Five Great Motorcycles for Shorter Riders

Proof that good things come in small two-wheeled packages.

Best bikes for short riders
The Triumph Street Twin hearkens back to days when most bikes were a universally good fit with narrow, low-ish saddles, and logically positioned footpegs. Through the years, as motorcycles have become more specialized, evolving into distinct categories, that one-size-fits-all characteristic has become harder to achieve. Bikes like the Street Twin bring it back.Photo: Motorcyclist

As a kid, I was really short, or as my grandfather, a hog farmer from Western Ohio, so colorfully put it, "pecker high to a short duck." He qualified this by telling me, "you're tall enough for your feet to hit the ground, and that's all that matters." When you're the shortest kid in school and the perennial last pick in gym class, the sarcastic remarks of an old man offer little consolation. However, the first time I straddled my brother's Honda CBR600F Hurricane and both feet hit the ground, I had to laugh. My grandfather's words took on a whole new meaning. For the motorcyclist, if you're tall enough for your feet to hit the ground, then you're tall enough. Period.

Thankfully, there are a lot of great bikes for shorter riders. Here are five of our favorites.

Indian Scout
Indian Scout
That sculpted tank and cast frame/radiator cradle give the Scout a muscular, “hewn from one piece” feel.Photo: Motorcyclist

Cruising with Universal Appeal: With its narrow leather saddle and 25.3-inch seat height, the Indian Scout is one of the lowest bikes in its category (even the little Honda Grom has a taller perch at 30-inches). Not only that, the Scout's low center of gravity makes it easy to get it off the sidestand and maneuver at low speeds. Indian specifically designed the Scout with people from 5'4"–6' in mind, so ergonomically it's a good fit if you're looking for a feet-forward cruiser. The Scout also happens to be one of those bikes that has universal likeability, making it great for beginning motorcyclists and experienced riders alike, and even the occasional non-cruiser rider.

Scout Price: $11,299
Scout Sixty Price: $8,999

Ducati Scrambler
Ducati Scrambler
No frills, upright bars, and sweet V-twin motor will have you reaching for the keys. Perfect for meandering summer evening rides. Or picking up a few groceries. Or commuting. You get the picture.Photo: Motorcyclist

A Short Duck?…: The ever-expanding line of Ducati Scramblers is a great place to look for a bike for the inseam challenged. If you can look past the marketing hype, the Scrambler, as a bike, doesn't take itself too seriously. Really, it's an "archetypal motorcycle" with a desmo twin, upright bars, and a squishy seat. Ask a little kid to draw a picture of a motorcycle, and it'll kind of look like a Scrambler (but with misshapen wheels, obviously). It scores well on the accessibility factor with its relatively low weight and low seat height (the Desert Sled is nearly three inches taller, however), which makes it easy to back out of the garage and go for a spin.

Scrambler Icon Price: $8,895

Yamaha YZF-R3
Yamaha R3
The R3 has a strong YZF family resemblance without trying too hard to prove that it fits in. Its rider triangle is less cramped than its racier siblings too. Nice little sportbike.Photo: Julia LaPalme

Diminu-racer: Yamaha's diminutive R3 is a versatile machine ready for track duty (with some modification) or as an entry-level sportbike. When a machine can serve such distinct purposes without major sacrifices, you know it's doing something right. In this case, it's the light weight, low seat-height, stylish silhouette, and lively parallel twin engine that hit the right notes. Flat-footing at stop lights and dragging knee at the track has never looked so good for so little (see price below).

Price: $4,999

Triumph Bonneville Street Twin
Triumph Speed Twin
Yes, the Triumph Street Twin looks cool parked outside a café, but don’t let that fool you. It wants to be ridden.Photo: Motorcyclist

Modern Classic: If you're thinking about tapping into the retro-cool world of Triumph's Bonneville line, consider the Street Twin. It features a 29.5-inch seat height, compared to the 30.9-inch seat of the Bonneville T120, and is also 57 pounds lighter than the T120. Rather than the 1200cc engine of the T120, the Street Twin uses a 900cc parallel twin. It's another classic and compelling machine from the English brand. Waxed cotton jacket sold separately.

Price: $9,000

KTM Duke 690
KTM 690 Duke
The 690 Duke’s single-cylinder engine sits jewel-like in its trellis frame. Uniquely KTM.Photo: Motorcyclist

Be Geoff Duke: With a 33-inch seat height, the 690 Duke is by far the tallest bike here, but it's also the lightest at just 327 pounds (dry). So if you're on your tip-toes, the bike's feather weight will keep you feeling in control. Besides, what's cooler than one whopping 690cc piston throwing itself around beneath you? Even though the 690 is thoroughly modern, its single-cylinder engine gets us all nostalgic for a time (well before our time) when racing circuits were booming with the sounds of the most famous Duke cruising to victory on a Norton Manx.

Price: $8,999