One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a dirt bike is the seat height. Dirt bikes tend to have much taller seats than any other motorcycle which can be intimidating for beginner riders.
The average dirt bike has a seat height is 34 inches (863 mm). With a seat height of 38.6 inches (980 mm), the Yamaha YZ125 is the tallest dirt bike, while the Yamaha PW50 kiddies bike has the shortest seat height of 18.7 inches (475 mm). Dirt bikes are tall due to long travel suspension, big wheels for off road riding, and a neutral seating position.
Before we look at how to choose the correct size dirt bike for you and the reasons why dirt bikes are so tall, let’s have a look at the seat heights of all the major manufacturers of dirt bikes.
List of Dirt Bike Seat Heights
Dirt bikes can be classified into three main categories: competition, recreational, and kiddies bikes.
Competition dirt bikes are very tall due to their long travel suspension that is necessary to soak up big jumps on motocross tracks. These bikes include 125 cc and 250 cc two-stroke motorcycles, and 250 cc, 350 cc, and 450 cc four-stroke dirt bikes. The average competition dirt bike has a seat height of 37.6 inches (955 mm) which is too tall for most riders to put both feet flat on the ground. The Yamaha YZ 125 and YZ250 are the tallest dirt bikes, while Husqvarna’s competition dirt bikes are the lowest at 37 inches.
Recreational dirt bikes and kids bikes (except the very small 50’s) have similar seat heights. Recreational dirt bikes generally have engine sizes between 100 cc and 300 cc (mostly four-stroke), while kiddies bikes have either 50 cc, 65 cc or 85 cc, two-stroke engines.
The average non-competition dirt bike has a seat height ranging from the Yamaha PW 50 kiddies bike at 18.7 inches (475 mm) to the Kawasaki KLX 300 R at 36.4 inches (925 mm). The tallest kiddies bike is the KTM 85 SX or Gas Gas MC 85 at 35 inches (890 mm).
The table below contains all the seat heights and engine sizes (in cc) of all the dirt bikes currently (2021/22) available from the major motorcycle manufacturers’ websites. For seat heights on other types of bikes, check out this comprehensive post.
|Bike Model||Seat Height|
|Kawasaki KX450 SR||37.6||955||450|
|Kawasaki KX450 X||37.4||950||450|
|Gas Gas MC125||37.4||950||125|
|Gas Gas MC250||37.4||950||250|
|Gas Gas MC250F||37.4||950||250|
|Gas Gas MC350F||37.4||950||350|
|Gas Gas MC450F||37.4||950||450|
|KTM 450 SX-F||37.4||950||450|
|KTM 350 SX-F||37.4||950||350|
|KTM 250 SX-F||37.4||950||250|
|KTM 250 SX-F Troy Lee Designs||37.4||950||250|
|KTM 250 SX||37.4||950||250|
|KTM 150 SX||37.4||950||150|
|KTM 125 SX||37.4||950||150|
|Kawasaki KX250 X||37.2||945||250|
|Kawasaki KLX230R S||35.4||899||230|
|Gas Gas MC85 19/16||35||890||85|
|KTM 85 SX 19/16||35||890||85|
|Husqvarna TC85 (19/16)||34.4||875||85|
|Gas Gas MC85 17/14||34.1||865||85|
|KTM 85 SX 17/14||34.1||865||85|
|Kawasaki KLX140R F||33.9||861||140|
|Kawasaki KLX140R L||31.5||800||140|
|Honda CRF125F BIG WHEEL||30.9||785||125|
|Gas Gas MC65||29.5||750||65|
|KTM 65 SX||29.5||750||65|
|Kawasaki KLX110R L||28.7||729||110|
|Gas Gas MC50||26.2||665||50|
|KTM 50 SX||26.2||665||50|
|KTM 50 SX Mini||22||558||50|
I have not distinguished between two-stroke or four-stroke dirt bikes since there is no difference in the seat height between similar capacity bikes of these two engine types.
Why are Dirt Bikes so Tall?
Dirt bikes are used to race (or at least ride fast) over technical terrain. In professional competitions, dirt bikes often jump high through the air and need to be able to soak up the landing without falling apart. In hard enduro, dirt bikes need to clear obstacles and absorb rocky terrain without rattling to pieces.
The terrain that dirt bikes have to face requires the machine to have specific attributes that all contribute to a tall seat height.
Long suspension travel
Dirt bikes have long-travel suspension in the front and rear in order to soak up irregularities on gravel and dirt roads as well as motocross tracks. Dirt bikes are often used to ride over rocky terrain, where suspension travel is important to keep traction.
In motocross competitions, dirt bikes have to jump very high through the air and be able to soak up the weight of the bike and the rider when it lands again, without bottoming out. The long suspension travel found on dirt bikes are the main reason for the tall seat height.
Neutral seating position
Dirt bike riders need to sit comfortably in a neutral body position so that they can balance the bike over slow obstacles, or move around when cornering fast. This upright seating position, with the rider’s feet under his or her body with a 90 degree bend in the knees, means that the foot pegs cannot be too close to the seat, like on a street bike.
Dirt bike riders often stand while riding over uneven terrain or jumping through the air. This is to prevent getting bucked off the seat, but also to assist with shock absorption by bending the knees. A tall seat that is far enough from the foot pegs assists the rider to transition quickly between the seated and standing position.
High ground clearance
The foot pegs also cannot be too low to the ground to lower the seat height because then the bottom of the bike’s frame would hit rocks and other obstacles in the road. In order to clear rough terrain, dirt bikes need a high ground clearance. This is achieved by the long travel suspension, tall seat height, and big wheels.
Big wheels roll over obstacles (instead of crashing into them) much easier than small wheels. Most dirt bikes have a large 21 inch front wheel and a slightly smaller 18 inch rear wheel. These sizes have a large enough circumference to roll over most irregularities on gravel roads and to even clear logs as high as the radius of the front wheel with ease.
Kiddies dirt bikes have smaller wheels to lower the seat height, while dirt bikes for older youths have different wheel size options, for instance the KTM 85 SX come with either 19/16 inch wheels (front and rear respectively) or 17/14 inch wheels for shorter riders.
How to Choose the Right Size Dirt Bike
There are many different factors to consider when choosing a dirt bike, including engine capacity, power output, 2-stroke vs 4-stroke, seat height and weight. Since this post focuses on seat height, we’ll look at the dimensions of the bike only. If you want a more detailed post that takes all the variables into consideration, check out this post.
The only way to know for sure whether you will be comfortable on a dirt bike is to take it for a test ride. This is not always possible, especially a brand new bike. The second-best alternative is to at least sit on the bike to get a feel for the weight distribution and your ability to keep it upright. It helps to be able to touch the ground comfortably with both feet at the same time. Fit-toeing is fine.
If you are still doing some online research before narrowing down a short-list of dirt bikes to go test, you may want to measure your inseam. This is the distance between the ground and your crotch (with your feet flat on the ground). You can compare this measurement with the table of seat heights presented earlier in this post.
Be mindful of the fact that the shape of the bike’s seat will also affect your ability to touch the ground comfortably. A wider seat will make it more difficult, while a narrow seat (like those found on most dirt bikes) will make it easier to reach the ground.
Dirt bikes are generally very light and therefore easier to keep upright when standing still on your tip-toes. While riding, the seat height is totally irrelevant anyways. It is only when coming to a stop, or putting your feet down on uneven terrain when a tall bike can be intimidating for a beginner rider.
As you gain experience, you will learn to control the bike while stationary.
Buying a new (or second-hand) bike is a special experience but for many, it is an expensive one. It is therefore important to make the right choice. You need to balance room for growth with immediate comfort and confidence. Many new riders believe they need to buy the biggest, fastest bike they can afford so that they can ‘grow into it’ as they improve their skills. I know, I’ve done the same.
But believe me when I say, it is more fun riding fast on a slow bike, than riding slow on a fast bike. And you will learn much faster and become a better rider if you are not intimidated by your machine. You can always upgrade later.
Enjoy the ride!