vertically challenged

New Boots from Daytona, The Lady Pilot GTX

I've always been a Daytona fan but in recent years I've left my Daytonas behind except for extreme weather conditions like freezing temperatures and heavy wet weather riding. I also have found ways of compensating for lack of height using other methods.

But if you're looking for a way to get additional height without resorting to a casual styled, chunky heel that isn't protective enough, light enough, or strong enough for riding then try these new Lady Pilots from Daytona.  

I'm liking the cleaner calf / leg design and the simplified styling. To me it also seems like there's more height offered through the soles given the wedge-boot style design. I'm going to test this theory out this week and try on my Ladystars and these Lady Pilots to see if I can tell a height difference. Fit wise, these are going to be a wider fitment overall like the Ladystars but we'll see if there's much difference. 

Either way, you save $100 and get the height you might be looking for with a simplified style and the same comfort and quality you'd expect from Daytona. 

Why Motorcycle Seat Heights Are Overrated

Me, in 2014 riding an almost impossibly tall DRZ400SM. ~36" seat height with the knobby tires and me barely compressing the suspension.

Me, in 2014 riding an almost impossibly tall DRZ400SM. ~36" seat height with the knobby tires and me barely compressing the suspension.

So you're shopping for your first sportbike, or you're thinking about upgrading to a taller, heavier, faster bike? What does seat height really mean? Does it matter whether the bike is a V-Twin, L-Twin, Inline-4 or Single Cylinder engine? What exactly am I looking for beyond seat height? Does the suspension matter? These are all questions you should be asking, and you will want to ask to consider whether or not that bike really fits you.

Stop letting seat height be your only determining factor when considering what to ride! 

When you initially look at seat height, say on a 2017 Suzuki SV650A (which is 30.9"), you need to know that this measurement is taken when there isn't a body sitting on it. It's simply obtained by measuring with a tape measure from the ground to the top of the seat. 

2016 Suzuki SV650: Seat Height, WITHOUT YOU ON IT!

2016 Suzuki SV650: Seat Height, WITHOUT YOU ON IT!

But when a person (of adult size and stature of course) sits on this bike, the rider may make the rear shock compress, which can result in an overall reduction in seat height (for me that was ~0.75" when I put in a softer spring on my Triumph). Let's go off on a little tangent here for a second.

When you're a small person like myself (130lbs, 5'2"), there are VERY few 600cc-1,000cc sportbikes/touring bikes that are designed for me to sit on the bike and compress that rear spring (if you aren't doing this, then the bike isn't set up correctly for you). And my Triumph definitely falls into that category. The stock rear shock was really meant for a heavier rider, about 150-160lbs to shmush that spring.

This is what suspension gurus (thanks Ken!) call SAG. For a more in-depth explanation of how this all works, read this

The original rear shock that came with my Triumph before I got a customized Ohlins.

The original rear shock that came with my Triumph before I got a customized Ohlins.

So what did I do to resolve this issue? I married a wonderful man a long time ago who bought me a used Ohlins Racing shock for my 40th birthday that I then had resprung (essentially traded in) with a new spring that was much softer and would compress (sag) under my little weight.

No, that didn't mean I could flat foot my Triumph (and I never will!). But it did mean that when I put my left foot down I didn't have to shift my butt over to the left to get it completely flat. I would say easily, a half inch lower, maybe almost an inch. And having YOUR body sit lower in the seat is far better than having the bike itself lower to the ground (for clearance, especially while LEANING which is the whole point of riding a sportbike! Otherwise, you may want to consider a cruiser because frankly they're just not meant to lean over very far).

If I had gone the lowering route, there's absolutely no way I could lean over on my bike in a corner like this. As you can see, I'm definitely NOT dragging my knee, as I'm not leaning that far over. Bottoming out is a very real risk aside from the performance issues, that come along with lowering your sporty bike. Photo:  Killboy.com   

If I had gone the lowering route, there's absolutely no way I could lean over on my bike in a corner like this. As you can see, I'm definitely NOT dragging my knee, as I'm not leaning that far over. Bottoming out is a very real risk aside from the performance issues, that come along with lowering your sporty bike. Photo: Killboy.com  

So consider the suspension on the bike, on top of the seat height. How stiff is it? Where did the rear shock come from? Was it added on afterwards? Are there any adjustments that can be made now that you are going to ride this bike? If you don't address suspension from the beginning, it can greatly impact your ability to ride the bike, your perception of what you think you can ride and your overall experience. 

If you don't have the funds to customize your suspension, your bike probably has at the minimum, the ability to adjust the Preload. In this handy guide from Sport Rider Magazine, they have a simple definition.  If you lessen the Preload, that can also result in an immediate drop in seat height! When I bought a Kawasaki Z750S about 10 years ago, it felt a tad taller than I was ready for. But my mechanic was able to drop the Preload and bring it down to the lowest point which immediately made me feel much more comfortable. I'd say it lowered me a good 0.5" overall. (Certainly not near flat footing but at least I got the balls of my feet down instead of tip toes, and almost a flat left)

z750s

So assuming that the bike you want has a shock that's set in the range of your weight, and you have the option to adjust the Preload, you've immediately lost a good chunk of seat height. On that SV650A, I'd say you could easily chop off at least a half inch, if not an inch depending on the combination of Preload adjustment and rear shock compression. 

There's also the issue of the bike itself. Now, look at the SV650 and look at my old blue Kawi above. Look at the engine. What's different? Well, first off the Kawi is a 4-cylinder, also known as an Inline-4. That makes for a MUCH wider engine overall than the SV650, which is only a 2-cylinder! And, see how they lay the cylinders at an angle on the Suzuki? That's why it's called a V-Twin. Now you've lost half the thickness of the bike between your legs. What just happened? Your knees are much closer together than on the Kawi. So when you go to put your feet down, they'll also be a bit closer to the ground because there aren't 2 more cylinders in your way. Also notice how the seats on both bikes are tapered as it gets closer to the tank. This is a good thing because again, now your knees are much closer. It's not just height that keeps your feet from reaching the ground.  

2017 sv650A
Specs for the 2017 Suzuki SV650A, from  SuzukiCycles.com

Specs for the 2017 Suzuki SV650A, from SuzukiCycles.com

Another thing to consider that you will (yes you really need to) be wearing proper motorcycle boots. Not sneakers, not flip flops, not loafers. Real riding boots. Something that has a real sole, grippy, anti slip and probably ~1-2" higher in the heel. Leverage is one of our most important friends as shorter riders. Without it you are screwed. (Pssst..Stop trying to ride a motorcycle without the right gear. It's a real motorcycle, not a video game :D)

A very good example of this is the Daytona Ladystar. But you may not even need something that tall.

You may just need a regular riding boot like these Sidi Vertigo Leis, (left) which I wear every time I go riding. And even these have ~3/4" heel on them. So add that to your natural inseam. 

I've also added these awesome insoles which give me another 2" of overall height! HELL YES.

 

Available on  Amazon.com . Just do a search for Height Insoles or Lifted Insoles and you'll find a ton on Google or Amazon. 

Available on Amazon.com. Just do a search for Height Insoles or Lifted Insoles and you'll find a ton on Google or Amazon. 

So all I'm saying is, DON'T GIVE UP just because some numbers tell you that you should! If you've been riding something for awhile and are ready for the next level, then some of these things will greatly apply to what you're thinking about riding. 

Or, as a totally new rider you will also be thinking about what you can or can't ride. So make sure you start AT YOUR EXPERIENCE LEVEL. I can't emphasize this enough. 

I truly think this is the #1 mistake people make (aside from not gearing up). When you start on a bike that is well beyond your level, you have no idea how to compensate for the lack of height. Instead you end up frustrated, stressed out, unhappy and probably someone with very poor riding skills as you drop your bike left and right. 

A couple of caveats however, with all this advice: 

  1. Don't expect to ride a bike with a really tall inseam (~3-6" taller than yours) if you've never ridden before! Because, no, that won't work! 
  2. And there are NO shortcuts to becoming proficient in riding and getting better at riding. When we are short, we must ride better:
    • With more precision than anyone else to ensure we brake perfectly so as to prevent dropping the bike. This means clutch/throttle control, exceptionally smooth braking and cornering, etc. 

Also read this article I wrote about all the bikes I've ridden in my brief career as a motorcyclist. There are a few other things to think about when choosing the right motorcycle as well.  

Good luck, and remember to consider everything when shopping for a motorcycle. Don't let anyone make a decision as personal as choosing YOUR motorcycle or motorcycle gear. 

QnA: Finding a Motorcycle to Lower?

2006 Triumph Speed Triple Reader Susan asks me what kind of sportbike should she get in order to lower and learn to ride. 

I am trying to find a bike that is safe to lower... I have a 27 inch inseam... all of the sport bikes are too tall and I dont want a cruiser or rebel.... wanted a ducati 696 but thats too tall and too much power... any suggestions ? - Susan ( love your page too )

Dear Susan,

First, thank you for reading GearChic.com!

A Ducati Monster 696 can be a terrific bike to start on. But it's not for everyone. And it certainly wouldn't have been for me. If you've read about me, then you know I started on a lightweight scooter. No, you don't have to start on a scooter. However, it's MUCH easier to start on something LIGHTER AND TALLER than heavier and taller. My scooter weighed ~250lbs but had a 30" seat height! But it didn't matter since the weight was really low (below my butt) and I could easily pick it up when I dropped it. :D

If the Ducati Monster 696 is the sportbike if your dreams, then I really recommend starting with something smaller and spend the time you need to learn how to ride! Just because you start on something like a Ninja 250 doesn't mean you are going to be married to that bike forever. We can't grow taller, so what can we do? We can hone our riding techniques and skills so balancing a bike with 4-5" of extra seat height doesn't matter!

suzuki drz 400 sm

By the time I started riding a Ninja, it was an easy transition. I was already used to using my left foot first and keeping my right foot on the brakes to keep the bike from falling over. I was already used to something almost 300lbs, so jumping up to ~350lbs was easy.

The other thing to know is that with a 27" inseam, you will probably never flat foot anything if your dream is to ride a taller bike like a Ducati. Also keep in mind that lowering sportbikes means losing ground clearance, meaning when you lean you will be limited to how much you will be able to! Something that you don't understand know, but trust me you will learn to love especially when you ride a sportbike.

A Ninja 250/300 might have a 30" seat height but that doesn't mean you can't ride them. Keep in mind that when you buy a proper pair of motorcycle boots like these you will automatically be 1.5-2" off the ground from the heel to the arches of your feet. You're now close to 29". And when you take your motorcycle safety class, you will learn the proper techniques to brake and use your controls so you don't drop you bike.

2003 Kawasaki Ninja 250

The key to all of this is being willing to learn, grow and make mistakes. It's not easy, it's not quick and it's going to take time. But trust me, when you put the time into a smaller, lightweight bike the payoff is amazing!

But that's what worked for me, and I feel I'm a MUCH better rider because of it. There's absolutely NO WAY I'd be able to ride bikes like these without having invested the time and making mistakes.

Whatever you decide, just know that motorcycling is something you work at, constantly. Even after 12 years, I still struggle every time I ride to do it better and safer each time.

 

Recommendations for Women's Motorcycle Boots

Sidi Womens Motorcycle Boots Updated 6/11/2013

Hopefully you've read my personal philosophy about riding boots. If not, I highly recommend taking a look before passing on the idea of investing a pair of boots that offer more protection than those cute, really stylish "motorcycle" boots that you saw at the mall.

The main difference between a protective riding boot and those cute, wedgy Cole Haan, Nine West or other boots you're thinking about wearing is protection. I'll say it again, PROTECTION. This time in bold. PROTECTION.

I don't know what it is, but many riders (including myself, back when I was a noob) forget about their feet. Our feet do almost everything on our motorcycles! Braking, stopping, shifting. It's so important to have this part of our body covered too.

As I mention in my boots overview, one of the main jobs your boots are supposed to do is to keep your feet from being crushed. Not by a car, not by a truck, but just by your own motorcycle!  The fact that you're small ankle bones are vulnerable to the weight of your 400-500lb beast is more than enough to brake, fracture or shatter bones in your feet/ankles.  I'm not saying boots will eliminate the possibility of injury, but just like the rest of our gear, they minimize the risk. I'll take a fracture or sprain over a break/shattering any day!

So I'm going to give you a few recommendations for real boots that offer real protection where you need them. These are all comfortable for walking, breathable, waterproof and will last you a good 3-5 years with almost daily wear and tear. They're all meant to be worn under your riding pants. Although there may be space to tuck your jeans in, if you're wearing actual motorcycle pants then you're going to wear them over the boots.

All of the sport touring style boots below (non track looking) would also be perfect on a scooter. Super comfortable and a clean look.

Keep in mind that none of these offer the protection that a track boot offers in terms of extra ankle support/bracing, shin protection and reinforcement in key impact points. But they offer way more protection than those hiking boots, doc martens, horseback riding or sneakers you're wearing, so save up some money and invest in a pair of Real riding boots!

Alpinestars Gran Torino GORE-TEX®

Alpinestars womens motorcycle boot

MSRP $299.95, RoadRider San Jose (local) Although these aren't on the Alpinestars website, they are the newest introduction for the women's line for Spring 2012.

Daytona Ladystar GORE-TEX®

Daytona Ladystar womens motorcycle boots

I want to recommend these SO bad, but they're very difficult to get from Germany right now. Here's a link to my review and where you can call to find out about availability and how they saved my feet over and over again. They offer 2 inches of additional vertical height, the most of any women's (protective motorcycle) boot currently on the market (not including high heel boots, no) 

Dainese Siren

Dainese Womens Motorcycle Boot

MSRP $229.00 Revzilla (online), DStore San Francisco (local) Euro sizes 36-42

The Siren I believe is an updated version of the previous Dainesella boot. I really like the styling on these.  These also feature a 3/4 length zipper to allow for ample calf space.  These also have a fairly narrow fit in the toebox as the toes are a little bit more tapered (not pointy, just not super round).

 

Dainese Luma GTX

Dainese Luma GTX Women's Motorcycle Boots waterproof gore-tex

MSRP $219.95 Revzilla (online), DStore San Francisco (local) Euro sizes  36-42 (~US 5.5 - 9.5)

The Luma is essentially the lower half of the Siren, which is fantastic if you have any issues finding boots to fit your calves! These are also fully waterproof with a GORE-TEX liner, which is a really great deal at this price point. I think these offer the most heel height next to the Daytonas.

 

Gaerne Rose

Gaerne Rose Womens Motorcycle Boots

MSRP $209.95 Revzilla (online), Gaerne.com Euro sizes  35-42

Read my review here.

I had to go up a full size to fit into these, to a 38, because they were sooo narrow, especially at the entry. Order one full size up and you'll be much happier. They'll break in over time, as will any leather boot.  If you have narrowish feet, you'll like the fit especially around the ankles and the arch. I think the zippers are a little skinny, so I'd use a zipper pull on them to make on and off easier, and it won't wear out as quickly. You can really tell the quality of a good boot (motorcycling or otherwise) by the quality of the zipper. Out of all the riding boots I've tried on, these have the narrowest calf fitment since the zipper goes all the way to the top. I have a 14" calf measurement and they fit me perfectly.

 

Sidi Livia Rain

Sidi Liva Rain Boots, Water Resistant

MSRP $220.00 www.motonation.com Revzilla (online), Roadrider (local)

The Livia is an update to the old Jasmine. In addition to the styling changes, they've added more reflective features and a reinforced toe shifter.  Very calf friendly, with a 3/4 zipper and velcro adjustment.  The fitment on Sidis is generally wider around the ankles, heels and calves. If you need more space in those areas, you'll appreciate the fit profile on these. Otherwise, consider the Dainese or Gaernes for a snugger overall fit.

 

TCX Aura

TCX Lady Aura Motorcycle Boots

MSRP $219.99 Revzilla (online), TCXboots.com Euro sizes 38-42 (their website says they're offered starting at 35/US 5, but it doesn't look like that size is available through any retailers.) I'm usually a 7, and I wear a 37 in these.  Very calf friendly, with a 3/4 zipper and velcro adjustment. The toebox is tapered, (not pointy but not super round) so you may find them to be a little tight up there if you have a wider foot.

 

Want Even More Protection?

Maybe it's your first track day or you're looking for something for all around street riding. Here are some ideas. Keep in mind that these are designed a little more towards performance and more protection. They also have a very sporty, forward articulated riding position in the ankles. If you're riding an upright dual sport/ standard or cruiser, these will be far more uncomfortable than the sport touring styles above.

 

Alpinestars Stella SMX-5

 Womens Street Motorcycle Boots

MSRP $239.95 Euro 36-44 Alpinestars.comRoadRider (local)

These are based on the men's SMX-5, offering the same features/function. Everyone I know who has these boots love the way they fit and feel. I'm told that in general, Alpinestars are more comfortable, but I think that's going to depend on your feet and what fits you the best. These fit generally snug all the way around (ankles, heels/arches).

Dainese ST Avant Race Lady

Dainese Womens Street Motorcycle Boots

MSRP $299.95 www.dainese.comDstore San Francisco (local) Something that's a little different from other boots is the rear zipper, making it easier to step in and out.  This one is also vegan friendly, made of Lorica instead of cowhide. These fit generally snug all the way around (ankles, heels/arches).

 

Sidi Fusion Lei

Sidi Womens Motorcycle Boots Fusion

MSRP $215.00

www.motonation.comRoadRider (local) Read my review here.

 

Sidi Vertigo Lei

Sidi Vertigo Womens Motorcycle Boots

MSRP $300.00 www.motonation.comRoadRider (local)

Read my review here.

If you're a fan of pink, you can still find last year's patent leather black and pink style in local dealerships, online or on MotoNation's website.   The Vertigo offers more protection than the Fusion and would be a great track boot with the extra heel and calf protection, as well as additional calf space adjustment to accommodate leathers.

 

2013 KTM 690 Duke

2013 ktm 690 duke black motorcycles supermoto short inseam

 

Meet the 2013 KTM 690 Duke, the US Edition.

Since I am short (5'3", 28" inseam) I define any motorcycle that I can ride as a motorcycle for short people*. Makes sense, right? :-D  

The new 690 from KTM was at Scuderia West for just a short week. Luckily I was able to take it out for a spin! If you're looking for a mid powered sportbike with a super comfortable riding position, then this is what you're looking for. Priced at $8,999 she has plenty of power (more than you think) especially at lower rpms but still delivers a deliciously fun ride, fantastic cornering and an awesome riding position. They'll get models around March if you want to test ride....

My outfit from head to toe: Shoei Qwest Goddess helmet, Alpinestars Vika jacket, Revit Summit gloves, Gaerne Rose boots

(Not advised for beginner/novice riders)

Beginner Motorcycles

Brammo Enertia Electric Motorcycles San Francisco Scuderia West

I posted this on twitter and facebook recently but felt it was really important to state for the record.

There's no such thing as women's motorcycles, only beginner motorcycles. 

Sorry, but there's no such thing! I don't care what anyone has told you (including other women riders), but they're wrong, absolutely wrong. And sorry but low cruisers aren't women's motorcycles, either. In fact, I think large, heavy cruisers (no matter how low) are the worst beginner bikes, ever. Not because I'm not a cruiser person, but because they're painful to balance and the center of gravity is totally screwed up! Having your feet forward changes the way you provide input and the way it responds. And if you drop your KLX or your DR, it only takes you a second to pick it up! 

In riding the Brammo recently, I've come to discover how incredibly fun an upright, lightweight dual sport/supermoto style bike could be for a new rider. It's a completely different world of motorcycles, and a completely different experience from what I'm used to.  I'm convinced that something like a Suzuki DR400SE (below left) or Kawasaki KLX250 (below right) is one of the best beginner options out there. 

suzuki beginner motorcycle beginner motorcycle

If I had to do it all over again, I would've gone this route (Thanks Betty!). I still love sportbike riding, but I think I'm falling in love with the dual sport way of life and will definitely be moving in that direction going forward. I still love and adore my SV and will be holding on or quite a while. 

 

New BMW Womens Motorcycle Boot

For those of you looking for a less expensive alternative to the Daytona Ladystars, BMW may have what you're looking for.

BMW Pro Touring 2 Unisex Motorcycle Boots for Women

Price:

$259.00 (some shops may be selling them at the higher price, when in fact they are supposed to be set at this price)

Sizes:

6.5 to 13, Unisex. My girlfriend tried these on (she's an 8/Euro 38) and they fit her perfectly.  

Where to Buy:

BMWMotorcycle.com or your local BMW Motorcycles Dealer

Features: 

  • Full-grain hydrophobic soft approx. 1.8-2.0-mm-mm cowhide
  • Highly breathable, wind and waterproof GORE-TEX® membrane
  • Large shin protector, with additional stiffening and foam padding
  • Reinforced in gear-shift area
  • Soft velour lining around opening
  • Washable, anatomically formed insole with antibacterial function
  • Flex zones at heel and instep
  • Abrasion-resistant heel protector
  • 1.5-2" insole (heel height)

These offer a substantial increase in height, noticeably in the heel. At $349, I know they aren't cheap. Then again, when is really good motorcycle gear "cheap"?

Since these offer a GORE-TEX membrane, they definitely add to the pricepoint. But BMW makes high quality gear, mean to last and ride for thousands of miles.  

I'm sure if you go home with these, you won't be disappointed.   

 

Modifying my motorcycle to fit me?

A listener from the Pace Podcast emailed me recently, asking me how I've modified my SV650 to fit me.  My answer is probably not what you'd expect from a shorty like me... "I've been listening to you on the Pace podcast and want to thank you for doing what you're doing! I love the fact that you break down in detail you review of products instead of the typical simplistic responses of "Great" or "Lame". Anyhow my question is not about gear, but about your SV. I love the look and V-twin sound of the SV. I'm not so crazy about the seat height, I'm only around 5'4" w/appox 28" inseam. I used to ride a 93VFR - which I could flat foot a single foot and was *OK* doing so. Do you have any mods on your SV to lower the seat height? If so, what do you find works best? Do you have bar risers? I'd like to use a bike like this to commute. The 2012 Ninja 650 is on my short list as well but it lacks the "coolness"/vibe of a V-twin - but the ergos are much closer to what works for me."

Answer:

I also have a 28" inseam.

I've never modified my bike, ever (or any of my previous bikes). My best friend has been my Daytona boots as well as my riding experiences since I started on a scooter back in 2003.  For me, spending time on a ninja 250 for a couple years after that, and then a ginormous z750s made me appreciate the nimble and lightweight abilities of the SV650s. I never even thought about modifying it.

Are you wearing protective footwear? If so, the traction on them will give you extra leverage and help compensate for the lack of height.   If you aren't, something like these will give you an extra inch, easy: http://motonation.com/store/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=7&idproduct=6326

I also wear Sidi Fusions, and they offer absolutely no additional height. Actually, they took away a good inch from me. I really had to modify my riding technique (focus on smoother breaking) to adapt to them and be comfortable with just relying on my left foot.

Even in my daytonas, I still can't flat foot both feet in those, even with the additional 2 inches. I'm flat on my left, and that's all I've ever needed on that bike (or any bike for that matter).  It has such a low center of gravity and is so light that I've gotten used to the weight distribution and just using one foot. Being a twin certainly makes things a lot skinnier between um, your legs. :P

I guess I'm a bad person to ask about this, because I've actually lost vertical height but haven't done anything to my bike to compensate for it.... I've just modified myself!

I can only recommend checking out www.SVrider.com to see what others may have done to modify/lower their bikes.