I have found over my years of riding bikes that getting on and off them with short legs are two very different things. I can tell you I’ve fallen more times stopping and starting a dirtbike than riding one.
I’ve never been a supporter of lowering your bike. I understand the value of having a lower machine for your comfort level but I feel it alters the whole dynamic of the machine from what the manufacturer had in mind — suspension angles change and the whole bike becomes something different than its intended form. With that being said, I do think lowering has its place for people who feel it necessary to easily touch the ground.
I came to the conclusion mid-season last year that something had to give;
I was tired of always falling over when I couldn’t swing a leg over and jump off my bike in time. I measured the seat height on my KTM 300 XCW to find that it was a whopping 38 inches tall — no wonder I couldn’t touch the ground: I’m 5 foot 5 on a tall day and my child-size legs have a 27-inch inseam.
Since I couldn’t install a lowering kit in my bike, I decided that I would be lowering it from the top. Now I realize this isn’t everyone’s solution — getting your butt perma-bruised after sitting on a foamless seat after only a few minutes of riding isn’t ideal — but if you stand while riding, that’s not a concern.
I started by removing the seat cover. I determined where the base of the seat was by sticking sewing pins into the seat at the high points and marking the height on the side with a marker. I went through and did this to the whole seat to ensure that, when I cut, I wouldn’t cut into the plastic base of the seat itself. I created a basic outline of the large chunk of foam I wanted to cut out, and then the fun began.
I pulled out my bread knife and started sawing away. Foam started flying in every direction as I made my own “lowering” kit for my bike. After sawing out the large chunks of foam, I started hand-sanding. Some people use a powered sander for this but I chose to do it by hand as I wasn’t confident in my ability to avoid whithering the seat down to dust with a more powerful form of sanding.
Once I had each side of the seat even and the top level again, I started stapling the cover onto the base. And luckily, after many staples, a lot of sweat and four vigorous showers to get the foam out of my hair, I had a finished product. I was able to lower the seat height by 2.5 inches and can now touch terra firma on the ball of one foot — I’m okay with that.
After doing this, I quickly boasted to a few friends about how easy it was to do, perhaps even using the term “game-changer.” One friend took my words to heart and decided to do her own seat. She, however, chose to not measure the seat base and soon found herself in a bit of a conundrum when she cut enough foam off to expose the seat pan making the seat, well, unusable. In haste, she glued the cut piece of foam back onto the seat, hacked away a few more pieces and instead of sanding it down to smooth the seat she decided to wrap it with duct tape.
I got chills every time I looked at her seat while riding with her. She had taken my advice to cut the seat down, but was too quick to do so without considering a proper procedure. On top of that, in the right light you could see the large chunks and ripples in the seat, which gave the impression of cottage cheese beneath the cover.
I begged her to let me fix the seat for her, and luckily, she handed it over to me. I tore the seat cover off and started peeling away the duct. I soon found that, because of the tape, the foam had been holding moisture. This made the foam partially rotten, and prone to falling apart as soon as I tried to sand it or cut it. I carefully cut out a large chunk of foam and started sanding to even it out. In the end, the seat came out pretty good, and I was able to lower it another inch for her.
Although I wouldn’t say the seat is as smooth as butter, it certainly isn’t cottage cheese anymore. As for my friend, she can now touch the ground on her bike. She’s gained confidence on her rides, and it only cost a bit of time and some staples. Sometimes, a lowering kit is the best option, but sometimes taking a little off the top is enough.