9 Touring Motorcycles For Short Riders (And Not A Cruiser In Sight!)

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I don’t know about you, but I reckon short riders who want to buy touring motorcycles are really quite pissed off!

As part of my research for this post, I did some digging around on the internet to find that this subject has been tackled by numerous writers before me.

And when I stumbled into the murky depths of the comments sections of these posts, every single one of them had been slammed, ferociously, by shorter riders wanting touring motorcycles.

Why?

Because the bikes listed in these articles were all too tall!

honda africa twin - touring motorcycles for short riders
Listing touring motorcycles with 32 inch seat heights (and over) is of no use to shorter riders (image via Honda)

Touring Motorcycles For Shorter Riders: Mine’s Bigger Than Yours

It seems to me that many of the authors of these posts are of average height (or taller.) And whilst that’s fine, there is a discrepancy between their version of what constitutes low bikes, and what short riders consider as low touring motorcycles.

Now, before we go on, I should probably tell you that I’m not a short rider. I’m around 6 feet tall and ride a Honda Africa Twin; probably one of the tallest bikes you can get.

So it would be easy for me to slip into the same mistake of writers before me by giving you a list of bikes that are short for me.

But that doesn’t illuminate touring motorcycles from the perspective of short riders. So I’ve given myself some constraints to keep it on track.

More of that in a minute.

Short Riders vs Touring Motorcycles: Demographics

In an effort to keep this post accurate, I spent a few days researching touring motorcycles for short riders.

And to understand everything fully, I delved into the demographics and studied the many (rightfully) annoyed comments to come up with some guidelines.

In the posts I read, many of the touring motorcycles listed had seat heights over 32″ (or 812mm.) In fact, many of them were over 33 inches.

And not a single person who commented on those posts agreed that 32 inches was a reasonable height for short riders looking at touring motorcycles.

It seemed to me that a ‘shorter’ rider would be considered to be in the region of 5’2″ to 5’6″. (Although many are shorter and we’ll get to that in a minute.)

Therefore, a more appropriate seat height would be one that ranged between 29 and 31 inches (with emphasis on the lower end of the scale.)

So that was the first challenge I set myself.

All bikes were to have a seat height as close as possible to 29 inches.

Shorter Riders = Baby Touring Motorcycles & Cruisers

Can someone please explain to me why it seems acceptable to palm off short riders with one of the following touring motorcycles:

  • Beginner/new rider bikes
  • Baby cruisers

As an experienced rider, I’m able to ride a bigger, heavier, more powerful bike than the beginner bike I learned on.

Never in my life have I walked into a motorcycle showroom and been pointed towards a learner-legal bike or a baby cruiser based on my height.

And it’s a good job; because although there’s nothing wrong with either of them, they are not the types of bikes I need.

So why is it okay to point shorter riders in the direction of the learner-legal touring motorcycles when they’ve been riding for 20 years?

Why is it okay to point them in the direction of the baby cruisers when they don’t want a cruiser?

And worse still, why is it okay to put them on a bike that’s too big for them in an attempt to convince them they’ll be fine ‘once the bike is moving’?

harley davidson
“You don’t like cruisers? Here, have a cruiser!” Shorter riders looking for touring motorcycles often end up with cruisers (image via Harley-Davidson)

Manufacturers Don’t Make Touring Motorcycles For Short Riders

As mentioned above, a height range of 5’2″ to 5’6″ has been used to assume a fair depiction of a shorter rider.

But what if someone is shorter than 5’2″?

Of course, there are aftermarket seats and lowering kits out there which will bring the bike down to an appropriate height.

But this often comes at the expense of suspension travel and ground clearance.

Even with the best will in the world, if you’re 5 feet tall and want a bike fresh out of the showroom, your options are truly (and unfairly) limited.

Bikes Are Getting Taller, Too!

Rather than ignoring the needs of shorter riders, isn’t it about time manufacturers started to accommodate them a little more instead?

We live in a time where bikes are getting bigger and heavier year on year.

In fact, it’s a course of action that really gets on my nerves.

Related: Don’t Buy An Adventure Bike If You Want An Adventure!

But we also live in a time where motorcycling has become more inclusive.

We live in an era where the male-female ratio of new riders is equalling out – and it’s about time!

It’s inevitable that opening up the motorcycling floodgates will bring with it shorter riders; whether male, female, or otherwise.

So why the hell are bikes getting bigger and bigger when the riders coming into our two-wheeled community are getting shorter and lighter?

Our Top 9 Bikes: 29-31 Inch Seat Heights

With all that said, it’s about time we got onto the bikes!

Below are our top 9 bikes that have seat heights in the range of 29-31 inches and should be good for the majority of shorter riders looking for touring motorcycles.

1. BMW R1200R (2014)

bmw r 1200 r in black - touring motorcycles for short riders
Whilst not strictly a ‘tourer’, the factory lowered BMW R1200R comes in at 29.5″ – perfect for shorter riders looking for alternative touring motorcycles (image via BMW)

Advertised back in 2014 as the boxer roadster for the keen rider, the BMW R1200R offers 125bhp and 125 Nm of torque.

With its uniform power delivery, it offers an all-day rideable experience that will see you fill up your helmet with smiles from the second you leave the hotel.

Even for a bike from 2014, this roadster comes with rain and road riding modes, dynamic traction control, ABS, gearshift assist (optional), and keyless ignition.

If you can get one that’s been factory lowered, buy yourself an aftermarket screen and some panniers and you have a low bike that’s good to tour.

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 29.5 inches (749mm)
  • Weight, 223 kg (wet)
  • Cost, from around £4,500

2. Triumph Tiger 900 GT Low

triumph tiger 900
The ultimate touring motorcycles for shorter riders in 2021? (Image via Triumph)

I hadn’t gotten around to seeing this bike in the flesh before writing this post.

But when I saw that the GT Low came in at around 760mm (29.9 inches), I was stunned. Because my Africa Twin is around 900mm (35 inches.) This means the seat height on this Triumph is around 5 inches lower.

It was at this point that I trotted off to Triumph to see it for myself.

Not only does the Tiger 900 GT Low have improved power on its 800cc predecessor (95bhp & 87Nm), but it also has an updated chassis which makes for a better handling machine.

It also has a sexy TFT screen, is Euro5 compliant, has full touring luggage options, and comes in a full 50mm lower than the standard Triumph 900.

As far as touring motorcycles for shorter riders go, this could very well be a sterling choice.

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 29.9 inches (760mm)
  • Weight, 192 kg (dry)
  • Cost, from £11,100

3. BMW G650GS

bmw g 650 gs with panniers
Only a hair taller than the Triumph, this BMW offers a lowered option for shorter riders wanting touring motorcycles (image via Total Motorcycle)

As mentioned earlier, I’ve had to do quite a bit of research for this post. And it seems to me that whilst many manufacturers ignorantly dismiss their shorter riders, BMW consistently makes ardent efforts to accommodate riders of all heights.

In fact, this list contains no less than 4 BMW’s; the second of which is the baby GS.

Although no longer available brand new, you can still pick up a 2017 model at a very reasonable price.

BMW’s are dominating the market for shorter riders because they provide customers with the option of having their bikes factory-lowered.

The 2017 model with the seat in its lowest position and having been factory lowered, comes in with a seat height of 30.3 inches (769mm).

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 30.3 inches (769mm) – factory-lowered
  • Weight, 191 kg (wet)
  • Cost, from under £4,000

4. BMW F750GS

bmw f 750 gs - touring motorcycles for short riders
Probably one the most fun touring motorcycles for shorter riders available (image via Autoportal)

It’s really easy to dismiss the F750GS as some sort of baby version of the 1250GS. But the fact is, it isn’t anything like it.

And although it has a certain look that resembles that of its bigger brothers, that’s really all they have in common. Trying to compare them doesn’t do this bike any favours.

But when you take it for it is – which is sort of a road-going version of the F850GS -all of a sudden, it opens the door to a machine that is lightweight, capable, and great fun to ride.

Yes, it ‘only’ has 77bhp, but it delivers it well and all the power is useable.

It isn’t the most contemporary-looking of bikes. But it still has various rider modes, adjustable suspension, a TFT display, and comes fitted with a tracker as standard.

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 30.3 inches (769mm) – factory-lowered
  • Weight, 224 kg (wet)
  • Cost, from £8,600

5. Ducati Scrambler

ducati scrambler
Pop a screen and some panniers on one of the bikes from the Scrambler range, and they make for great touring motorcycles for shorter riders (image via Ducati)

Can you believe it was FIVE years ago that Ducati entered into the off-road/retro range with their Scrambler??

As we make our way into 2021, a lot has changed from 2015. And with a whole host of options and choices available, the Scrambler Ducati website caters to all tastes.

The standard 800cc Scrambler is relatively low out of the factory; coming in at just over 31 inches.

With the lowering kit, however, you can shave that height down to an even more comfortable 30.3 inches ( 769mm)

But is it a tourer, I hear you ask?

Well, I’ve been looking into this (for personal reasons, sssshhh!), and yes, you can tour on it.

With aftermarket options including touring screens and panniers, you could indeed tour on a Ducati Scrambler.

And it could definitely add a little variety to the ‘test ride’ list of shorter riders looking for touring motorcycles.

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 30.3 inches (769mm) – with lowering kit
  • Weight, 170-190 kg (wet) – depending on model
  • Cost, from £7,695

6. BMW F900XR

bmw f 900 xr - touring motorcycles for short riders
The baby brother of the S1000XR offers a great alternative – and it’s £4,000 cheaper! (Image via BMW)

Triumph isn’t the only one coming into 2021 with a 900cc bike.

BMW has also released its F900XR which is essentially a more useable (and cheaper) version of the S1000XR.

With an output of 105bhp, the bike is no slouch. And with Brembo brakes, a TFT dash, heated grips, and a whole host of BMW extras, this bike offers the complete package for slightly less than you can buy a Yamaha MT-09.

The standard height is 32.4 inches (825mm), but if you take advantage of BMW’s no-cost lowering option, that will bring the bike in at 31.3 inches (795mm.)

Still not low enough? Ask them for the lowered-suspension version, and the seat height will drop to 30.5 inches (765mm.)

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 30.5 inches (765mm) – factory-lowered
  • Weight, 219 kg (wet)
  • Cost, from £9,830

Related: Adventure Bikes: Are There Cheaper Alternatives?

7. Triumph Street Twin

triumph speed twin
With it’s little panniers, this has to be one of the best looking and nicest sounding bikes on our list! (Image via Triumph)

As with the Ducati Scrambler above, I’m quite interested in the concept of making a touring bike out of a lightweight, retro-style bike.

And like the Ducati, aftermarket touring screens and panniers are available for you to convert the Street Twin into a bike you can tour on.

In fact, I happened across one whilst in Triumph researching the Tiger 900.

It was just under £6,000, and I damn near bought it there and then!

Even the most basic of Street Twin’s come with Brembo brakes. And thanks to recent updates, a touch more power makes a big difference on the older models.

You’re not going to be breaking world-speed records with its 64bhp, but the power it has is useable and manageable.

And with it’s Bonneville pedigree and fabulously-alluring brushed exhaust, it both looks and sound amazing!

On the negative side, the tank range is a little on the small side. You can expect to be hunting for a fuel stop after around 120 miles.

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 30.9 inches (785mm)
  • Weight, 198 kg (dry)
  • Cost, from £8,100

Last But Not Least: The Heavies!

Just because you usually see big, strapping men ride about on the next two bikes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman (or smaller chaps) don’t have the right to ride such big bikes.

If you want one, and you have the strength to hold it upright, then knock yourself out!

Light, they are not.

Cheap, they are not.

But they are both only marginally over 29 inches (744mm) in seat height.

8. Honda Goldwing

honda goldwing - touring motorcycles for short riders
Not ideal for the more diminutive of frames, but it’s the shortest bike on our list (image via Honda)

Despite being such a huge, heavy bike, it can make a good fit for shorter riders looking for touring motorcycles.

With its combination of size, power, comfort, and ride quality, it’s an awesome tourer whatever your height!

And whilst the big petrol tank adds weight to the bike, most of the heft is towards the bottom of the bike. This lowers the centre of gravity and makes it surprisingly easy to handle.

Moreover, the ‘Wing comes with a walking gear; which means you won’t have to paddle this behemoth of a bike next time you need to push it!

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 29.3 inches (744mm)
  • Weight, 365 kg (wet)
  • Cost, from £22,399

9. BMW R1250RT

bmw r 1250 rt
Another heavy bike – with an incredibly usable seat height (image via BMW)

If you’re looking for a low-seated, German-engineered mile-muncher that will get you and your passenger to your destination in comfort, look no further.

Yes, it’s a big, heavy bike.

Just like the Goldwing.

But with its recently updated engine, it pulls like a train and offers luxury that is peerless.

If you have the money, the optional extras on this bike will stretch just as far as your credit card will let you!

Specs At A Glance:

  • Seat height, 29.9 inches (759mm) – factory-lowered
  • Weight, 279 kg (wet)
  • Cost, from under £15,820

Touring Motorcycles For Shorter Riders: Conclusion

It really is about time that manufacturers started to produce more touring motorcycles that can accommodate shorter riders.

But manufacturers will produce what they think is best because they’re used to telling us what we want as consumers.

Until this changes, it looks likes shorter riders are stuck with a limited selection of touring motorcycles if they don’t want to lower their bikes post-purchase.

But shorter riders needn’t feel restricted to touring motorcycles which are either baby cruisers or learner-legal, beginner bikes.

You can (with the help of BMW or aftermarket lowering kits) have a choice of touring machines; from retro bikes to street bikes, and from off-road adventurers to grand tourers.

So when the shorter riders reading this post next go shopping for touring motorcycles, don’t just take what the salesperson tells you you can have!

Top image via Triumph

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