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One Size Fits All

Blog Date - 29 March 2017

If like myself you are Mr Average at about 5 feet 8 inches tall and 12 and a half stone then most products are approximately sized approximately right. I can buy coats that fit me, sleeping bags that are just about right and I can reach the floor on most motorcycles.

But what if you're 5 feet nothing short like Sharon? Or indeed you're 6 feet 8 inches tall like our friend Drew. While being average is a little dull it does have a lot of advantages.

Drew and Sharon got together at this year's Manchester Motorcycle Show and set out on a mission. Their mission was to find matching motorcycles that both of them could ride and matching leathers to complete their harmonised look. This was not a serious venture, rather more a humorous experiment but as is often the case there's many a true word spoken in jest. Don't take this post in earnest but do spare a moment to consider how our world can be troublesome for those who's bodies and minds fall outside the "typical" range.

Tall Drew stands next to short Sharon, arms around each other
Twins - separated at birth. Drew and Sharon.

Let us start with the Suzuki SV650. With a 785mm seat height this model is - relatively speaking - quite low. The SV is a thoroughly capable motorcycle that has proven popular with both ladies and gentlemen alike. Could this be the solution for our lovingly mis-matched couple?

Sharon on the SV650 has no chance of her feet reaching the floorNo chance...

Sharon's boots are a long way from the carpet while Drew makes the SV650 look more like a kid's powered bicycle. Oh heck. 

Drew towers above the Suzuki making it look smallIs that a Suzuki between your legs or are you just pleased to see me?

Being on the larger side of things Drew's never really considered a small capacity bike. However KTM's 450 SX-F off roader has proportions ample enough to accomodate him and a powerful punch to boot. Sharon did her training on a 700 so a 450 should be easily within her grasp.

Drew aboard the KTM looks comfortable and happyYes, Drew thinks this could be right up his street. 

So Drew likes the KTM but will the little 450 be accessible for Sharon too?

Sharon smiles on the 450 KTM but her feet are a long long way off the floorOh dear! Sharon will need ladders just to get on the KTM let alone ride it.

This isn't going very well is it. Obviously there's only one solution. The Honda Grom. We know Sharon can easily reach the floor on Honda's diminutive yet incredibly popular 125 but what about Drew?

Drew on the small Honda MSX125It's a fit...sort of...kind of...maybe...

So the solution is a Honda MXS125 Grom. Except that Drew would probably require surgery if he spent more than an hour squeezed onto the funky bike. 

You've probably guessed that with 1 feet and 8 inches height difference a solution in unlikely. That said Sharon knows a lady from Facebook's "Motorbike Women" group called Jackie who works for Triumph, she's on the Triumph stand. Jackie is most helpful suggesting Triumph offer various seats and suspension options to help accomodate as many riders as possible. It's good to know the UK's leading marque is at least aware of the issues for some and is making in-roads to help.

Split image with drew on the triumph tiger then sharon on the same bikeHmmmm...with some changes then maybe...

Are you remarkably short or tall? Do you face these kind of problems? Have you found any marvellous solutions? We'd love to hear your story and publish it for our readers. Maybe your story can help someone else in a similar situation. Click Here.

Reader's Comments

Bob said :-
I think the motorcycle sector has shifted over the last few years. These days I think tall people have more problems finding a comfortable bike than short people.
Many modern bikes have a "broken back nag" profile, even the ones that appear tall (adventure bikes) have very low scooped saddles which results in there not being enough distance between the saddle and the pegs.
The SV650 is one bike I could never ride because of the cramped knee riding position.
31/3//2017 3:57:03 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
It's not just modern bikes - my 1993 Super Four has that same exaggerated dip that forces you into one position which is very uncomfortable to me so I have rebuilt a spare seat to give a flat profile. Whilst not perfect it gives a better knee angle as well as allowing me to slide back a bit to vary the position. Although it has yet to run for long enough to allow me to test this out!

I'm in a difficult situation as ageing and inflexible hips make it increasingly difficult to swing my leg over the back of high seats whilst knees (one of which is a bionic replacement) object to being bent at more than 90 degrees for any length of time.

I can see the day in the dim and distance when a super-scoot may beckon although I have no enthusiasm for them.
1/4//2017 10:11:36 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ian - it is worth noting the CB400 Super Four was created for the Japanese home market where the clientèle were on average slightly shorter than their European counterparts.

I doubt it is actually possible to create one model of motorcycle that will fit all shapes and sizes. Sharon is 5 feet tall, if you have dwarfism that may make Sharon a giant.

Market forces would discourage a manufacturer from making a model specifically for short people, then tall people. By the very nature of the word, most people are...well...average and this is where the biggest sales will be. This regrettably doesn't bode well for an all-inclusive that most reasonable folks would like to live in though.

As for the super scoots Ian. While they may not appeal to your vintage eye and will unfortunately come with fuel injection and a computer they are in fact excellent machines. They wouldn't be my first choice but hey - if that's all I could ride I'd still be happy to be on two wheels.
1/4//2017 2:14:18 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I don't have a problem with fuel injection and computers in fact FI is easier to deal with than carbs IME.

BTW I'm not sure if I've seen this here before but I've found the link below very useful when thinking about bikes I might like.

For some odd reason the Sunbeam doesn't appear......
2/4//2017 9:35:37 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
The cycle-ergo site is very clever! There's still no substitute for actually sitting on a motorcycle though.

One thing regarding test rides, they're never long enough to truly guage long distance comfort. It's one thing to go for an hour's ride and feel fine, it's something else to sit and ride for 8 hours of motorway an A roads. I doubt there's many dealers who'd let you do that.

As for the Sunbeam - send them the dimensions and see if they'll add it.
2/4//2017 8:23:26 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
One of the things I like about retro-styled bikes like the Kawa W800 and the Yamaha SR 400 is they have nice wide well padded seats. The only reason to get off is to answer calls of nature and fill up with go juice.
I am not into these bum splitter jobs or the all your weight on your wrists machines. A gentleman should be comfortable in his travels. Gold wings and that ilk are the other extreme, a two wheeled armchair with too much clutter attached.
2/4//2017 10:37:41 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
The older bikes used to have thick padded seats, that much I remember. A lot of modern motorcycles have thinner seats. Now thinner padding does not necessarily equate to less comfort. Ergonomics plays a large part and a thin seat can be OK if the bike fits.

What I think the downside is - if the bike doesn't fit so well then the thin seat is awful. A thick padded seat may allow more riders of different shapes and sized to get along with the bike.

Fashion - as we've complained about before - is the problem. Modern styles require sleek lines and big fat comfy seats don't really feature in these trim styles. Imagine an R1 or GSXR with the old fashioned seat from a CB400 Four of 1970's vintage.
3/4//2017 8:06:09 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
"As for the Sunbeam - send them the dimensions and see if they'll add it. "

I did send them details of the SLR650 to add to their database but never got an answer and didn't see it - apparently they scale from a photo. I have the impression they've stopped maintaining the site which has been around for quite a long time.
3/4//2017 12:31:41 PM UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I have to say the cycle-ergo site is superb, and I felt confident enough to purchase a BMW F650 Funduro at the weekend having never sat on one before, and certainly in the hour it took me to wander home, it was supremely comfortable. According to the website, the riding position is almost identical to the MZ it will be replacing, and I have to concur!
3/4//2017 4:05:30 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I can't imagine purchasing a bike purely on the suggested ergonomics of a website. What about seat thickness as Borsuk mentioned? What about seat width?

Anyhow the Funduro is supposed to be a good machine, some say better than the later smaller GSs. What took you to the Funduro as opposed to anything else?
4/4//2017 5:21:06 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
BMW's website has it's own ergonomics app which takes into account the "Arch" value of your legs, basically how bowed they have to be to ride each bike as well as the straight inside leg measurement. Unfortunately when I stuck my dimensions into it the resultant list of bikes consisted of one line saying, there is nothing in their range that I could safely ride without further modification.
This is one of the few things in my life that have made me wish I was taller. Why couldn't I have been born to tall parents instead of a pair of shorties like myself.

5/4//2017 12:43:27 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Life is harsh Borsuk and not fair. While you ain't tall you ain't quite hobbit level so it ain't all bad. I wish I'd been born to rich parents...

Have you got a link to the BMW ergonomics app? I'd be interested to see that.
5/4//2017 9:16:33 AM UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I've always had a thing about big singles Ren and have in the past owned an FT500, DR350, SLR650, MZ Rotax500 (still have this one!) and now the F650. I was really looking for the F650CS Scarver, 'cos I'm always attracted to quirky, different machines, but the Funduro came up at a very good price and was only about 25 miles away. The previous owner was a really nice chap, which always helps me make a decision too.

I have to say, I'd not considered the width of the seat, but the cycle-ergo website showed that I would be able to get both feet flat on the floor which I can. My issues always stem from having my legs too 'scrunched up' and having to lean forwards. Perfectly upright and with stretched out legs is by far the most comfortable position for me, but sadly, this rules out about 90% of the bikes made over the last two decades.

I did try an Inazuma, but was put off by the fact that it is made in China, and that for a 250, it's so damn heavy. In fact it's only a few Kq lighter than the F650....
5/4//2017 12:26:38 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
It's more the short legs than the overall height, your hobbit, please don't hit me Sharon, actually has longer legs than me. I have a friend who is 6'4" and takes the same size trousers as me, he is skinny as a rake with a long torso and to get an off the peg shirt to fit him length wise means he has to buy one about 4 sizes too large for him chest wise. I have a slight advantage over Sharon with more mass but even so I don't think my weight pulls a bike down by too much.
I did sit on a few second hand bikes last week which were lower than the same model is when new but, do I really want to ride around on half worn out suspension all the time. If I overhauled the shocks would I end up being unable to ride the bike. These questions I will be looking into next time I am back in the UK.

I have looked for the BMW seat height calculator on the website but can't find it, I really stumbled across it by accident. It was in some obscure part of their website, in fact might have been the US website now I think of it.
5/4//2017 7:51:07 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Found it. it is the US site.

Apparently a F700GS might fit me. Woowoo
5/4//2017 10:36:14 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
HA! The BMW site only allow me to go down to 5 feet 2 inches. Sorry Sharon but it seems BMW are not interested in you as a customer, you're money's no good there. I guess we'll just continue to drink their free hot drinks instead.

As for the Singles Crazy Frog. I do understand, they have so much "character". Some people consider "character" a bad thing but no, I like a phat thumper. As for the Inazuma being Chinese - it doesn't matter where a bike is made it matters about quality and quality control. My CBF125 is Indian, later models are Thailand. The new all singing all dancing Street Triple 765 is also from Thailand (Thai-rumph). I do agree that for a 250 it is a little porky.

Borsuk - Middle age spread helps lower the bike a little doesn't it. I've noticed this too. I suspect strength matters too. You spend your working life hauling and heaving ropes around (allegedly!) and I would expect you are stronger than Sharon which helps manage a bigger bike. Sharon - perhaps you need to get to the gym?
6/4//2017 12:49:36 PM UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I've had a couple of interesting experiences with Chinese bikes Ren. One completely self destructed from new to scrap in less than a year and about 3000 miles. The other provided cheap reliable transport for 18 months. The former was about £1200 new, and after about 9 months I sold it as a project for £200, so lost £1000 in less than a year. The later, I bought for £550 and sold 18 months and about 6k miles later for £500, so probably the best value motorcycling I've ever had.

After the first experience though, I'm reluctant to take the chance on a 2nd hand Chinese made bike for £2,500.....
6/4//2017 1:22:33 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I was interested enough in the Mash 400 to take a test ride a couple of years ago. I did like it but the price at nearly £4K was far too much for me especially as the residual value was likely to be minimal.

I am still waiting for some to come up on the used market so either (a) nobody bought them in the first place (b) they've all self-destructed or (c) they're such good little bikes that everyone's hanging on to them.....
6/4//2017 2:05:33 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
As with most things there's good and bad out there. We've been really happy with Sharon's Keeway although Sharon will be the first to admit the Kawasaki Z250SL is much better quality. That said...the Kawasaki hails from Thailand if memory serves me well...
6/4//2017 2:39:41 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
I've been looking at the Mash 400 since Ian mentioned it and I must admit it is the style of bike that floats my boat. That and the Yam SR400 are in my target size, not sure if there are many decent SR400's around though. I would still prefer new, the bike will only have one owner for most of it's life, so I am not bothered about depreciation. The Kawa W800 looks great but it is heavier and greedier with no apparent advantage, same power output as the Yamaha almost.
I happened upon the Triumph pages and must admit the latest Bonneville's and the Street twins look very tasty. Way beyond what I need or really want and 3 times my body weight but definitely worth looking at twice, or even 3 or 4 or .......
Might get one someday just to look at. Save up my nectar points, maybe I could get the full set. :-)

6/4//2017 10:04:50 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
As far as I know the SR400 is in production. They re-released the original '70s model deliberately targeting custom builders and encouraging them to make them unique. It is beautiful. The modern ones DO NOT have an electric start, kick start only. They do however have electronic ignition and fuel injection for emissions purposes. I'll add link.

While the Kwak and the Trumpets are wonderful things they are as you say too big and heavy with little advantage over the easier to live with smaller models. I think the 250-400 class is more than enough for we regular folks.

Get ya tests done and put some pennies is the piggy bank. However remember your 125 is more than enough to have fun, adventure and laughs.
7/4//2017 8:10:56 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
They are listed on the US site but not the UK site. I don't think they were as popular over here as they are over there. I Will check with Yamaha UK see if they still do them.
7/4//2017 10:51:17 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
It would be marvellous if Yamaha would bring one in for you. Tests first though, no point buying it until you can ride it.
7/4//2017 11:48:13 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Of course, test first, But a boy can dream.

I will probably get another 125 or possibly slightly bigger for Spain once I pass my test, most likely a scrambler type as there is plenty of tracks where I live that would destroy a road bike pretty quickly. They make short work of car exhausts that I do know. The village is on the edge of a national park so plenty to see there and there is the Contraviessa on the other side which is all little farms and villages dotted over the wilderness joined with farm tracks. Keep Miyuki in the UK for running about and the 400 for journeys over couple of hundred miles in a day.
As you can see from the Photo. Park to the north and basically isolated farms on moorland to the south all the way to the sea.

Las Alpujarras Area of Spain
7/4//2017 12:30:34 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
You don't of course have to stick with what the manufacturer gives you. Neither do you have to spend a fortune with the likes of Touratech.

The link below outlines some of the improvements I've made to my Super Four. None are irreversible and the total cost so far has been less than £50 or so.
7/4//2017 1:19:50 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Right then Borsuk - I'm getting an Yamaha Serow 225 and leaving it at your place. You lucky lucky boy.

Ian - great post. I am as yet not convinced by the wooden footrests but I guess it's work in progress.
10/4//2017 1:25:29 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Yes, the wood is just there to give a flat surface. Now have slices of old inner tube attached to them although I don't know how long they will last.
10/4//2017 3:26:13 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
For my tuppence - the rubbers are there to act as cushioning against vibration from the motor and the road. If you want grip you could file teeth into the alloy such as you'd find on a motocross bike. If you require cushioning then you'll need something thicker which defeats the object.
10/4//2017 3:34:59 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
How about sections of old tyres.
Seen car tyre sections used as flip flops in Africa. A tyre that's had sidewall damage may still have enough tread to give you a decent grip for your feet. Cut a suitable sized section and bolt it on.
10/4//2017 4:22:49 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-

Your welcome to store one at my place any time. Even leave you a key to the almacaen so you can use it when I am not home. :-)

10/4//2017 4:27:36 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
just got an email from Yamaha.
They are no longer importing the SR 400 into Europe as it doesn't comply with euro 4 regulations. Sweary words. Why did they bother reintroducing the bike when they knew that 2 years down the line it would need upgraded. Double sweary words.
11/4//2017 1:15:19 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Gosh darn it Borsuk. You'll have to buy one from The States and bring it back here. Ride it back...
11/4//2017 1:43:31 PM UTC
julie said :-
I myself ride a suzuki gladius I'm like sharon 5ft 2 so I've had to have the bike lowered or it wouldn't have been suitable for me.
13/4//2017 1:34:36 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Julie - at 5 feet 2 inches you're a giant compared to the hobbit that is Sharon. I think the Gladius is rather a smart looking bike and it should go like stink.
15/4//2017 8:30:44 AM UTC

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