Introduction: How to Refurbish a Motorcycle Seat
The condition of your motorcycle seat can make or break a ride. It can transform a lovely automnal ride into a nightmare of butt-rearrangement and pain management.
I'm about to leave for a 2000 km trip and the seat of my old honda was, well... passable at best. Which is fine for a casual ride but not for riding several days in a row.
When I saw that going to a professional upholsterers would set me back about an arm and a leg (not really but 300 euros is a hefty sum), I decided to undertake the restoration of the seat myself. It took me 4 hours and 3 beers last evening after work, cost me 30 euros in foam and 10 in neoprene glue, and I learned a lot in the process. Worth it if you ask me!
Step 1: Assess Damage
The main issue was that the foam was "cooked": it became all crumbly, didn't come back to its original shape after I sat on it, was slacking and coming apart in different places. I was basically seating on the frame of the seat..
Additionally, the neoprene glue that was holding the fake leather was not glue anymore as much as a goo of rust and crumbled plastic, which leg to the cover shifting around. That had to be fixed as well.
On the brighter side of things, the fake leather itself was perfectly fine, the style reasonably decent that I wouldn't want to bother remaking a cover and the seams held tight. Less work, more rest. Aka heaven.
Step 2: Tools and Materials
Dremel with cutting attachment
Dense motorcycle seat foam (3 to 4 cm thick)
Lighter, more flexible foam (latex, 4 cm thick)
Neoprene or spray-on glue
Fake leather or real leather if you have to redo the cover.
Step 3: Remove the Cover and Old Foam
I removed the stables from the cover and pulled on the old glue which came apart very easily. I saved the cover to put it back later on as it was in great condition. If it ain't broke, use the time you just saved to drink beer.
I slid a kitchen knife under the foam to remove it and tried to keep it as whole as possible: this was my first time doing this and if it went incredibly wrong I wanted to be able to still have a backup plan of putting the foam back in. Thankfully, this did not happen and [Spoiler Alert] I now have a great new seat.
Step 4: Clean Up the Seat Base
With the help of sandpaper, orbital sander, step-sister or brush wire, remove all the nasty stuff: foam, glue and rust. The pic is about halway through, forgot to take one afterwards.. I was in a rush and a tad drunk at that point to be completely honest.
Step 5: Jim Halpert
Step 6: Glue the Dense Foam
I cut the rough shape of the seat in the dense foam and glued it using neoprene glue.
Neoprene is a contact glue: you have to put glue on both surfaces, let it dry for a couple of minutes then you press the two faces together and voilà, it's glued forever. So make sure you're glueing it correctly on your first try!
Step 7: Carve the Foam
Using a bread knife, a dremel rotary tool with a metal cutting disk and sharpened fingernails (known in the foam beezwax as "the tools of the trade"), I carved the dense foam to match my legs and sitting position.
This was done through repeated fitting on the motorcycle and marking the places that needed shaping with a marker.
Here are a couple tips:
1) Remove less than you think you need then test again. Better safe than sorry and it's easier to remove a bit of foam than have to glue some more back on.
2) Test test and test again, accounting for how your legs are in driving position but also when they rest on the ground.
3) Go for a test ride. It'll first show you how comfortable this is now and you'll adjust your position in the most natural way possible.
I forgot to take pictures of the final carving but it looked slightly better than what's pictured here.
Step 8: Add a Thinner, Softer Foam
I used the latex foam as a way to homogeneize the surface, get a bit more comfort and add some tension under the fake leather. I glued it to the dense foam and beveled the edges with the dremel to somewhat break the angles. If I could have found some, I would have wrapped the whole thing in 8mm finishing foam but I couldn't find it anywhere :(
Step 9: Put the Cover Back, Glue It and You're Done :)
And now you've got youself a new, comfy motorcycle seat!