There are advantages to being tall, but much of the time you feel like you’re forcing your frame into a world that wasn’t built for you. Clothing, cars, airplane seats and pretty much everything else is designed for “average” height humans, and the last time you fit those dimensions, you were in your teens. You love to live life on two wheels, but that causes problems too if you can’t find the right bike. So let’s talk about the best Harley® for tall riders and also look at some modifications you can make if you’re not in the market for a new bike.
How Tall is Tall
So what height are we talking about here? How tall do you have to be before your extra inches start to make it harder to figure out what’s the best Harley® to ride? It’s pretty subjective, based on who you are and the size of the other people around you. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to say the tallest “average” is around six feet tall. Anything above that and you start to feel cramped in clothing and spaces.
And feeling cramped isn’t the only problem. There are the endless comments asking how is the weather up there and what your mother fed you. Everything from your office desk to the toilet seat makes you feel like a giant in a land of midgets. It would be nice to be able to reach shelves and change lightbulbs without a ladder, but something about your height signals to everyone you’re constantly available to perform those services for them.
Factors in Choosing a Harley® for Tall Riders
There’s a little more to choosing the best Harley for tall riders than just knowing your head to toe height. Your inseam, arm length and torso length also play in. How you’re built also makes a difference, because your weight distribution affects what will feel comfortable to you.
How you ride matters when choosing a Harley for tall riders. If you plan to go for hours at a time, wind resistance and an uncomfortable posture will wear on you. Where you sit on the bike and your preferred leg position factor in too.
Buying a First Motorcycle for Tall Riders
When you bought your first bike, here’s probably what happened. You walked into a motorcycle dealership or drove to visit someone who had a bike for sale. Your motorcycle endorsement was new and the miles you’d ridden were few. You had an idea of what you wanted based on what you envisioned riding would be like, and in your mind, you were already somewhere between a ninja, a legend and a cowboy when you were on a bike.
So you approached that bike you liked, and it looked pretty sweet. You grabbed the handlebars, threw a leg over and already you were even more of a ninja, a legend and a cowboy. If you took a test ride, you were fairly new at riding, and the bike was unfamiliar, but you liked the sound, the fact you could ride it and how it fit your ideal. So you bought it.
A lot of miles down the road, you started to notice how it makes your back ache. It doesn’t feel quite so perfect anymore. But when you read forums and talk to other riders, there’s a huge range of opinions. So how do you choose a better bike next time when there are so many variables? It starts with understanding the rider triangle.
Motorcycle Rider Triangle
Since everyone is built differently, it helps to find what’s most comfortable to you using the motorcycle triangle. It’s based on the three places your body makes contact with your bike:
- Your hands at the handlebars
- Your butt on the seat
- Your feet on the footpegs
The most comfortable Harley for you depends on where you want those parts to be. There’s a useful tool at cycle-ergo.com/ (check it out, it's fun to play with) that allows you to put in your height, inseam and different bikes, then see how you’d end up sitting on that bike.
The most comfortable riding position for most riders, no matter what your height is what’s referred to as “standard” or “upright.” That’s because you’re sitting how you would naturally, so there’s no strain on your back, hips or shoulders. Plus, you need handlebars that allow your arms to extend and hands to rest just slightly below your shoulders to avoid that tingling, pinched feeling.
If traveling long distances, the best Harley for tall riders allows them to sit upright. Handlebars are at exactly the right distance so elbows don’t hang and hands can rest comfortably.
However, some tall riders find a relaxed cruiser position more comfortable. That means forward foot controls and footpegs so you can stretch out and higher handlebars. It helps too if your seat allows you to slide back and give yourself more leg room when you’re traveling miles and miles of highway.
Sport position keeps you tucked in and leaned over. You have great control over the bike, but it wears on you if you have to keep your body bent over for long periods of time.
All that being said, there are a few bikes that just fit tall riders better. Let’s look at some of the top choices when it comes to choosing the best Harley® for tall riders.
3 Best Harleys for Big and Tall
When you read forums, over and over three bikes get recommended by riders over 6 feet tall. These three stand out when it comes to choosing the best Harley for tall guys, especially riders closer to 6’4” and above. Ladies, no discrimination meant, and if you’re over six feet tall the same advice applies to you as well.
Taller bikers say the Dyna Wide Glide is the way to go if you can find one. An unladen seat height of 28.5 inches doesn’t sound that high, but the forward foot controls give you plenty of room to stretch out.
Breakout 107 and Breakout 114 are long, lean and perfect for the taller rider. The seat gives ample space for shifting back, and the high seat supports your lower back. Forward foot controls are comfortable for long legs and the Softail frame makes your ride smooth and easy.
Harley® Touring bikes have the hard-earned reputation of being able to cover hours on the road without wearing the rider out. Road King does a great job of that even for taller riders. The 28.2 inch seat height is a start, and the whole machine is big enough you won’t feel like a clown hunched on a kid’s bike.
Modifications That Improve Comfort
No matter what your height, if you buy a Harley®, typically you modify it to make it an expression of who you are. Here’s a starting point for modification ideas when you’re customizing your bike to make it the best Harley® for tall riders.
- Remove lower fairings and heel shifter
- Add brake lever extenders
- Add shifter extenders
- Extend footboards
- Rotate handlebars up
- If that doesn’t work, change handlebars to apes or Heritage bars
- Swap seat from stock to one made for taller riders
- If your windshield is too short, stop uncontrolled buffeting with a new one
Help Finding a Better Harley® Fit
At Harley-Davidson of Dallas in Allen, Tx we want you to love your ride. We can help you pick a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a pre-owned Harley-Davidson, or we can customize your existing bike to make it better suited to your height. Stop by today or get in touch to find out more.