I would never want to go as far as to say my mother lied to me, so let’s just say she was overly optimistic. My grandfather on my Dad’s side was well over 6 feet tall. He died when I was 6 or 7 so I don’t remember a lot about him except that he reminded me of Abraham Llincoln; tall, trim, with similar facial features. And he liked to play cards with me.
He and my grandmother lived in the “little house,” which was behind our home on our small farm. It was a two-room house with no bathroom. There was an outhouse next door. My grandparents never had an indoor bathroom their entire lives so I guess when Dad moved them out to our place, they figured, “why start now.” I can clearly remember my mother giving me a spoonful of Vick’s Forumula 44 and sending me off to the Little House to play cards with Poppy Shep. Good times.
Oh yeah, about the lie. Mom told me…no, she promised me, that I would grow up to be as tall as Pop Shep, 6 feet tall, she said. Well, she was wrong…by about 7 inches. Now, before you get the wrong idea, that I’m just another short guy with a Napoleon complex, I’ve never reallly cared or given a second thought to the fact that I’m not tall, dark and handsome. It has made absolutely no difference to me in my life except for one little detail; most motorcycles have a seat height well beyond my 29″ inseam. I tiptoe a lot!
I couldn’t even tell you when the last time was that I owned a motorcycle that I could flatfoot. Probably 1980. I’ve been dabbing the ground, sliding to one side of the seat, and just plain grasping for ground all my life. You learn to live with it. Some people insist on being flatfoot on a bike. If I did that, then the only thing I could buy is a Harley and that’s just not my bag. I like tall bikes.
My sporting bikes are tall. I barely touch on my Duke, but since it only weighs about 330 lbs, who cares? My Vstrom is shorter than most adventure bikes I’ve owned, so that I can actually get the balls of both feet on the ground at the same time. That’s about as good as it ever gets. Like many people today, I am drawn to the Adventure bikes; big machines with a comfortable upright seating postion, a rough and tumble appearance and at least the pretence of some offroad prowess. Sort of the SUV of motorcycles. I’ve owned a couple and I”m wanting another. In fact, I put a refundable deposit down on the new 2016 African Twin, just in case I like it. Turns out I’m first in line. What’s that you ask? Is it tall? Uh, yeah. Low setting on the stock seat is 33.5″. And yes, I know my inseam is 29″. Wise guy.
I will admit that this issue has prevented me from owning or keeping a few bikes that I really want to spend some time with. I’ve owned 2 BMW GS bikes, the 1200 being taller than the 1150. I tumbled on the 1200 a time or two when I couldn’t reach the ground. Same for the 1100 Multistrada I used to own. I didin’t buy a 1200 Multi for the simple fact that I could only tiptoe one foot at a time on it, and it just seemed a shame to damage all that beautiful, red, Italian paint by dropping it now and then. If it had just been a little uglier I might have takent he chance. And yes, I do know what the seat height is on the Multistrada… about 35.5″…same as the African Twin.
KTM is a brand I have always desired to own. I have the Duke now, but I really wanted (still do) to own a 990 Adventure, but a 34+” seat height just seemed like a bit too much. I told my friend Ed, who owns the local KTM shop that I’d love to have a 690 Enduro. He kindly let me down by saying , “No one uder 6′ need apply.”