Motorcycles for women – 9 Ideal Bikes For Female Riders

As a woman in 2021 you might think that writing an article about specific motorcycles for women is ridiculous, well let me beg to differ and explain why it is actually very important.

It comes down to the simple fact that no matter what, men are built differently to women (maybe with the exception of extreme athletes) and therefore women have different requirements when it comes to choosing a motorcycle. 

While there are no motorcycles specifically made for women, there are bikes that are more ergonomically suitable for us girls. For instance with a lower seat height, less weight and easier handlebar reach. 

Ultimately, the motorcycle for you, is the one you want! However, the last thing you want to be doing when riding a motorcycle is worrying because you’re not comfortable riding it, so considering factors laid out here will help you get the most out of your choice.

Gone are the days of the likes of Excelsior producing motorcycles for women only with a step-through frame. However, if you do want one, check this ad out here, and it may be controversial but I like them. Now let’s look at some super cool options that are out there today.

Table of Contents

The Triumph Street Twin

The Triumph Street Twin is one of the most popular motorcycles for women
The Triumph Street Twin is a great all round motorcycle and the no.1 selling Triumph to female riders

The Triumph Street Twin is the British bike builders best seller to female riders plus it is just a really cool entry into Triumph’s modern classic range; which is why it is top of the list of best motorcycles for women.

Equipped with a 900cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin engine, the Street Twin is ready for anything, short or long adventures, and it won’t leave you lacking in power. 64 horsepower and a max torque of 80Nm get pumped out.

The motor is smooth throughout the rev range and it has enough torque for fun in the bends but it’s not going to rip your arms off either.

The bike has a low 765mm seat height and weighs 216kg wet. The riding position is upright, relaxed and natural so even the shortest rider should be comfortable both with the seat height and handlebar reach.

For a comparison, the Bonneville T120 has a seat height of 790mm and weighs 20kg more than the Street Twin, the main difference being the engine sizes.

However, the Street Twin is a great compromise for those who want that Bonneville spirit, in a smaller, more manageable package. What you lack in extra power, the Street Twin makes up for in being a great all-rounder and most find the 900cc engine more than enough for all situations.

The Street Twin is a bike that you can turn into the motorcycle that you always wanted; whether that’s a scrambler, flat-tracker, cafe-racer, the model can do it all. It is what I would consider a blank canvas Bonneville ready to be customised to suit each rider. There is no shortage in the range of options in Triumph’s catalog; with 120 genuine parts and accessories options.

All of this makes it a great motorcycle for beginner riders and experienced alike at a pretty fair price point. Triumph have done a great job attracting female riders to the Street Twin without making it an explicit ‘ladies’ motorcycle.

It’s just a cool bike and there is no feeling ‘less-than’ on a Street Twin, they are just beautiful, easy to handle Triumph motorcycles. 

Honda Rebel

Honda Rebel is popular with female riders
The Honda Rebel

For 2017 Honda revived the Rebel in both a 300cc and 500cc version (only the 500cc version made it to the UK). It had been 30 years since the release of the 250 cc version which had left a small-cruiser legacy in its wake.

However, the launch saw a lot of love for Honda’s small cruisers and a lot of excitement. Style wise it is very different to the old 250 and looks very modern, with digital instruments and blacked out styling. 

It is definitely a bike aimed at beginners and younger riders to get them into motorcycling. It looks pretty cool and frankly isn’t all that different visually to Harley’s Iron 883. 

Cruisers are notoriously heavy with huge V-twin engines, suddenly we have a bike that is lightweight but has the cool cruiser vibe, an option we have gone without for quite a while. 

According to Honda the weight is 190kg and it has a super low seat height of 690mm. This is one of the best motorcycles for women who are shorter than average but like to flat-foot when stationary. While a typical cruiser style, the seating position is pretty neutral and the ergonomics will instil confidence out on the open road and around town. 

The Rebel 500 has a displacement of 471cc and the twin cylinder engine has been built to cruise the roads, so there is no frightening power curve that might put off newer riders. 

The 300 rebel has a 286cc single cylinder engine and is an ideal entry level motorcycle that’s easy to handle, easy on the fuel and looks great.

I’m always on various ladies motorcycling forums and the Rebel is a firm favourite, from new riders to more experienced ladies who are down-sizing. 

Honda Shadow Spirit

a motorcycle for women with riding experience looking to step up to something bigger
“Shadow” by dingatx is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

If you want a bit more of a middle-weight without the weight that comes with American V-twins, a Shadow Spirit on the used market might be the way to go. Last released for the 2014 model year before being discontinued, Honda’s Shadow Spirit 750 C2 had been a staple in their lineup.

The later models were equipped with ABS so there is no need to go without some of the modern features that we take for granted on today’s modern bikes. The Shadow was equipped with a 745cc, liquid-cooled, V-twin, with 79Nm of torque.

It’s not the lightest bike on the list weighing in at 243kg wet, but it does come with a super low seat height of 653mm which is lower than the new Rebel. 

It would be a great upgrade for a lady who has been riding around on a Rebel for a while. The weight shouldn’t put you off either, as it is very well balanced and has a low centre of gravity. You would be looking at an average $4,500 to buy a Shadow Spirit in good condition and would be getting a very reliable bike for that. 

My last note for the mid-weight Honda is that it looks bigger than it actually is, so your not going to feel out of place pulling up to rally’s and bike nights, your Honda will sit quite nicely in between any other V-twins that are parked up.  

Harley Davidson Sportster 883

Harley Davidson Sportster 883 is one of the most popular motorcycles for women in America
Harley Davidson Iron 883

It’s a girls bike! It’s a baby Harley! You may have heard this a lot about the Harley Sportster which includes the Iron 883. My response to these statements is pretty simple and consists of two points: 

  1. So what?
  2. It is the most versatile and longest standing motorcycle in Harley Davidson history.

So while it appears for 2021 the Harley Sportster has been discontinued in the UK, I consider this merely a blip and down to some economic shuffling that Harley will get on top of, the Sportster remains one of my favourite bikes of all time. 

Dolores, my fiance’s 2018 Iron 883 when completely stock, had a seat height of 653mm and weighed in at 256kg wet. Now they aren’t light bikes and the weight is very noticeable, particularly stationary and at low-speed maneuvers. However, once you open the throttle and you get moving you are no longer conscious of it. 

The Sportster has its own following and there are plenty of Sportster owners groups both in Europe and the US made up equally of male and female owners. 

The bikes to me are almost the true essence of what Harley Davidson is all about, and it just so happens that in terms of dimensions and ergonomics they are one of the best motorcycles for women who don’t mind wrestling with a little bit of weight.

Also consider the Superlow Harley which has the same 883 engine.

Harley Davidson Street Glide

Harley street glide
The Harley Street Glide

If the Iron 883 just isn’t going to cut it for those big touring adventures and you have your heart set on a Harley Davidson, you might want to take a look at the Street Glide. 

Equipped with the new Milwaukee 8 107 engine the bike has a displacement of 1798cc which produces 89 horsepower and 147Nm of torque, making it suited for those long days in the saddle crunching miles.

The Street Glide has a seat height of 662mm and weighs a huge 376kg. For some that weight might put you off right away and it isn’t for the faint-hearted. However, it is imperative you remember that the weight on all of Harley’s touring bikes is down low and well-balanced. 

The low seat height in theory should make the weight manageable for those prepared for a bit of a workout and with a bit of experience. The seating position is very much upright so you are not slouched back with your legs out front, this should instill a confident position for riders.

The Street Glide comes ready to hit the road with a batwing fairing, and hard saddle-bags for luggage. 

I would suggest this bike for ladies who want a tourer and that have had some experience riding heavier bikes and I would also say the same to most men. It isn’t a bike you should get as your first bike and expect to get on with it straight away; that is unless you are built like the Hulk or Thor in which case please disregard all of my advice in this article!

Kawasaki Ninja 400

Kawasaki Ninja 400 is a perfect sport bike for female riders
Kawasaki Ninja 400 is an ideal compromise for those wanting a sports bike that’s manageable

Moving away from the cruisers for a minute, for ladies who want a sportbike you might want to look at the Kawasaki Ninja 400. I love Ninja’s, all of them. At a bike show last year I spent more time sitting on each of the Ninja’s than I did anything else.

There’s also a Kawasaki Ninja 250 for riders wanting a small bore sport bike.

Here is the thing, if you are like me your brain will automatically tell you that the Ninja 1000 is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Its a sportbike and you want the fastest you can get. Well let me tell you, the moment I was on the Ninja 400 I felt at home. Crazy? Probably.

The weight is significantly lighter, I could touch the ground with both feet, I didn’t feel stretched or cramped and all I could keep thinking about is how much fun it would be to chase the red line and catch it rather than have excess power that I could never utilise in real world conditions.

The seat height stands at 785mm which is the highest on the list, but the Ninja 400 only weighs in at 168kg. The Ninja 650 for a comparison weighs in at 192kg. That is a pretty big and noticeable weight difference. 

The Ninja 400 is a great choice for ladies who want to get into sportbikes thanks to it’s super light weight and it still feels like a proper bike, not a toy.

It is likely you will outgrow the 400 eventually as confidence grows and if speed is your thing. Jumping up engine size though wouldn’t feel too intimidating when you move from the 400. 

Yamaha V-Star 250

The Yamaha V Star 250 is marketed at female riders
The Yamaha V Star 250 is marketed at female riders

Yamaha refreshed the V Star 250 for 2018. This decision was likely based on the success of Honda’s new Rebel. The V Star 250 has a new modern look, quality components, big bike looks, and for 2021 the ‘Raven’ paint work is super classy and clean looking. 

The Yamaha V Star 250 really is a baby cruiser aiming at those just starting out or those who just love classic small capacity machines. Powered by a 249cc air-cooled, SOHC 60° V-twin engine, Yamaha states it “produces plenty of bottom-end torque and smooth roll-on power. And it’s the only V-twin engine in its class, too.”

The V-Star weighs in at just 146kg making it the lightest on the list and it has a seat height of 685mm which is just lower than the Honda Rebel.

Kawasaki Vulcan 900

The Vulcan 900 is a big bike with modest weight when compared to the big American offerings

Kawasaki’s Vulcan 900 looks like a beast, with a fat seat, fat tank and general big bike presence, it is definitely a cruiser but with Kawasaki’s classic sporty performance.

The latest Vulcan models have had an overhaul from the last few years, taking a lead from many manufacturers and going back to much more classic looks. The Vulcan is now a true old school motorcycle almost with 40’s/50’s Harley and Indian styling. Plenty of chrome, swept back bars, and options for studded black leather seats and accessories. 

Available in 3 options currently Classic, Classic LT and Custom with the LT being the most touring styled version. 

The Seat height is around 685mm which is on par with the lowest in the list but it does weigh 280kg. The Vulcan is balanced and has a low centre of gravity making the weight easy to manage. 

In terms of physical size you would be looking at a Harley Softail or Indian Chief as a comparison both of which would be significantly heavier so the Vulcan is a perfect option for those who want a cruiser that can do everything the Americans can do; maybe even more smoothly.  

The powerband coming out of the 903cc V-twin is evenly spread and accessible for most riders with some experience. In the UK most riders start out on a 125cc bike and then take a full license to ride any size motorcycle; the Vulcan despite its big leap in capacity is still pretty user friendly even for novice’s. 

Indian Scout Bobber Sixty

Last but not least we get to the Indian Scout Bobber Sixty. The Scout Bobber Sixty is relatively new to Indian’s Scout models and it was met with great excitement and eagerness. The Scout Sixty is the smaller capacity version of the Indian Scout. It is a 1000cc V-twin with 78 horsepower. 

Much like Harley’s Sportster, the Indian Scout Sixty has gained a reputation quickly for being a girls bike to which as you can imagine my response again is, frankly, who cares? 

The bike weighs 249kg and has a seat height of 649mm. While it is pretty heavy the weight is extremely low and it easy to manoeuvre even at low speed. 

The Scout Bobber Sixty as with all the Scout’s have access to Indian’s parts catalog which is full of options for making the bike your own. Reduced reach seat, reduced reach bars, peg options, windscreens, fairings, you name it, the catalog has it.

Now the Bobber Sixty is aimed at new riders. However, I would take this with a pinch of salt because there is a lot of torque on tap that could get you into trouble if you’re not sensible and restrained. 

The model is a great motorcycle for women who want an Indian or want an alternative to the Harley Davidson Sportster 883 or Street Bob and for those that want a bike that is far from a stereotypical ladies bike (low torque, small, less than). It is a solid all round bike and the Scout models are going from strength to strength year on year. 

Can a small woman ride a motorcycle?

Absolutely. Unless you’re on a track and pushing hard, little strength is required to ride a motorcycle. Motorcycle riding is all about confidence so take some lessons first to be sure you enjoy it and then choose a motorcycle you feel comfortable sat on i.e. you can reach the floor and bars easily.

What is the best motorcycle for a female?

Any that you feel confident on. In America the most popular motorcycles for women are the Harley Sportster 883 with the relatively new Indian Scout Bobber Sixty making serious headway. In the UK the Triumph Street Twin has proved the most popular ‘big bike’ motorcycle for female riders.

What is the best starter motorcycle for a woman?

You can’t go wrong with the Yamaha V Star 250 or if you are in the UK and EU there is a 125cc version. Male or female, you really should book some lessons before venturing out on the road.

Final Word

There you have it, a round up of some great motorcycles for women available today. I’ve pretty much sold myself on all of them so put me down for one of each. However, top of my list personally is a Ninja 400 and the Scout Bobber Sixty.

Most of all remember this when looking to purchase a new bike: Comfort creates confidence which in turn creates an enjoyable ride and the only opinion that truly matters is your own.

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