My Top Five Bike Picks For Women Who Don’t Want A Cruiser
Yeah, We’re Short, But We Like To Go Fast, Tooby Allyn Hinton, on
Is being a woman and wanting to ride a motorcycle a big deal nowadays? It isn’t as much a ’big deal’ now as it was a few decades ago. Our culture is more open to folks of the female gender doing anything and everything we want to do, but there is still a certain barrier when it comes to riding a motorcycle. Why? Because traditionally, bikes were designed with men in mind, at least 5’ 8” tall and with enough upper body strength to wrestle the weight and pick one up if it ended up on its side. Women were generally relegated to cruisers because we are typically shorter than men and cruisers have the low seat heights. That is changing as more manufacturers recognize that there is a whole customer base out here with money to spend. So what shall we spend our money on if we don’t want a plain ol’ cruiser?
Continue reading for my top 5 motorcycle picks that aren’t cruisers.
Is One Foot Enough?
It all depends on your skill and confidence level.
What criteria am I using for my picks? Yeah, it’s mostly seat height, because that’s a big factor. You can go a little taller if the bike has a narrow waist, but I generally look at anything that has a 30-inch or less seat height as a contender. One thing folks should keep in mind is that most manufacturers list unladen seat height, so we know once we climb aboard that will go down maybe up to an inch, depending on the suspension and what was had for lunch. If the manufacturer lists a laden seat height, something few of them do — Harley typically lists laden height — it’s a spec taken with a rider weighing 180 pounds. Bear that in mind if you weigh less than 180 pounds, the suspension won’t compress that far under your butt.
Is one foot on the ground enough? It all depends on your skill and confidence level. Getting a ball of your foot down is okay and tippy-toeing from foot to foot also works, but generally only after you have a skillset that has progressed beyond beginner level. If your plans include going offroad like on a dual-sport or an adventure bike, you can pretty much count on tippy-toeing it one foot at a time at a stop. For the beginner rider, male or female, I’d strongly suggest getting a first bike that you can not only touch the ground with both feet, but maybe still have a little break at the knee.
What About Low-Seat Fitments?
Lowering the seat will change the handling characteristics as they generally affect steering geometry and suspension.
Yeah, they’re out there. Lowering the seat will change the handling characteristics as they generally affect steering geometry and suspension, but that isn’t necessarily a reason to discount it. Also consider that the aftermarket — and sometimes the manufacturers themselves — offer low seats, which are typically the same seat with less padding. Is less padding still enough padding? You’ll have to decide that for yourself.
One more option that I’ve heard about, but can’t speak to directly is getting chunky riding boots with a thick sole, kinda on the line of platform shoes. I’m guessing that would be like Frankenstein riding boots to give your feet a little extra reach. Instead of altering the bike (which may affect resale value), alter your gear to accommodate short legs. Just don’t fall off your boots or your ankle will never forgive you.
So where does that leave us as far as my bike picks?
The ride is nimble and fast, so think of this as the cruiser that doesn't know it's a cruiser and I won't tell it if you don't.
Wait....I said not a cruiser, right? The XDiavel from Ducati is a cruiser in the sense that the rider’s feet are forward, but everything else about it looks very sportbike-like. Seat height comes in under 30-inches, barely, but with a butt on the seat it’ll be even a little lower. The Testastretta DVT engine puts 156 horsepower and 95 pound-feet of torque at your disposal. The ride is nimble and fast, so think of this as the cruiser that doesn’t know it’s a cruiser and I won’t tell it if you don’t. The XDiavel is the most expensive bike on my list at $20.5k.
Definitely a sportbike, definitely a sportbike rider triangle with heels tucked high.
Definitely a sportbike, definitely a sportbike rider triangle with heels tucked high. Not a lot of cubes, yeah, but it’ll carry you over 100 mph, which is plenty fast enough for street use. Honda launched the CB300F in 2015 powered by essentially the same engine as the small-displacement CBR lineup. Seat height is just a hair over 30 inches, but that is low for a proper sportbike. This is the most budget-friendly on my pick list at about $4,200. Eat a big lunch or get comfortable tippy-toeing and this could be your ride of choice.
Kawasaki Ninja 400
It has more torque than the Ninja 300 that was discontinued last year giving it a snappier ride than the small-displacement Ninjas have ever had.
I reached a little bit, but I had to include a Ninja, didn’t I? Unladen, the seat height is under 31 inches, but the 400 is the lowest seat height Ninja that Kawasaki has in the 2018 lineup. It has more torque than the 300 that was discontinued last year giving it a snappier ride than the small-displacement Ninjas have ever had. Well within the budget category, the Ninja 400 goes for about $5k.
The rider position is upright and relaxed with a narrow waist so it's easy to reach the ground.
Suzuki gives us a sportbike look in the form of the SV650 with a seat height under 31 inches, so yeah, 30 and a skosh, but remember, this is unladen. Revamped in 2017, the SV650 has a narrow waist to help you reach the ground. While it isn’t a sportbike, it isn’t a cruiser either. The rider position is upright and relaxed with feet under you, but not ’tucked.’ I find this UJM/standard rider position comfortable for folks new to two wheels in that your feet are close to the ground and ready to deploy for those whoopsie moments. Near the top of the entry-level price range, Suzuki wants a shade over $7k for their 2018 SV650.
Triumph Tiger 800 XRx Low
This new addition to the Tiger family comes with a package of nice features including cruise control, rider modes, and the TFT display.
Okay, there’s an adventure bike on the list. Let’s talk about the Tiger 800 XRx Low from Triumph in terms of seat height. The lowest seat option puts seat height at just under 30 inches unladen. With 95 horsepower and 58 pound-feet of torque this new addition to the Tiger family comes with a package of nice features including cruise control, rider modes, and the TFT display which is so much nicer than the previous digital displays. This is the street-oriented model of the new Tiger 800 stable, but still offroad-capable enough for a trip down the logging road and more than capable to make an enjoyable commute. Considering what you get, the $13.6k price tag doesn’t seem out of line.
Honorable Mention: Can-Am Spyder F3
The Spyder has a low seat height and the U-Fit system that lets you choose a handlebar position and footpeg position to really dial in the kind of ride you want.
Yes, it is listed as a sport-cruiser, but it’s not that kind of cruiser. Seat height is a low 26.6 inches, and honestly, if you don’t need to reach the ground except to get on and get off, even very height-challenged folks can ride the Spyder F3 from Can-Am. Rider position is upright and comfortable and the U-Fit system lets you choose a handlebar position and footpeg position to really dial in the kind of ride you want. Having a trike option on my pick list is a boon for folks that don’t want the worry of having to pick up or hold up a bike. It corners like it’s on rails and has quite a bit of storage space. It’s also, surprisingly, not the most expensive bike on the list at $18k.
That’s my list, at least for now. Manufacturers are coming out with new models every year, and every year, they seem to be more and more woman-rider friendly.
See our review of the Ducati XDiavel.
See our review of the Honda CB300F.
Kawasaki Ninja 400
See our review of the Kawasaki Ninja 400.
See our review of the Suzuki SV650.
Triumph Tiger 800 XRx
See our review of the Triumph Tiger 800 XRx.
Can-Am Spyder F3
See our review of the Can-Am Spyder F3.