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Replacement Seats

Seats are a frequently discussed topic on r.m.h. Below are a few links to Google searches of past discussions on various seat brands:
The following was written by Larry Boyd.

Many people complain that their stock seat is not quite up to par. Personally I think that a comfy seat is one of the most important parts of a motorcycle. In general, your butt should be able to last at least as long as your tank. If you find yourself frequently in need of a butt break before your bike's ready for gas, it's time to start thinking about another seat.

The Aftermarket

The most frequently chosen solution to seat woes is to buy a seat from one of the many aftermarket manufacturers. There are tons of seat choices available to suit even the most picky rider.

Factors in seat choice

Choice of a seat is a highly individual matter. What works for one person may not work for the next. So how do you decide? Well the single best piece of advice is to find a way to actually try the seat out. If you're lucky you can find a shop or friend that has the seat you are interested in and will allow you to give it a try. Unfortunately, most of the time the only way to know is to buy the thing and hope it works out.

But before you place that order consider the following factors:

  • Comfort

    Probably the single most important factor in seat choice. Essentially a comfy seat is firm. Think of it as the "Goldilocks Factor". The consequences of too hard of a seat are obvious. Seats that are too soft, while initially pretty comfortable, will cause the same problems in the long run as a seat that's too hard. Additionally, a seat that has a soft fill is much more prone to lumping or loosing its shape.

  • Price

    Let's face it, cost is a very important factor in choosing a seat. While, there are relative bargains in the aftermarket, be prepared to spend $250-400 for a good seat. Find out what the exchange policy is. Can you return the seat if you're not happy? Don't be surprised if some companies charge you a "restocking" fee for a returned seat.

  • Looks

    Hey, nobody wants an ugly seat. Luckily, there are enough styles to choose from to satisfy nearly every taste. Keep in mind though, that comfort and style do not always go together.

  • Durability

    Durability is one of the often overlooked factors in seat choice. While leather is nice looking and is just as durable (maybe more so) than naugahyde or other synthetic materials, it only remains so with diligent care and maintenance.

  • Riding Style

    Another very important factor is the type of riding you do. Do you make a lot of extended trips, do you make short hops around town, or are you looking for something fancy for a trailer queen?

  • Positioning

    Most aftermarket seats will reposition the rider is some way. Some will move you closer to the bars, others will move you back. Some will effectively raise the seat height while others will lower it.

Things to look for when choosing a seat

  • Where do the seams run? Do they cross the seat in an area that could cause a pressure point? Are they in an area where water could pool and seep into the seat?

  • What is the base of the seat made of and how is it shaped? A metal base is preferable but many of the newer fiberglass bases have proven to hold up just as well.

    The shape of the base should have a cupping design to provide lateral support.

  • Does it provide any back support? Longer runs mean tired backs. Many aftermarket seats provide some back support in their design or provide the capability to add backrests for the rider.

  • Does the seat have a protective layer between the seat and the bike? A lot of aftermarket seats have a layer of carpet on their bases to help protect the bike from scratches and dents. Many do not. Beware of exposed rivets on the bottom of a seat. They can put some pretty nasty scratches in your paint.

  • Will the seat fit? Sure the brochure says it will but be careful. One example would be '96 and newer softails. Some '95 and below seats for softails will not fit on a '96+ due to some rearrangement of parts in the battery area. Be sure and specify your year and model when ordering a new seat.

Aftermarket Companies

Here's a list of a few of the more popular aftermarket seat manufacturers with links to their websites (if they have one).

  • Mustang

    Mustang seats are highly recommended by a large portion of the readers of r.m.h. Their seats are comfortable out of the box and well constructed. My personal choice. They also offer a line of seats that contain an adjustable air bladder that allows the rider to vary the firmness of the seat.

  • Corbin

    Another highly recommended company. Corbin makes some of the best looking seats around. Keep in mind though that Corbin seats generally are quite firm and require a breakin period of 2k-5k miles before they settle in and get comfortable. There have been complaints in r.m.h about a decrease in quality of Corbin seats. Wait periods can be long and customer service may not be up to expectations.

  • Saddleman

    Saddleman seats are another well made product. Saddleman offers a line of seats that have gel inserts in them that come highly recommended.

  • LaPera

    LaPera offers a wide range of styles. Not many readers in r.m.h have commented on LaPera but the people I know that have them have no complaints.

Other Options

In addition to the aftermarket, there are other options for dealing with a bad seat.

Have Your Seat Redone

This is a popular option to purchasing an aftermarket seat. Find someone local who will redo your seat for you using a better grade of foam or inserting a gel pad. Often you can find local auto upholstery specialists who will do motorcycle seats. Choosing this route gives you advantage of being able to maintain the stock look of the bike and is generally cheaper than the aftermarket.

Keep in mind though, that a poor seat design is a poor seat design. It doesn't matter how firm the foam is if the seat is too narrow or doesn't offer the lateral support you may need.

One of the more popular and decently priced companies that specialize in redoing stock seats is Russell Cycle Products INC. Russell has a very good reputation among ironbutters as the seat of choice. Your seat will not look stock but it will be tailor made for you based on photos and other information you send to Russell. If you are looking to do big miles you should seriously consider Russell.

Yo! sent his seat to Sargent Cycle. They did a fine custom job and he loves it.

Pads and Covers

Another option is to use a pad to make a short ride seat more comfortable for long rides. These pads offer the advantage of easy installation and removal while retaining the stock seat.

  • Gel Pads

    Gel pads claim to help reduce butt fatigue by more evenly distributing the riders weight thus eliminating pressure points. Generally, they attach to the seat with a strap. Unfortunately, from what I've seen the ones that are available are fairly small and thus actually create additional pressure points since they do not always cover the entire seat. They can also create a disconnected and unstable feeling since they simple sit on top of the seat. They are also pretty pricey all things considered.

    One solution to the size and price option is to by one from a pharmacy or medical supply store. You can usually find them in sizes that will cover you entire seat and the cost is cheaper than buying a pad sold as a motorcycle accessory. The downside is they're usually this funky blue color.

  • Air bladders

    Air bladders essentially work like gel pads. The have many of the same disadvantages of gel pads and are often more expensive. The major advantage of air bladders is that the firmness of the pad can be easily adjusted.

  • Sheepskin

    Often a sheepskin cover can be the solution to a bad seat. Sheepskin covers provide some additional padding and adds a layer of breathable material between your butt and the seat. One disadvantage to sheepskin is that it takes longer to dry out than simply wiping off a piece of leather or naugahyde.