Updated content on November 5, 2014.
The search for a perfect-fitting motorcycle often feels like a Goldilocks-type hunt as a rider seeks a bike that feels "just right." Seat height often emerges as a point of consideration and contention.
Sitting flat foot on a motorcycle gives a rider many advantages, not the least being sure-footed confidence when coming to a stop, especially on hills, gravel roads or other unsettling situations. Simply, you have one less issue to worry about when you firmly plant your feet, as opposed to wobbling on your toes, or balancing a 500-plus-pound machine with one foot only. Sure, you can do those, but should you have to? Do you really want to for the rest of the time you own your motorcycle?
Options abound for decreasing seat height. The hard part? Trying to select what works best for you. In no way does altering seat height mark you "unskilled" or "incapable."
New Seat or New Shocks?
There are two main ways riders lower their motorcycle: by changing the seat and/or replacing the shocks, the bikes suspension. Trading out your stock shocks for aftermarket ones that lower your motorcycle beyond the factory settings always alters the handling of the motorcycle and should be considered with this option. Changing the stock seat for a lower one does not change the motorcycles handling and should be your first option when looking at ways to lower seat height for these reasons: 1) Its usually less expensive than suspension modifications. Labor costs to install new shocks far exceed the two minutes it takes to screw on a new seat. 2) You can usually "try out" the new seat by simply taking yours off and installing the one youre considering. A lot of dealers will do this for you right in their parking lot. 3) If you dont end up liking the new seat after youve bought it and ridden with for awhile, installing your old seat on your motorcycle is something you can easily do.
WomenRidersNow.com editor Genevieve Schmitt changed the shocks and/or seat on four out of the five motorcycles shes owned and has a lot to say about how this affected her ride. Read more in this story on replacing a motorcycles shocks.
Over the years that WRN has been in existence weve met several women riders who have added additional inches to the sole of their motorcycle boots in order to reach the ground on their motorcycle. While not recommend as the first option because, if not done properly, an added thicker sole could come off the boot or cause problems with shifting, these riders have found success.
Custom seat manufacturers say the quest to shorten seat height began years ago, stemming from need but also from the desire to "look cool," especially in the cruiser kingdom. Shortening seat height increases rider safety by decreasing the chance of falling at a stop. It lowers the motorcycles center of gravity but still preserves ground clearance. And the issue is not gender specific; the scourge of short inseams affects both sexes.
Often, the quickest and easiest way to obtain a lower motorcycle seat is by opening a catalog and ordering one. The new seat replaces the stock motorcycle saddle you already own meaning you will have an extra seat at the end of the day. However, an extensive selection of motorcycle replacement seats exists from which to choose, especially if you ride a cruiser. These seats often lower your reach to the ground. Sometimes they also push you forward, decreasing reach to the brake pedal and shifter. The selection of styles (solo or double) and coverings (leather, vinyl, colors and textures) means you add a fashionable touch to your bike while decreasing seat height at the same time.
There are many aftermarket seats to choose from these days designed to fit specific models of bikes. Often, you need not look further than the motorcycle manufacturer itself. For example, Harley-Davidson offers an extensive line of aftermarket seats for its specific models, and BMW offers low seat options right from the factory. Most times, though, youll look to a specialized seat manufacturer to find what you need. Your motorcycle dealer can point you in the right direction. See our resource list of aftermarket seat manufacturers at the end of this article. And visit WRNs Seat Reviews section here.
Sometimes, finding lower seat height replacement saddles doesnt happen easily, especially with sportbikes. However, several companies can alter existing saddles to conform to specific dimensions.
Altering/Customizing Your Existing Seat
I chose this road when deciding to lower my seat height on my Honda 919 sportbike. The stock seat height is a 31.3 inches, a slight stretch for my 29-inch inseam. I sent my seat to Bill Mayer Saddles for alteration.
I filled out an extensive form answering questions such as height, weight, inseam length, and riding style (under 100 miles a day or frequent "iron butt" rider). I sent photos of how I sat on the bike with the stock seat, so they could view my seating position, reach to the ground, stretch to the handlebars, etc. My husband traced on the seat an outline of my butt as it rested there. Then I shipped them my seat.
In about 10 days my new, improved seat returned. Bill Mayer Saddles narrowed the front nose section and removed some foam to make me sit lower. They also contoured a slight shelf into the seat in which my tush fits perfectly -- a custom derriere perch, if you will. My reach to the ground did shorten by about 1 inch -- not enough to make me sit flat-footed, but enough to decrease my stretch to the pavement and make sudden, one-footed stops more surefooted.
Take out foam padding? You might think less padding equals a more uncomfortable ride. Not so. Bill Mayer Saddles replaced the lost foam with special closed-cell foam (customized to a rider's weight and riding style) to give better support and comfort than stock seat foam. Though my stock seat always felt comfortable, my new saddle feels better. Plus, the new black leather cover looks and feels soft and elegant. I also found an unexpected benefit. My bike's center of gravity is now lower and it handles easier and better.
Since companies that alter an existing seat use your stock seat pan (the hard shell underneath the foam), your bike will be without a seat while waiting for the reconstruction. Also, depending on your model bike, you may not have much foam to remove to decrease seat height and obtain the results you'd like. Talk with the various companies to learn what they can do to help you.
For the fashion conscious, this would be the time to pick different colors, coverings and seat trims to gussy up your ride. Prices can range from under $200 for reusing your stock cover with new foam to as high as your imagination if you select exotic animals skins and other fancy applications.
From the Factory
Several BMW motorcycle models offer the no-cost option to order a seat with a height of your choice (usually shorter, average and taller) when you purchase the bike. Check the BMW website to see which of its latest models comes in a low seat option.
These companies sell their own lower replacement seats and/or offer customize motorcycle seats. Contact the companies for pricing information.
- Mustang Seats | MustangSeats.com
Sells replacement saddles for all Harley-Davidson, Victory, and metric cruisers. Marketing Director Marilyn Simmons says though the company doesn't offer specific "lower" seat models; all Mustang models feature a narrower nose to ease reach to the ground. The seats also make a rider sit straighter, which decreases reach to handlebars and foot controls while increasing comfort.
- Saddlemen | Saddlemen.com
Sells the Renegade Solo Seat and Profiler Seat designed to slightly lower the rider to the ground while also offering tapered sides to help improve leg reach to the ground. These fit most modern cruisers including Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Harley-Davidson. These seats can be purchased through motorcycle dealers or directly from Saddlemen.
- Harley-Davidson | Harley-Davidson.com | Reach Seat & Super Reduced Reach Seat: These two seats are available from Harley-Davidson's Genuine Accessories and are designed specifically for riders who want to sit closer to the handlebars. The Reach Seat positions a rider forward approximately half an inch (depending on the individual model) closer to the hand and foot controls. The narrow front profile brings a rider's legs closer together to help him or her plant feet more firmly on the ground. The Super Reduced Reach Seat pushes the rider forward up to 2.5 inches closer to the handlebars, with his or her feet up to 2 inches lower (again, the distance depends on the motorcycle model). These two seats are available for most Harley-Davidson models.
- Harley-Davidson | Harley-Davidson.com | Badlander Seat: Available for Sportster, Dyna, Softail and Touring model bikes. This seat is "thinner" or flatter than the stock seat so riders are brought closer to the ground. This seat delivers low-slung cruiser styling from the rear fender to the tank console using clean smooth covers and subtle top-stitching. These seats can be obtained through any Harley-Davidson dealership.
- Le Pera Seats | LePera.com
Manufactures replacement seats for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Specific lower seats include the Bare Bones, a thin, low sleek seat, and the Upfront Bare Bones seat, which not only lowers a rider but offers the lift of back support.
- Sargent Cycle Products | SargentCycle.com.
Offers lower replacement seats for most BMW touring models, Suzuki SV650, and Suzuki V-Strom.
- Corbin | Corbin.com
Another aftermarket seat manufacturer.
- Bill Mayer Saddles | BillMayer-Saddles.com
Customizes an existing seat to rider measurements. Uses close-cell foam for support and comfort. Turnaround time: about four to five days plus shipping time to and from your home.
- Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Seats | Harley-Davidson.com
The Motor Company began a custom seat program in spring 2008. A rider can select from various seat styles (including ones that lower seat height) as well as coverings, colors, stitching and trim. Seats can be ordered through Harley-Davidson dealerships.
- Keith's Custom Seats | KeithsCustomSeats.com
Uses existing seat pans and customizes a seat to a rider's specifications. Utilizes a special foam developed by the government for wheelchair-bound people. Specializes in exotic skins and leatherwork.
- Saddlemen | Saddlemen.com
Runs a custom shop for seat special-orders and can build a seat to a rider's specifications. Seats can be customized to move the rider up/down/forward/backward within the limits of the bike's frame. Uses gel in addition to foam for cushioning without bulk.
- Sargent Cycle Products | SargentCycle.com
Offers the Super Cell Lower and Narrower custom seat with a stock seat. Sargent cuts down the old foam, narrows it, then takes out more foam and replaces it with the lower, closed cell foam. Can sometimes reuse the stock cover. Turnaround time is approximately three to four weeks during summer; less in other months.
18 thoughts on Options for Lowering a Motorcycles Seat Height
Don’t ship your seat modifications to Astech seats. They moved, did not bother to tell anyone on the website, nor tell me even when we had exchanged multiple emails. My seat got returned, and now I’m out $75 for shipping.
This is an excellent article and lots of good points raised. I too have a problem with shortness. I have an inside leg of 22 inches but I have to say I’m sorry but I really can’t see how an inside leg of 30 inches makes you short. All the points are right. Go for a lower seat and raised boots before you lower shocks as that really does affect handling. I have a Virago and I made a new seat out of steel plate, sliced up some sponge off an old sofa and then wrapped it in black plastic tape. Not pretty but cheap and effective. I have the shocks on the lowest setting which does make it wallow a bit and is useless when taking a pillion and you can’t always say “hold on while I get a spanner and adjust my shocks” before you need to give someone a lift.I wear steel toe caps with an inch-and–half sole but I also wear conventional bike boots and they also do the job. There is a limit though before you look like Frankenstein’s and Gene Simmon’s love child.You can add inches to your feet but please remember leverage and the length of your arms. Short legs normally go with short arms and that really does make a difference to pushing a bike off a side stand, especially if you park on a camber. Short body height also goes with short legs and I know of one lady rider who looks through the bars of her bike rather than over them. I tried that once on a XS650 hardtailed chop, it felt very unsafe.I lot of it is confidence and self belief but I really would prefer to feel that I have 100 percent control over my bike than I am over stretching myself for the sake of riding my dream bike. The point is there is no barrier to riding a bike, there are tons of options out there and lots of ways round things.
I have just got Baja Avenger Street 220cc that got launched yesterday. I am only 5 feet sitting on the bike. I have only one foot on the ground with other hanging in thee air. What I want to know is that if i get the thinnest gel seat, how many inches would decrease to fit my height.The problem is also because I have heavy things so the room space is less making my legs spread and be in air. Would gel seats be helpful? How many inches would be decreased?
Trisha,You would have to contact the seat company you plan get a gel seat from and ask them how much it would decrease seat height. Each seat is different. You should read this article we posted on WRN that offers tips for short riders handling bigger bikes.
I am 5 feet tall and ride an H-D Heritage Softail. This is only because I lowered the bike 1 inch and have an H-D Super Reach seat. Not only did it allow me to be flat footed but pushes me forward to read the controls. My dealership actually spent time with me in their “fit shop” to make sure it would all work before I closed the deal on this bike.
I opted to change the seat on my Softail Slim to a Mustang Solo seat. Not only does it make me feel secure on my motorcycle because I can safely place my feet on the ground, it makes for a less fatigued ride as well.
I had that problem when I bought an 1100 Honda Shadow. My solution was to lower the shocks. I thought I would have to buy a new seat but lettering the shocks makes for a great fit. Plus the ride isn’t so stiff anymore and my feet are firmly on the ground. Not that I don’t love my heals, but I can’t see riding too well.Love your articles. Don’t stop.
Just bought an new 2013 Aprilia 850 GT Mana. Seat needs to be lowered by 1.5 inches. Any vendor recommendations with good results? Thanks for any help.
Barry,We will post your question here and see what answers we get from readers. We will also post your question on our reader questions page and let you know when we do so you can see all the responses.
This article is just the information that I needed, giving me options and several vendors that can assist me with lowering my seat. The perils of being 5-feet-and purchasing a Softail. Thanks for the info.
Baldwin Motorbike Saddles works wonders with a variety of bikes including Kawasaki Versys, Concours; Ninjas, Triumphs, V-Stroms and more. I worked with him on a custom seat for me and my Concours 14. Rode to his shop and he fit me to the seat and I was able to look through his materials to choose what I wanted. Very nice to work with and a wonderful job.
I have only been riding since June this year, and I have been riding a Honda Shadow 800. It is the perfect height, my feet are flat and a slight bend in the knees. It just sits so nice and I feel I am in control. I love this bike so much, and I couldn’t ask for a better ride. Perception is everything. If it feels good and you feel confident it makes the ride so much better.
I am looking at a purchase of a R 1200 GS BMW. It is already factory lowered; I need 1.5 inch lower. Would a new seat make the difference? I love this bike and can handle, but would feel safer with it a bit lower.
A thinner aftermarket seat will bring you down a bit lower, but not 1.5 inches worth. Check with your BMW dealer for options on lowering the bike even more.
Thanks for the great list of seat makers. The stock seat on my V Star makes me feel like I'm straddling a barrel. I will definitely be checking out these manufacturers.
I find this to be the best and most comprehensive Web site on seats I have found to date. I am in the process of looking for a custom seat to replace the brick of a seat my BMW R 1200 RT came with, so this is definitely a big help.
I have a Honda VLX1300R and am on the short side. I was looking at different shocks etc. I found this Web site for replacement seats. The one I picked will bring the seat down 1 inch. I'm waiting for it to come in. They also offer a 14 day test ride with the seats and come highly recommended by a VTX board I read.
I ride a 2007 Buell Ulysses with the low seat. I have a 30 inch inseam. When Buell came out with the Ulysses I dreamed of having that bike to travel on but stayed away from it for two long years. I rode the bike several times with the low seat on it before I bought one — tippy toe at every stop and parking situation.
Before you buy a bike you are considering making changes to, the first thing I would do is have the dealer remove the seat and then straddle the motorcycle to see if the seat is directly on the bike's frame. If it is, then there is little you can do to lower the seat height.
This was the case with my ULY. Being a Buell rider I never wanted to lower the suspension and change the world class handling on the bike. Next step was to look at riding boots with low heels and thick soles to get at least the ball of my foot on the ground at stops. This works! Last step was for me to get used to the ride and plan way ahead. When I first got the bike I was afraid, but now I have almost 7,000 miles on it and I'm used to it.
On off-camber roads when you come to a stop you have to get used to putting either foot down, and you have to get used to using either brake to start out with from a stop. Final step is to breathe when you are at a traffic light or stop. Stop dreaming and start riding! I love my ULY!