Project: 1984 GL1200 Bobber Custom by Kartch Customs Today I wrap up the seat on the GL1200 build with a run down on how pretty much anybody can build their own custom designed butt bucket. So you built a custom motorcycle and need to top it off with a custom seat. Or, you already have a tricked out ride but just want something to make it your own. There’s nothing like making your own seat to say, “I’m pretty much the king of the world of motorcycles”.
OK, that may be a little extreme, but fabricating your own seat is still pretty awesome. This is a seat I knocked out for a recent motorcycle build where I took a stock 1984 Goldwing GL1200 and changed it from an old man’s touring bike to a custom one off custom cruiser. You can check out more of the details at Kartch Customs. In keeping with the, “build it instead of buying it” theme of this build, I grabbed some sheet metal and drew out a seat pan shape that I liked and seemed to fit the bike.
I used a grinder to cut the shape out and smooth out the rough edges. Using a mallet I pounded the metal over a 2″ section of pipe to give it the shape I wanted. I am a big believer that the shape of your seat pan has the biggest impact over seat comfort. Even more so than the NASA approved foam you bought to impart buttock bliss to your seat. I try to curve the sides, the front, and rear of the pan to fit my skinny butt in the best way possible.
If you can find a size and shaped pan that is comfortable in raw metal, it will be that much better when covered in foam and leather. If you don’t have access to a welder or grinder you can always pick up an aftermarket pan from just about any custom motorcycle supply shop. A sweet pan can also be made out of fiberglass using some fairly simple skills one can learn from a few YouTube videos. Personally I would rather be burned by some hot metal than deal with the fiberglass itch.
From there I cut up some 1930 something Chevy springs and made up a suspension style seat. I had to fabricate some mounting brackets using some scrap metal, bolts, and some nuts. Since I was completely fabricating a completely new seat design and not using any of the OEM mounts or anything, my seat system was a little more complicated. You may be using stock mounts or even the stock pan which would simplify things a bit.
Once the pan and mounting system is in place the next step is to cover that thing with your choice of padding and covering material. I went super high tech and used some carpet padding I found in a dumpster for the foam and some leather from Tandy Leather. For the adhesive needs of this project I used contact cement for sticking things together. The first step was to remove the pan and glue on some foam.
You can see in the picture that I powder coated the seat pan. I live in Arizona and the reality is I could have shot it with some cheapo spray paint and the seat would still be around for cockroaches to chill on after we are all long gone. We just don’t get that much rust in these parts. Some people get all crazy and use electric knives and such to remove the excess foam. I get good results from a razor blade.
Use what you got. The foam doesn’t have to be perfectly cut. You just want it close to your final shape once covered. Grab your chunk of leather and plop it down on the floor. Set your foam covered pan top down and trace around the leather leaving two to three inches extra all the way around. You need to be sure you will have enough to stretch over the foam covered pan while still leaving some extra around the edges.
You will need to cut a section of leather that will fit over the top of the seat and a section that will fit over the top. You will need to make cutouts for your lower section of leather to clear whatever mounting brackets you have. I used some sandpaper to roughen up the surface of the lower pan to give the contact something to grab on to. I then coated the leather and the lower portion of the seat pan with contact cement.
I use multiple layers of cement letting each layer dry between coats. This is a shot of the lower leather panel glued into place. Now you want to take the top leather panel and wet it down with some hot water to soften it up and then start to stretch the soft leather over the foam. I don’t usually use any glue at this point because I want to make sure I have the best fit possible before permanently attaching the two halves of leather together.
I just use my palms to push and stretch the leather over the form. The leather is pretty soft at this point so you have to be careful not to scratch or dent it. It doesn’t take much time before the leather is molded into a good shape over the foamed pan. I use some paint sticks top and bottom and C-clamps to hold things into place while the leather dries. I you need to add more hot water and make work things out a bit more, this is a good time to do it.
Once the leather has dried, go back and start laying down multiple layers of contact cement and then carefully put it all back together. Use a mallet and smooth faced hammer to carefully pound the mating surfaces together. At this point wet all the surfaces and carefully work around the shape of the pan to mate the leather in the best possible shape. A body hammer works really good for this step.
The next step is to trim and stitch the leather halves together. There are some great tutorials on YouTube on different stitch types and how to do them. This is one step that I prefer to farm out. I take what you see above to a local cobbler and have them trim up the excess leather and run the rest through their commercial sewing machine. Someday I will stitch my own when I have a little extra motivation.
Someday I may sprout an extra arm. Use whatever your favorite leather conditioner is. Some swear by Neatsfoot Oil and others use Olive Oil. Once the leather has been reconditioned post installation abuse I use a colored shoe polish to make is look more interesting. The more artsy among yourselves can carve designs into the leather or whatever else to “make it your own”. I tend to keep things fairly simple and straightforward.
There you have it! With a little patience anyone can design and fabricate their own motorcycle seat. This is just a primer of what is possible. The main thing is to have fun! If you have designed your own seat, shoot me an email and I’d be glad to showcase what you have done here on Kartch Customs. Hasta!See Also: Brio Restaurant Atlanta
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As you may have discovered, the seat that felt fine on the motorcycle in the showroom isn’t quite so comfortable after several hours on the road. Long distance riders and hard-core commuters know that an uncomfortable saddle can make for an unpleasant trip, if not sheer misery. After having covered over 95,000 miles in 4 years on my 1999 BMW K1200LT, I had come to the conclusion that it was time to seriously look into a new seat for my bony butt.
At 6’3” and 160 pounds, I had a few complaints about the stock seat included on my Beemer. Those included pressure in the groin area and heat buildup, especially during the summer months and after sitting for a couple of hours. Also, I get a burning sensation on the pressure points where my butt bones (ischial tuberosities) press into the cushion. Sure, I had visited some of the websites of the more commonly known companies that rebuild saddles.
But I just couldn’t bring myself to part with the dollars that would be required for a rebuild. All of them were using either vinyl or leather, and it seemed to me that this wouldn’t resolve my complaint #2. Leather and vinyl? I don’t think so. My leathers get hot when the weather turns warm, and we all know how well vinyl breathes — or not, so I was hesitant to spend that much money and still have a sweaty backside.
Also, there was the issue of having to slip a rain cover over the leather seats because of the porous stitching. This sure seemed like an added nuisance to me. The Kontour Custom Motorcycle Seat But while cruising through the K1200LT website I came across something about a new company, KonTour in Arizona. Ron Miller, who is a fellow K1200LT owner, is the proprietor, and a visit to their website had me very interested.
They are using entirely different products than any of the other motorcycle seat rebuilding companies I was familiar with. Their methods and fabrics are claimed to promote airflow between the rider and the seat foundation. KonTour would also be able to retain my heated seat which would be VITAL to keeping the Mrs. happy should I decide to have the passenger section done later. Besides, I enjoy that heated seat myself on those chilly mornings before I have to switch over to the serious cold weather gear (if you don’t have heated seats you don’t know what you’re missing!).
KonTour says that they can add heat to most seats (for a price), something I’ve not seen many of the other re-builders mention. They also have all kinds of colors and patterns, available at an additional cost. Their website includes a sampling of their available seats, options and prices. I paid $475 for a rider’s seat rebuild, plus the shipping to and from AZ). Their price for a rebuild of a separate passenger seat is the same as for the rider’s.
Where to Buy Custom Motorcycle Seat Check Reviews & Prices on Amazon See More: Motorcycle Accessories, Motorcycle Tire, Motorcycle Helmets KonTour Seat Options They offer many different combinations of rebuild types and options, including their “Bakup” driver’s back rests. An item of note is they accept personal checks, money orders or PayPal, but not credit cards. So what’s different about KonTour seats? It’s claimed to be a “patented, 6 layer, air cooled, infinitely adjustable, dampened, temperature regulated and breathable composite seat that utilizes the best characteristics of modern high tech materials and combines them to create the ultimate solution for motorcycle seat comfort”.
They also claim that the seats were designed by “a team of motorcycle test riders, a doctor, an automotive engineer, a commercial pilot and a human factors specialist to be the ultimate in comfort and luxury”. The seats are recovered using 6 layers, from the outside in: A breathable cover Breathable mesh Waterproofing and radiant heat barrier Vibration isolation and energy management Dampening and ergonomics OEM foam core and vibration control KonTour Seat Details The outer layer is a 100% polyester micro-fiber perforated fabric that reminds me of fine suede with tiny holes.
Nice and soft to the touch! This allows air and water to pass through. This fabric is claimed to be “incredibly durable” and requires only a periodical gentle brushing with a medium bristle brush to clean. Of course, covering the seat to protect it from the harmful rays of the sun, as with any material, will greatly extend the life. I always cover my bike to protect it from the sun. The second layer is the breathable mesh (see photo, left).
I took a close-up of this part because it’s quite unique — it looks like a thin sandwich made of tiny fibers on end between the two outer surfaces. They compress when squeezed, but they spring right back when released. This layer is supposed to provide a channel for water to drain, moisture to dissipate and fresh air to circulate. Layer three is an aluminized, rip stop, spun polyethylene fabric to provide water proofing for the padding, and it also blocks 70% of infrared radiant heat to help keep the seat cooler.
Cool — that means I don’t have to bother with a rain cover right? Not exactly, keep reading… The fourth layer is a ½” thick piece of foam that’s made up of tiny spheres to help isolate and redistribute the pressure points. Next is a 1” thick layer of military specification visco-elastic foam which is supposed to help respond to lower frequency vibrations and shock. This same material, they say, is used by NASA and in F-16 jets.
It’s also claimed to “provide a custom fit to your butt every time you mount your motorcycle….and… make changes in your seating position.” The final (bottom) layer consists of the OEM foam that has been custom cut to allow room to build the rest of the seat, but still retain the original shape and size so as to provide for excellent fit and finish. All of this is done on the stock seat pan as supplied by the owner.
Where to Buy Custom Motorcycle Seat Check Reviews & Prices on Amazon See More: Motorcycle Accessories, Motorcycle Tire, Motorcycle Helmets Warranty and Installation KonTour provides a lifetime warranty to the original owner if installed on a street bike. The warranty for a dual sport bike is 2 years or 24,000 miles. The warranty does not cover fading, which is pretty standard. I made the decision last June to have KonTour rebuild just the rider’s seat on my LT.
All contact is preferred via e-mail, which they were always very prompt in answering. The only physical information they need is the weight and inseam of the rider and/or passenger (this could get some of us guys in trouble when you ask your SO their weight). A couple of e-mails later Ron notified me they had an opening in their schedule coming up if I could get it to them the next week. I quickly packed it up and off it went.
Their stated time of turnaround is five days and true to their word, it was returned shortly after completion. On inspection I found the workmanship to be very good with no loose ends. The cover fit snug with no wrinkles or bunching. The covering was attached to the underside of my stock seat pan by screws with fixed washers, unlike the stock seat which was attached with staples, glue and plastic rivets which are not reusable.
My seat shape was not changed. KonTour does not “dish” their seats. They claim that “‘dishing’ a seat does create more surface area, but is a very small factor in creating a comfortable seat”. To say I was excited to try it out would be an understatement! Most saddles require a “break-in” period, but the KonTour does not. It’s supposed to conform to your anatomy in about 30 minutes.
The first time I tried it, I found it to be much firmer than the stock seat and very firm to hard when cold. It softens up with body heat and in cold weather they advise the owner to turn on the seat heater (if installed) for a minute or two to speed up the softening process. I waited until I had put some miles on the seat before I wrote this review, because I wanted to have a better overall opinion of its performance.
Riding With A KonTour Seat My “seat of the pants” (pun intended!) testing was very thorough, and included daily commuting through the summer and fall, consisting of a 100 mile per day, round-trip of about 50% slab and 50% back roads. I also went on some weekend outings and a two-up, two week road trip in September that covered 5,500 miles. The temperatures included from a low of 32 degrees F with snow in Yellowstone, Wyoming to 103 hot and humid degrees F here in the Baltimore-Washington area.
My longest day was 775 miles in 80 degree temps. So far I have about 13,000 miles on the seat and now feel I can report on my findings. So, how does it “feel”? Well, the pressure in my groin is still there. But my posterior does not get as hot as before. This also means it is cooler when the ambient temperatures drop. Not a problem for those with heated seats, but could be if you don’t have one.
Finally, I still get the burning sensation after a while in the seat, but it does take longer to arrive, and it still has me squirming after a couple of hours. All told, this is not as much of an improvement as I had hoped. By the way, about that rain thing: It seems the water does run off the third layer, but the upper layers will retain water. The way I found this out was after a summer shower rolled through during the middle of the day at work and I didn’t bother to cover the seat.
The seat is supposed to shed water and it would be several hours before I’d be heading home. The seat didn’t look wet, but it sure was when I headed home and so were my pants shortly after sitting down. The way to prevent this is first to make sure the seat is covered with something like a plastic bag. If not, it’s important to either blot the seat with a towel or stand the seat up vertically to let it drain.
I now keep a medium sized trash bag in the side case and it slip over the seat if it looks like it’s going to rain or have a heavy dew in the morning. Conclusions I’m pleased with the workmanship, fit and finish, but a bit disappointed with the performance of the seat in addressing my concerns in comfort. I had hoped to be able to put in longer days without the discomfort that I had with the stock BMW “comfort” seat.
Maybe it’s me, but I have logged lots of miles on the stock seat and I can offer a very good comparison. I was surprised to find the same levels of discomfort at about the same point with the KonTour seat. Comfort is such a personal thing, what one person finds to be very comfortable another may not. I have no plans to compete in the Iron Butt Rally, but if I did, my rump wouldn’t make it to the end of the first 1,000+ mile day.
However, your results may be different and a KonTour seat may help you keep slightly cooler in hot weather. More webBikeWorld: wBW Review: KonTour Custom Motorcycle Seat Manufacturer: KonTour Seat List Price (2005): $475.00 and up Colors: Varied Made In: U.S.A. Review Date: December 2005 Note: For informational use only. All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC since 2000.
All rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld® Site Info page. Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read the Terms and Conditions! Where to Buy Custom Motorcycle Seat Check Reviews & Prices on Amazon See More: Motorcycle Accessories, Motorcycle Tire, Motorcycle Helmets Owner Comments and Feedback Other WebBikeWorld Seat Posts wBW Seat Info More wBW Reviews