Creating a Custom Motorcycle Seat

Crafting custom motorcycle seat upholstery not only gives you the chance to stretch your upholstery skills with exotic materials like alligator and hippo.
Many owners of high-end motorcycles prefer—or, indeed, expect—their upholsterers to have a designer’s eye for matching colors, materials and adornments.

The custom seat business isn’t exclusively focused on pricey and uber-exotic seats. Other niches within this market include restoring or duplicating vintage motorcycle seats, modifying seats to fit riders with unusual builds, and making covers to protect them from inclement weather.

While seat makers edge into the field in different ways, they all share two things: passion for motorcycles and a specific angle or niche..

Exotic hides are also harder to stretch and shape around the foam—vinyl is much more pliable

Seat covers can be decorated with an assortment of hardware and techniques, including sewn designs, hand-tooling, saddle stitching, hand lacing, fringe, rivets and studs.

Stock seats can be augmented with gel cushions or completely rebuilt using specialty materials that absorb shocks and mold to fit the rider’s body. Such materials include gel pads, memory foam—available in different densities—and even ultra-lightweight “air-frothed elastomer gel” called Air2Gel.

The most popular seat materials are leather or vinyl and there is a range of quality within each of these categories. Riders should choose the material that best meets their needs, preferences and budget.

Leather is more likely to be used by a smaller seat builder. It is premium priced and can be dyed in a variety of colors. Consider the type of riding you will be doing, where the bike will be stored, how long you want the seat to last and how much time you will devote to maintaining the leather on your seat. Many of us have leather jackets, gloves, purses, briefcases or leather seats in our cars, but few people leave these leather items outside, exposed to the elements.

Many major aftermarket manufacturers build seats with a vinyl cover. Depending on the grade, vinyl can be surprisingly similar to leather. The highest-quality expanded vinyl has the appearance of leather but has the durability and resistance to the elements that exceed original equipment standards for motorcycle seats. Maintenance shouldn’t ever be an issue with a premium vinyl — no fading, no treating or oiling. Just wipe it clean when you wash your bike. Unlike leather, top-grade vinyl will not dry out and crack, nor do you need to worry about it getting wet. It doesn’t fade and it requires practically no maintenance.

While some riders like a custom motorcycle seat that are plain, others prefer the look of decorative studs and Conchos on their seats. The best studs to use are chrome-plated brass that won’t rust. Top-quality Conchos are made of heavy die-cast zinc (not a thin stamping) and are hand tied with genuine leather straps.

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