A riders confidence on a motorcycle is frequently attributed to the seat height of that motorcycle vs the height of the rider. The taller the rider, the higher seat height they can comfortably deal with. This can be true, but it’s not really giving you the whole picture.
There’s a better measurement to use and other factors that come into play.
Let’s Talk About Height
This all starts with seat height. The biggest factor in being able to flat foot a motorcycle (and feeling more confident) is the seat height of the bike. Generally, the lower the seat height, the easier it will be to flat foot. When shopping around though, understand that not all seat height figures are the same.
When noting seat height on a website, it can be given as “laden” or “unladen” seat height. What’s worse is, sometimes the website won’t tell you which they’re giving. The laden seat height is the height of the seat when a rider is sitting properly on the motorcycle. This takes into account how soft and cushy the seat may or may not be, as well as the sag of the suspension. Unladen seat height is how high the seat is off the ground with no one on the bike. When comparing seat heights across bikes, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Speaking of comparing, you can’t assume that how someone the same height as you fits on a bike that you will fit the same way. This is because the height of a person doesn’t directly correlate to how well they flat foot. Instead you should be comparing inseams. Your inseam is the distance from the top of your inner thigh down your leg to your ankle. If we consider sizing of male jeans for example, they come in a size such as 34x32. The second number, 32, is the inseam of those jeans. Two people of the same exact height may have different inseams as some people have longer legs than others. When sizing a motorcycle, compare inseams not height.
What About Weight?
We’ve mentioned height but weight matters too when determining how well you can handle a motorcycle. Not so much your weight but rather, the weight of the motorcycle and where it carries that weight.
My fiancee is shorter than I am. With my Harley she can get her feet to touch the ground but can’t quite flat foot it. She doesn’t feel confident. On my Grom however she feels very confident and it has a seat height over 2 inches higher than my Harley. My Harley happens to be 300 pounds heavier than the Grom. The weight that you can comfortable handle with your legs affects the comfort and confidence that you’re striving for when trying to flat foot.
Not all weight on a motorcycle is the same. When it comes to confidence and maneuverability the location of weight on a motorcycle matters. Weight higher up feels harder to control while weight down low feels like less of an issue. Using Harley as an example again, the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster has many changes including a “fake” fuel tank. It’s fake because where the fuel tank traditionally is doesn’t actually contain the gasoline. Instead gas is stored in a tank under the seat. This change was done to move the weight of the fuel to a lower spot on the bike.
Another great example is the BMW R nineT. This motorcycle has a twin boxer engine where the cylinders stick out to the left and right (as seen from sitting on the bike). This brings the weight of those heavy cylinders and heads much lower than it would be on other bikes. This means that maneuvering and feeling confident on a R nineT would be better than another bike of the exact same weight.
Touching the Ground
Another factor frequently overlooked when determining the ability to flat foot is how wide the motorcycle is. The wider the tank, seat, and frame are, the less vertical height your legs have to touch the ground. So with the bikes of the same seat height, the narrower bike will be easier to flat foot.
So it’s not really your height that determines if you can flat foot a motorcycle or not. Really it’s your inseam and how wide the bike is in knowing if you can flat foot. The confidence that you feel when flat footing can be helped or hurt by the weight of the motorcycle and how high or low that weight is.