Our top 10 encompasses new and used models but we haven’t just gone on seat height alone; we’ve tried to add variety by catering for different types of motorcycles, budgets, engine capacities and manufacturers. All the time, we’ve kept an eye on the bike’s weight too. Less weight is obviously more manageable, no matter what your size and stature.
So what is a typical seat height?
Let’s take three common motorcycles to give us an idea of seat height. Honda’s CBF125 has a seat height of 792mm, Suzuki’s SV650S stands at 800mm and Kawasaki’s ZX-6R has a seat height of 830mm. Generally speaking, cruisers have lower seat heights but their seats are often wide and these types of motorcycles can be heavy. Adventure-style motorcycles often have taller suspension to soak up bad surfaces but you don’t have to rule them all out.
How is seat height measured?
A motorcycle’s seat height is measured with the bike standing upright (not on its side stand) from the lowest point of the saddle to the ground. Manufacturers quote their seat heights in the specification panel of each model. We could only find one manufacturer (Buell, now bust) who quote their seat height based on the height of the seat with an ‘average weight’ rider onboard. So watch out for that.
The outright height of a motorcycle’s seat is important, but the seat’s width matters too. Some motorcycles with a low seat height have a wide seat which spreads out your legs, making it harder to get your feet flat on the ground.
Is one-foot down enough?
When it comes to finding a motorcycle, you may try a few where you can’t get both feet firmly on the ground but you can get one foot flat. Is that enough? Well that depends on your strength and confidence. Most riders would be fine if they were told they could only put one foot down but confidence is the key. It’s okay to ride a motorcycle where you can only get one foot on the ground and doing so will open up a few more options for you to choose from, but it’s important to feel comfortable with the motorcycle you’re buying. So ask yourself: Is one foot enough?
10 Best Motorcycles for Women
Motorcycle lowering tips
You don’t always have to fit a lowering kit, which has the adverse effect of altering the bike’s handling characteristics and potentially making your bike worth less on the used market. You can fit a lower seat, which a lot of manufacturers sell as a factory option but companies like Corbin, Wunderlich and Touratech also sell lower aftermarket seats. You could alter the seat yourself, cutting the foam to reduce the seat’s height and width. You could also look at footwear that gives you extra height. Boots like Daytona’s Lady-Star are a good option as they feature a chunky sole. You could also talk to your local cobbler about adding a thicker sole to your existing boots. A lowering kit, while effective, should be seen as a last-ditch option.
Seat Height: 755mm
The only problem with Honda’s baby sportsbike is that it’s so well thought of and sought after that prices can be eye watering for what is essentially a 20-year-old machine.
The NC30 was introduced to the UK in 1990 and was an instant hit. It was a smaller, 400cc replica of the bigger 750cc RC30, but still featured the exotic V4 engine of the RC30. The 755mm seat is standard and its light weight helps make the VFR400 a ‘pocket rocket’.
The later NC35 had a 780mm seat height putting it out of reach for shorter riders but it’s still a great bike for those of a taller stature.
Seat Height: 660mm
The good: The L was designed with women in mind and has an ultra low seat, coupled with a smaller front wheel to help the 883 sit even lower. The bad: it weighs 252kg. Although it’s not light, its weight sits low in the chassis and the bars offer a close reach.
Despite the large sounding engine, it only produces 50bhp, so it’s not a rocketship either. Classic cruiser looks with entry price and insurance, this is Harley-Davidson’s most popular model with female customers.
Seat Height: 710mm
So it’s not technically a motorcycle, it’s a scooter – but give it a chance. For those who want two wheels to get around, a maxi-scooter like the Burgman is a great option. Its 710mm seat is incredibly low, although slightly wider than you’ll find on a motorcycle. You can fit a large rucksack’s worth of kit under the seat and being a scooter, it’s automatic, so you can glide everywhere effortlessly. The newer 400Z comes with ABS as standard.
Seat Height: 740mm
Not everyone wants a sportsbike and the great thing about the Bonneville is its classic looks blended with modern technology and reliability. Weight could be an issue: it’s quite dumpy at 225kg but with its 800cc parallel-twin engine, it goes well. We’d go for the SE variant over any other as it features 17” wheels front and rear and not the 19” front of the standard or T100 models. That smaller front wheel will help keep the bike lower. Owners reckon they benefit from adding aftermarket exhausts to free up the sound. A great option for those who want a comfortable bike with classic looks.
Seat Height: 780mm
Fresh into the UK this year, the Inazuma 250 costs just £3,408 brand new. It’s a no-frills budget commuter that’ll return over 60mpg. Although it is light at 183kg, the getting-on-the-tall-side 780mm seat height isn’t helped by the fact the seat’s quite wide too. Still, if you’re over 5’6” it won’t pose a problem. The top speed is around 80mph, making it great for city riding and the daily commute across town, but a lack of fairing means you wouldn’t want to go much further than 50 miles in one sitting.
Seat Height: 673mm
Alright, so a 1.7-litre engine and 319kg wet weight might sound like a recipe for disaster but the Hammer S is a fantastic bike and this list would be boring if it was full of smaller capacity motorcycles. The Hammer has an ultra-low 673mm seat, making it easy to get both feet firmly on the deck. The engine is sublime, especially with a Stage 1 kit and it handles well too. Really well. The Hammer S is a proper giggle.
They’re around £15k new but you can grab a decent used example for around half that. If you want to look good, feel good and enjoy making some noise, this is a serious contender.
Seat Height: 680mm
This is our pick of the 125s. The way we see it, if you’re choosing a 125, you’re new to motorcycling so you want something that helps you build confidence. The standard seat is a low 680mm; added to that, it weighs just 140kg making it a doddle to control at low speeds. Like all 125s, the fuel economy is great and it’ll return an easy 65mpg in all conditions. You can grab a low miles two-year-old model for around £1,500. What are you waiting for?
Seat Height: 745mm
Kawasaki’s Ninja 250R was introduced in 2008 and has evolved to become the slightly larger-engined Ninja 300 in 2012. It looks every bit like a bigger sportsbike, but under all that green bodywork sits a tame 248cc twin-cylinder engine that’s much more at home on a country road or in town than it is on a race track. You can pick up a decent used example for around £2,500, making the Ninja 250 a very attractive all-rounder.
Seat Height: 750mm
The F650GS was always a single-cylinder 650 until BMW confused the issue in 2008 making it a twin-cylinder 800, just like the F800. Confused? Well don’t be. The newer version of the F650GS is called the G650GS which was introduced in 2008 but we’d stick with a pre-2007 F650GS. BMW offer a ‘Low’ version with a lower chassis that takes the seat height down by 30mm to 750mm, and you can go one step further by fitting a Wunderlich Ergo Low seat that takes the overall height to 720mm. If you’re after a capable and manageable adventure bike, this is a great option.
Seat Height: 785mm
The original ER-6n, up to the 2012 update, had a seat height of 785mm which is low enough, but the factory-fit lower seat option is 30mm lower and 10mm slimmer, making the ER-6n even more accessible. The ER-6n is one of those bikes that suits everyone from entry-level riders to experienced riders. Its parallel-twin engine is gutsy, handling is sharp and it’ll rarely return less than 45mpg. The market for accessories is huge; from larger screens to panniers, top boxes to sporty exhausts. If you want more wind protection, you can opt for the faired ER-6f.