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Home Sharon's Biking Blog

Confidence - Is It Determined By The Size Of Your Bike?

Blog Date - 17 April 2018

I see lots of posts on various websites about small girls on big bikes. Many advocate that if one toe can be put down on the bike then all is well. That if a small girl drops her bike it is not that the bike is too tall or too heavy but because she either lacks confidence or skills.
RUBBISH...blinking load of horse poop. 

Sharons stands barely at chest height next to two men at 6 feet 7 inches
I'll just leave this here...

What the short girls lack as I do is height and what some slight girls like me also lack is strength. Yes confidence helps, yes skill base helps but all the confidence in the world, all the skills in the world are not going to help when a shortie puts her little legs out and the ground is not there. If the bike is too tall and too heavy that bike is going down. It is the law of physics and no magic sprinkling of confidence is going to save it.

People say oh if you look ahead and watch the road and do this and do that you won't drop it. Yes I do all of that, all the bloody time. But unless I want to travel known routes and straight flat motorways I cannot always ensure when or how I may have to stop.

I enjoy exploring back lanes. Imagine you crest a hill and there in front of you is a stop sign. You are on a severe upwards slope. The camber slopes away to one side, there are cow pats on the other. This is no story - it has happened to me. Fortunately I have a lowered and lightweight bike. Even so I still can't flat foot completely. Anyway in the afore mentioned scenario  I do get a toe down... just. 

So there I am, the weight of my whole bike balanced on one toe while negotiating a severe hill start with an extremely tight right turn. I have zero room for error, nil, nada, nothing. If my bike had been taller or heavier it would have been lie in the dirt time. Boy did I need skills and confidence to make that turn from a one tip toe start. My skills came into play but with those intact I only just got away with a successful outcome by a millimetre. 

Sharon and Ren have stopped at a ford across the narrow back lane they are onI like tracks but be prepared for dead ends. A smaller lighter bike means no problems here.

Truth is I ride small and light bikes because I want to explore those fascinating narrow lanes with uneven surfaces and tight dead end turns. I do not lack confidence, I do not lack skill. 

In fact I dare say I require and therefore have more skills in some areas than a typical rider because I have no room for errors. I have to be spot on nearly all the time. An average sized rider can make mistakes but still save it from becoming a drop because of the very fact they are taller and stronger. Not because they have more confidence or skills than me.

Next time you ride a difficult road and find yourself having to save your bike a few times by getting a foot down, remember that the small girl on that small bike you thought lacked confidence or skills just had to ride that same road 100% perfectly. How confident would you be knowing that wherever you go you have hardly any room for error?

So please don't come over to my little bike and pat it condescendingly and tell me that when I gain confidence and skills I will be able to ride a bigger bike. I know my size limits me. I accepted my size long ago. Yes it frustrates me that sports style bikes which I find  have the most natural riding position for me do not come lower and lighter. I also have limited funds so again smaller bikes are more affordable and within my price range. As such it is my choice that is limited...not my skills or confidence. 

Choosing a small light bike does not mean I won't ever drop it, I have done so. But it reduces the chances. To be honest the Kawasaki Z250SL still needs to be lower than it is to be the perfect bike for me. I would love to flat foot rather than balls of feet. However it is currently the best I can find that suits me well. My bike was not chosen because I fear bigger more powerful bikes it is a considered choice, a choice tailored to my individual needs.

If you are a small girl that can ride a heavy tall bike down dirt tracks and back roads then fabulous. Well done you. You are amazing. I can ride a lowered MT07 with ease, I did so on my test. However I have chosen not to buy a bike this size - not because I could not handle its power but because for my lifestyle, my funds, my requirements it was not the bike for me at the time. 

For the final time I will say again...don't assume the size of my engine determines my skills or confidence levels. Instead judge me not by the size of my bike but the size of my smile, by the miles I ride and the adventures I have. 

Sharon is sat on a very tall KTM off road bike at a bike show. Her feet are about 1 foot from the floor
No amount of skill will help my feet reach the floor.


If you have a hobbit sized motorcycle Sharon would absolutely love to test ride it! We'd publish the review here on Bikes And Travels. Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

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Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
It's not just short female riders who may struggle with excess weight and height. It happens to all of us as we get older and our muscles start to become more feeble. I spent many years chucking Norton Commandos and the like around as if they were pushbikes and riding my Enfield Bullet in trials (and by the time you've picked one of those out of the mud 10 times it has lost any pretensions of being a lightweight).

At the age of 55 I bought a Triumph Tiger 955i - one of the tallest bikes around, and it kept its substantial weight high. At first it was fine, although like you I did need to think about where I was going to put my feet when I stopped. However, as the years progressed I realised that I wasn't looking forward as much to getting out on it as I had been. Not the actual riding - once on the move it was fine. But it was the shuffling in and out of the garage, parking, traffic - any time when its bulk was starting to overpower me. Although this was probably as much psychological as physical it still dulled the edge.

So after 8 years or so I embarked on a programme of downsizing. I'm now on the Guzzi V50 which has a theoretical kerb weight of 160 Kg or so and a seat height of around 750mm. And that weight is carried low so the bike doesn't tend to topple (apart of course from the inadequacies of the typically Italian side stand).

The V50 will do me fine for the immediate future but I've no doubt that some time will see me moving down the size and weight scale yet further and I may yet end up with a Chinese 125 although that may be a step too far!
18/04/2018 15:06:47 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Absolutely right Ian and Ren.

My recently departed F650 BMW was the heaviest bike I have ever owned. I guestimate that it was getting on for 210Kg when fitted with it's luggage and even without I think it was probably over 200Kg.

As you say, you have to be aware of that weight all the time. In particular the BMW was very top heavy (there's a reason why the later ones have the tank under the seat!) and had an unnerving tendency to 'flop' into low speed turns. I ride bikes for fun, and I found that having to be aware of the weight, having to think beforehand of the road camber when parking at the side of the road, etc. etc. etc detracted from that enjoyment.

My little 150 MZ which weighs about the same as a push bike is a hoot to ride and you can take liberties that would be completely impossible on a bigger bike.

What finally decided me on selling the BMW was the realisation that it had very little performance advantage over my 500 Rotax MZ, largely due to the excess weight I suspect, and because the MZ is 50Kg lighter and has much sweeter handling, I much prefer riding it. Oh and it does 70mpg on a run as opposed to the BMW's 55mpg. Still, that's progress for you...
18/04/2018 15:22:13 UTC
Christopher said :-
Interesting article and comments: It's all about confidence, and the seat height and weight of the machine is key: There are those riders who feel (rightly or wrongly!) that so long as one foot can be put down on stopping, then that is fine.
I don't subscribe to that personally: I prefer a machine where i can get both feet down,more especially if contemplating taking a pillion/luggage, and there are the 'off camber' junctions, or chippings/gravel under foot to consider.
My CBF125 is fine in respect to the low weight/seat height issue, and riding on mostly 'C' class/unclassified roads in rural area's its a delight: I do have a 'maxi' scooter too, this has a 790mm seat height...which does not appear too daunting (initially!), though with the actual width of the seat taken into account, is a stretch to get both feet down,just about 'tip toes' in fact, hence this is being sold, and a Suzuki Bergman 400 sought instead! This model having a seat height of around 730mm,(and the earlier models i believe around 700mm), quite a difference, and far better confidence wise.
18/04/2018 19:42:06 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I have on occasion have people say to me "Oh, the CBF125? So what you gonna get when you pass your test?" followed by "Oh, no L plates, well done! What you getting then?"

I smile and while wishing to burst out laughing I calmly as I can reply "I passed my test like 26 years ago..." This does rather confuse people.

I did have one salesman notice my CB500X, where upon entry to the shop he enquired "The X is a good bike for someone who's just passed their test - but I'm guessing you're looking to step up now?" Again this was another chance for me to smugly inform him I have a little experience on two wheels.

Part of Sharon's experience and reading the other comments is this mentality that we all must absolutely crave the largest and most powerful motorcycle ever! If you don't then you are either a big scaredy cat, just getting to grips with biking or some kind of hippy weirdo. I think we're all driven by different motives, hopes, experiences and ultimately that which is physically possible.

I've been watching Henry Cole's "The Motorbike Show". I'm not necessarily a big fan of Henry - he's alright and I like his stuff. Whatever my feelings I appreciate that his shows aren't *just* about speed and power and expensive stuff. It doesn't matter if it's an old 50 or a new 1200, he'll ride it and enjoy it.

And that's it. Be it a 2.3 litre Triumph of a cheap Chinese scoot if it makes you smile just ride it.
19/04/2018 21:10:19 UTC
Bob said :-
An excellent article.
I feel the motivating factor behind many people's choice of motorcycle is some misguided sense of machismo, they (men we're talking about here) think a big bike makes them a big man - it's all rather pathetic when you see them paddling them around trying to park or manouver their behemoths.
I too like exploring back roads, my XCountry at 143KG is the lightest modern 650 single available, it offers enough performance for motorway trips whilst carrying less weight than most 250CC bikes.
In my case my lower back dictates that I ride a light bike, I'm not going to give up green-laning and that means I do need to be able to pick up my bike without assistance.
At a bike meet I'll always go and talk to the chap or chapette who rode in on a 125 or 250, I find these people have more intereseting stories to tell, concerned as they tend to be with roadcraft and places visited rather than strutting around waving their metaphorical motorcycle enhanced phaluses at each other.
20/04/2018 11:12:43 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
However, having said all that, there was definitely something quite intoxicating about the way the Tiger accelerated. But I hardly ever wanted to exploit that, rarely taking it above 6,000 rpm, and certainly never needed to.....
20/04/2018 12:42:52 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
"it's all rather pathetic when you see them paddling them around trying to park or manouver their behemoths."

I did really fall foul of this once on the Tiger. I was in the depths of France and found a nice little hotel in the Morvan region. The receptionist directed me to the parking "just go down the lane behind the hotel" she said. I did that and found myself in 10cm deep gravel which was slithering every way as the slope got steeper and steeper and the walls started closing in. And it was a dead end.....

I couldn't get off and turn it round from the side as my feet were just sinking in the gravel. Tried the side stand and exactly the same. So I had to shuffle backwards and forwards astride the bike and do a 20-point or so turn before I could extricate myself. I have rarely been so exhausted in my life and came very near to just letting the thing fall on its side. Of course there was no-one in sight to help.

Now if it had been a 125 or even a 150 MZ.........

I think it was the same trip when I found myself on a minor road again covered with the dreaded gravillons. The French road repair crews seem to just strew these liberally all over the surface. I was tiptoeing along with the Triumph squirming and slithering when I saw in the mirror another bike approaching from behind.

It was a teenage girl on a scooter - helmet on the back of her head, pink cardigan flapping in the breeze and (though I can't swear to this), a Gauloise drooping from the corner of her mouth. And she slalomed past me as though I was standing still.
20/04/2018 15:09:27 UTC
Keith m said :-
Yep. Been through the must have bigger bike bit. Many a year ago past my test and had a Yamaha RD350 loved it but got sucked into must have bigger bike and bought a Kawasaki GPZ750. This was a big old beast, long and heavy and I missed the light weight handling of the 350. Just couldn't get on with it so I sold it and bought a Yamaha Rd350 YPVS. It was so good to be back on a bike I felt comfortable riding.
Theres something to be said for buying a bike that's right for you not what other people think you should be riding.
21/04/2018 12:03:21 UTC
Bob said :-
It happens, I passed my test and was financially constrained to 125 and 200CC bikes for years (cheaper insurance in those days). When I finally started to get somewhere financially I overreacted entirely and bought an FJ1200, the power was intoxicating but within 6 months I bought a CG125 too and ended up doing more miles on that than on the FJ! Lesson learned.
23/04/2018 10:05:34 UTC
Bryan said :-
As a 5'2" male, I've had to deal with this sort of problem my whole life; everything is too tall for me and motorcycles are no exception.

After lowering my Honda CB500X, I can get the balls of my feet down on both sides, or flat foot one side on flat ground. But I wound up dropping it once last summer due to inexperience with soft shoulders, and I'm sure glad the bike isn't any heavier.

I seriously doubt I'll ever want a taller or even more powerful bike.
24/04/2018 19:26:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Seems like you're doing just fine to me Bryan. I too have the CB500X and I'm 5'8" and I've had a few wobbles. I've dropped my 125 several times. So you've dropped it once - find me someone who hasn't.

It's not uncommon for riders to WANT a bigger bike but I struggle to imagine you'll ever NEED anything more powerful than the 500. I'm loving my 500, I hope you like yours.
25/04/2018 07:45:57 UTC
Shirley said :-
Well said Sharon, as usual an interesting and humorous read.
01/05/2018 12:45:08 UTC
Martin said :-
I’m waiting to do my theory test on 9th May. Already done CBT. Looking around at larger bikes it’s not just seat height. For some of us. Who are just getting back into biking after 30yrs. (Never passed my test) the belly (expands as we get older ) gets in the way of some models tanks too. I have been riding around on a Yamaha ybr 125 custom.
Confidence can sometimes get you not trouble. Should you really be overtaking, on a smaller bike would you have done so etc.
03/05/2018 20:57:17 UTC
Sharon said :-
Hi Martin
Overtaking on a 125cc should be done if at all with caution. Especially if you don't want the shame of pulling back behind a tractor when you realise it has more pull up hill than you do. Been there, done that.
As for the 250cc that overtakes no problem. But we discussed this topic in depth on another post. Link below for you.
You are quite right that over confidence can get you into trouble and I believe it can be potential dangerous. I guess we need the happy medium of not being nervous but neither too cocky.

Can I also add thanks to everyone who responded to the post. It has been a joy to read about others sharing a love and respect for the smaller motorbikes.
bikesandtravels.com/biker.aspx?ride=1126 ...
04/05/2018 00:12:13 UTC
Henrik said :-
The smile is what counts, I like especially the first and second picture, guess you would love the experience going off-road on a real dirt-track with some challenges, try it if you got the opportunity, visit a club maybe, they are cool people and might let you try one of the youngsters mid-size bikes, a link from the local club in Vrigstad Sweden, and a picture for a solution :-)


goo.gl/photos/JWpiDKHYvBa3jxNg7 ...
05/05/2018 04:43:48 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Oh Henrik I think you will look FABULOUS in those boots!

I do think maybe Sharon and I could spend an afternoon at a beginners motocross training day, we might learn something. It's a whole different world to that of the road. I cannot get my head around being happy with the tyres just moving around under me, it freaks me out.
05/05/2018 18:11:40 UTC
Sharon said :-
Ha Henrik, fab kinky boots. I have considered raised insoles in my already raised insole boots but I could not squash my little fat feet into them.
You know what I think I would love to try a off road bike and have a day out training. Maybe it is something Ren could organise for me for my special half a century birthday ??. HINT HINT Which is a couple of years away but for once I'm happy to pretend I'm older than I am. Yes some folks want a posh meal, an exotic beach for their 50th. Me I be made up with mud and chunky tyres for the day. Fab pictures by the way.
06/05/2018 08:30:49 UTC
 

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