Im Short! Need Advice on Getting Flat-Footed

Tippy toes on the motorcycle won't do!

Dear WRN,
I found the article, The Lowest of the Low, with its list of low seat height motorcycles very informative in trying to help shorter (or I think the average height woman) find the right fit and the right bike.
I am getting ready to take the BRC (Basic Rider Course) and its my first experience with motorcycles at the young age of 63 and Im just barely 5 feet tall, with a very short inseam. Im looking for some good constructive advice on bikes or seats or even suspensions systems that can be added to a motorcycle so I will be able to have my feet flat on the ground when stopped. Tippy toes wont do it for me. Im afraid I will lose my balance. Need the stability of being well connected to the road.
So tall women riders, if you can give us short women riders constructive advice and suggestions I will be much obliged. Thank you!
Patricia Kimball
Halethorpe, MD
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29 thoughts on Im Short! Need Advice on Getting Flat-Footed

  1. I was 60 when I took the MSF course and have gone through various motorcycles as I determined what my riding style would be. A woman I met who was 70 and had started riding at the same age as me, said, “Start small and work your way up. Get comfortable with the bike at each stage.”I started with a Honda Rebel , then a Sportster, and a Truimph Bonneville. My husband bought me a small dual sport bike and I loved the off-road capability .I just bought my first brand new bike a Yamaha XT250 and will look at the Ducati Scrambler for a road bike. As you can see I was all over the board until I found what type of riding I wanted to do.Take your time, and have fun learning. A site called Motorcycle Ergonomics allows you to put in your size info and see how you would look on different bikes. I am 5 feet 2 inches with a 28-inch inseam. Have fun!

  2. Hi Patricia, I’m 5 feet 3 inches and my inseam is 29 inches and I learned to ride when I was 48 years young, which was 9 years ago now. My first bike was a 2003 Honda Shadow 750 and I still had to do some tweaking to be completely flat footed. I had the stock seat looked at by an automotive upholsterer. The foam Honda used was removed and another was put in that was better quality and not as much of it. It lowered me by about an inch and then I removed the stock shocks and put on a shorter one, 11-inch Progressive Suspension, it lowered me by another 1 inch! I was flat footed then! If I had to put on shorter shocks, I would have had to lower the front forks too. For balance, but with only an 1 inch, I didn’t need to do the front.It was a bit of trial and error, and I learned how to make a bike fit me. And now I ride a Harley Davidson Dyna Switchback. It’s important to choose and make your first bike fit you. It’s a huge confidence builder for you to feel that you can handle your because it fits you perfectly!Good luck with your learning to ride course. I’m sure you will do great!

  3. I have a 2004 Suzuki SV650S and after trying other bikes and research, this was the best for me. I am 5 feet 4 inches and there was a limitation to the bikes I preferred to ride. What I did first was to cut out about 2 inches of the seat and use the OEM skin to reconnect to the bottom of the seat. You really cannot tell any alteration has been done and made it easier for me at stops, etc. I adjusted my stock rear suspension to lower a little, but not too much unless I am carrying a lot of gear. Obviously, it goes the opposite way, so it might be a bit taller when you unload on trips.Another possible option is to shorten the sidestand a bit, but that can affect the lean angle of the bike and if it’s too vertical the possibility of a tip over could happen. Cutting the seat a bit also helped, as it wasn’t as wide as it was originally. This made it easier for me to reach the ground easier.I hope my information helped.

  4. Patricia,I am 5 feet 2 inches with a 28.5-inch inseam. I now ride a BMW R 1200 RT and have been riding for about 14 years. I highly recommend you find a first bike that you are completely flat-footed to start. Cruisers are a good start for new riders. They tend to be low and light and easy to handle. Consider a used bike in good condition so you won’t have to stress about damaging it if you tip it over while learning. Don’t worry about brands until you’ve mastered the basic riding skills. Find a bike that just feels good when you sit on it. No one else can decide what feels good for you. ake it for a test ride if you can.Check out the International Motorcycle Shows (held during the fall and winter in larger cities all over the country). Sit on every bike you can. You’ll find more in one place than going from dealer to dealer. I still do this every year – I’ll sit on everything from the smallest scooter to the biggest Gold Wing. Rhonda in Grand Rapids had a good point. Being flat-footed becomes less important as your experience and skills develop. The choice of bike will impact that perception. One of my bikes I nearly flat-foot, but it weighs 100 pounds more than my other bike which I navigate on tip toes. I feel more competent and confident riding the lighter bike, even on tip toes. Being shorter you learn to adapt. You choose where to place your bike in the lane when you stop (I choose right wheel line for cars because I can flat foot on the left in the center of the lane which is often crested for drainage and still use the foot brake on the right). I’m more careful about where I park to avoid down hill situations. If I am faced with backing up going up hill, I get off and drag it back with kickstand still down. I’ve learned not to be afraid to park somewhere other than the crowd if the location makes me feel uncomfortable with my ability to get back out again.I use Frey Daytona Lady GTX boots with an internal lift, as I don’t like to ride with heels that can get caught on the foot pegs. I ended up adding a peg lowering kit to accommodate the extra height of the boots. I just received a custom seat this week that I’m experimenting with as well. Low seats don’t always mean better reach to the ground, as many are often wider. Look for narrow as much as low where the seat meets the tank.In addition to shocks to lower your bike, ask your dealer about tires – some are more low-profile than others. Even a 1/4 inch makes a difference.Finally look carefully at every bike you see. Don’t be afraid to ask other women or even men about things they’ve used to adjust their bikes or riding equipment to suit their needs. Most people are happy to tell you what they’ve added or changed on their bikes. Each person is different. Try every idea and see if it works for you. Just have fun!

  5. Basically there are only two ways: lower the seat or raise the rider, easily accomplished with “lifts.”Lowering the seat seems a tad more stylish, especially as it typically involves a bike with a low seating position – see the wonderful lists provided in other responses.

  6. I purchased a Yamaha XVS650 Custom [That is the manufacturer’s designation for V Star 650 Custom — Editor] after having my license for 30 years and persisting with sportbikes with high seats. I’m a 5-foot petite female, 110 pounds and 47 years old. The Yamaha was perfect! I’ve just upgraded to a HD Sportster 1200T with lowered suspension, 11-inch Progressive Suspension shocks, and a Super Reduced Reach solo seat. I can reach the ground flat-footed on both bikes and recommend you buy the bike that gives you the best reach to the ground. Don’t buy a light bike — you’ll get used to the weight — but you can’t grow several inches at our age so reaching ground flat-footed is the most important aspect. Good luck and have fun!

  7. First take the Basic RiderCourse. Then go to all of the motorcycle shops and sit on as many new and used bikes as possible. Find one that fits you. You will eventually find one that just feels better than all the others. Then practice correctly. Practice all of your riding skills. Take the BRC again. Just because you passed it the first time doesn’t mean you can’t take it again. You will learn more the second time. Or try to find a RRBRC that you can take on your own bike. After practicing your riding skills, you will find that reaching the ground doesn’t matter as much as it used to. I can’t reach the ground on two of my bikes. If I can’t back my bike into a parking spot, I just get off and push it. Pushing from the side is actually easier because both feet are flat on the ground.If you still think you need to touch the ground more, start with thick soled boots, but not so thick that it impairs your ability to use the shift lever and brake pedal. If you modify your seat, keep in mind that a narrower seat (and gas tank) make the bike feel shorter than a wider seat of the same height. Also a lower center of gravity on the bike makes it feel lighter than a bike with a higher center of gravity. You can also buy different handlebars to help make your bike feel smaller.

  8. I too am vertically challenged and according to my license, I’m 5-feet-4 (but I’m really only 5 feet 3-1/2 inches). I managed to find a V Star 250 in NJ (very hard to find those here) and it’s got a pretty low seat height even for a 5-foot tall person. Also, the Suzuki Boulevard S40 sits very low but it’s a 650cc. You should also look at the Honda Rebel 250 – all very low seat heights. I am upgrading to a Honda Shadow ACE 750 but it’s a bit taller for me to comfortably flat foot it so I am going to buy a suspension lowering kit and lower the suspension by at least a 1/2 inch; plus I’ll change out the stock seat, which is too wide for my smaller frame making my legs swing out further than necessary, and preventing me from getting more “leg height.” Anyway, if you are interested, I will be selling my Yamaha V Star 250 in a couple of months. Feel free to contact me via email (

  9. Good suggestions here already. Wear thicker-soled boots; start on something small and ride the wheels off it. Don’t lower your suspension (it will limit your cornering clearance). If buying a Harley, use the “fit shop.”The Honda Shadow is an extremely popular entry-level bike for smaller people. The Suzuki Boulevard S40 is a great confidence builder. YOUR FIRST BIKE IS CRUCIAL TO YOUR MOTORCYCLING FUTURE; MAKE SURE IT FITS!Also, as you gain confidence and skill, the flat-footed thing is not so important. If you are stopping with both brakes (as you should) you can leave your right foot on the brake and lean just a little to the left and just put your left foot down. The key is to have good skills, and keep taking training to improve your skills. Eventually you can ride anything. Manna, MSF RiderCoach, Selden, NY

  10. I am 64 and stand 4 feet 11 inches tall. I took my riding class on a Buell Blast at a Harley dealership in 2007. I bought one of their Buell Blasts as my first bike. I bought a Kawasaki Ninja 500 in 2011 and had it lowered about 1 1/2 inches. I took the seat to an upholsterer and had an inch taken out of it. I also took my Dainese riding boots to a shoe repair and had 1 1/2 inches added to the sole. I can easily stand flat footed on the bike. I needed all of that to feel comfortable on the bike. I like the Ninja because I cannot do the leaning back thing. My inner ear will not allow that. Go talk to the bike shops in your area and to a shoe repair. Most of them will work with you to get that “comfort feeling.” Good luck.

  11. I m 5 feet 1 inch. I took the Basic Riders Course first (twice) within the same year. After the training I bought a 2010 Yamaha Custom 650cc. I love it. Is about 540 pounds light. Did I mention I am 110 pounds? You ride whatever feels right to you based on your skill. Life happens outside your comfort zone.

  12. I ride a sportbike and typically, I never have both feet flat footed. I only have one foot on the ground at intersections/lights etc. And depending on where the oil slick is to which foot, if I are leaving it in gear then naturally the right foot would be down—lift foot up and back onto pegs and take off. With stopping/parking, I put the right foot down and put it into neutral, then I do the foot shuffle—right foot up, left foot down, kick stand down and get off bike. Need to park the bike? After putting the kickstand down, stand at the side and maneuver it around.

  13. Thanks so much for the info on what to keep in mind in looking for a bike. I’m afraid I’ll look stupid when shopping as I know nothing about this. One question, do you take a basic course before you buy the bike or do you need to have yours to do this. Thanks so much for any help

    1. It’s advised that you don’t know how to ride or own a motorcycle before taking the course this way you haven’t learned any bad habits on a motorcycle. And taking the course allows you to be familiar with the different types of motorcycle that are out there. Once you take and pass the class you will most certainly have a better idea of the style and size motorcycle you want to learn on as a new rider. Another reader asked this same question and there are a lot of responses from readers you can read through. Check it out here. It’s located in the “Your Questions Answered” section on Women Riders Now.

  14. How big/small do you want to start? There are views aplenty as to small displacement (i.e. 250cc, “beginner” bikes), not all positive, and it is very much personal choice. I am a 5-feet 6-inch woman blessed with a 31-inch inseam who, at age 52, for the first time got within 10 feet of a motorcycle and caught the bug to ride. My bicycle time in last 30 years was about two hours. My choice was a low (27-inch) seat height, light weight (324 pound wet weight) beginner cruiser. I have several inches to spare in flat-footing her, and she is easy to maneuver. Gives a V-twin sound even for a little bitty gal.Yes, I plan on making her my experimental maintenance bike at my one-year riding anniversary, December 2014, and trading up to a bigger bike, but for nailing the low speed basics, getting that confidence nailed down, and doing 75 on a grooved pavement freeway on entry level bike, my Yamaha V Star 250 is my gal. I’m sure at 5-feet-0 you could handle this bike. But if you feel you must go H-D from square one, the 883 SuperLow is compelling.

  15. I’m 5 feet 3 inches. You may want to have a look at the Yamaha Bolt – 950cc. Extremely well balanced and a pleasure to ride. I highly recommend the Honda Rebel 250 or 500 to start on – also well balanced and low to the ground!

  16. I am 47. I have been riding since I was 8 years old. I am only 5 feet 1 inches and I have no upper body strength. I tippy-toed my Harley-Davidson 883 deluxe for over 18 years. Two years ago I got an Harley-Davidson 883 Hugger and I love it. I can touch the ground and it is not as top heavy as the Deluxe

  17. Hi out there to all my “vertically challenged” moto sisters. I think many women are missing a huge point about the ease of handling a bike: weight distribution. Seat height is only one factor here. Where is the weight distributed on your bike? Low on the bike?(power plant and covers), or is it higher up on the bike (tank, seat assembly, luggage)?The bottom line here is that we do not want our bikes to tip over. All bikes have a tipping point (when you lean a bike over to one side, the point at which it will tip over). Every bike out there has a different tipping point. Seat height is not the major factor in the tipping point of a bike! Unfortunately, I think women got a bit stuck on this one aspect of bike handling. In the ongoing effort to sell bikes to women, bike manufacturers hammer away on this one point, but that is not all there is. I started on an inexpensive cruiser with lots of plastic parts low on the bike. I dropped it regularly. Then bought a bike with a higher seat height, that I cannot flat-foot, but the tipping point is more forgiving, and I have never come close to dumping it. Bottom line is: really ride different bikes and choose one based on feel, not just seat height!

  18. I started riding at the age of 45. I am 5 feet tall and I started out on a Honda Rebel (a 250) and it fit me well. I moved up to a used Yamaha V Star 650, and then onto a used VStar 950. I can sit flat footed on the 950. What I have found out is that used bikes will usually sit lower than a new bike because they are broken in and they usually have additional weight such as saddle bags attached which weigh them down. If I go into a dealership and sit on a new 950, I can’t sit flat footed. Many bikes can be lowered, and something to keep in mind is the width of the bike, even though some bikes may have a low seat height, the width of the bike itself can prohibit you from touching the ground or if you do touch the ground your legs are really close to the pipes.Good luck with the class and happy riding!

  19. I ride a Street Glide. My husband put air shocks on the bike which allows you to push a switch and the frame lowers itself to a few inches of the ground. This allows me to back up into the garage easily. When you ride, push the switch the other way and the air brings the bike up to the level you want. There are lowering kits you can buy as well but the air shocks work great. You have to find a seat that will lower you so going to a Corbin or Mustang seat factory where they measure you and the bike will help get the right fit.

  20. Thank you ladies! I can’t thank you enough for all of your advice and suggestions. I will certainly delve into each one to see what works for me. I really do appreciate all of your input and thanks for taking time to educate me on this new excursion. Many thanks!Pat Kimball

  21. Im 5 feet 2 inches and just started riding in March. I bought my first bike in may. It is a Honda Shadow Phantom 750 cruiser. Perfect for my height. No changes needed. Flat-footed even with tennis shoes on.

  22. Patricia, I am 4 feet 11 inches and have a 28-inch inseam. I ride a 2007 Yamaha V Star 650 Custom. The seat hight is listed at 26.5 inches however, the stock seat is very narrow in front which helps with my reach to the ground a lot! I sit on the bike flat-footed with my motorcycle (waffle stomper style) boots on. I am also an MSF Rider Coach with the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center. If you are looking at having to lower the suspension of the motorcycle you purchase, I suggest you go no lower than 3/4 of an inch. Any lower than that (except on most dual sport/sport bikes) can really effect the lean angle of the bike. If you have to go lower than that, I would suggest looking into shaving the seat down or having a custom seat made for the bike. There is a good article on WRN about just that. [It is listed under Related Articles below the question. — Editor] I know how difficult it can be to find a motorcycle that fits you! Be patient, take your time and don’t settle for something that you don’t feel comfortable on. Have you given any thought to getting a trike or maybe Can-Am Spyder? Just throwing it out there. Good luck in your quest! I hope you find this information helpful.

  23. Get yourself a used Honda Rebel (once you’ve passed your MSF, of course!). Ride it ’til you’re bored with it.I’m 5 feet 4 inches, but with a 33-inch inseam, and with a proper motorcycle boot I was able to flat-foot with absolutely no problem.Learn how to ride, then master riding, then move on to another bike, regardless of your inseam.

  24. Patricia – I just started riding myself a few months ago (at 48). My husband took me all over so I could sit on lots of bikes and when I sat on the one I finally bought my first thought was “I have to have this bike.” It is a 2011 Suzuki Boulevard S40. I am 5 feet 2 inches tall and can flat-foot very easily. The bike weighs 381 pounds so it’s easy to handle also. Having the 650cc is nice because I am able to keep up with my husband, brother-in-law and nephew. I would recommend it. It is a great starter bike.Happy riding.

  25. Daytona Lady Star boots! Pricey, but oh so worth it! In addition to superb quality and design, they add around 2 inches of height to your ground reach. Helimot wasted no time in delivery either!

  26. I am 5 feet and have been riding for six years. I started on a Honda Shadow 750 and it was perfect for me right after taking the course. After three months I outgrew that bike and needed something bigger and beefier. I ride a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Lo now. I had my bars moved closer to me and switched out the factory seat with one from Harley that pushed my bottom forward. I love it wouldn’t change it. Note: Going through the Harley fit shop helped significantly in sizing the right bars and seat while in the store.

  27. I’m 5 feet and ride a Honda Shadow ACE 750. The seat and suspension have been dropped to their lowest factory setting. I don’t quite flat foot it but with my boots on (1-inch heel) it’s almost there. It’s been my experience that throttle control is what really controls the bike. Practice, practice and more practice runs around your neighborhood, community and even empty parking lots will help you gain the security and assurance you need to feel in control of your bike. My bike buddy told me once, “Be one with the bike and your fear of falling will subside.” Good luck to you.

  28. I am the same. I am only 5 feet tall and all my shortness is in my legs. On that note I currently ride a Ridley Auto-glide but have also been able to have flat feet on a Honda Shadow C2 750. It is very short, with a 25-inch seat height and a very low center of gravity with a narrow seat. In my experience this has made all the difference—low center of gravity, narrow seat, and of course the low seat height. And I agree with you, I refuse to ride tip-toe—of course that also depends on high healed boots. Best wishes! My best advice is go sit on a lot of bikes and see what feels good.

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