It’s no secret; like clothes, the majority of motorcycles are designed and built for people of average height. Also like clothes, it’s not uncommon for someone to buy something that just doesn’t fit. More often than not, said garment or motorcycle ends up collecting dust rather than getting use, and that’s a shame.
Tall riders have a particularly hard time of it – after all, it’s not like there’s a chain of “Big & Tall” motorcycle dealerships around the country. Do a quick search on Motorcycle.com for the term “tall rider,” and you’ll net nearly 20 threads on our awesome forums – each and every one started by a tall person asking his fellow moto-heads which motorcycle is ideal for him or her.
It boils down to what’s called the “rider triangle” – that is, how the rider’s butt, hands and feet are positioned relative to one another while seated in the saddle.
There are a number of ways a tall rider can adjust an existing bike to better suit his frame. Taller handlebars and forward foot controls will help, but if those aftermarket bits are out of your budget, you’ve still got options. Some handlebar risers allow adjustment of the existing bar’s position by rolling it forward to gain an extra inch or two of reach, and accessory floorboards and highway pegs will allow the rider to stretch his legs.
Websites such as Cycle-Ergo.com are a great help in getting a general idea of how most any bike will suit the average-sized rider, and we’ve sourced that site liberally in putting together this list of cruisers that should ergonomically accommodate tall riders. Still, most agree that the only way to find the right motorcycle for your frame is to literally “try them on” – that is, visit a number of dealerships and plant yourself in the saddle of a variety of bikes. Happy hunting, Stretch.
#10 Honda Fury
Stylistically, it’s one of the best-looking cruisers on the market. Better yet, the rider triangle on Honda’s production “custom” Fury will allow taller riders to stretch out a bit more than its similarly-equipped brethren like the Sabre and Stateline. Where those bikes have lower “beach”-style handlebar that could clip a tall rider’s knees, the Fury’s bar sits higher. At 26.9 inches, its seat is higher off the ground than it looks, and the perfectly placed forward controls (directly under the grips) should keep any rider comfortable and looking cool all day long. Cycle-Ergo.com rates the Fury’s knee bend at 128 degrees (the lower the number, the more the rider’s knees are bent.).
As we recently reported, for 2014 the Fury comes in gorgeous Pearl White with a striking fire engine red frame.
#9 Victory Judge
I’ve ridden them plenty, and can attest to Victory’s claim that it sports some of the finest ergos in cruiserdom. The floorboards on its touring bikes are the largest in their class and allow the rider to practically kick back and put his feet up – but it’s the tough-as-nails Judge that nets the brand’s top score on Cycle-Ergo.com, with a knee-bend angle of 120 degrees.
Even more than the knee angle, though, the muscle car-inspired Judge relies on a 25.9-inch seat and forward handlebar placement to stretch the rider out. It’s a comparatively aggressive pose for a cruiser, but one that rides with long arms and legs should find favorable. And it suits the bike perfectly.
#8 Triumph Bonneville
Okay, this is a wild card for this list for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s more of a standard than a cruiser; that much is obvious. And it only boasts 78 degrees of knee bend, by far the harshest angle on this list. But the Bonneville qualifies because its long, flat 29.1-inch seat should allow taller riders to perch themselves farther back in the saddle, keeping their legs straight underneath and arms extended to the handlebar.
Furthermore, the all-around solid performance of the Modern Classic line, including the Bonneville/T100, Scrambler and Thruxton, rarely disappoints. We’d wager any of these motorcycles save the Thruxton would be a fine choice for a tall rider, particularly the rugged Scrambler and its 32.5-inch seat.
#7 Suzuki C50 B.O.S.S.
For 2014 Suzuki has unleashed three new Blacked-Out Special Suzuki versions of its Boulevard line, including the 805cc C50 Boulevard B.O.S.S. The smallest of the B.O.S.S. models, the new cruiser has higher, beefier handlebars than the standard C50, which received a decent score of 108 degrees on Cycle-Ergo.com. As a result of those bigger bars and with the addition of leg-stretching floorboards, the B.O.S.S. version of the C50, which blacks out several formerly chromed components including the handlebar, levers, fork tubes, clutch cover, mufflers, wheels and brake calipers, should rate far better than its predecessor.
For tall riders who don’t want or need – or simply aren’t ready for – a heavy mega-cc cruiser, the C50 B.O.S.S. is an excellent introduction to the segment.
#6 Harley-Davidson Breakout
While plenty of Harleys merit mention on a list such as this, the MoCo’s newest power cruiser makes a great candidate for a tall rider who wants to go American-made. The Breakout features a 1.25-inch drag bar and forward controls, making for a knee-bend of 119 degrees. In my March review, I called the forward controls “large and intuitive,” and claimed the reach to the bar as “not insignificant.”
Truth be told, taller journalists who were present at the launch in Daytona earlier this year found the Breakout far more comfortable than those who were perhaps, ahem, short of leg. At 5’11” I’m pretty average-sized, so I found it to be reasonable enough on our short test ride; but as mentioned in my review I could surely foresee a cramp or two after a long day sprawled across this tank. But the Breakout’s vast rider triangle just might be ideal for a lanky rider.
#5 Star Raider
We might as well follow the Breakout with its natural UJM rival, the Raider from Star. With a knee-bend angle of 132 degrees, the raked-out, stretched-out Raider is a great bike for taller riders; although the stock, deep dish 27.4-inch seat might pose problems, Star’s website shows four accessory seats available for this bike. But swapping the saddle shouldn’t be imperative for comfort. In the end, the high reach to the bars and long straight stretch to the foot controls are ideal for riders 6’ and taller.
Finally, our favorite part about the Raider is its MSRP; at $14,990 it costs a full three thou less than the Harley Breakout.
#4 Indian Chief Classic
While Cycle-Ergo.com lists its knee angle at just 101 degrees, the new Indian Chief Classic offers plenty of room to move thanks to its floorboards and long wide handlebar. The big plush seat doesn’t hurt, either.
The Chief Classic is the stripped down newest Indian, and while it may not have the high-tech features of the faired Chieftain or the throwback charms of the soft-bagged Vintage, it shares the fender skirts and the flat-out phenomenal Thunder Stroke 111 engine. And it wrings out every last pony with aplomb.
The 26-inch seat height is admittedly low, but the handgrips rest more than 40 inches off the ground, so despite the wide bar there’s little chance of it knocking a rider’s knees. Taller riders should enjoy the spring-padded floorboards and standard cruise control, too.
#3 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special
Only those who’ve never ridden them still ridicule the V-Rod. With 125 horses of power, performance and attitude, they represent the future of Harley-Davidson. And the Night Rod Special is a perfect example of why that future is dark as midnight.
Most V-Rods require a long reach to the bar and pegs, and the Night Rod is no exception. The low-rise handlebar makes for a big stretch, ideal for lanky bikers. And with a 130-degree knee angle, the rider’s legs are practically straight.
This is a bike made for rangy riders.
#2 Vulcan 900 Custom
With a knee angle of 121 degrees, Kawasaki’s mid-size cruiser is another good bike for the rider who’s long in the inseam, but isn’t ready for the massive cruisers found elsewhere on this list. Forward-mounted foot controls are perfect for stretching out, and the long, sloping seat gives the lengthy rider plenty of room to move around.
Big newbie? This could be the cruiser for you.
#1 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide
With 135 degrees, the Wide Glide is the clear winner when it comes to knee angle (although according to Cycle-Ergo.com, the 2008 WG scored an eye-popping 149). It’s also commonly regarded as one of the most comfortable cruisers on the market, and for that reason the Wide Glide is number one on our list.
It’s long. It’s low. It’s cool. It’s got a sissy bar, beefy triple clamps and forks. Best of all, its wide, flat seat is 26.8 inches off the ground, so the rider sits pretty high for a low-slung chopperesque cruiser. Combine that lofty perch with forward controls and a drag bar, and the Wide Glide is the ideal bike for riders 6 feet and taller.