When I first started riding motorcycles at age 9 there wasn't a big concern which bike was ideal for me to ride. I rode a Yamaha 90 Enduro bike and do not remember ever thinking about seat height or weight. As long as I could put one foot on the ground it was not a big deal what I was riding. Being a kid I would do anything to ride even using an old plastic milk crate turned upside down to use as a step up to get my leg over my Dad's dirt bike. This will be a concern for riding on the street where you are dealing with stopping and sitting in traffic. Having both feet flat on the ground is very important for your safety while on the road. Seat height will play a bigger role in a street bike than it will with an off-road dirt bike. If you lay it down it will be almost impossible for you to pick it up. You will need help.
When looking for a dirt bike your seat height and the weight of the bike will be a concern. Partly due to the fact if you fall off, you will be picking it up and you will need to be able to get your leg over the seat. Once back on you will need to start it. If you have an electric start it is not such a big deal but if you have to kick start it then you will need to have to appropriate seat height.
The Perfect Motorcycle
Is there a perfect motorcycle for women? Is there a perfect motorcycle for a man? No. Is there a perfect motorcycle for you? Yes. What works for men works for women? There are short men that face the same dilemma as women that are not very tall. If you are a tall woman this does open up a few more possibilities. But there are plenty of motorcycle's to choose from no matter your gender, weight or height. For that matter there are many to choose from based on your experience as a rider. I would stress that if you have very little experience riding to go through a rider's course which is offered through many community colleges. There is even an advance rider's course that is good even for the most seasoned rider.
Later I will be listing some motorcycles with their height and weight to give an idea of what is out there. There are a number of things to consider when going out shopping for your bike. One should take into consideration size of the motor, seat height and weight. When first starting out weight of the bike may seem intimidating but as time goes by it will be less of a concern. Many motorcycles especially cruisers have a low center of gravity; because the weight sits lower, it seems not as heavy. Street bikes can weight in excess of 500 pounds. Even men that dump their bikes need help picking them up. So don't worry ladies if you dump the bike and need help getting it upright. One thing about motorcycle riders, they are always willing to lend a hand and help a fellow rider.
Type of Motorcycle
So is it cruiser, sport bike, dual sport, or dirt? This is really your own preference or the type of riding that you will be doing. If you are strictly street rider then there are many types/styles to choose from. If you ride on the street, trail or dirt roads then one bike you will want to look at are dual sport bikes. Or maybe you do variety and may be so inclined to own more than one bike. If your budget allows it then maybe having a street bike and a dirt bike in your garage is the way to go. For me that would be heaven.
I used to ride a 1999 Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. I will be very honest the first time I got on this bike all I could think of was how heavy it felt and going around corners felt like I was going to end up on the pavement. This surprised me because I have been riding for 40 years and have never been intimidated by a motorcycle. I was a little upset with myself for feeling this way about the bike. I had to regroup my feelings and approach this bike like I am the one in charge. I decided to go for short rides and just after two rides I didn't notice it anymore. Why I mention this is if you are new to riding this may make you bulk at riding. I would not advise a new rider to go out and buy a big bike or fast sport bike. That is my personal feelings on this since some new riders bite off more than they can chew.
Take a Class
Earlier I suggested the rider's course for new riders because it gives you a chance to ride on a bike that is not yours; in case you crash it's not yours. They use smaller bikes which are less intimidating and allow you to focus on learning to ride safely. If during your course you feel intimidated by the small bike then you can imagine what it would be like on a bigger bike. Also be realistic with yourself. Once you have made it through the class but know you need to work on maneuvering your motorcycle then practice in a parking lot.
Things to Consider When Buying a Motorcycle
There are other things to consider when buying a bike. Think about where your feet are positioned on the foot pegs. On my old Harley the pegs where forward and at first seemed odd. Some like the foot pegs below the knee. Cruisers may be lower to the ground but the seat width is wider. Sport bikes are taller but the seat width is usually smaller. Handlebar style can be a factor. Test out a motorcycle like you would a car. Sit on the bike and take it for a test ride. Do some research and get familiar with what is out there. Do not overwhelm yourself with a big, powerful motorcycle the first time around. I would suggest a used motorcycle and once you get bored sell it and move onto something else. Also if you wreck your first bike which is a possibility then you don't feel so bad since it was not brand new.
- Sportster 883L - 25.3 inches,
- Sportster 1200XL - 28.9
Others to consider:
- Harley Davidson Softail
- Harley Davidson Dyna Glide Lowrider
- Monster 695 - 30.2 inches
- Sport Touring ST3 - 32.3 inches
- S4R - 31.5 inches
- Shadow Aero - 25.9
- Goldwing - 29.1
- Nighthawk - 29.3
- CBR600F - 31.9
- F650 GS - 30.7 to 34.5 inches
- K1200 GT - 32.2 inches
- R1200 ST - 31.9 inches
- V Star Classic - 28 inches
- YZF-R1 - 33 inches
- Virago - 27 inches
I currently ride an FZ6 (pictured above). This bike is lightweight and great seat height for someone 5'6.
- Katana 600 - 30.9 inches
- GSX 750 - 31.9 inches
- V Storm - 32.2 inches
- America 865 - 26.3
- Bonneville - 29.1
Other Motorcycles To Look At.
No seat height listed.
- Victory Kingpin
- Buell XB9S
- KTM EXC 450 (dual sport)
- Suzuki DR-Z 400 (dual sport)
- Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD
My personal belief is that you should have the right to choose if you want to wear a helmet. My friends and family know how I feel about this. If you have the option in your state, take the option and wear a helmet. My saying is "ride long enough, often enough, you will go down". If you have family that relies on you, I feel it is very selfish to go out for a ride and not protect yourself. Even wearing a helmet doesn't always save you but it does give you the upper hand. There is nothing worse than losing a loved one or friend to a senseless crash because they were no protected. I am going to leave you with this question. What happens to your spouse, children, and the rest of your family if you die because you did not wear a helmet?
Happy riding. Keep the rubber side down, shiny side up.
- 2010 Ducati 1198
- 2010 Ducati 848 Nicky Hayden Edition
- 2010 Harley Davidson Sportster 883 Iro...
- 2010 Harley Davidson FXCWC Softail Rocker C
- 2010 Harley-Davidson FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide
- 2010 Honda Fury
- 2010 Hyosung GT650R and 2010 Suzuki SV650S
- 2010 Kawasaki Ninja 650R.
- 2010 Kawasaki KLX110L
- 2010 Triumph Sprint ST
Leader Writing from Tracy, California on June 09, 2010:
Excellent article! Your sportster experience reflects mine, but after my husband totalled my sportster I got an '07 Dyna Super Glide and it is a very different ride. The sportster is top heavy and feels like it wants to fall down all the time, not a good starter Harley in my opinion. The Dyna just wants to go, the weight distribution is much lower and you will have a ton of fun riding it. My other bike is a '95 Ducati Cafe Racer and while it's a completley different ride, trust me it's a ton of fun, not in adverse conditions like wind or rain, but what a ride! It sounds like we are on different ends of the height spectrum, but I'm really happy to hear other womens views on riding. Thanks so much
Cool Rider from Tampa Bay Florida on December 11, 2009:
Having been a passenger for years I decided it was time I rode my own. I took my motorcycle license test on a 1200 Sportster about 10 years ago. I actually thought I could do it because I had practiced non-stop for two months in a parking lot on the weekends.
Well, at the time if I wasn't so embarrassed it probably would have been funny. In all my glory I dropped the bike at least 3 times! The last time I dropped it - I took off my helmet, my gloves, and my sunglasses and threw them across the parking lot. The lady testing me came over and said "It's ok honey, I wasn't testing you when you dropped the bike You Passed"!
Just like you said mkott - take your test on a smaller bike - They put the cones so close together there is no way a Sportster can maneuver through them. Very top heavy bikes - I would not recommend them for beginners, Woman or Man.
I asked my husband why he thought my first bike should be a Sportster as hard as they are to ride. His answer - I figured if you could learn to ride a Sportster you could ride anything! My bike today - HD Softtail and I love it!
Ronnie Sowell from South Carolina on October 14, 2009:
A lot of ladies ride around here (S.C.) and I think that is great. I ride a Bonneville because it is a great bike, Steve used to ride a Triumph and I am the only guy in my town who has one! Would make a great first bike or ladies bike!
We do not have a helmet law in SC but check out my hub on motorcycle safety. It is a letter to the editor I sent to our local paper after a deputy killed himself and someone in a car while he was riding a bike with no helmet.
Enjoyed the hub.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on October 13, 2009:
I never found woman rider in my country. I think it looks great.
Michele (author) from Reno, Nevada on October 03, 2009:
I hope after riding for 40+ years, raced for over 14 and my families involvement in the motorcycle industry, I hope I have gained some knowledge. :)
LiamBean from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on October 02, 2009:
Although I'm male and don't ride anymore, I find your evaluations and advice quite good. I can also tell "the voice of experience" having ridden. I think you've found your niche. Great writing!
bikesandbars from Seattle on September 08, 2009:
Great article! I'm a big Kawasaki fan myself. Good advice for women looking to purchase!
bridanp from Saltillo, MS on September 07, 2009:
I kinda feel like requiring a helmet is like requiring a seat belt. There's a reason my state goes so far as to ticket us for not wearing seat belts or not wearing helmets. So, it's your choice not to wear one, but if you get caught, you'll pay a penalty. Of course, it's a little easier to see someone with a helmet :).
BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on August 30, 2009:
Oh soooo fabulous! Loved all the bikes - I am so inspired. What a great informative hub.
I agree with you about wearing helmets. I've had friends who were run off the road - deliberately; fortunately they wore helmets.
And then of course if you get smashed up - remember that someone else bears the grief AND someone else is going to have to clean up your irresponsible bloody mess left all over the road. Not fair.
Thanks so much!