Motorcyclists that are on the shorter end will often consider lowering their motorcycle.
Generally speaking, shorter riders are not limited to cruisers only. Many people will consider riding their motorcycle, but there is a lot of conflicting information about whether it is a good idea to lower a motorcycle.
Is lowering a motorcycle bad? Lowering a motorcycle is bad if not done correctly. Often motorcycles are lowered in a way that alters their steering geometry, wheelbase, rake, and trail, making them harder to handle, uncomfortable, and unsafe. Most experts do not recommend lowering a motorcycle unless done professionally to avoid losing handling and steering.
That being said, lowering motorcycles should be done only by experienced people that know what they are doing.
But even if you will have your motorcycle lowered in a shop, you still need to have a good level of knowledge of how the lowering a motorcycle will affect it. So let’s take a more in-depth look.
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How are motorcycles lowered?
Lowering a motorcycle can be done in a few different ways, and each one will have a different impact on the motorcycle’s handling and comfort.
People will usually consider shaving off some of the seat foam or lowering the motorcycle’s front and rear.
Shaving the seat foam
Generally, shaving the seat foam is the easiest and cheapest way to go.
Motorcycle seats can range between 26 to 33 inches in height.
For example, dirt bikes can be especially taller because they are designed to move over rough terrain, and because of that, they need more ground clearance.
While shaving down the seat’s padding, you also have some level of freedom to choose how you lower the seat. You can shave off a little from the front end of the seat while leaving the back of the seat untouched for maximum comfort.
You can also look for a new, lowered seat as some companies offer seats with less padding.
Newer motorcycles usually have less padding to begin with, so you may be able to shave off about 0.5 to 1 inch at most.
By lowering the seat, you will not really affect the motorcycle’s handling and performance, but you will give up some comfort as you will lose much of the cushioning the seat provides.
Lowering the front and the rear
One of the most common ways riders lower their motorcycle is by lowering the front end. This is done by pulling the forks through the triple clamps. The reason why this method is so popularly used is that it is a cheap and quick way to lower the motorcycle.
This, of course, does not mean it is the best or the right way to do it.
Lowering the front end of the motorcycle without lowering the rear to match is bad for the motorcycle as it can drastically affects its handling and steering dynamics.
Generally, you can get away with lower the rear without lowering the front end, but lowering the front end only is usually not recommended by most experts and riders alike.
Most riders do this by using longer lowering links (also known as dog bones). However, this method can also affect the motorcycle’s wheelbase, geometry, and steering dynamics.
However, for the best results, the suspension should be reworked—something that is not easy to do and often will require some specialized equipment and knowledge to do right.
Pros of lowering a motorcycle
Ease of use
The biggest advantage of lowering a motorcycle is that it will be more comfortable for people that are on the shorter side.
A shorter rider will have problems getting on, off, and touching the ground while riding taller motorcycles. By lowering the motorcycle, shorter riders will have an easier time putting their feet flat on the ground at stops.
(But let’s not forget that, although it is not exactly an elegant way to go about it, one can also get taller motorcycle boots.)
The other reason why some riders will lower a motorcycle is simply because of looks. Much like how drivers lower cars, so do motorcyclists. A lowered motorcycle will just look cooler.
Cons of lowering a motorcycle
Ground and cornering clearance
One of the notable problems that you will run into when lowering your motorcycle is ground clearance.
You will need to go slower on corners and avoid speed bumps and curbs, affecting where you can go with your motorcycle.
One of the biggest cons of lowering a motorcycle is that you are more likely to hit the ground with the peg. Dragging the peg can happen even on motorcycles that have not been lowered, and lowering the motorcycle makes dragging the peg a lot easier.
Dragging the peg can be extremely dangerous in certain cases as you can even crash.
See article: If you ride a motorcycle, will you eventually crash?
The biggest problem with lowering a motorcycle is simply because it is not done professionally. This throws off the balance and all the engineering that took place over the year to perfect how the motorcycle handles.
Tampering with the motorcycle’s height can make its handling a little more unpredictable.
Pulling the forks through the triple clamps without lowering the rear will slightly move the center of gravity to the forward.
By lowering the front end of the motorcycle, it loses some of its rake and trail. As a result, you will quicken the motorcycle’s steering but will lose a little stability. (However, lowering a motorcycle does not make it faster.)
On the other hand, lowering the rear will increase the trail, which will slow the steering but will improve stability.
Lowering the rear too much without lowering the front can make the motorcycle harder to corner, which can be very dangerous, or bottom out.
Ride quality and comfort
Lowering your motorcycle in most cases will affect the suspension travel, which can make riding your motorcycle harsher and less comfortable. Sometimes the rear shocks will bottom out sooner.
You can try avoiding bottoming out by tampering with the springs and making the stiffer, for example, however, the motorcycle will still not be as comfortable as before.
Lowering a motorcycle is not a job that should be taken lightly. Done incorrectly can cause more problems than it fixes. If you do not consider yourself handy or are unsure of the intricate details of lowering a motorcycle, it is best to consult with a suspension specialist.
Not lowering your motorcycle properly and making a mistake while doing so can not only affect how the motorcycle handles, but it can be a serious health hazard.
Lowering the rear can be the solution most riders may be looking for, as this can also lower the seat. Conversely, using lowering links can affect the passenger’s seat’s height, but the rider’s seat will remain at fairly the same height.
The kickstand’s length is oftentimes overlooked. The kickstand should also be cut a little shorter in order to avoid the motorcycle falling over.
Depending on their frame design and geometry, some motorcycles can be lowered successfully by bringing the forks up and using lowering links. However, in most cases, a complete rework of the suspension, springs, and spaces may be necessary.
Here’s the thing.
Properly lowering a motorcycle can be very expensive—especially if you want it done correctly.
Professionally lowering a motorcycle can cost between $50 to $150 for lowering the front end only. Properly lowering the front and the rear of the motorcycle can cost between $200 to $1,500. Lowering a motorcycle by yourself can cost between $0 to $250, but the motorcycle’s handling can be adversely impacted.
Although lowering links can be found at prices between $120 to $200, having the kickstand and the fork shortened can cost as much as $450 in some instances.
How much should a motorcycle be lowered?
Now you understand that lowering a motorcycle will almost always impact how the motorcycle handles and performs.
Generally, most motorcycles can be lowered between an inch to an inch and a half on the front and back.
Usually, lowering the front of the motorcycle more than 1 inch or lowering the rear more than 2 inches is considered bad as it can make the motorcycle more uncomfortable, unsafe, and more difficult to handle.
Lowering a motorcycle more than 1 to 1.5 inches will usually cause riders to run into ground clearance problems and should be avoided.
Should you lower a motorcycle?
Lowering the motorcycle is not absolutely necessary and you should not do it for height reasons alone. Many shorter riders can ride bigger motorcycles as long as they can reach the ground with one leg and keep the other leg on the peg.
It is not the most graceful way, I admit, but being able to touch the ground with the balls of your feet can be more than enough in many cases. The thing is that touching the ground is important but not as important as how the motorcycle handles and the ground clearance.
Generally, you do not want to drastically alter the motorcycle’s steering geometry unless you absolutely have to. And when you absolutely need to do it, you want to do it professionally.
Many riders will say that if you need to lower your motorcycle, then this is not the right motorcycle for you.
I don’t completely agree with this statement, but I think that lowering a motorcycle, if necessary, should be done right and not in a way that compromises your riding comfort and safety.
Not lowering a motorcycle correctly will make its handling awkward and will not feel right to most riders.
That being said, you still need to feel confident riding your motorcycle, which may be achieved by lowering the motorcycle a little bit.
The most important thing you need to consider is what type of riding you plan on doing. The different types of riding will require different types of ground clearance and suspension. This is why there is no one-size-fits-all answer regarding whether a motorcycle should be lowered.