Seat Time: Don’t Listen to Your Girlfriend; Size Does Matter…
What we ride (and why) – Beta Xtrainer and KTM 890 Adventure R
Learning to ride a motorcycle, it’s said that to become proficient you should remove as many possible obstacles you can control which could distract you from the task at hand. And while this may seem like obvious advice, what is often overlooked is fitment – being totally comfortable on your bike.
Sharpening your skills, mindset, and awareness can be even harder when you’re distracted by uneasiness with putting your foot down or reaching your pedals. What if the bars are too high or your ass becomes too sore from the seat? How’s the suspension, the braking, the tire grip, or even the response from your levers? Yes, every concern can be overcome with seat time, this is true. But why waste precious training on fumbling through a technique or challenge because something else is on your mind when you can be comfortable with your machine from the get-go?
We often forget that sizing is fundamental. It’s a crucial part of riding – especially off-road – whether you’re just entering this world or you're upping your game. And with dirt bikes, the ground can become a second home when you spend enough time challenging tough trails, obstacle courses, competitions, or even trying to back out of a gravel parking lot or something. As an exercise synonymous with crashing (to whatever degree), fitment can be a monumental hurdle at one point and a breakthrough at the other. Approaching 5’2” with a 27-inch inseam, for Kyra, height and weight were a great barrier to entry. It didn’t just make the difference between picking up a bike or reaching the brake pedal, it also meant she would be relegated to the technology (or lack thereof) available in bikes that were more physically approachable. For Ana and her 5’6” figure, her chosen sport of rally raid, and the financial burdens which accompany it, were what decided the displacement and style of her machine. Plus, she uses it as a daily driver, so it needed the pounds and horsepower to handle the American Interstate, as well as its lesser beaten backroads.
(Kyra) Basic Bitch, but Her Bike Is Anything But…
For ten years, my trusty steed was a (fairly) persistent, quickly outdated, and somewhat clunky, Yamaha XT 225. I appreciated it for what it was and where it took me, but as a tool, it was obviously limited. For a dual-sport, it wasn’t too heavy. And in the beginning, its short seat height and steady, albeit tired, power-delivery offered me enough confidence and comfort to focus on the road ahead and not the machine below. Mind you, I was 26 when I’d learned to ride – a control freak, with enough to lose and old enough to understand mortality.
It would be ideal to have gone headfirst into dirt bikes as a still malleable, resilient child wearing ‘rose-colored’ goggles… Or even to gradually sharpen my skills over a lifetime. But timing isn’t my strong suit. I discovered a lot of things in life that I’m now passionate about a bit later than I could have. However, I still quickly outgrew the XT. Then the limits of my little farm bike weren’t just evident, they stunted my growth as a rider.
I didn’t realize how much until I came across Manic Moto in Arizona and found a brand new 2023 Beta 300 XTrainer. Lightweight, powerful, petite (enough). Plus, I can attempt to pull as many ponies out of this machine as my heart desires without all of the aforementioned issues that previously contended to slow me down. Disc brakes, inverted forks, ground clearance, you name it! This 2-stroke Beta had it all. Plus it came from the factory with a lowering kit and a short Seat Concepts saddle.
It's amazing how much more you can give to training when you trust your vehicle. When you know the suspension will soak up the rocks, the torque can pop you onto a shelf or the HPs will pull you through the sand. I didn’t have to make up for the lack of performance – tenfold – with my own body’s input. Each time I rode down technical trails on my Yammy, I’d drain my energy. I could pick it up once on a good day, twice when I was in peak shape. But, at roughly 230 lbs (versus the XT’s 267 lbs), I can right my wrongs riding the XTrainer from sunup to sundown, over and over, without breaking my stride. It keeps my momentum going while running loops or reviewing new skills.
I’m also much less apprehensive taking on certain sections alone – which means I don’t have to rely on someone else’s schedule to practice – and, even more, I don’t dread the idea of having to pick up my two-stroke, which allows me to push harder and step further outside my comfort zone.
The seat height also plays a huge part in my recent successes – reaching new levels of competence in a few short months which I’d struggled to obtain for nearly a decade on my former motorbike and felt almost impossible on other ‘proper’ sized options. I could flat-foot the 225, but on any other capable off-road moto worth a damn, my toes would swing helplessly above the ground. Being able to touch the brake with your foot is a luxury that I think many people take for granted. Being able to dab over tough challenges, utilize leverage, hold the bike steady in precarious positions, and wrangle it swiftly is a gift I’d begged for every Christmas. But alas, Santa never responded to my letters.
With the Petite Package delivered direct from Italy, lowering link and shaved seat, my XTrainer boasts a new seat height just a smidge under 33.8 inches with a very appealing 10.6 inches of ground clearance. And while in many cases bigger is considered better, this more modest measurement is the perfect fit for me. Besides, it’s what you do with it that really matters, right?
(Ana) ADV, Rally… Tomato, Tomaato \ The bigger, the better
No doubt, it’s easier to learn on a smaller bike that fits your physique, and it would be more appropriate to train on a dirtbike for the rallies, but… where I come from, we are more used to suffering than to comfort, and that’s my typical approach. “Train hard, fight easy,” General Suvorov said in the 18th century, and I stick to his advice. But before diving deeper into why I’m choosing the 890 as a weapon of choice for the project, let me briefly share what I used to ride before.
I started riding at 20, without any friends with riding experience. I bought a chinese naked motorcycle from an internet ad for $600 to later find out that it’s not naked, but a crashed “sport” bike with missing plastic parts. I then sold it, without riding almost at all. The first “real” bike was the Honda Transalp that I used for my first solo trip around the Black Sea, without even knowing properly how to ride. When I got stuck in the desert far away from home and figured that offroad skills were needed, I first got a pitbike, and then a KTM SX-F 250.
I used it for enduro training and then amateur racing. Was it tall for me? Yes! Did I drop it dozens of times a week? Also, yes! But eventually there comes a point when you tell yourself that you are tired of being on the ground and must become a better rider. I sold both bikes to buy a KTM 690 after that, which I used both for travels and racing. With the 690, I did my first rallies and it was an awesome machine! I would probably continue with it, but at the Dakar, and other rallies of the World Rally Raid Championship, you’re capped at 450 cc. Also, unicorn bikes like the 690 are good for everything, but not perfect – it was hard to compete with lighter 450 cc bikes and feel as comfortable as bigger bikes during the trips.
The next goals at the time were the Kagan’s Gold Rally in Russia, and the Silk Way Rally that was a World Championship stage in 2021. So with my mechanic Alexander Grudo, out of, as we say in my country “mud and straw”, we made a ‘Rally Replica’. The windshield was made out of a piece of his miscellaneous packaging, just for your understanding. I was training with this bike, but occasionally taking the 690 for a ride as well, because after you do one thing on a bigger bike, it feels much easier on a smaller one. And the bike did the job, taking me through several multiple-day rallies. Of course, it was not as good as the proper Rally Replicas - I tried riding a couple, and these machines are amazing! Their weight balance and suspension allow you to ride any terrain with crazy speeds. But they are also sky-high priced, and very single-purposed.
The best bike is the one that you have – or the one that you can get. I came to the U.S. just with a suitcase and a helmet, and not too much savings. My training bike will also be a means of transportation, so it has to be universal. I chose the KTM 890 Adventure R. I waited for my friends from Colorado Motorcycle Adventures to end their rental season and sell me one used. I first became accustomed to this bike in the UAE dunes, and the way it’s built allows me to use this amazing machine for both touring and rally training. There is a weight difference with rally replicas, 460 vs 330 pounds, but I hope this difference will make riding a rally bike easier for me when it comes to that!
If the Seat Fits… Then It’s a Match!
Okay, many people have proven that with enough practice, and plenty of gumption, no bike is unsurmountable. Ladies like Jocelin Snow – a petite GS Trophy US team member who famously wrangles 1200cc+ ADV bikes easily – or Taye Perry who’s barely pushing five-feet yet known as South Africa’s “Desert Rose” who manhandled a Husky 501 for five straight days at the Sonora Rally – have proven this. But for those who may not have the time or lifestyle which allows them to dedicate weeks out of the month, months out of the year, years of their life (cough, Kyra), to become the master of any machine, seeking or customizing a bike to suit your fitment needs is an obvious, but important, hack. In Ana’s case, the vehicle needed to measure up to her circumstance. A daily driver, an adventure machine, a training tool, a prop for photos…? A motorcycle can be and mean so much to its owner, so why not put in the effort to personalize it? Not too big, not too small, but just right. Size doesn’t matter. What matters is that it fits you.
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