Do you own a Harley-Davidson Sportster, and you’re looking to lower the bike but don’t know how to? If so, then you are certainly in the right place.
Lowering a Sportster is pretty easy if you know the basics of lowering and the right method to do so. There are multiple ways you can lower your Harley-Davidson Sportster. Some of the most common ways include lowering the front end, lowering the rear end, shortening the fork, and more. Your Harley is like a canvas, and you can customize it and experiment with it to upgrade its performance. If you’re short or a female rider, you can always lower the seat of your bike to improve your comfort levels and performance when riding.
In this article, you will get to learn all about lowering your bike, how to lower a Sportster, why you should adjust the seat, how to find the right fit for the bike, and more. Stick around to get all the answers that you are looking for. Stick around to get all the answers that you are looking for.
Lowering the Seat Of Your Bike
You have found the perfect bike for you. It checks off all the boxes that you wanted in your dream bike, but there is one little issue. Your seat is too high, and your legs do not reach the ground. Lowering the seat height isn’t as easy as merely loosening and tightening the bolt, as you can do with a bicycle seat.
Depending on the style of the bike, height can be a deciding factor for many bikers. Further, regardless of the type of bike, a rider will have other options aside from changing the seat to lower the height of the bike.
A Harley-Davidson Sportster has a seat height much higher than most other Harley-Davidson bikes. Whether you require a Sportster lowering kit for a cool look or just so that your feet can reach the ground easily, you’ll be able to lower your Harley-Davidson Sportster without lowering your expectations of a fantastic ride.
Why Should You Adjust the Seat Of Your Sportster?
Balance is key when you are riding a Harley-Davidson Sportster. For shorter riders, it can be quite challenging to find a bike with the appropriate seat height to maintain balance while you are stopped. For that, it could mean going with a bike that has less power than you would like. However, if you can adjust the height, the sky is the limit.
Another reason someone might want to adjust the seat height will be that their bike might be too short, and they’d want to raise it for a more comfortable ride. For a taller person, riding a motorcycle that is too short could cause fatigue quickly.
Your bike’s seat can be adjusted easily. There are two primary ways you can adjust the height of the sat – either by changing the shocks or by changing the seat. Changing out the stock shocks for after-market shocks could affect how your motorcycle handles. Changing out the seat won’t affect the handling, so this should be the first option when you’re looking to adjust the height.
Changing out the seat will be more cost-effective than changing the shocks, as it will be less labor-intensive. Further, you can also try the new seat before the installation is finished to ensure that it feels comfortable. Further, lowering the bike by changing the shocks might affect ground clearance and create hazards like scraping curbs and speed bumps.
Find the Right Fit For Your Motorcycle
When you’re seated on your bike, you should be able to plant both feet flat on the ground while you’re stationary. If you are on your tiptoes, or you’re only able to put one foot on the ground at a time, then your bike is too tall for them. If your legs are cramped into an awkward position while riding, this might require a taller bike.
Another consideration is the type of bike that you have. In general, cruiser bikes like a Harley-Davidson Sportster are lower than sport bikes. Sport bikes are built for speed and leaning into curves, which is why they typically sit higher than cruiser bikes. For a sports bike, changing the shocks can affect the performance significantly, which makes it less aerodynamic, and more likely to scrape a peg when you are cornering. This is a scenario where opting for a new seat will be ideal.
How Low Can Your Sportster Go
Lowering a Harley-Davidson Sportster doesn’t just give it a long, low custom look, it will also allow shorter bikers to put their feet flat on the pavement at stoplights. If you find yourself on a too-tall bike at a slippery intersection, you know that you would trade in the shiny chrome in the world for secure footing. Many believe that more bikers are after the look. In fact, only 60% of bikers are in favor of lowering for style.
Regardless of the reasons for lowering your motorcycle, it is not a task that should be taken lightly. If you aren’t sure of the dynamics of this type of modification, you can consult a suspension specialist for avoiding any safety issues. Lowering the bike can give you the perfect touch of customization that you’re craving.
How to Lower a Sportster
For some bikers, a Cruiser is just a bike. For others, a Cruiser is essentially a blank canvas. Often, the ink on the papers is barely dry before they head up to the parts counter and order a bunch of aftermarket parts to make their new motorcycles move faster, look shinier, and sound better. Most modifications don’t just improve the performance of your bike, but also makes the bike easier to ride. Another increasingly common customization needed for a comfortable ride is lowering the motorcycle seat. There are different ways to lower your Harley-Davidson Sportster –
1. Shorten the fork
The safest and best way of lowering your motorcycle is to have a mechanic shorten the fork and shock internally. It could cost a lot, but you will maintain your ride quality.
At the front of your Harley-Davidson Sportster, you will notice two metal pieces or also known as triple clamps. They’re responsible for clamping the fork tubes in place. Triple clamps pivot on the steering stem, which will allow the bars to turn.
You will notice that on bikes like the Harley-Davidson Sportster, the fork tubes will stick out slightly through the loop. Loosening the pinch bolts on the lower and upper triple clamps will let you slide the fork tubes up, which will lower the front end of the motorcycle.
You should ensure that you are moving both fork tubes up the same amount. Use a ruler so that you can be more precise. There are no exact measurements that you should be shooting for. However, it’ll be best to be conservative so that you can avoid significant changes in handling. Once, when you’re done adjusting, re-tighten the pinch bolts by using the factory torque specs for your bike.
2. Lower the front end
As a general rule, you shouldn’t lower the front without lowering the rear of your bike. You could lower the rear without lowering the front, but it will give your bike more of a chopper effect. If you are only lowering the front, you’ll be unbalancing the bike the wrong way. Many motorcycles can be lowered by almost an inch at the front easily. To achieve that, you should modify or remove the stock preload spacer.
Some motorcycles come with preload spacers that compress the fork springs about an inch or more once the fork is unloaded. Shortening the spacer will drop the front end of the Sportster an amount almost equal to what you removed from the spacer. However, you should be careful that you don’t go beyond the point where there’s minimal pressure on the spring once the suspension is fully extended. If you go beyond that point, your motorcycle will essentially be springless once the front extends completely, as when the front wheel hits a dip in the road at speed. This is definitely a scenario that you’ll want to avoid.
If you wish to lower the front end of your bike by more than an inch, you will have to do it mechanically. What you can do is put a spacer, which is essentially a short spring under the damper rod. This tricks the fork into thinking that it is shorter and doesn’t allow it to come back up to full extension.
If your bike’s fork has a preload spacer on top of the spring, you might need to remove it or shorten it, or the spring would be too compressed if the fork is at rest. Depending on your motorcycle, you might require shorter main fork springs as you’ve taken up so much travel that the springs won’t allow the fork to compress fully before the coils contact each other, preventing the bike’s fork from compressing.
3. Lower the rear end
If you only intend on lowering one end of the bike, the rear end would be the better choice. This is what some riders require, as lowering the rear end would also lower the seat substantially, which makes it easier to flat-foot a motorcycle at stops.
The backyard crowd has a quick fix for that – lowering the blocks. These are machined spacers that will relocate the rear shock’s bottom mounting point numerous inches to the rear. They are cheap, quite easy to install, and their net effect would be to lower the back of your bike. However, there is another consequence of using lowering blocks which isn’t that obvious – they drastically change the rear shocks’ lever ratio.
Lowering your Sportster should be the last resort. It isn’t advisable to do this yourself unless you have a solid understanding of chassis geometry and riding dynamics.
4. Install the lowering links
Many motorcycles come with a single rear shock connected to the swingarm of the bike through a linkage system. The link arms will multiply the swingarm movement, which allows for a rising rate of shock damping. The first movement can be soft for small bumps, and it could be progressively harder for larger hits. The longer lowering links would essentially move the bottom shock mount closer to the ground, reducing the seat height.
Lowering links will also allow you to lower your bike anywhere from 0.5 inches to 2 inches depending on the motorcycle and lowering links available. Lowering links can be a rather cost-effective way of lowering the bike’s rear end. Moreover, they are easy to install.
5. Check the suspension sag
The next thing that you should do is check your suspension sag. If you are short, you might also be light and your motorcycle’s shock and fork springs may have too much preload on them. This can make the ride harsh while putting the suspension higher in the stroke, putting the seat farther from the pavement. Checking the rider sag is free, easy to do, and the first step to properly set up the suspension.
6. Order a lower seat
Your next best option would be to lower the seat, and there are a few avenues that you can pursue here. There are several manufacturers that offer accessory “low” seats. This way, you’ll be able to reduce the seat height by as much as an inch. Alternatively, you’ll be able to customize your seat yourself by removing the cover and shaving down the foam.
If you’re fine with spending a bit of money, you can send your stock seat to companies that professionally customize the seat. They will rebuild it with thinner and more comfortable foam. Further, they can also modify the shape to better fit you.
Can I lower my Harley-Davidson bike?
Yes, you can lower your Harley-Davidson bike. There are two ways you can lower your bike – by changing the seat and/or by replacing the shocks. Remember, trading out the stock shocks for aftermarket shocks that lower your bike beyond the factory settings will alter the handling of your bike and must be considered with this option.
Is it better to have a tighter suspension?
As with many modifications and adjustments to your bike, it will depend on the situation. While stiffer suspension may increase driver sensitivity, improve tire contact on smooth roads, and increase driver sensitivity, it could decrease rider quality, grip on bumpy roads, and handling performance.
Will lowering a Harley-Davidson bike affect handling?
When you are lowering your Harley, you will also be lowering its center of gravity. It means that your motorcycle will handle slightly better in certain circumstances. However, there is also a negative effect as your initial ground clearance will be decreased. Further, things that you used to be cleared by your bike with ease like speed bumps or curbs could be an issue now.
Will lowering my Harley-Davidson bike affect speed?
By lowering the front end of your Harley-Davidson bike, you will essentially be manipulating the motorcycle’s rake and trail settings. This will make your bike quicker at turning, but it will come at the expense of reducing high-speed stability. If you are careful and aren’t making any major adjustments, you will not notice any differences in speed or handling differences.