I have found the stock seat on my Yamaha FJR1300 causes me some pain after 300-400 miles in the saddle, and an 800 mile day is downright painful. In 2003 I plan to do some semi-serious long distance riding, and have some Ironbutt-veteran friends who swear by the benefits of having a custom saddle made -- instead of riding on a generic seat made to fit "any" purchaser.

Taking their advice into consideration, and after seeing Phil's custom FJR seat, built for him by Rich's Custom Bike Seats [(206) 524-2274] in Seattle, Washington, I decided to follow suit. I called on Tuesday, and got an appointment for 9:00am on Thursday, October 24th, 2002.

When I arrived, I was asked to ride the bike into the shop and park it, then offered coffee and cookies. Rich walked in a few minutes later and described his philosophy on building seats (refined over the course of hand crafting many thousands of motorcycle seats). He asked me what I expected, and asked some questions about choice of materials, etc.

Then he pulled the stock vinyl cover off the seat, had me sit on the bike in my "normal" prefered riding position, and started taking measurements and asking questions, like: Where do I sit -- towards the front, the middle, the back? Do I move around any when riding? Did I want to be seated higher or lower than stock? Did I want the front narrowed any? etc. Most of the questions I gathered were based on my size (5'8", 160lbs, 30" inseam) which Rich accurately guessed to the number. A few minutes later he pulled the seat off and started gluing extra foam to it. It then looked like this:

Rich next started trimming the seat to reshape it to fit me properly. That's Rich in the photo below. A very interesting guy -- he had 6 of his bikes in the shop: two custom Harley choppers, a 2003 100th Anniversary model 103c.i. bagger, a nice 70's era RD400, and a BMW K1200LT with lots of LD options and an IronButt license plate frame.

Right after I got there, another guy rode in on a Harley bagger to get his seat rebuilt. Rich accomodated us both at the same time, due to having a staff of 1/2 a dozen guys he could hand over subtasks to. Meanwhile, we kept talking about long distance riding (he's done quite a bit of that), Harleys, business in general, and some of the stuff he's learned doing motorcycle seats.

All this while drinking coffee, and standing in the shop watching the work being done. That is so cool, and so much better than the typical shop where you have to wait in some boring room with 3 dog-eared back copies of The Proctologist's Journal, while wondering if they're even working on your bike. Rich gets it. (He even let me take these photos)

After my seat got shaped to Rich's initial satisfaction, it looked like this. He then had me take a 15 minute ride to see how I liked it. What a difference! Particularly when I whacked the throttle open, my butt would sink back into that "pocket" and it felt like two large hands holding me in place on the bike.

It would seem to me that being able to move around on the seat would be a Good Thing™, but it turns out to be better to have one position that fits you perfectly, and supports you everwhere. Look in the parking lot of an Ironbutt checkpoint and you'll see a lot of custom seats that keep the rider in just one position.

I made a few suggestions, Rich made some changes, and we repeated that about 3 times until we were both satisfied.

Meanwhile, as all I wanted for the passenger seat was for it to be recovered in leather to match the new driver's seat, one of Rich's guys used the old vinyl cover to make a pattern for a new cover. At Rich's suggestion I had them use silver thread, to add a tiny bit of detail.

I also asked for them to put their logo on the back edge of the passenger seat, where it wasn't quite so visible. The photo above shows how it turned out. Pretty nice work, eh?

At the same time, another guy used a small rotary grinder to put a smooth finish on the driver's seat. Then he cut some foam out and fitted a gel pad as shown in the photo above.

After all that, the next to the last step is gluing some thin cloth-backed foam over the whole seat. This forms a base for gluing the leather cover on, so it will follow the curvature of the "pocket" without pulling up.

While I went to lunch, yet another guy cut a pattern for the seat cover and whipped this up out of leather. When I returned from my quick lunch across the street, the cover was being mounted as shown in the photo below.

The photos don't accurately show the very high quality of the leather and the stitching. It's damn nice work.

At about 2:00pm Rich mounted the driver's seat, I paid up and was free to go. This is what it looked like after having some Lexol leather conditioner rubbed in.

Fits me like a glove! I've done a 650 mile day, following a bunch of 300 mile days, and can say this: after stopping for dinner at 625 miles, when I got back on the bike to ride the final 25 miles, my butt wasn't sore in the slightest. In fact, I would have to say that the more miles I put on this seat in a day, the better it feels...


Doug Chapman's seat

Here's another example of Rich's work on Doug Chapman's FJR1300. Doug had Rich build him a backrest, using the cheaper version of the Harley Davidson backrest. It wasn't inexpensive, by any means, but Doug is really happy with it.

Notice how Rich completely covered the HD backrest in matching leather and stitching -- you'd never know it was a one-off special deal...

Copyright © 2002-2003, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.