How tall is too tall?

Most pics can be enlarged!

I have been asked many times “how can you ride such a tall bike”?  So, I have put together some pics to try to show as close as I can with the specs I know what I might look like on all the recent bikes I have owned or “borrowed”.  My height is 5’5″, well almost 5’5″ 😉 with an in seam of 30.5 inches. 


Cheryl is about 5’5″ and her in seam is 31.5.  Big difference when it comes to our ’13 BMW F800GS bikes.  She has more footing than I will ever have.  So, this post is for the vertically challenged.

I have hopes that a few in seam inches will not deter anyone from buying the bike of their dreams…where there is a will there is a way.  Trust me I should know…I am shortish and I have ridden successfully, comfortably, confidentially and most importantly safely a 2011 Triumph Tiger, 2012 BMW F650GS, 2013 F800GS.  My other bikes were a 2008 Suzuki SV650,2009 Honda CBF1000 and 2010, believe it or not Harley Davidson Fat Boy.  The later bikes were never an issue with height of course.SV

See, no issue with the SV650.  Nice little bike and both Cheryl and I enjoyed them but realized not too soon after buying them we needed more power and comfort.


Again I fit the CBF1000 with absolutely no issues with my footing.  BTW…we both had these bikes and LOVED them for their sport touring ride.  I took mine out on the track a few times and was actually able to keep up with all the young chaps on the CBR’s.  Great fun but once again we were in search of something more…..


What to say about this bike.  Friends of ours sold their VFR’s and bought HD’s and we impulsively bought my Fat Boy and Cheryl had a Street Bob.  Cheryl really liked her Street Bob and would have kept it if we could.  Single dimensional bike but cool to ride.  One issue had been the air-cooled engine.  The oil tank is right under the seat on the Fat Boy and the few times I rode to work in very HOT weather I had almost second degree burns on my right thigh that went through my riding pants.  I actually hated my bike.  When it rained the brakes would lock up and I would fish tail riding in the city.  No ABS.  Scared the shit out of me.  So, these bikes lasted 3 months at most.  Huge hit in the wallet but we were learning what we were craving at this point.


Ahhhhhhhh….BMW sort of Dual Sport 2010 F650GS.  Now we were talking.  Both of us felt at home on this bike so much so I got mine in March of 2010 and we were off and riding across country to New York and back to Vancouver in July.  No planning.  I learned about luggage, packing, etc all online in forums.

Cheryl was our navigator and off we went.  Both dirt and pavement, over 14,000 KM’s later we were hooked on the DS concept.  I fit this bike well…standard height seat, standard suspension no issues at all.  Kept the bike for almost 3 years and sold it with over 60,000 KM’s on it.

Should point out the CBF, HD, Suzuki all were sold with about 10,000 KM’s on them.


The comfy Triumph Tiger 800XC.  Now, this is where we got a taste of more HP, 21 inch front wheel, more of a DS bike than our 650’s and the bonus we borrowed them from Triumph Canada.  Rode from our home in Maple Ridge, BC all throughout BC, the Yukon and of course ALASKA, about 15,000 KM’s!  2011 was a fantastic year of learning better riding skills out of survival 😉  and DS traveling in general.  I had the seat on this bike set to low with the Triumph low gel seat.  My feet not that great when it comes to reaching the earth.

Cheryl had her seat on low with a regular Triumph gel seat and she was pretty much flat-footed. Triumph is a head of the game comparing to BMW when it comes to their adjustable seat.  We loved this feature and would be more appealing to the vertically challenged than the BMW F800GS that we have now.  Smooth triple engine makes this bike a very smooth pavement touring bike.  Off road totally competent but not nearly as fun as the F800.  Just my opinion.  Great bike though.

Few more pet peeves…Triumph should integrate the heated grips instead of an after thought.  Hate those comical BIG white buttons.  The ABS is a joke to turn on and off especially when you are freezing, hungry and tired.  All in all, we still love this bike but when it came time to buy a new model…the pet peeves won out.


Finally our latest bikes which we LOVE too.  ESA/ASC we like and use.  We both are using the BMW low seat and to our surprise find them to be not that bad on the ass.  Might even go as far as saying the low seat is comfy.  Not like the Triumph accessory seat but good enough.  Love the gas tank under the seat…makes it more nimble off-road.  The EASY, and I mean EASY on/off ABS set up makes sense as well as the informatics toggle button I like too. Triumph lacks this…everything is manually controlled by reaching to the instruments and pushing a sequence of buttons that I could never remember on our Alaska Tour.

Cheryl’s Bike
Leslie’s Bike

My feet are pretty up there on this bike.  I got the regular suspension, and I am glad I decided not to get a factory low bike.  The extra height on this bike just makes me more aware when it comes to parking and getting out of tricky situations.  I have to dismount the bike at times to move it, back it up or turn it.  No biggie, well worth sticking with the stock height and by now a year later I rarely notice I am short on this bike.  Confident, not cocky, comfy and can safely enjoy this bike on all levels.

Hope this post shows some insight about the relativity of bike height because I would have regretted doubting my ability to adjust to the F8’s seat height and my ability to learn to live with it and LOVE it.  In the end if riding makes you do this…


…then you must be on the right bike!

If you make down to this part of the post feel free to ask any questions by posting a comment.  Thanks.

Author: advgrrl

Avid ADV rider! This Blog is all about the adventure in adventure riding. Researching new bikes, routes, accessories, learning about other riders and hopefully a great place for others to comment and explore with me. PLUS, up and down's, wildlife, my dogs, my life!

35 thoughts on “How tall is too tall?”

  1. Interesting article and yes I made it down to the end 😉 Your blog is one of the things making it bearable for me to be at home sulking because I have the bastard bloody cold from hell at the moment (coughing shards of broken glass, no voice etc)…

    My inseam is about the same as Cheryl’s – between 30″ and 31″ and I stand 5’9″ (short legs, long torso). I use the comfort seat on my F800GS which is a few mm higher than the standard seat. If I’m on the bike solo, only my toes touch the ground, but if I ride 2-up I can nearly flat foot it due to the soft springs. It only caused me confidence issues for about the first 3-4 days until I learned to trust the bike’s excellent low speed stability. I did have one near miss on the second day where I stalled the engine while squeezing between two cars at a traffic light which **nearly** resulted me falling over and onto the bonnet/hood of one of the cars (oops) – but adrenaline kicked in just in time and I kept it upright. Lesson learned. In fact, the only time I’ve had the bike over (on road – I’ve come off plenty off road!) was in France last summer when I stopped on a slope and the ground wasn’t where my foot was expecting it to be. Fortunately the pannier kept the bike from going right the way over but the two of us ended up on the floor and none too pleased about it.

    What’s interesting, and I think we’ve touched on this in the past, is that my 2014 R1200GS is actually the lower bike with a lower centre of gravity, despite being slightly larger and about 20kg heavier – when I’m riding it solo (ESA in solo mode) I can easily flat foot it, but when the bike is in 2-up mode, the ESA raises the ride height so I’m on my toes until the pillion mounts the bike (after which it sits at roughly the same height as solo mode).

    Bit off topic but one of the other notable things is that due to the semi-active suspension, when the ignition is switched off the 1200 is so floppy you can almost bounce it through the full range of suspension travel with one hand – but as soon as the engine is running and the computers start doing their thing, it has a very strangely level ride (road imperfections, acceleration, braking don’t cause pitching/squat/dive like on the 800). The best way I could describe the different feel would be to say the 1200 feels like it is being dangled onto the road from above, and the 800 feels like it is being pushed up from below.

    1. hope you feel better….you got a “man” cold lol I fit “better” on the 1200 too…the F800 feels more like a dirt bike sitting on the top of the bike versus in it. Like the Triumph 800XC…you feel part of the bike sitting more like a touring motorcycle versus the F8. but I think the dirt bike effect of the F8 is what makes it so much fun off road and that nimble handling. BTW…I can not keep up with all your comment…just so you know I read each and every one. Thanks for your ongoing support and contributions! Valued!

      1. Haha I wish – unfortunately working at the hospital makes it difficult to get away with man-cold/man-flu 🙂

        BTW isn’t it 4:30am or something over there??

        You are right, you do sit more ‘in’ the 1200 – when switching between the two, it feels like there is very little in front of me on the 800, but it is also the more forgiving and flickable bike. I’d not go so far as to say it’s the more hooligan bike out of the two because the ease at which the 1200 will lift the front wheel simple beggars belief… Both are amazing fun but in very different ways. I’m tempted to get some Karoo 3s for the 1200 as these were designed in collaboration with BMW for this bike so I can compare its off road ability to the 800 – so far the 800 with the K60s leaves the 1200 (with Anakee IIIs) in the dust though, but I LOVE the Enduro ASC mode which is designed for road tyres on off road surfaces and makes the bike handle the dirt far better than it should on the Anakees.

  2. My wife’s F650GS has the lowered seat. When she was choosing at purchase time, they said that it may be a bit less comfortable. I have driven her bike on some 2-300 mile trips and can honestly say that the lowered seat is actually more comfortable than the standard seat on my F800. For some situations I enjoy her 650 more than my 800 due to the height and smaller front wheel.

  3. @ George…if you notice most of my posts are really early because it’s when I do my blog and plus I get up really early. I have a biological internal alarm clock that knows no difference between vacations, weekend and days off mode. Don’t require that much sleep either…average 4-6 hours per night. @ Garth….we should own one bike for every mood and road. 😉

    1. I’m permanently wired for an 8:05 wake-up… annoys me on my days off when it’s nice to stay warm under the covers a little longer!

      Re bikes for moods, I admit I am rather tempted by the new Honda MSX125 – check it out! I’m not allowed any more bikes, however 😦

  4. Hi,
    i found your blog when I was researching Tiger 800 and Alaska trips. I found your ride report and got hooked. I’m 5’4″ and probably have either a 29′ or 30′ inseam. I initially started out with a Honda Rebel 450, Honda VLX 600 and the Honda Aero 750. All very short bikes but with very little rode clearance. I scraped the pegs A Lot! As I looked for a new bike that wasn’t a traditional sport bike but not another cruiser I found a Moto Guzzi Cafesport V11. I loved the seating position. I could barely tippy-toe the bike when I bought it. I found if I could put my right foot on the peg I could have my left foot down flat. It took me quite awhile to get used to the tall seat and the right hand twist of the fly wheel. I fell over a few times, but that bike was a beast. When the husband decided he wanted to start making longer trips, he sold his VFR and bought a Triumph Explorer. I rode that with the seat on the low seat. It was smooth! Although I really liked the bike, it seemed to have too much stuff surrounding me. I’m not sure how to explain it. That’s when I ended up reading your ride report! It pretty much sold me on the Tiger. I did get a demo ride at a ‘local’ (2 hours away) dealership. I told them I would buy one once we sold the Guzzi. It took a few months to sell but when we went to go buy the Tiger they had stopped selling them. I was able to find the roadie I wanted…venom yellow! I’ve had it since July and love it! I can ride longer and am so much more comfortable. I did go for the shorter seat. I’ve also been told by a shop owner that I was a ‘True rider’ because at my height, I was riding the Tiger. I was flattered but I’m not sure what I was before?

    Thanks for opening your lives to the world!

    1. Be flattered…many guys and grrls stay away from these types of bikes for numerous reasons. Hence the reason for this post. I want to encourage all the folks who have emailed me to ride what you desire. Trust your gut…if you have that innate feeling for the love of riding, your desire will help you learn to be a great rider. If you are nervous and your gut does not feel right…need to go with your instincts and stay in the “safe” zone when choosing a bike if you should be riding at all. 😉

      Thanks for your comment and for finding our blog. I love this little thing we call advgrrls…has turned out to be the one place I can express my obsession about riding without annoying too many people LOL

  5. Boy well said!
    I am 5’4 and I am pretty used to planning my parking and turning. I own the triumph tiger 800 after finding your blog it sealed the deal and I bought it a year ago ,thank you for all the info you put out. I really liked the BMW 1200gs ,I sold a k1200 rs … It is tough to keep the power and keep your feet on the ground. I am going to try the low gel seat.
    Thanks again

  6. Great information and useful to compare. Years ago, I was planning on testing the F800GS during a demo day but couldn’t even get my leg over the seat. Years later, I tried again and much easier but I still felt much more comfortable on the F650GS as I didn’t have to partially slide off of the seat to get my foot flat. I had never even bothered trying the Tiger or anything else as they just look too tall.

    Nice post, thank you!

  7. Your motorcycle riding “evolution” is very typical and inspiring for a lot of riders. Especially finding all that dirt out there! I’m constantly telling riders that they do not ride with their feet on the ground, so that should not be much of a consideration in comfort on a bike. But one should also know how to get a foot (yes, singular) down when needed. This requires balance as well as bike control and the confidence to know you can put that foot down and feel safe at a stop.
    One of the biggest tricks we’ve learned in our training is that riders, especially those on the shorter end of the spectrum, need to feel comfortable getting their butt off to the side of the seat to allow the leg to extend and touch the ground. Remember, your but is not stuck to the seat and your feet (even the one on the opposite side of the one you want to put on the ground) are not clipped onto the footpegs.

    We have a short video that explains a very simple drill to get a rider more comfortable with the balance. And this is especially important when touching the ground is bothersome.

    1. Hi Jimmy..I saw you at the KLIM Rally a few years back in Idaho. You are inspiring for the vertically challenged for sure. Great video and advise you have shared here in your comment. Thanks for stopping by…would love to take your course one day and I think I will post your video as an addendum to this post as well. The more riders out there who are not blessed with long in seams see that riding a higher bike does not equate to being unsafe and does not have to exclude certain bikes from their choices the better it is for us all.

  8. What to buy. What to buy? My wife and I are in the early stages of our hunt. Here’s the problem. I’m 5’6″ with a 29″ (at most) inseam. She’s 5’9″ with at least a 33″. We want twin bikes. Most riding will be road with a few jaunts on fire roads etc. 1200 gs is too much $$. 800 gs is too dirty. They’re trying to talk us into the 700 gs but I think it’s too “girly”. Then I saw your blog on the Tiger. Hmmm? Any thoughts you can share regarding comfort for us shorter guys?

    1. Yes, you both should try the Triumph 800 roadie addition if you want the same bikes. Your in seam is rather short. If you sit on a roadie with a low seat on low you might fit and if you are a decent rider your skill will compensate if you are not flat footed. Your wife should have no issues with stock height seat on the highest setting. Try them out for fit and BTW, the 700? All in your mind as to being a girly bike lol…take one out for a ride you will love it.

    2. I second Leslie’s note about the F700GS – I had one for a courtesy bike when my 800 was being serviced and I loved it. Great fun to ride on the road and a bit more chuck-able than the 800 as it has a lower centre of gravity and smaller/fatter front tyre. The Tiger 800 is a nice bike as well – whatever works best for you. Why worry what anyone else thinks? Even if you decided the best bike for you was a Mary Kay pink Vespa, wear it and ride it with pride!

      Also agree that once you are used to the bike, you only need a toe to touch the ground and can ride quite safely. One of the technicians at my BMW dealership is a 5-foot-nothing, petite woman who passed all 3 levels of BMW enduro training on an F800GS – she has to slide off the seat every time she stops just to get a toe down. As she says, as soon as the wheels start turning, the bike *wants* to be upright.

  9. Update. My new BMW F700GS in osprey grey(man grey – as my wife calls it) with 2 seats – comfort and low is now sitting at BMW Toronto waiting for the spring thaw. Thanks for all the guidance. Now for farkles????

  10. Loved the post. For the longest time I used to be asked how I could ride a ‘big bike’. Then I realized that most of the people asking had either a) never ridden or b) were judging the height of the bike by the top height of the tank or the tourpack or the windshield and NOT the seat – which (as you well know) is really where it matters. All in all, I found that it didn’t matter what anybody else said, as long as I had “happy butt” , loved the bike and it fit me well – life was good.

    Travel safe – ride well

  11. Hi ladies. I’m alex and I’m about 163cm, 5ft4 tall.. am interested to get e 800 gs but went to e showroom n tried sitting on n putting to balance, I felt really uncomfortable as I’m tip toeing and it felt wavy n unsafe.
    intend to get full lowering package like seats n factory suspension lowering. Wondering in terms of centimetres how tall r u ladies n looking at e diagram u r still tip toeing with e lowered seats?
    Almost got e 700gs due to stationary comfort but e 800 is just so tempting. Hope to get some advice/feedbacks from u ladies. Thanks!

    1. I am about 165 cm with a 77 cm in seam. Yes I am not flat footed at all on the F800 but I guess why I posted this was to show you don’t have to be flat footed to ride these bikes. When on the road I always stop with my right foot on the brake and my left is flat. If I run into issues where I need to get both feet down I will get off the bike and move it that way. This is not to say everyone will be comfy on a bike this height but even with the low seat it still will be a challenge for shorter riders. For me it’s not a bog deal…I like the height , normal suspension and I am still in my comfort zone. You need to find that happy place where you feel safe and not worried. The 700 sounds about right for you with a low seat.

  12. Hi, I loved your post. I’m currently training for my motorcycle test. After visiting various riding schools and not finding a bike I can even touch with my toes, let alone flat foot (I’m 5′ 1″ with an inside seam of 26 – with my boots 29!) I eventually bought a 2010 BMW F650GS, Factory lowered, custom ‘low,low’ seat and had the forks dropped an inch. I am now taking my lessons and eventually my test on this. I love it. I never thought I would be able to ride a bike and although it is still a bit hairy when it comes to stopping, I am sure with more experience it will get better. Great that we short riders also have options!

  13. A friend directed me to your blog, because I just finished a four day tour in Ireland on a 650 GS, and now I’m hooked on adventure bikes and touring. I’m going to be renting a 1200 GS this Sunday, and I’ll try the 800 GS and the Tiger when they come free as well, in order to get a feel for which bike I want to buy next, but I have some questions for you about learning to ride in the dirt.

    I have zero experience, and would like some advice on how best to approach gaining some technical skill so that I don’t harm myself or my future adventure bike when riding off-road. Some friends are telling me to buy the bike and just jump in, but I’m not that tall, and taking a bigger, unfamiliar bike into conditions that are foreign to me makes me uneasy. Others are telling me to buy a little dirt bike for a while and take a weekend class on dirt biking to get my chops up, which sounds fun, but maybe is a bit of a detour or beside the point. Ultimately, I want to be competent to go on long trips, for example riding from California up to Alaska, or down through South America. What would you suggest?

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