10 Best Motorcycles for Women

... and shorter riders too!

Posted: 9 January 2013
by Ben Cope

 1 of 11 

One in 10 motorcyclists is female, but the range of motorcycles out there doesn’t tend to cater for the average female rider that well. We’re talking seat height. Most men don’t worry about how tall a motorcycle’s seat is, but our female readers say it’s often the first thing they want to find out when they see a motorcycle they like.

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.

Width matters

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?

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.

Click ‘next’ to see our list of 10 best motorcycles for women.

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women motorcyclists, women bikers, women motorbikes, women riders, women motorcycle, best motorcycles for women, motorcycles for girls, top 10 motorcycles for short riders

Discuss this story

Is there really gonna be ten pages ? Cannot be bothered with that... summary anywhere ? Just wanna see if you included the Diavel.

Posted: 09/01/2013 at 13:18

The Marauder rider certainly looks happy with her choice

Posted: 09/01/2013 at 14:00

I'm surprised at your choice of the Hammer S, only because I test road one last year and it felt bigger to me than my V-Star 1300, which my 5'5" wife says is too big for her. I believe the Hammer's seat is lower but I felt like I was having to look further over the bike (if that makes any sense) and it felt like it held its weight higher off the ground.

None the less it was a nice bike that I'd encourage man and woman alike to check out. If it fits, go for it. Steep price though, compared to, say, the HD V-Rod.

Posted: 09/01/2013 at 14:20

I ride an R1 and im of the lady variety.....just saying

Posted: 09/01/2013 at 15:20

SV 650? Gladius?

Posted: 09/01/2013 at 16:50

Apart from the actual seat height another consideration is the seat width. Wide seats and tanks can make even a low seat height more difficult to get both feet down. I never used to have a problem but bikes have got taller over the years and the centre of gravity of some models has moved higher. All of which can contribute to feeling slightly insecure in certain circumstances, so there's more to think about than just the seat height.

Posted: 09/01/2013 at 17:28

A bit of a strange list, I guess you tried to keep it interesting.

I am surprised that you don't include the Guzzi V7, low seat height but it handles well and is ( in my view at least) a much nicer bike to ride than the triumph and the Harley

Posted: 09/01/2013 at 20:38

My wife is 5'5 and took her full test 18 months ago. She spent her L plate years on a Suzuki RG125 Gamma. At under 100kg and possibly the smallest sports 125 ever she loved it (except the kick start). The training school she did her test with tried her on an ER-6 but she found it too big and heavy, however she now rides a GPZ500S and has no problems. Can't beleive this (or the ER5) aren't on the list. We've also just picked up a 1992 Honda CB Two-Fifty for just £300. Even lower and lighter (if slower and un-faired) Another to consider as they are really cheap used.

Posted: 09/01/2013 at 20:57

A very short female friend of mine has a Honda Fury and loves it.

Posted: 10/01/2013 at 09:43

I have to second Monkeystew here. I started on a great 1999 CG125 - not too cruisery, not too sporty, and with a similar riding position to the Gamma - and graduated to a 2000 Bandit, which was on the tall side and pretty bulky all around.

I'm 5 foot 6, and my most recent "big bike" was a GPZ500. Perfect seat height, comfortable, sporty when necessary, and a great all-rounder. Admittedly I might feel a tad cramped if I were any taller, but the GPZ is one of the most underrated bike around - nevermind in the "low seat height" category. It's economic, cheap and cheerful - if generally in need of suspension/exhaust work - and definitely deserves a place on the list.

Posted: 10/01/2013 at 15:20

the firefighter on the er'n looks a bit butch for a bird!

Posted: 11/01/2013 at 08:42

Another vote for the GPZ500S. I've got stumpy Scotch pins - even an ER6 is a bit of a stretch - but have no problems at all with the GPZ. OK, modern 600/650 commuters are way ahead in power and torque, but that Jekyll and Hyde engine is still a laugh if you crank it above 7K. "Sports commuter" remains a fairly accurate description.

Actually, all of the 500 twins (CB, ER, GS) are similarly proportioned, and can be bought and run for buttons.

Anyone considering a Victory Hammer might want to search for "Victory Hammer corrosion". They seem to churn out peaches and lemons, be sure which one you're getting.

Posted: 11/01/2013 at 10:13

Honda CBF - 600 or Thou. I'm 5'6 and the thou is a great bike for doing it all.

Posted: 11/01/2013 at 13:16

I'm just short of 5'4 and got the CBR600F 2011 model. Highly recommend this bike to any short people. Low seat height, narrow seat, great motor and it looks good too. Am surprised that the list contains so many bikes with small engines, think most short blokes have bikes 1000cc+, do you presume women prefer smaller engines? I'm on a 1000cc as soon as I can afford the insurance, and I'm far from the only one :-)

Posted: 11/01/2013 at 15:24

Many years ago I met a female type chap, very attractive and about 5' 6".
She rode a Laverda Jota. Coming to a halt she'd slide off to one side, hanging on with her thigh over the seat.
She would drive through London like this too.
Far braver than me!

Posted: 11/01/2013 at 16:36

a typical list for women written by a man.
we are not called tank girls for nothing!

Posted: 12/01/2013 at 09:59

ok bit harsh. a couple of nice bikes.
but really a few pish choices too, [scooter]

Posted: 12/01/2013 at 10:07

My daughter is 5'3" and rides a Yamaha XJ600n. She can get both feet down whilst sitting on the saddle. Granted if the bike goes off balance and it falls over she's not going to save it or pick it up.
Makes her think about her riding though.

Posted: 14/01/2013 at 14:55

Inches, give us INCHES! For Godsake, every responder who mentions their height states it in Imperial. Even you talk of 17 INCH wheels yet persist in giving seat height in metric.

Posted: 14/01/2013 at 15:11

Inside legs, give us INSIDE LEGS. You're not reaching to the ground with your hands (unless it goes wrong). My wife is 1" shorter than me, but her inside leg is 2" longer.

Posted: 15/01/2013 at 08:54

Me too. Ben, loads and loads of women on 01 - 05 ish R1's and k6 gixer 600's and 750's and 1000's.

Posted: 16/01/2013 at 16:58

Why short rider=women? Is there any tall women? Short guy should ride girl's bikes?.....too many labels.

Posted: 17/01/2013 at 11:17

I'm 5'4 and just got a 'blade. It's actually lighter than my 600 so a bit of foam out of the seat and no problem. Only thing is (and I'm not being sexist, heaven forbid) most women aren't as strong in the leg as your average bloke so could struggle more with the weight.

Posted: 07/02/2013 at 19:18

I can't believe this list is dominated by small engined bikes which mostly amount to the first step up after passing your test. Manufacturers really need to get their heads around 10% of the market now being women, plus we have a big say in the bikes our men buy, especially if we have to share it.

I'm 5'4" & ride a Triumph Street Triple and I'm finding it's becoming a popular bike for women who want a bike with a low centre of gravity. But when I get my feet off the ground it's an amazing, manoeuvrable, flicky, nimble and fast machine I'd be happy to lose a couple more inches of height, I'm perched on a single tippy-toe when I stop, which gives no margin for error if you put your foot down on the wrong side of the camber or find that pothole! It doesn't take much when you've only got an inch or so to reach the ground with or the bike's over! Leg strength doesn't have much to do with it, most women's legs are as strong as men's but that's not what keeps the bike upright otherwise side stands wouldn't be able to cope!

I want a bike I can be proud of, which the guys drool at too and where the manufacturer hasn't stopped short of putting a handbag hook on the fairing as a nod to some men being a bit short in the leg too! I love riding my bike, whittling down my chicken strips and leaving my Triumph Sprint ST riding other half behind on the twisties!

Sorry, but this list leaves me cold and I'm sure it would a lot of my women biker friends too!

Posted: 21/03/2013 at 12:22

I had a cbr600fs as my first bike. Am 5'5" and was 8 stone. Just got a 2011 cbr600rr and it is exactly right. Feels light, rides light and no problems with feet down at all. Girls can love this bike and can ride it like any man, it's a brilliant machine and I think I will keep mine until its worn out (which will probably be long after I am with it being a Honda). I encourage girls to try it out, I promise you will be massively pleased!!

Posted: 07/04/2013 at 02:17

I'm only 5'2. I've got an NC 24 vfr 400 which is ideal but I've also got a lowered Yamaha Diversion F ABS and a GSXR 750 which has just had the seat sculpted out for me. No lowering kit and she's the lightest bike of tem all. Can handle her without any problems.

Posted: 30/07/2013 at 13:01

I'm a male shortarse (28" inside leg) and I found the article interesting. No way would I ever ride a bike where I could only get one foot down. Been there, done that, fallen over and no wish to repeat the experience. I'm now on my third Kawasaki ER-6F. Between the three bikes I've probably done about 32,000 ER-6 miles and enjoyed every one of them. By any standards it's a great bike and unless I decide to go retro with a Bonnie my next bike will be another ER-6.

Posted: 30/07/2013 at 13:03

You mention the SV650, but don't include it in your list?? I'm 5'3" and LOVE touring mine all over the mountains of the Pacific Northwest & throwing it around the track at mach speed!

Also, what about the recent release of the CBR500?

Come on, Visor Down, I expected more from you. Women make up 50% of the world's population - I would imagine a business would want to tap into that! H-D's been doing it for years, and Suzuki & Honda are catching on. Don't motorcycle companies have marketing departments? And if they don't know how to market to women, maybe they need to talk to and hire more of them... Just sayin' ;)

Posted: 30/07/2013 at 13:05

You mention the SV650, but don't include it in your list?? I'm 5'3" and LOVE touring mine all over the mountains of the Pacific Northwest & throwing it around the track at mach speed!

Also, what about the recent release of the CBR500? I do like the inclusion of the VFR, and would say the 800 is a fine choice for women as well - it'll be my next touring bike for sure!

Come on, Visor Down, I expected more from you. Women make up 50% of the world's population - I would imagine a business would want to tap into that! H-D's been doing it for years, and Suzuki & Honda are catching on. Don't motorcycle companies have marketing departments? And if they don't know how to market to women, maybe they need to talk to and hire more of them... Just sayin' ;)

Posted: 30/07/2013 at 13:07

You REALLY miss out !! What about the Ducati MONSTER - all models and therefore all types of power and how about the KTM 690 Duke. My daughter rides these bikes and just loves the Duc !

Posted: 30/07/2013 at 17:35

I've just come across this and to be honest it is rather sexist. Not all women are under 5'5". I'm 5'10" and my husband 6'3". Whilst I appreciate I'm slightly unusual, I'm not that much of freak.

I ride a Tiger 1050 and so does my husband. Yes mine has been lowered slightly, just so I can happily put both feet flat on the floor. I also know of a lady Speed Triple rider.

My next bike is going to be a ZZR 1400.When looking at bikes I always get strange looks because I go for "big" bikes.

Maybe an article for tall ladies might be in order?

Posted: 30/07/2013 at 17:37

If I was a woman motorcyclist seeing these suggestions, I would be after you with pair of loppers!

Posted: 30/07/2013 at 17:58

The only exciting bike in this list for me is the VFR400 and its 20 years old!! I had a KwakaZXR400 SP a few years back and despite its age I thrashed the pants off some of the lads in the group I was riding with and caned all the girls on the race track - now that was a bike worth riding!!
My background is in marketing and I cannot believe the NUM-NUTS running motorcycle companies! Can they not see the MASSIVE marketing opportunity for women riding shorter, spunky, pocket-rocket motorcycles. Contrary to popular belief many of us love speed, are highly capable riders, and prefer performance sports-bikes not the bland under-powered short bikes of today. Its the same with female motorcycle riding gear - but don't get me started on that...!!!

Posted: 31/07/2013 at 08:04

My Lass is 4'10 with 26 inch inside leg. She has had an sv650 lowered but reach was quite difficult. She has just completed 25,000 miles on an older BMW F650GS which was lowered by Rainbow BMW in Rotherham. She has also test ridden the lowered new F650GS (800cc) and could ride that fine. The secret was buying a set of biker boots and taking them to a coblers for an extra 2 inch sole making her 5'0".

Posted: 05/08/2013 at 15:12

This article should have been called "best bikes for short/small people". Wether man or woman. Not all women are small and a lot of blokes are short.

Posted: 06/08/2013 at 13:44

I'm with whiskymac. This article is tooo sexist. I ride a R1200GS and I am fortunate to be tall. But two of my friends ride the same bike and they are of 'average female height'. Get off it, just because we're female, we don't ride 'small' bikes.

Posted: 26/08/2013 at 22:02

See they don't list the Moto Guzzi 750 Breva, V7 or Nevada. Great women and dwarf male friendly bikes.

Posted: 28/08/2013 at 17:20

I see here that you have covered mainly crusier types with a couple of sportier versions there. I am 5ft and a bit and it is extremely difficult to get that perfect bike. Started with a ZZR600, seat cut out and boots with risers, next was a Ducati 600SS lucky for me it came with a corsa seat, no padding but it still had me on tippy toes. My ride now is a 2005 Cagiva Raptor 650, seat cut out, love it.

Sliding off the side and one foot down does not do it for me at all. The monsters now come in two versions higher and lower, have sat on the lower and it is just right, maybe time for a upgrade. Its sad when you are looking for a bike and the first thing you look for is seat height,personally I would love a Multistrada, but hey legs are swinging in the breeze here.

As for those lovely lady out there (5ft 10) who have complained about you being sexist, well I am sorry but you get to pick the bikes I only get to dream about, get over yourself, this article is for short of leg not for short of brains, by the way my hubby is 6ft 4 and gets to plant his feet on the ground when he stops on his Multi.


Posted: 04/10/2013 at 01:58

Actualy very useful article and comments, I'm only 4'10'' so it's very hard to find ANY bike for me, now I know what to look for :)
Thank you

Posted: 04/10/2013 at 10:22

I ride a pink framed 2005 GSX-R600 with pearl white platics. Had the unit lowered in the front & rear. Why do they think all these small cc bikes are the best womens bikes??

Posted: 10/12/2013 at 23:56

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