Advice for future motorcycles..

by Rob

Hi all,

I am a design student studying bike design (believe it or not!) I am proposing to design a motorcycle aimed at the ever growing female market. After researching online I found your site and would love to get some inspiration from you.

What do you find the the issues are with todays motorcycle market, Are bikes to heavy?, not designed around the female form? Seats to high? Are the bikes too aggresively designed?

Any and all information is greatly apreciated



Comments for Advice for future motorcycles..

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Feb 07, 2013
Advice for future motorcycle
by: Capt. Phillips

Hi Rob,
I own Beast Customs over at this end of the pond (U.S.) and we have been custom building and refitting bikes for Ladies for years. We are a female owned and operated company with myself being the only exception. After years of national research I was surprised to learn that here in America that there are over 400 "woman only" motorcycle clubs. In 1930 Linda Dugeau founded the Motor Maids that is still one of the largest.
#1 complaint among female riders was the seat. The claim is that they are always too wide especially toward the from taper.
#2 complaint was the overall size and weight of the machine. Our research showed most female riders tend to lean toward Japanese bikes due to their lighter weight, smaller size and lower seat hight.
#3 is the overall saftey features. The ladies are far more concerned with saftey than their male counter parts. We also designed many features into our Lady bikes that only they could appreciate i.e., round hair brush that pulls out of the left grip to fix helmet hair, custom chap stick holder @ the handlebar clamp, body lotion dispenser that appears to be a dipstick from an oil tank and a full line of rider personal care product sold under the Time Rider name known as Shtuff For Bikers availible online at J&P Cycle Supply or Shtuffforbikers.com that have all bontonical ingredients. To the Ladies these things matter.
The main thing that we started doing back in the early 2000's was refitting existing bikes to fit the ergonomic issues that today's bikes put to the female rider. Woman physically ride a motorcycle differently from their male counter parts because they have more muscles in their backs than a man. As a result, they tend to steer and lean differently and the bike needs it's controls, seat and feet placement properly positioned to occommodate this difference.
There is now another who is doing her best to address this same issue. Her name is Kathy Tolleson. She is the founder of ROAR Motorcycles For Woman. Roar is not a registered mfg. such as ourselves but more of a refitter. Go to www.roarmotorcycles.com for more information.
I also toured the manufacturing plant in Oklahoma City, OK., back in 04 of Ridley Motorcycles. After a private tour of the facility I asked of which gender was their largest consumer? The co-owner replied that over 70% were woman largely due to the fact that their bikes utilize a fully automatic transmission on a full size cruiser type frame with a 24" seat height. Unfortunately, Ridley is no more with the exception of their parts division due to economic trouble within their company.
In closing my biggest piece of advice would be to continue to seek the advice of woman riders. Ford Mo.Co. was wise to hire female engineers to design the Ford Windstar mini-van making it the benchmark for enovation targeting woman drivers of all shapes and sizes. You might consider doing somewhat the same.

Oct 18, 2012
BBW rider
by: Lynette S

I'm a sturdy woman, and at 5'10" I have the size and height for most any bike. I ride a Honda Fury at the moment, and I chose it for both the looks (it is sweet) and the narrow tank. While I fit on my hubby's 1300cc Honda VTX, the big tank feels, well, big. Is it modesty why I prefer the narrow teardrop tank? Nah, just hate feeling like I was straddling a horse for long hours.

Now if a gear designer would only stop on this thread...I have loads to say about fitting gear for zaftig women who'd love to wear something not pink, not made for a man, and stiil protective and attractive.

Oct 17, 2012
tailor-fit for a wide range of styles and girls
by: robin_uganda

Hi Rob, The idea is good. One thing to remember, although we are probably the minority here, is that quite a lot of us are long-legged and tall. I ride a BMW Dakar, and do a lot of off road and it's just puurrrfect as-is. No mods. It's not as low as the GSs.

Oct 09, 2012
Motorcycle Design
by: Cathy

Hey Rob, thanks so much for asking for this input – it drives me crazy that most of the bikes I’d like to ride are just waaaay too tall for my 5’3 height, 71cm inseam. I ride a cruiser (S40) because the bike fits me, as has been said here already, it’s not my first choice, although I love riding it – but we are at least in proportion.

I would also love a sport tourer designed specifically for a smaller frame/leg length/reach, but I’d still like it to be a good ole’ bike in design, if you know what I mean – for one, there are small guys out there who have similar issues, and for another, some ladies (fortunately not where I ride) take a fair bit of flack from male bikers, so if they were riding a ‘girly’ bike, that would only make it worse, and trust me, when you’re just getting started riding, you don’t want to be dealing with even more patronising comments than usual!! As has been mentioned already, we can bling ‘em up if we want to, or dress so as to look more feminine when riding. I think bikes should be ‘unisex’, but ‘frame relevant’.

Weight is certainly an issue. Bikes seem to have become bigger and heavier with each new release – is it all really necessary? We’re tending to go retro simply because of the lighter weight and simplicity. When things start to go wrong gravitationally, if you’ve already only got half a foot down, a heavy bike spells disaster.

Definitely go slimmer in design – a narrower seat (without compromising too much on comfort!) means more leg length for reaching the ground. While on the subject of seats, there must be some innovative seating material out there which could make for a low but comfortable seat?

In case your next project is looking at offroad bikes ;) , how about a dualsport that isn’t hectically high off the ground? If bike designers would take into account that in general a shorter rider is lighter in weight than taller riders, clearance can be reduced some. My husband cut into the frame of my 350 to bring the seat height down, as well as dropping the suspension a little, which has worked well, and we’ve also put on narrower handlebars – the originals were so wide that on a full-lock turn, I couldn’t reach the controls!!

Hope this helps some, look forward to seeing your design out on the streets one day!

Oct 08, 2012
a great fit for women
by: Anonymous

Having looked extensively before purchasing my 2009 Suzuki Boulevard S 40, I can tell you I chose it because it was pretty much designed for women. The slimness of the gas tank,( a lot of my 'not so tall' women biker friends love that!) and its incredibly lightweight (like 381 lbs.) for its power 650cc. AND... the LOW CENTER of gravity makes it so easy to maneuver/handle, and once I rode this bike, nothing else came close to the kind of power of a 650 with the lightweight/easy navigation, and slim syling...It fits a petite, or "not so tall" woman so much better, than other models!!

Oct 03, 2012
Design comment
by: Stephanie

Rob, to your follow up question...do you think car manufacturers design for the sexes? I mean, is a Camry a car for a man or a woman? A bike with clean, sleek lines will appeal to all. Definately don't want pink accents or flower decals on my ride, although I don't want scull and crossbones either. Sleek, clean styling with color options perhaps outside of the normal reds or blacks, but really, if women want to "chick" it out, we do it with what we put on our bodies. I do like the fact that Harley has come out with a line of "bling" that I can customize with in small ways (rhinestones around the gauges or on the licence plate tag), but these are subtle enhancements I can add if I choose. Perhaps think of how a person can "accessorize" after the fact as you are designing.

Oct 03, 2012
by: Lois

Since your in the UK and interested in bike design maybe you could convince Triumph to make something along the lines of the 800 Tiger that would fit a small frame person, or a Sprint. I like the bikes but the only one that fits me without mods is the Bonnie SE (and I have one).

Oct 03, 2012
Fine design
by: Karen

I just had my Tiger 800 lowered an inch. It's not just the ability to reach the ground - it's also the center of gravity. When the weight is up high, a small starting tilt takes it right over. With the weight lower (like on my Ninja 500), I have more chance to recover with my leg strength. I can use it better in the twisties.

One of the things I noticed sitting on different kinds of bikes at a show is that many of the big cruisers have their "dash panel" so far ahead of me, it felt like being in a big ol' car. I like having things tighter in, a body experience of being "in control." (From my computer background, I know that women were the first to move to laptops and that also had a lot to do with a "sensing" of being in control.)

I also second the comment about clutch stiffness and reach. That was one of the things I loved about the Triumph - smooth shifting.

For design, think "water" rather than "earth." Smooth, flowing, elegant, sleek. Not so much angular, dense, bulbous.

And for goodness' sake, no pink. gak.

Oct 03, 2012
by: Rob

Thanks all of you,

The type of bike I would be looking to design is the sports tourer so your comments have been very helpful. Like many of you have said there is little out there to offer the female bikers as standard, personally I think that bike companies need to pay more attention to you as you are definately an emerging market.

From what you have said, leg lenth and your reach seem to be key issues, along with the width of the bike. Having to choose a bike because it fits your stature and not what you want is a real issue.

In terms of how the tourers (or bikes in general) are styled, do you think they look overly aggresive? too catered for men?

Oct 03, 2012
Female Bike Specs
by: Anonymous

Scale is being repeatedly discussed here, so I agree with that.

Between reach and seat height/comfort everyone has that pretty much covered.

I ride a BMW R1150R with the low seat and do OK. Had to bring the bars closer and still my wrists strain pretty significantly.

The clutch squeeze with my arms reaching so far is a stress. The squeeze is pretty hard to begin with then add that my arms are very extended makes it very fatiguing. I would love a very comfortable and easy clutch!

Also a way to feminize the bike without it being pink, or biker bitch. I haven't found it yet.

Oct 03, 2012
Sport/Touring ditto
by: Stephanie

I agree with the comment about sport/touring. I love the look of the sport/touring bikes, like the Kawasaki Concours, the BMWR1200, the Yamaha FJR and the like, but with my 5'2" frame and 28 inch inseam, I need a stepladder to mount up on any of these. I currently ride a Harley Super Glide, which gives me plenty of power and fuel capacity to keep up with my husband on his Concours, but my style is definately NOT "Harley Chick" or even cruiser rider. Many of the Japanese cruisers are low enough, but they are too wide and I just don't want to ride down the road with my legs that spread apart...it's obscene.

I ride a Harley because it fits my size and stature, not because it fits my style. I would be willing to bet there are men out there who have the same issue...they want to RIDE, so they ride what fits them, not necessarily what they drool over in shops. I would LOVE to see a sport touring style bike with dimensions that a short statured woman (or man for that matter) could easily sit.

The Honda NT700 came very close...but not quite. I asked the salesman about lowering it so that I could have enough of my feet on the ground giving me traction for say, backing the bike up without help. I could straddle the thing, but struggled to bring it upright off the stand because I only had tiptoes on the pavement and the thing was kinda heavy. He said it could be done, but the dealership wouldn't do it, because it would affect the handling of the bike. To me, that says they won't do it because they don't believe its safe to do.

Now, I don't have a problem with modifications like pull back handlebars (which I have on my Dyna) and lower seats (which I also have), but anything beyond that changes what the bikes are designed for. Let's design one that doesn't have to be lowered or changed to fit a smaller person's specifications.

Oct 03, 2012
bike for ladies
by: Shelly

I ride a HD road king and just love it, however it cost me dearly to get it lowered and customized to fit me. I understand there is a lady owned motorcycle company in FL that make a bike that can be easily adjusted to fit women's smaller frames. I cannot remember the name but maybe you can google it and see what pops up. As for me, I don't mind the weight of the bike but it would have been nice to get a great cruizer without having to dish out extra $$$ to get it to fit me. I also hate all the skulls, I prefer bling and nice colors--no black!

Oct 03, 2012
by: Gypsy Spirit

Hi Rob,

Thank you. It's pretty much a matter of scale. Bikes that "fit" women tend to have small engines, which is frustrating!

I had an '83 Honda Shadow 500, my husband had an '85 Honda Shadow 700. I wish I had a picture of the two bikes side by side to show the difference in the scaling. Compared to my 500, his 700 was stretched ... everywhere! The wheel base was longer, making the reach to the bars longer. The clutch and brake levers were attached in such a manner that I could barely hold the bars and reach them with the very tips of my fingers. There was enough space between the foot pegs and brake/shift levers for my foot to go through! That's alot of mods to make a bike "fit".

I ride a H-D Sportster now. It's the only Harley model that is slim enough in profile for me to put my feet down without my legs resting against the pipes and cases. That wide stance cannot be modified. I can handle the bigger bikes. They are not comfortable!

My daughter (who keeps going back to her '86 Honda Rebel 450 because it "fits" her) used to joke about creating a line we referred to as "Bitch Bikes" ... big aggressive engines in small, relatively lightweight frames with a center of gravity appropriate for people between 5' and 5'5" tall.

We are not "newbies". I have been riding over 40 years and my daughter more than 10. We've both done cross-country, solo trips.

Many Blessings with your designs. I look forward to the day they are marketed!

Oct 02, 2012
by: Lois

I like sport/touring I have a BMWF800ST but it has been lowered and also has a lower seat so I can reach the ground comfortable. Not all women want to ride a cruiser,we need other types of bikes already low so we don't have to go thru the extra expense to fit on one.

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