While the rest of the world has had this figured out for some time now, we Americans have suffered from a lack of smaller-displacement, lower seat height motorcycles for far too long. For years, if you wanted a low seat height, your only option was a cruiser, and even 600cc sportbikes carried lofty seats that made them intimidating for anyone with less than a 32-inch inseam. Why can’t we have the power, handling and riding experience we want, and still be able to back the bike out of a parking spot with both feet on the ground?
Fortunately, the manufacturers have heard our pleas. Between the growing number of female riders, younger folks wanting a fun and economical way to commute to work or school, older riders looking for something smaller and easier to manage, and regular Janes/Joes just wanting something fun to ride, demand for smaller machines has prompted manufacturers to increase their stateside offerings of accessible, often easy-on-the-wallet motorcycles.
If you’re in the market for a ride like this, you could spend hours (literally) searching each manufacturer’s website and scouring Google for “best small motorcycle.” OR you could scroll down to our handy-dandy list of the Best Bikes for Smaller Riders (and Budgets).
Most of the bikes include a link to our Rider or Woman Rider review, making it easy for you to get a real ride evaluation. We’ve also included the latest model year’s U.S. base MSRP (as of publication), seat height and claimed wet weight (when a wet weight was not available from the manufacturer, the claimed dry weight is listed). For more details, you can read our review, which includes comprehensive specs, or click on the bike’s name to be taken directly to the manufacturer’s page.
BMW F 700 GS $9,995, 32.3-inch seat (30.1-inch low option), 461 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2013 F 700 GS
Click here for model updates for 2017
BMW F 800 GT $11,890, 31.5-inch seat (30.1-inch low option), 497 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2013 BMW F 800 GT
Click here for model updates for 2017
BMW G 310 R $4,750, 30.9-inch seat, 349 lbs.
Read our First Ride Review here.
BMW G 650 GS $7,995, 31.5-inch seat (30.3-inch low option), 430 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2011 BMW G 650 GS
CSC RC3 $3,495, 30.3-inch seat, 335 lbs. (dry)
CSC RZ3 $3,495, 31.0-inch seat, 364 lbs.
CSC RX3 Adventure $3,895, 31.3-inch seat, 408 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2016 CSC RX3 Adventure
Ducati Monster 797 $9,295, 31.7-inch seat, 425 lbs.
Click here to learn more about the newest Monster.
Ducati Monster 821 $10,995, 30.9-inch seat, 453 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2015 Ducati Monster 821
Ducati Scrambler $8,895, 31.1-inch seat (30.3-inch low option), 410 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2015 Ducati Scrambler
Harley-Davidson Iron 883 $8,849, 28.9-inch seat, 562 lbs.
Click here for our comparison test of the 2011 Harley 883 Superlow and the 2010 Honda Shadow 750
Harley-Davidson Street 500/750 $6,849, 28-inch seat, 489 lbs. / $7,549, 28-inch seat, 489 lbs.
Click here for our review of the Harley Street 500 and 750
Harley-Davidson SuperLow $8,499, 27.4-inch seat, 565 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2014 Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T
Honda CB300F $3,999, 30.7-inch seat, 348 lbs.
Honda CB500F $5,999, 30.7-inch seat, 414 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2013 Honda CB500F
Honda CB500X $6,499, 31.8-inch seat, 428 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2013 Honda CB500X
Click here for 2016 model updates
Honda CBR300R $4,399, 30.7-inch seat, 357 lbs.
Click here for our comparison test review of the Honda CBR300R and Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS SE
Honda CBR500R $6,499, 30.7-inch seat, 423 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2013 Honda CBR500R
Honda CBR650F $8,499, 31.9-inch seat, 461 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2014 Honda CBR650F
Honda CTX700/CTX700N $7,499, 28.3-inch seat, 493 lbs. / $6,999, 28.3-inch seat, 494 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2014 Honda CTX700
Honda NC700X $7,499, 32.7-inch seat, 474 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2012 Honda NC700X DCT
Click here for 2016 model updates
Honda Rebel $4,190, 26.6-inch seat, 331 lbs.
Honda Shadow Phantom/Aero $7,499, 25.8-inch seat, 549 lbs. / 25.9-inch seat, 560 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2013 Honda Shadow Aero
Indian Scout/Scout Sixty $11,299, 25.3-inch seat, 559 lbs. / $8,999, 25.3-inch seat, 555 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2016 Indian Scout
Click here for our review of the 2016 Indian Scout Sixty
Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS $5,199, 30.9-inch seat, 379 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS
Click here for our comparison test of the Honda CBR300R and Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS SE
Kawasaki Ninja 650 $7,399, 31.1-inch seat, 425 lbs.
Read our First Ride Review of the 2017 Ninja 650 ABS
Kawasaki Z650 $6,999, 30.9-inch seat, 410 lbs.
Read our First Ride Review of the Z650 ABS
Kawasaki Vulcan S/Café/SE $6,999, 27.8-inch seat, 498 lbs. / $7,999, 27.8-inch seat, 498 lbs. /
$7,599, 27.8-inch seat, 498 lbs.
Read our review of the Vulcan S Cafe.
Kawasaki Z900 $8,399, 31.3-inch seat, 462 lbs.
Read our First Ride Review of the 2017 Z900 ABS
KTM 390 Duke $4,999, 31.5-inch seat, 340 lbs.
Read our First Ride Review of the 2017 KTM 390 Duke.
MotoGuzzi V7 II Stone $8,990, 31.1-inch seat, 417 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone
Suzuki Boulevard S40 $5,499, 27.6-inch seat, 381 lbs.
Suzuki GW250 $4,099, 30.7-inch seat, 403 lbs.
Read our review of the 2013 Suzuki GW250
Suzuki SV650 $6,999, 30.9-inch seat, 429 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2017 Suzuki SV650
Suzuki TU250X $4,399, 30.3-inch seat, 326 lbs.
Read our review of the 2009 Suzuki TU250X
Suzuki VanVan 200 $4,599, 30.3-inch seat, 282 lbs.
Triumph America/Speedmaster $8,400, 27.2-inch seat, 509 lbs. (dry)
Click here to read our 2012 Triumph Speedmaster vs Thruxton comparison test
Triumph Street Twin $8,700, 29.5-inch seat, 478 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2016 Triumph Street Twin
Victory Octane $9,999, 25.9-inch seat, 548 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2017 Victory Octane
Yamaha Bolt/R-Spec/C-Spec $7,999, 27.2-inch seat, 542 lbs. / $8,399, 27.2-inch seat, 542 lbs. / $8,690, 30.1-inch seat, 542 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2015 Yamaha Bolt C-Spec
Click here for our review of the 2014 Yamaha Bolt
Yamaha FZ6R $7,790, 30.9-inch seat, 467 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2009 Yamaha FZ6R
Yamaha FZ-07 $6,990, 31.7-inch seat, 398 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2015 Yamaha FZ-07
Yamaha YZF-R3 $4,990, 30.7-inch seat, 368 lbs.
Click here for our review of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3
Yamaha V Star 250 $4,350, 27.0-inch seat, 326 lbs.
Click here to read our review of the 2008 Yamaha V Star 250 in a 9-bike fuel-economy comparison test
Yamaha V Star 650 Custom $6,990, 27.4-inch seat, 514 lbs.
Click here to read our review of the 2008 Yamaha V Star Custom in a 9-bike fuel-economy comparison test
UPDATE (8/19/16): Astute readers will notice that there are 42 bikes shown above (and even more if you count variants of some models) even though the title of the article is “39 Best Bikes.” There were 39 bikes when the article was first published, but some readers alerted us to bikes we left out (like the Honda Rebel, Moto Guzzi V7 Stone and Victory Octane). We’ve added those bikes (and may add more in the future), but like some folks well into their 40s (or 50s), we plan to stay 39 forever!
I guess Korean Motorcycles don’t count. Nice bias. You might want to check out Hyosung, I guess you’ve never heard of them.
William, we’re not biased against bikes made in Korea. We’ve tested Hyosung bikes in the past, but the last time we did so was 10 years ago (http://ridermagazine.com/2007/01/01/2006-hyosung-gt650s-road-test/). Our list focuses on bikes we know well and have ridden. We also left out Royal Enfield, mainly because they have few dealers so availability is a problem in many parts of the U.S. No list is 100% complete, but this one is fairly representative of the options available to most motorcycle consumers. And if you’re curious, this list includes manufacturers from Austria, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
I appreciate your reply, I did notice the other manufacturers, I mean countries, well represented.
You haven’t tested a Hyosung in 10 years? Would you like to test some?
You left out the classic first low seat height bike the Honda Rebel. And let’s not forget the Grom. I am sure you have all ridden Rebel and Grom.
You need to go back and reread it. There is a Rebel in there. No Grom though.
Thanks for including us and all three of our NC250-based models!
In my experience small riders = low seat height. With a pant inseam of 30″ or less many of these bikes would be too tall. Lighter weight yes, but difficult to get a full foot plant.
William, this is so true. My inseam is a mere 26 inches, which makes most of these bikes impractical. Harley has done a great job for smaller riders; I now ride an Ultra Limited Low. The only problem is that it weights about a million pounds.
Did Moto Guzzi go out of business?
I think a moto guzzi V7 should have been on your list. It’s a good bike for older riders like me. I use my Harley very little any more.
You’re right, we missed the V7 when we were putting together the list. It’s hard to remember all of them! We’ll get it added ASAP. Thanks for pointing it out!
OK, so here’s my wish list;
I want a 320-400 cc motor
twin, not singles
Full fairing, ie r3, ninja 300 or Honda 300
two up seating available
It NEEDS to weigh less than 300 lbs (or at least close, 350 MAX)
It should get 70 MPG
it should be able to get out of it’s own way (have some get up and go)
and it needs to cost less than $6500
None of these specs should be that difficult. If Yamaha can build a R1000 under 400 lbs, why are most of the300 cc bikes 350-390 pounds? I’ve been riding for over 40 years on and off. I’ve raced bikes over 130 MPH on the open road. But I’m not 19 yo any longer and I broke a vertibrea in my 20’s. You build a bike with these specs and you won’t be able to keep them in stock. Small enough to ride on a two track, if you need, big enough to haul 100 mph when you feel the need for speed, and yet a great commuter bike for everyday!
Fact if KTM will put a full fairing on the Duke 390 that should meet most of the specs right there!!!
They do: the RC390. 🙂
Great reviews! This publication is a gem! My daughter and I are short – 5’1″ for her and 5’5″ for me which makes finding a bike somewhat difficult. I started on a Rebel and passed it down to her when she was ready – great bike! She is now looking at the new Rebel 500 with a perfect low seat hight of 27.2 inches and I’m looking at the Vulcan S – fits like a glove! I did find a fantastic bike – Yamaha V Star 1300 Delux – 27.2 seat hight as well. Beautiful bike and so fun to ride!
Triumph Tiger 800 XRx Low, BMW R Nine T, Triumph Street cup… all work great for shorter riders.