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Why Are Dirt Bikes So Tall? Physics Explained

Have you ever seen people ride dirt bikes quite comfortably, yet when you stand next to one, you realize how tall they are?

Dirt bikes are tall because they need space in the frame to mount the engine, radiator, gearbox, fuel tank and muffler. Given that dirt bikes travel in offroad areas, they also need high clearances below the oil sump to traverse obstacles like rocks and logs. This gives them a standing and sitting height greater than most other motorcycles.

In addition, dirt bikes are used for jumping and require a lot of suspension travel to compress the forks safely and protect the rider from shock. It’s this length of suspension travel which means they need to be tall and somewhat difficult for a rider to sit on, much like a horse.

The only other type of motorcycle which is bigger are adventure motorcycles which sit marginally higher due to larger capacity engines and bigger fuel tanks.

The Height of Dirt Bikes

It’s somewhat intimidating to realize how high they sit. After all, bicycles are much easier to jump on and start riding. Not only are dirt bikes taller, but they’re also wider because of the fuel tank. This is much like riding a horse actually!

Given how many components are needed to be fitted inside the dirt bike frame to make the vehicle itself travel fast, it’s evident that they can’t be low to the ground like sports bikes and racers.

This higher stance does make a dirt bike more slower in a straight line speed and around corners than such bikes. Essentially, they’re not very aerodynamic and dirt bikes don’t have fairings, unless the owner fits one to contend with highway speeds.

Now – most road riders don’t need to look that far ahead. Dirt bike riders do, and so the higher seat height helps to see further down the track for potential hazards like fallen trees and wildlife that could spell the end of a ride for any rider.

How to Deal with Tall Dirt Bikes

Sometimes it can be frustrating to come across a dirt bike and realize that you’re a little bit too short. Indeed there are riders under 5 feet that would love to go riding on a registered dirt bike but can’t, and thus, have to settle with a pit bike. Or at least they think! The times have changed since the limitations of dirt bikes from yesteryear.

Manufacturers have realized this issue exists and today there are several ways to start riding even if you’re a shorter rider.

Some ways to deal with tall dirt bikes include:

  1. You can lower the springs. You can either adjust your existing springs or get new ones fitted that will help you drop the height by an inch or two.
  2. Get your seat professionally dropped lower. Some mechanics know how to shave off up to 3 inches from a seat height. Either they replace the seat or simply drop its height through chanting the mounting areas.
  3. Have a smaller fuel tank fitted. One of the reasons why a dirt bike might be riding too high is the fuel tank is actually too big, and thus there needs to be additional space to compensate. By removing this fuel tank and getting something small, there is often a notable drop in the seat height.
  4. Change tyre sizes. With some dirt bikes, you can change the tyre sizes so you can drop one size to reduce the seat height. This depends on some various factors and so it would be best to talk to your dealership and get their professional recommendation as to the right tyre size for your dirt bike.
  5. Wear some boots. While you may have cast your eyes over a dirt bike with running shoes on, you’ll actually gain half an inch with boots on. These have a thick sole to stop sticks and rocks from piercing the rider’s feet.
  6. Lean on your dominant side. When you have a close look at all dirt bike riders, you’ll notice that most of them are actually leaning their dirt bikes on one side when standing straight. This is something that becomes a normal part of dirt bike riding and you’ll be on your tippy-toes if you were to stand straight, even if you’re tall.

This all assumes you have a dirt bike already. If you haven’t bought one yet, then read on.

Dirt Bikes for Shorter Riders

Dirt bike manufacturers have become smart and realize the growing trend of female riders who are the most vertically challenged. Today there are some bikes which are more suited towards shorter riders.

For instance, the Honda CRF250L is a great road-registerable yet short dirt bike for riders looking for something for the trail, the dirt and to get on and off easily. This bike makes for an excellent yet short adventure riding bike.

Even shorter is the CRF230 by Honda and the TTR 230 by Yamaha. Likewise, anything in the 230 class by Kawasaki or Suzuki or even less like the 150 versions are excellent. Here in Australia, you can get the CRF230 on a conditional rec-registration in some states.

Getting Started

For the vertically challenged among us, don’t let the fear of tall dirt bikes put you off from this fun sport. Sure – electric mountain bikes sound like a great alternative, and they are! But dirt bikes are open to everyone including kids.

Head to your local dealership and sit on a few bikes while wearing boots. You’ll soon realize just how easy they are…and most importantly…how much fun they can bring to your world!

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