analogy. Anyway, some motorbikes are thin and some are fat, and this makes an enormous difference to what you'll reach the floor on. There really is no substitute to finding a shop or a mate with the model you're interested in and having a sit.



Bike Size & Weight

Bikes weigh different amounts, but in truth it is all a bit irrelevant really. Once you get past a certain weight, you won't be picking any of them up or stopping any of them falling over if you lose your balance, so from there on it doesn't matter how much more the bike weighs. As a personal example, I could pick my 100kg GasGas up off the floor very easily. My 170kg CBR was going to need help if I put it on the floor. So when I got a 210kg Sprint the extra 40kg was academic, since I couldn't have lifted the middleweight bike anyway. For what it's worth, you'll be amazed how strong you can be when it's a case of be strong or drop your shiny bike. That moment of "oh god no, it's going its going, strain strain strain strain strain, oh yes saved it I am the fucking queen of the world" is going to happen at least once. Particularly effective in front of a crowd, I find. Anyway, I digress...

What does make a difference is how a bike carries its weight. What I mean by that is whether it *feels* heavy or not. For example, take something like a Harley, which has a big heavy engine held low to the ground and compare it to something like a KTM adventure bike with an endurance tank - a tall bike with a fair bit of weight quite high up. You'll notice a difference at low speed or even just getting it off the side stand - the top-heavy bike will feel a bit less stable. You can't always tell by looking at a bike how it's gonna feel, so this is another reason to go sit on things. And remember the bikes in a shop are usually going to have empty fuel tanks.

There's also what I call 'lardiness'. It's this hard to describe thing where you can sit on two bikes of similar weight but one will feel more unweildy and 'lardy' than the other. I think its a mix of where the weight is and personal preference, things like the shape of the tank can make a difference to how a bike feels to you.

I've personally found an issue with some sportsbikes where the riders seat might be fine but the rear seat is so high that it makes swinging your stumpy little leg over the bike a little difficult (the Triumph 675 is a prime example!). It seems more common in those with underseat exhausts. Make sure you try it with your riding gear on cos if your leathers are anything like mine, they restrict movement a wee bit. If I bought a 675 I'd probably have to accept I was gonna scratch the shit out of the seat cowl by dragging my boot across it every time I got on and off. Whether you care or not is up to you.

When trying bikes for size, do ensure that you wear your riding gear. Leathers can be a bit restrictive and bike boots are crap for getting onto your tiptoes. If you sit on a bike in baggies and trainers, you might get a shock when you come to leave the showroom in your full gear.

Final thought - everyone is different. We're all different shapes, find different things comfy and have different opinions. You can ask for opinions until you're blue in the face but there is truely no substitute for trying bikes yourself to see what suits YOU.

Note for Noobs: Engine capacity has absolutely no relation to the physical size of a bike. There are some huge bikes with tiny engines and some tiny bikes with huge ones. Never ever shop based on engine size alone.



Technique

The best way to make up for a few inches in leg length is by using your BRAIN. If you do this, there is really no need for anything but one tiptoe to ever touch the floor.

1) Be SMOOTH.
Don't slam on the brakes and bang your feet down to keep your balance. Come to a smooth, planned stop.

2) Look where you are going to stop.
You don't want to slip - look for gravel, diesel, wet manhole covers, anything that could cause you to lose your footing.
You don't want to put your foot in a void - look for holes but also look at the camber of the road. If it is sloping away from you, you will need to adjust. Use the car 'grooves' to your advantage - put your bike in the dip and your foot on the slightly higher bit.
Always lean *away* from the traffic - that's generally to your left - just in case you do fall over.

3) Don't just sit there.
Don't just be a passive pudding, you'll make a world of difference if you move your butt. As you're approaching a stop, lift your butt off the seat and slide over a bit so that you can make the most of the leg you're going to put on the floor. You should end up with your bum half off the seat on the 'lean' side, and being partly sat on your thigh with your other leg miles from the floor. Doesn't matter, you're not going to defy the laws of physics and suddenly fall in the opposite direction to that which you're leaning!
With some practice, you should be able to do this bumslide without any thought or any effect on the bike.

4) Think before you park.
You probably can't paddle your bike backwards up a slope. You maybe can't even paddle it backwards on the flat. So here's an idea.... don't park there! Even if you're arsing about doing a 9 point turn while your mates are all sticking their bikes nose-in to the kerb, you'll be laughing when you can hop on and use the engine to pull it up the slight slope.

5) PRACTICE
Yes, it is a bit intimidating at first, you've got this apparently massive, incredibly heavy and probably very expensive machine that stresses you out every time you go near it. But ride it you must. Get your butt down to an empty carpark at the weekend and become a slow-speed-riding god. Master the bumslide. Make up junctions in your head and practice. Get to know your bike and how it carries its weight. Then get out and just ride, ride, ride. Experience is everything - you park on a slope once, you learn your lesson and you never do it again.




Things That Can Help

There are some things that you can consider if your dream bike really is a bit out of reach, even with the technique mastered.

1) Lower the seat
Some bikes have quite padded seats and you can afford to cut some of the foam out without feeling like you're sitting on a plank. You can do this yourself or there are plenty places will do it for you. There are various gel pads and other wonderous things to keep you comfy. However it is worth considering that sometimes it just changes the geometry of the seat and forces your legs further apart, negating a bit of the advantage you were hoping to gain. My 2p... look for a second hand seat on ebay and get that modified - if you don't like it you can sell it on, and when you come to sell the bike you still have the standard seat.

2) Lowering kits
Available for most bikes, these can be a fairly radical change to the geometry of the whole bike, and should be researched fully before you commit - you may ruin the handling. You also have to consider things like shortening the sidestand as the bike may not lean over enough to be stable. Personally, I would consider these a last resort.

3) Make yourself taller.
You can buy boots that make you a good 1.5 to 2 inches taller. Seach for Daytona Ladystar / Mstar and before you have a spasm at the price, consider that they should last you for years and years and have the effect of lowering EVERY bike in the world. It's nice to be able to have a go on whatever shiny new machinery your mates have, and a pair of these could give you the confidence to do so. If you don't want to go down the proper boot route, consider something like a pair of thick-soled hiking boots - the soles plus the extra movement in the ankle might help you gain a smidge of height. Ankles are good things to have though, so I wouldn't make them a longterm solution.

4) Tight Trews.
Make sure your riding gear isn't so tight that its restricting your reach to the floor. If you can touch down better in a pair of jeans than you can in your leathers, its worth looking at your kit.


tbc when I inevitably wake up at 4am thinking of something I forgot.


What qualifies me to waffle on about short bikers? I'm 5 foot 6 with a 28 inch inside leg and have owned some decent sized bikes like a Speed Triple and a Sprint ST, whilst grabbing a shot on pretty much everything any of my mates have owned. And some of them are lanky feckers. My ultimate triumph of technique over stumpiness would be managing to ride a BMW GS Adventure, though I will confess to needing a kerb to get it off the sidestand. Mr. Green
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Bendy
Mrs Sensible



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PostPosted: 16:33 - 01 Oct 2011    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://cycle-ergo.com/
http://www.vtwinmama.com/motorcycle_seat_heights.htm

Couple of useful links though, as discussed above, don't treat them as gospel!
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bumbles
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PostPosted: 20:54 - 03 Oct 2011    Post subject: Reply with quote

good thread, very helpful to me thanks
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Sherwood Bambi
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PostPosted: 20:47 - 14 Oct 2011    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speaking from (limited) experience, and being a short arse with 29in inside leg - my 2011 Bonneville with a low seat height and comfortable seat is fine for me.

I get both feet down and feel comfortable on the bike. In a year or two - who know's - I may look around at something else a little more sporty or a tourer.
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TheSmiler
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PostPosted: 20:51 - 14 Oct 2011    Post subject: Reply with quote

This might help some members if they ever want to get a bike that they don't think they can lift.
http://www.pinkribbonrides.com/dropped.html
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mprst100
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PostPosted: 15:58 - 31 Dec 2011    Post subject: Re: Advice for the Short and/or Feeble Reply with quote

Does anyone know where I can get my seat foam sculpted a bit?

I only need to lower it by an inch, or less, on my Sprint ST1050.

I am in the Yorkshire area.

Thanks in advance.
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arcoiris
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PostPosted: 11:22 - 19 Jan 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheSmiler wrote:
This might help some members if they ever want to get a bike that they don't think they can lift.
http://www.pinkribbonrides.com/dropped.html


A great sticky - and this link is invaluable to me - ty TheSmiler Very Happy

After having dropped a big big a few times and desperatly trying to pick it up whilst wanting the ground to swallow me up Embarassed Embarassed - this could just save my embarasment should it ever happen again!
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Alpha-9
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PostPosted: 12:32 - 08 Feb 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

_Iain_ wrote:
I'll be drawing the other halfs attention to this...

Meantime - what about a guide regarding suitable bikes for us tall people? A CBR125 looked ideal for me till i actually got on one Shocked


That's why i ddint get one
YBR baby!


Everyone says honda Varadero and the hyosung gt
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Digit
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PostPosted: 19:24 - 18 Mar 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

Being 71 yrs old with an inside leg of 30 inches I think I qualify on both counts!
Things aren't as bad as they used to be, as the OP says, seat width can make a mockery of seat height. In the days of the Big Kwaks for example I had to find a kerb before putting my foot down!
I sold my last Kwak to prevent a hernia, picking the damn thing up! What finished me was parking on concrete, kicking the side stand down then stepping off, only to watch said machine sink slowly into the ground as the side stand buried its self in some soil!

Roy.
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hanster
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PostPosted: 08:59 - 10 May 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any advice on leathers? (I'm 5'3" on a good day)
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Digit
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PostPosted: 16:09 - 11 May 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can't help on that one I'm afraid.

Roy.
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Knightsy
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PostPosted: 12:20 - 21 Jun 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

_Iain_ wrote:
I'll be drawing the other halfs attention to this...

Meantime - what about a guide regarding suitable bikes for us tall people? A CBR125 looked ideal for me till i actually got on one Shocked


How tall are you mate? I used to ride CBR125 at 6'6'' Laughing
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Bendy
Mrs Sensible



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PostPosted: 12:24 - 21 Jun 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

_Iain_ wrote:
I'll be drawing the other halfs attention to this...

Meantime - what about a guide regarding suitable bikes for us tall people? A CBR125 looked ideal for me till i actually got on one Shocked



Need a tall person to write it, innit. I can only speak from my rather stumpy experience. Smile
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stephyt
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PostPosted: 18:34 - 08 Oct 2012    Post subject: Good read Reply with quote

Good read for a newb shortie bein just 5ft and 27 inside leg Laughing
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Simi13
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PostPosted: 13:36 - 28 Oct 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

any advice on the best boots leathers? I'm 5ft3 possibly 5ft4 and only weigh in at about 8st 9.

Also I have an inside leg length of 27-28 inches so what's the highest seat height i could get away with on a bike like Honda CBF 600?
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Rogerborg
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PostPosted: 20:24 - 28 Oct 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simi13 wrote:
any advice on the best boots leathers?


What are you asking about? Boots, or leathers?


Simi13 wrote:
Also I have an inside leg length of 27-28 inches so what's the highest seat height i could get away with on a bike like Honda CBF 600?

Again, what? Are you asking how much you can lower a CBF600, or how low a bike like the CBF600 you should get?

Did you read what Bendy wrote? Seat width is as important as height. A Bandit 650 has the same listed seat height as a CBF600, but it's a longer stretch to the ground.

Anyway... I'ma guess at "goretex lined army surplus boots, and an ER6-n."

If that's not the answer you were after, then please phrase your question in the form of... a question.
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BakesBeans
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PostPosted: 11:52 - 31 Oct 2012    Post subject: Re: Advice for the Short and/or Feeble Reply with quote

Bendy wrote:
Daytona Ladystar / Mstar


Has anyone bought the M Star boots? Anyone used these?

If I could find a shop with them in I could try I might consider buying them, but it's a bit much blindly ordering them off the net.
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Bendy
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PostPosted: 12:07 - 31 Oct 2012    Post subject: Re: Advice for the Short and/or Feeble Reply with quote

BakesBeans wrote:
Bendy wrote:
Daytona Ladystar / Mstar


Has anyone bought the M Star boots? Anyone used these?

If I could find a shop with them in I could try I might consider buying them, but it's a bit much blindly ordering them off the net.



Been wearing them for 4 years. I even wrote a review.
I went on the Daytona site, looked for a stockist and travelled in order to try them on. It was worth it.
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declanconnoll...
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PostPosted: 11:22 - 12 Dec 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for such a helpful information
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BakesBeans
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PostPosted: 21:28 - 17 Dec 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll just add a review regarding the M Star boots, one thing you really need to consider is the thickness compared to normal boots. I've just got my new boots and I can't change gear easily at all, I would need to adjust the gear lever (which I don't want to do).

However, I did buy some inserts off ebay (8), and I much prefer these. They were "5cm height shoe insole heel lift", and if you take them off the extension, so they're around 3cm they fit into my older boots fine. This gives that bit extra.

I'll probably be selling my M Star boots (UK size 9)...
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Rogerborg
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PostPosted: 10:52 - 18 Dec 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

BakesBeans wrote:
I would need to adjust the gear lever (which I don't want to do).

Tell me about it. I bought a new car and the seat was totally too from the wheel. Reach under it and find a lever? I don't have time for that bullshit, I've just had to stuff cushions and all sorts behind my back. Mad
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BakesBeans
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PostPosted: 19:27 - 18 Dec 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rogerborg wrote:
BakesBeans wrote:
I would need to adjust the gear lever (which I don't want to do).

Tell me about it. I bought a new car and the seat was totally too from the wheel. Reach under it and find a lever? I don't have time for that bullshit, I've just had to stuff cushions and all sorts behind my back. Mad


The point being I can't ride my mates bikes with those boots you berk!
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Bendy
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PostPosted: 09:38 - 19 Dec 2012    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't had my Ladystars cause an issue on any bikes I've ridden while wearing them.

Are you sure it isn't just the usual 'can't bloody change gear in these' phase that comes with new boots, thick-soled or not? I remember cursing my Astars to hell and back and wearing them round the house for a week before I could comfortably use them on the bike.
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