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Eric Hall

The Height Myth

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I’ve said for a long time now FB is annoying as hell where when they aren’t violating your privacy every day you’ll see the same things get asked and answered, re-asked and te-answered again and again. Just how does one go about finding an answer on FB? You don’t! You simply just ask it again.


Occasionally you get a gem like this post from a friend, Brent Smith (who can’t be bothered to join the forum) I thought I would share on his frustration with declining amounts of suspension travel and seat heights...



The Height MYTH......


I feel it is about time someone spoke up about the new industry trend of lowering the newer Mid-Sized adventure/Dual Sport Motorcycles to fit an alleged market demographic. Back in the early days- well- sorta early days, KTM was putting out a 950s Adventure with 10 inches of front and rear travel. The 640 had the same suspension travel as their smaller Enduro bikes. BMW had the Dakar model with similar suspension travel. These bikes were being designed based on the then larger Dakar Style Rally bikes being raced in Africa and around the globe. In the 80s and 90s the average Dakar race bike had twin cylinders and 10+ inches of suspension travel. These designs were made to match the demanding off-road terrain and high speeds associated with Darkar rally style racing and general off-road dirt bike style bikes. The ave motocross or off-road enduro bikes had seat heights of 35-36 inches and over 10 inches of suspension travel. Again, the bikes design was meant for all-terrain travel and higher speeds. Back then there was no crying or sniveling about bikes being too tall because the majority of the people riding those bikes learned to ride that style of bike respecting its design and engineering as a mandatory aspect of off-road riding. Fast forward to todays Adventure bikes. When KTM came out with their 1190R, 1090R. 1290R bikes, and BMW responded with the 800GS and 850GS they started to lower seat heights because of market push back- or supposed pushback. We read it all the time in our many forums or blogs. People crying about KTMs being too tall, or GS being too tall for short riders etc.. The problem is I read the same complaints from individuals 6 foot tall. You would not have seen this kind of complaining 10 or 15 years ago an I believe this is largely due to a change in the demographic of the average Adv Motorcycle buyer. 15 years ago the majority of what could be called the adventure moto crowd where either true world travelers or Ex- Motocross riders looking for an "adventure". Those people generally didn't come from the shrinking Harley Davison low slung cruiser crowds so they did come with -Pre Conceived- Ideas how a motorcycle should sit under you or feel. In the past 5 years there has been a roller coster swing in not only the design and production of adventure bikes, but also in the market demand for a more "off-road capable" machine. I believe this is largely do to the expanding demand and interest in these types of bikes by the western USA, Australia, and Americas market. There is arguably a higher demand for long travel, more off-road capable Adv bikes out west than in the UK, or Germany- and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why. Out back-yard is MOAB, Death valley, and the Rocky Mountains. The same terrain is seen in Australia and South Americas. Because of this many of the Adventure Motorcycle buys from these regions generally come from backgrounds of Dirt racing or enduro- or simply want to explore the incredible dirt terrain these areas provide. That being said- we are seeing the Adventure motorcycle industry respond with more mid-weight adv bikes like the 790R, T-700, and Honda AT. these bikes are a fantastic response to a need. Unfortunately some people have cried and complained about these bikes being too tall. The point I want to make here is stop your crying and learn to ride a long travel orr-road bike. There is a reason we wanted 9-10 inches of travel. There is a reason we kept asking for more ground clearance. Unfortunately, we are seeing the industry REACT/ Vs Respond to his size hysteria by pitching the newer (2020) adventure bikes with a lower seat and less suspension travel. I will say it again- these bikes were not intended to be your 2010 V-storm, your HD road kings, or your road cruisers-- if you want to have both feet on the ground buy one of those and stop your crying. If you think you want to try off-road adventure riding then LEARN TO RIDE an off-road bike designed to do so. There is a falsehood being sold that you need to have both feel on the ground for stability- while this may be true for the very large and heavy 1200GS, 1290R ktms, it is a complete falsehood when it comes to the mid-weight adventure bikes or below. I believe many of the people complaining just sold their low road kings and cant understand why this new KTM is so heigh...well duhh. The sarcasm is warranted. A perfect example is Jocelin Snow. This girl is not tall by any means and yet she is killing it on a super large 1250 GS. She is not inhibited in any way- but instead learned to ride her bike. Another example is Emily Roberts. Emily is an extremely capable off-road rider on just about any bike and does not piss and moan because "the seat is too high" , no, she learned to ride a off-road bike and she kicks ass. The 2020 KTM, and Honda line up of adventure bikes looks impressive until you see their knee jerk reaction to the sniveling road cruiser buyers- Lower seats, less travel, less clearance. My advice to KTM and Honda- watch the USA sales of the T-700........ you just can't sell that many Africa Twins to the Vietnamese.....

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All of this is part of why i went 701 for the midsize bike. An updated old school large thumper with modern fuel injection etc.

I feel like they could have 2 versions of the midweight bikes low/standard for different riders. Spec shorter forks and linkage lengths for the short version and probably charge extra for full travel versions to cover extra manufacturing costs but would be gladly paid by many interested in the bigger clearance etc.

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