Re-covering Your Motorcycle Seat
Applies to any motorcycle. (Or ATV, snowmobile, PWC etc.)
Written and photographed by "Jethro", a supporter of theGSresources.com, who probably just wanted an excuse to show off his sweeeeet GS1100ED!
The first seat I recovered was on my 81 1100E. I used a bar-b-que cover that I bought at the hardware store for $12. It was better than the duct tape wrapped seat I had, but still pretty ugly. I ended up buying a Travelcade Double Bucket seat cover kit and installed that. It came out great, but I felt it really detracted from the style of the bike.
A few weeks ago I bought an 83 1100ED. It had a small tear in the seat at a seam near the tank. I could tell it was going to get worse, so I ordered a seat cover kit from Sargent Cycle in Florida. I was on the phone for about 10 minutes discussing options, and I decided to go with an all black standard model. It has a textured fabric and is said to be cooler in the summer. It was $59 plus about $8 shipping. About 10 days and the cover was here.
Here is the old seat:
See the spreading seam? It looks like a white line near the tank. On this style seat, if it is going to tear, it will happen there.
The first step is to get your tools ready. Here is my suggested supply list:
Next, remove the seat from the bike and put it upside down on your work surface.
The 83 model 1100ED has a plastic pan and the cover is attached with staples. Some are metal and fastened with notches cut into the pan to create sharp pitons. I'm describing the process for the plastic pan, but the only difference with the metal pan is the method of fastening. So, pull all the staples out with the screwdriver and needle nose pliers. When you have them all out, don't just tear the cover off, because there might be glue holding down the rear of the cover. You can see the glue on the foam here.
See the dark spot on the rear of the seat foam? This contact cement is 21 years old and hard as a rock. I carefully cut the foam just below the glue as I pulled the cover off. Small inconsistencies in the foam will not show in the final product.
The kit comes with a vapor barrior in the form of some very thin plastic. Lay this over the seat and cut off the excess leaving about 6 inches around the edge of the seat. Then take the spray adhesive and lightly coat the foam and apply the plastic to the foam. It doesn't have to be perfect - small folds and wrinkles will never show up.
Next turn the new cover inside out and position on top of the foam as best you can. This is where I used the heat gun - a hair dryer works ok too. The cover comes through the mail folded up and the creases are pretty stubborn. The heat really helps make the cover really workable, and when it cools it shrinks a little bit making the cover a little tighter. Here, the cover is in position and being heated:
Now it's time to start stapling. this takes some finesse, but the thing to remember is that you can always remove the staples and start over again. Fold the cover over the front of the seat and put a single staple through the edge of the cover into the seat pan. Then pull the cover fairly tight over the back edge of the seat, keeping in mind the center line of the cover in respect to the seat pan, and put another single staple on the back.
This is what you should have with two staples:
Now do the same with a single staple in each side:
Now you are ready to staple around the rest of the cover. Put a staple every 1/2" or so, more if you feel necessary, all while pulling the cover nice and tight. I reheated the cover periodically during this step - it really helped make the cover more flexable. At the rounded corners you will need to fold the edge over itself and then fasten with the staples. Remember, you can always pull the staples and re-adjust if nessecary. It should now look like this:
This is how my seat came out. It looks great:
I've only put a few mile on it since the job was finished, but it seems really durable and comfortable. I think it really updates the look of the bike and I'm really happy with the outcome. Hopefully this will convince some of you that recovering that ratty old seat yourself is no problem!