The problems with motorcycle seats can be grouped into two categories. The first is the foam. It’s usually too soft, too thin, too hard or a paradoxical combination of all three. The other problem is shape. The seats are often shaped by designers, who are more concerned with keeping the bike’s flowing lines intact than rider’s rumps comfy. As a result, the seats slope their riders down into the tank (which reminds me of a joke I read in CityBike many years ago—how is a bad motorcycle seat like a cheap hotel? No ballroom! Bah-rump-pump!), lock them into one position, or put too much pressure on any given point. Any one of those can be worse than hard or thin foam.
So what to do? Luckily, there are suppliers of aftermarket seats, simple, drop-in solutions that can not only save your ass, har, har, but can add a dash of style and even extra comfort features. I had a chance to test two of the best-known names on my 2010 Triumph Street Triple R, which isn’t equipped with the worst seat, but like most moto-mounts, is only good for an hour or two before the butt-hurt creeps in. Let’s see how much better the aftermarket can do.
Corbin has been a well-known name in aftermarket saddles since AMA Hall-of-Famer Mike Corbin started making them full time in 1968. Corbin’s career has been controversial—recall the Sparrow electric three-wheeler of the late ’90s—but his brilliance isn’t: Corbin and his company hold more than 70 patents, including three for the “Comfort Cell” foam used in the seats.
You can get a Corbin seat two ways. The easiest is to just get on the phone (800/538-7035) or Internet (corbin.com) and order a ready-made or custom seat. The company makes seats for hundreds of sport, standard, cruiser, touring, dual-sport and other machines, and you can specify different colors and types of vinyl, leather, stitching, welting, covers and accessories like removable backrests (for rider and passenger) or clever built-in storage compartments.
The other way to get a Corbin is to…go to Corbin. The 82,000 square-foot factory, nestled among the artichoke fields of Hollister, offers a comfortable hang-out area where you can sit and read back issues of CityBike while you wait for your seat to be made from your exact measurements. A technician even looks at you on your bike, and then brings the pan and foam back out several times until you’re happy with the fit and feel. After that, they cover and stitch the seat.
I opted for the ready-made one. I’ve had Corbin saddles before, so I knew what to expect: perfect, easy fit (the latch is pre-installed and it fits as easily as stock) firm, supportive foam that feels hard at first and then gently molds to your tush. There are no hot spots, no sharp feeling along your thigh, and though the initial comfort level is somewhat less than a stock saddle, after an hour it’s exactly as comfortable as when you first got on—and it doesn’t change much from there. And since the foam doesn’t break down, you’re likely to have the seat until the vinyl or leather rips with little degradation in comfort.
Another advantage of the Corbin approach is its broad, supportive design, made possible by the stiff, heavy Fibertech seat pan. It does add weight to the bike (as well as a touch of seat height, which can be customized for us shorties), but it fits as nicely (nicer, says the company) as stock and makes the seat wider, longer and cups your buns nicely.
I’m very happy with the seat and know I could ride for many, many miles before needing a break. However, I’m not a fan of the tuck-n-roll stitching that makes my formerly thuggy-looking streetfighter look like a refugee from Sturgis—or Great Grandma Minnie’s dinette set. Corbin says the stitching is necessary because of the seat’s broad shape—the cover will bunch up and look funny otherwise. The seat can’t be equipped with a backrest—not enough meat on its bones—but does support the Triumph accessory solo cover.
At $419, including leather seating panels, the Corbin seat is a good value—especially considering everything but the covering is warranted for the original owner for life. The rumble-seat style cover is irritating, but only visually—you can’t see it when you’re riding, and we all know that’s what matters.
Corbin’s just a young pup compared to Sargent’s 80-year history. Started in 1935 as an auto upholsterer, the Florida company has been re-covering motorcycle seats since the early 1990s. In 1996, the company spun off as a separate entity offering the World Sport Performance Seat.
Sargent offers a lightweight basepan made with its “CarbonTec” plastic/polymer alloy. It’s remarkably light—much lighter than the Corbin, and isn’t as flexible or cheap feeling as the stock Triumph pan. It’s also ready for the solo cowl, and you can specify custom trim colors and cover materials. Also of interest—Sargent’s “Fine Wire” heated seat upgrade ($200 for both seats, $150 for just the rider, also available as a do-it-yourself kit for $180), a one-millimeter-thick pad that sits under the cover and roasts your buns up to 125 degrees, if you need that.
The seat I received for my Street Triple ($410, $610 with heat, additional for custom welts, fabrics, etc.) was beautifully finished and as light as I expected, even with the heating pad pre-installed. It went in and fit as easily as the Corbin. The seating position isn’t as spacious, but it’s better than other Sargent’s seats I’ve owned (and also customizable). The “Atomic Foam” is dense, yet comfortable, similar to Corbin’s product, although it doesn’t seem to take as many miles to break in. It also sits a half inch lower than stock, where the Corbin adds a little height.
The heated seat is a fine thing. It wires into the battery with an included harness (with a switched wire to prevent killing your battery when the ignition is off) and draws just two amps. The 10-position controller unit can be mounted anywhere on the bike (I put mine on my left switchpod), uses a pair of up and down buttons that are easily worked with gloved hands, and remembers the heat setting when you switch it off. The pad heats up quickly and is one of those “why didn’t I have this 10 years ago” kinds of things.
You can check out the over 80 motorcycle models Sargent’s makes ready-made seats for (many more cruiser models are served by Sargent’s Mustang division) or check out the custom seat program if your ride is too old or weird at sargentcycle.com. You can also call 800/749-7328.