The Long and the Short of It! – Discover the Best Motorcycles for Tall Riders


Mass produced motorcycles are exactly that, built for the masses. Designers may create the shape and style, but cost effective manufacturing processes dictate the final layout, which inevitably means, a one size fits all scenario.

Obviously, this is never going to be suitable for everyone. For this very reason the motorcycle accessory market is a multi-billion dollar business.

Your riding position is critical, and for the taller than average Joe, getting a bike that’s a good fit is important. At the end of the day, if you’re uncomfortable, fatigue sets in sooner and you are more likely to make mistakes.

Also, if you and your motorcycle aren’t compatible your posture will suffer; as a result, giving you a bad back, neck, and knees. So, getting a bike with the right seat height and seat to footrest height is crucial. With all that in mind, let’s look at a few different categories of motorcycles and see which bikes are likely to fit the bill.

Best Motorcycles for Tall Riders: The daddy of adventure bikes

An adventure bike is an obvious category for the taller rider, as they tend to be higher off the ground. The first figure to consider is the seat height, but we will also look at the knee angle, which is equally important.

Bear in mind that in all of the following examples regardless of category, the knee measurement is in degrees.  The lower the number, the more the knee is bent.  Realistically, for the taller rider, the knees need to be bent as little as possible.

The daddy of this category is, of course, the BMW 1200GS Adventurer whose height measures a whopping 35.7” while the knee angle comes in at 94 degrees.  Interestingly though, the Honda CRF1000 Africa Twin is 34.1, but the knee angle of 85 degrees mean that the footrests are higher.

The KTM 1050 Adventure has very similar statistics of 34.4’’ and 86 degrees whereas the Triumph Tiger Explorer XC is 33.4” and a slightly lower knee angle of 84 degrees.

So what does all this mean regarding tall rider comfort? The BMW wins, not only because of seat height but also because that 94-degree knee bend ensures you’re less cramped.

 

Best Motorcycles for Tall Riders: Cruisers are great for extra legroom

Being a tall rider doesn’t have to restrict you to giant trail bikes, cruisers can also give you extra legroom.  The majority of custom cruisers have feet forward stance, so let’s look at some comparisons.

Coming in with the lowest seat height at 26.7’’ is the Indian Scout; it also has a good stretch to the footrests too, with a 125-degree knee angle. The Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle is just over an inch higher at 27.9’’ but has a greater knee angle at 134 degrees.

The Triumph Thunderbird Storm is a fraction lower at 27.7’’ but with a knee angle of 111 degrees is noticeably more bent that on the V-Rod. While the Honda VTX1800F is the highest of the bunch at 28” you do get a straighter leg than the Triumph with a knee angle of 120 degrees.

Looking at the stats, the V-Rod Muscle should have it in the bag. However, with a cruiser, there’s another fact to consider, and it’s hip angle. This angle determines how bent over the riding position is, and taking this into consideration the Honda has the most relaxed riding position.

Best Motorcycles for Tall Riders: Surprising comfort from Yamaha and Ducati

Sports bikes are not exactly a category you’d immediately associate with tall riders but with French MotoGP ace, Loris Baz standing tall at 6ft 3ins, there’s hope for everyone.

We will kick off with the Honda CBR1000RR.  It has a good seat height at 33’’, the KTM RC8 is a fraction lower at 32.9, ” and the Yamaha R1 is 32.8’’.  Last but not least is the Ducati Panigale at 32.5.”

Once again, the Honda should theoretically be the better choice with its taller seat.  However, the surprise winner or should that be winners, with the least knee bend and therefore the least severe racing crouch, are the Yamaha R1 and Ducati Panigale.

 

The tall rider has an excellent choice of touring bikes

All the bikes in the touring category are huge, so surely the tall rider is going to have a lot to choose from here.  The first surprise is the Honda Goldwing F6B with a seat height of just 28.2’’ It’s only 1/8″  higher than its cruiser stable mate the VX1800!

The Triumph Rocket III Touring and the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic are not much higher, at 29.8’’ and 29.7”.  While the BMW K1600GTL is the highest of the group at 30.5’’.

As with the other categories, the angle of the knee plays a big part in comfort for the tall rider.  Here, we can see that the BMW at 84 degrees has the acutest angle, meaning the rider’s knee is the most folded.  The Honda closely follows at 89 degrees.

Both the Harley and the Triumph were very close, with the Electra Glide just fractionally better at 105 degrees. These stats mean that both bikes have the best legroom, undoubtedly down to the use of rider floorboards.

Best Motorcycles for Tall Riders: A round-up of the results

A round up of the results for the best motorcycles for tall riders puts the BMW 1200GS Adventurer first in the adventure bike group. The Honda VTX1800F top of the cruisers, while joint first in the sports bike category goes to the Yamaha R1 and Ducati Panigale.

As for the big tourers, it was another head to head between the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra and the Triumph Rocket III Touring. If I had to make a choice, which I can do having been lucky enough to have owned both, I’d have to go with the Rocket, purely because the acceleration is addictive.

Don’t worry if your bike feels cramped; there are several things you can do to improve the comfort. Firstly, raise the seat height by having more foam added. Next, you could try raising the handlebar height either with new bars or risers. In doing this, you will alter the angle of lean and reduce the feeling of being compressed.

Finally, on some models you can buy footrest-lowering kits, these tend to be for sports bikes, but it’s possible to adapt them for other bikes. Just remember, tall riders don’t have to be uncomfortable riders.