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Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

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Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 8:33 pm

Ok, done several seats at different times of my life, after a post by a fellow member thought I'd share my progress through modifying a Virago seat yourself. Is it cheaper than buying a Mustang or similar seat? Maybe? Depends on how much you have to pay to upholster it if you cannot sew. However it is definitely cheaper than getting a shop to custom make one for you. Especially considering my way you will get memory foam and a gell insert. On this particular seat before upholstery I have about $75 dollars in materials. A plain vinyl cover fit by an upholsterer in my area is around $120 bucks. So $195 plus time for a seat that you can say you made and custom fit to your size, and if done right will greatly extend your comfortable saddle time is a decent deal for me.

So this particular seat is for my newly acquired XV1000. I also did one for my 87 XV535, tho more rushed and cheaper. Got about 100 in that one, and it's not super pretty, but I can empty my tank twice before my butt gets sore, so that's a win in my book. Anyway, the seat pans are different, but the techniques are similar.

This particular build is to fit me, a taller person. The stock seating position is not comfortable at for my over 6 feet lanky long legged build. As shown in this picture. Sorry for the 90 degree rotation, mechanic work is my thing, not computer LOL.
Image


I also am not a fan of forward controls. I know some people like them, to each their own, I don't so that leaves me with modifying the seat.
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

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1985 xv1000
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 8:50 pm

Breaking this up into parts to be more manageable for me.

So now the process.

First materials. I have used a ton of different foams, of different densities, and finally mostly settled on a couple options that keep a high level of bang for the buck. First is running down to the local Walmart or equivalent and picking up a seat pad or two from the automotive section. For this particular build I picked up 1 memory foam with gel insert for 19 bucks, and one just memory foam for 12. You'll look at them and go WOW too big, but after trimming they will be just fine. They are also fairly thick. Which raises the seat - which if you remember my seating position is part of what I am after. I also started using yoga mat material as a base. Works great, just the right amount of give, and available in different thicknesses, tho I usually stick with the half inch. Don't sweat the color, it will get covered anyway, tho theoretically if you liked the color you could use it as a final surface, they are waterproof, tho I do not know how they would hold up to sun. I picked this one up from a used sporting goods store for 19.99. I have also scored them at second hand shops and garage sales for as little as 1 dollar.

Image

Image

You will also need a thin layer of craft store foam (useless for any other part of this build) as a top layer to smooth over the imperfections that might show through whatever you use to cover the seat at the end. I got mine at walmart craft section for $7 dollars for a roll that will do 2 seats.

I use 3m spray adhesive, there are cheaper alternatives, wally world has some, so do others, but I can get the 3m delivered to my shop so I splurge a bit here. You can use any glue you like really that will dry a bit flexible, I even sometimes use weatherstrip adhesive in spots.

If you modify the pan you may need some rivets (what I use) or other fastener of your choice and a bit of sheet metal - though you could fiberglass it if you are handy with fiberglass, which would give you a cleaner look. It's hidden anyway so I didn't care, and I don't have the patience for good fiberglass work most of the time.

Tools. This can be done with basic hand tools, tho a few power tools come in handy for speed, and some sort of power grinder or drill is a must. I use my air die grinder, but you can use an electric or a sand paper bit in a drill, or whatever you have. A way to cut the foam, a serrated knife works fine, an electric carving knife (a la turkey) works great, a saw, etc, play with what you have, the material is not tough. Some plyers, a screw driver, and a wrench to remove the seat. If you modify the pan a tougher saw that will cut hard plastic, some metal shears or other way to cut metal, and rivet gun or whatever. There are some pics of the tools in my album, but I assume you will be familiar with those, and you'll see them in some of the process pics.
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

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1985 xv1000
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 8:57 pm

I'm going to assume you can get the seat off. Looks like this at the start.Image

Get it off and start pulling staples. Pliers and a screwdriver come in handy.
Image

Looks like this after
Image
You may or may not have the plastic moisture barrier. Strip that off, then you may or may not have a thin foam layer with holes for the buttons.
Image

Strip that off and you get this
Image

The foam may then come off with no effort, or it may have a spot or 2 glued to the seat frame. Or if someone like me has been at it, it may be glued down pretty thoroughly, tho hopefully if the seat has already been modified you do not need to do this.
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

rhuarc1
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1985 xv1000
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:12 pm

Now the problem for us taller folks is that slant in the middle, and maybe even a bit more, and if you are tall and like to sit back the seat pan can interfere with how much room you have to work. Shown here.

Image

So next I set it all back together and put my butt on the seat in a spot that approximates how far back I need to sit to be comfy (and height). You can also lower the seat this way, though be careful losing to much padding.

You can see here where I put the saw after marking how far back I wanted to be. Happened to conveniently be on an existing line, making a straight cut pretty easy.
Image

Word to the wise here. Have a breathing mask, especially if you are using power tools for cutting and shaping. Foam bits go EVERYWHERE.
Image

Anyway, you can see how much I cut it back here, it does shorten the passenger area a bit, but I like my passenger to be cosied up on me anyway :cl: The stock foam WILL go back on, so don't toss it, I just pulled it here to demonstrate the next point.

Image

If you look closely that bump in the seat pan is going to be an issue for me moving the seat back, especially after cutting the hump off the back of the driver seat.

Image

the purpose of this is to give a level spot to start building foam and set it back to my comfort spot. Also while part of the goal is building a bit of height, I don't want to build more than I need. If you are even taller than me leave the hump in and build over it. I need to cut it out, and luckily there is space there around the frame to do so. So we mark it and cut it.

Image

Image

Image

Image
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

rhuarc1
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1985 xv1000
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:22 pm

So now you are thinking, hey there John, I don't want to sit on my fender, or have weakened my seat pan that much, or have foam falling out. No worries, this is wear the sheet metal and rivets I mentioned come in.

Image

Mark it, cut it, bend it, don't worry about not having a sheet metal brake, I used my shop vice, in a pinch some clamps and a piece of wood work too.

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

You are going to make several cuts and bends, ending up with something like this after you finish persuading it with shears and hammer as well as riveting into place.

Image

As mentioned earlier you could do the same thing with fiberglass. This process took me about thirty minutes. Fiberglass takes day(s) to dry. I'm not that into waiting.

Put the foam back on and Image
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

rhuarc1
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1985 xv1000
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:36 pm

So now the foam.
Cut a piece of your yoga mat to wrap around the front half of the seat LEAVE SOME EXTRA TO HANG OVER, its easier to trim it later than cut it short now. You don't HAVE to do this step, but I found the seat cushion thick as it was to be a bid hard right on the back where it sat on the metal, your results may vary. This also helps widen the seat, which helps weight distribution. There is a reason most aftermarket seats spread wide at the back after all. Wrap it around as a test fit, then spray both the surface of the yoga mat and the surface of the seat with adhesive, wait 30 seconds per adhesive instructions, and wrap it tight, carefully, it is hard to move it once its set. Wrap and smooth, wrap and smooth, firm pressure all over the mat. It will stretch a bit for curves so it's pretty good.
Image
Image

Trim it to fit the pan AFTER the glue has set up nicely, just takes a couple of minutes. The pic here shows scissors, but honestly I used my air saw for quick work.
Image
Image

Take your purchased seat pad out of the cover it came in
Image

and set it on the seat
Image

as you can see here it came with a curved back, like for a car seat. You can build that in if you like, or trim it to sit flush like I did here. This pad was too think for scissors, I used my air saw, but any serrated blade will do.

Image

At this point I should point out. SAVE YOUR SCRAPS. You can use many of them later to fill in gaps or position other places. Waste not want not.

I'm also falling asleep at the keyboard. I've got more pics in the album and started a second one. I'm about 3/4 done as far as pics, maybe half done typing, maybe a bit less. Pretty busy weekend, I'll come back to finish as I can after the weekend.
Last edited by rhuarc1 on Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
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Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: Jake » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:49 am

I don't have a comment on the way you've modified the seat as I haven't read it in it's entirety, but I do have a comment on the way you wrote it.

You have done an excellent job of utilizing your VTF album and using thumbnails.

I comment you sir, I wish others would do the same !

:GJ: :GJ: :GJ:

Great job ! Thank you !
Forum Tutorials can be found here http://viragotechforum.com/viewforum.php?f=177

Forward Control Templates ( FREE ) http://viragotechforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=124&t=21556


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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:56 am

Thanks Jake.

Now seems like a good time to pause on the construction and discuss design and fit concerns. I am spelling out here how to modify this seat for ME. If you are a couple inches over 6 feet with long legs and a liking for your feet directly under your knees or maybe an inch or two forward, this will work pretty well as is. If not you may need to modify a few places.

Things to keep in mind:
1. Most seats will be more comfortable/secure higher in the front than the rear. Helps keep you from sliding forward among other things. How much of a slope is up to you.
2. It is easier to take more foam out than to have to add it back in most times, so when experimenting just take off a bit at a time until you get the hang of it.
3. its not a huge deal if you screw that up, adding foam isn't very hard, until you run out LOL.
4. Weight distribution. Most stock seats are uncomfortable for long rides because they focus too much load in one spot. Spread it out. Especially in the back. In a few steps I'm going to show how to make the seat wider than the pan if you need it. I do.
5. CONSTANTLY Trial fit. Set the seat on the bike and try the position, throw some thing on it to change the height if you need, get the appropriate postion, then figure out how to get there with foam. Layering is great.
6. Don't go to soft! the seat needs to support, and super soft foam will end up with your butt on the pan which hurts. one of the reasons I reuse as much stock foam as possible. Then firm foam at the bottom (IE the yoga matt) softer as you go up. Softest layer will be on top, just a thin coating.
Lot's of other thoughts, but mainly remember, this is custom FOR YOU. Take your time, make it fit you. If it's not right, try again. You don't have to upholster it right away. Wrap it in some cloth, set the seat on and go for a ride. Make adjustments, then do it again.

Ok, some quick diagrams for different options:

Maybe you just hate that sloped seat and want that part gone, but other than that its about right, well then you can just cut like this.
Image
You might not even have to add too much foam for that, though the back would get a bit thin so I would recommend at least 1 layer either just layed on top, or wrapped like I did with the yoga mat.

Maybe you aren't as tall so just want to get rid of that slant for a little more back support, you could add foam like this.
Image
*note I still cute out a little for the slope, but that's a personal thing.*

Here is a horrible drawing of what weight distribution might look like on the seat. A poor design will narrow the contact points, focusing pressure, while a good design and foam will spread the contact points out, spreading pressure out.
Image

A good way to think about this is like hitting something with a hammer. If you hit a nail with a nice pointy end it focuses all the pressure there and penetrates - which if it is your skin hurts. Spread that out and hit a 2 by 4 block of wood and it absorbs the blow much better and does not penetrate because it spreads the impact out.
So an uncomfortable design will be a bit too firm and focus pressure along the red lines. A much more comfortable design will spread the pressure out across the width of your hips and legs. Hence the firm base to spread the load, then the memory foam lets you sink in a bit and spreads it out across the entire legs/hips rather than just the center.

You'll also need to keep in mind how much this will affect your passenger seat. I don't ride double all that often, so I considered it, but was not my main focus. Though I will address it some later on, you'll notice I shortened the area considerably. Better be cozy with your passenger. If you do not have a sissy it is entirely possible to extend that back a bit to make it longer and compensate a bit. I did it on my 535 seat, then added the sissy, then modified the sissy.

That's all I've got time for today, the kid has a playoff game, so I'm off to cheer.
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:25 pm

Ok, back to it.

When I left off I had just trimmed the back of my seat pad to sit flush where I had cut the seat. An alternative there would be to cut/grind your seat into a curve to match the cushion. I had a plan further out that made that the easier option.

So next I glued the cushion to the seat and let it set up.
Image

Full disclosure. After all my telling you to test and fit repeatedly, in the course of doing that I put the bike in a way that it was not sitting level. So I glued it on and later, after a few steps thought it was wrong because the bike was not level. So I had to pull it back off, change stuff, glue it back on, then later took the bike for a ride and realized the not level mistake and had to make some more corrections. Sigh. I'll go into it more later.

Then I started looking at the rear seat, and thinking ahead, and decided I wanted to level it out a bit to fit the cushion to be added later better. so I trimmed the stock foam back at the dove tail like this.
Image

Then I built the passenger seat up with a couple layers of the yoga mat. First layer to build some height and fill in part of what I trimmed out.
Image

Second layer to finish building height, fill in the rest of the trimmed duck tail, and widen the rear seat the a bit for more comfort and support before adding the soft pad.
Image

Speaking of adding width, next I needed to add some support for my front seat cushion along the sides, as you can see that even with the added width it was still wider than the seat, and the full width sure added a lot of comfort for me so I did not want to cut it back
Image
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

rhuarc1
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:39 pm

BUUUUUTTTT ... then I made my aforementioned mistake. If you remember I said earlier that the seat should slant up toward the front for security, well because the bike was not level I thought it slanted up too much. So I pulled the seat back off to grind down some of the yoga mat.

Here is where I pulled it off, you can see my first layer of support for the flair out of the cushion, I extended it all the way back to widen the rear even more.
Image

Here you can see the a simulation of the view I was looking at the fooled me into thinking it slanted up too much, as well as where I marked it to be ground down a bit.
Image

here it is ground down
Image

and here the whole thing, where I evened it out across the back as well
Image

You can't see it very well, but along the way I also decided I would like the middle of the seat to be slight lower than the outside edges, so the green mat is ground slightly lower in the middle, and I also flipped over the cushion and did the same to it
Image
Image
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Thu Nov 02, 2017 8:01 pm

I didn't get a great pic, but you can imagine it the cushion just sits a hair further down in the center, and about half an inch lower in the front (sigh, mistake).

Anyway, moving on. If you remember way back I said save your scraps? Here is one reason why.
I wanted more back rest for the front seat, so I took a chunk I had cut from the original seat.
Image

marked it and trimmed it
Image

so it fit like this
Image

Then I took my other pad that I bought at wally world (the 11 dollar one) and marked it and trimmed it to fit the back seat.
Image

then glued it into place.
Image
You can't see it very well, but I left intact the bump in the middle that is supposed to be ergonomic for tail bone support. My lady sometimes gets tender there, so thinking ahead.

Then I used a combination of grinding and gluing in little scraps to fill in and smooth over the bigger gaps
Image

I then further smoothed it out by covering the wrapping the whole thing in thin (1/4 inch) craft foam. I picked this up at a fabric store this time, last time at wally world.
Image

Then wrapped the whole thing in a thin moisture barrier, I just used a cheap garbage back.
Image
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

rhuarc1
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1985 xv1000
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Thu Nov 02, 2017 8:15 pm

Right about now is when I realized my mistake.Image

Particularly after taking it for a ride and the slick plastic moisture barrier, plus the lack of uptick at the front had me sliding forward on the seat.

At this point I had a couple options, I could tear it all back apart ... but the glue was really seat, so I took option 2 and just tore off the moisture barrier and added a bit more foam at the front.

First a riser in the middle to give it contour and lift the center more than the edges.
Image

You can see I am using the yoga mat for this, and the next piece, because I am not sitting here, I want it to be firmer to give me some resistance if I slide forward.

Then I put a wider piece cut to fit over it, and contoured it in with the grinder.
Image

I took it for another ride and was MUCH happier. I think that is pretty much the finished product for now. I did have my lady sit on the back with me, and she was very happy as well, she fit, though it was cozy as I mentioned above (sssshhhhh, she is not a small girl), and the extra width and cushioning gave her a lot more support.

At this point, when you have gotten the seat where you are happy with it. Time to get it covered. If you don't know what you are doing find an upholsterer. I usually do. If you have done very contoured shapes like I have make sure they know how to work with fabric pulls (fixing a string of some kind to the cover and pulling it through the padding to a washer or something on the other side to pull the fabric into the contour).
I have paid anywhere from 60 to 120 for this service for fairly plain covering, if you want custom touches it will go up.

This time I think I may try and do it myself, I found a stretch vinyl that seems much more forgiving. If I do, I'll post some progress of that. If I use an upholsterer I'll post some pics of the finished product.

One note. You may notice the finished product sits a little higher in the front by the tank. Some of that was due to the screw up, but part of it was intentional as well, as I plan on doing a custom tank set up with some Fat Bob tanks in the future.

Hope this helps anyone who wants to delve into this kind of project. It's really fairly easy, just a bit of time, trial and error.

John
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
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Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: eslmatt » Fri Nov 03, 2017 2:21 am

wow this truly is a great write up on how to customize a seat.

Thank you for the work you put into this. When the mechanics of my bike are fixed I will start working on the comfort.
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:45 pm

Before and after seating position shots.
before
Image


after
Image

As you can see a much more comfortable seating position, and if you look close at the after pic I didn't even have my boot heel all the way against the peg. At my height it is almost a forward control feel, tho not quite. For 6' 5 and up it will be close to an ankle under knee position.
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
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Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

rhuarc1
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: rhuarc1 » Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:50 pm

eslmatt wrote:wow this truly is a great write up on how to customize a seat.

Thank you for the work you put into this. When the mechanics of my bike are fixed I will start working on the comfort.


Thanks

Hope it helps. I know I m a ton happier, especially on the highway.
1987 XV535
1985 XV1000
Image
Plus a ton of vehicles - insurance poor is a thing

rhuarc1
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1985 xv1000
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Re: Modifying a seat for size and comfort at home PIC HEAVY

PostAuthor: paulmgracee » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:04 pm

Really good how to . Having the same problems with seating, i know what I'm doing over the winter. Thanks for sharing :thanks:

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