How to Choose a Motorcycle Seat

How to Choose a Motorcycle Seat

by Chris Rutter January 14, 2021

Finding the best motorcycle seat can depend on a variety of factors, including the type of bike as well as your height and strength. In this guide, we'll discuss tips for how to choose the seat that best suits your setup and comfort needs.

Understand the Parts of a Motorcycle Seat [list]

1. Understand the Parts of a Motorcycle Seat

Before delving into the different styles of motorcycle seats, we'll first discuss the different components of motorcycle seats: 

  • The pan: The pan, also known as the foundation, is what provides the seat with support. Pans are usually made of affordable and lightweight plastic, or steel, which is costlier and heavier. Because plastic flexes more, a poorly designed plastic pan can cause a seat to sag. Steel is rigid, providing more support. 
  • The foam: The foam inside a seat is what gives it its feel. Some makers use proprietary foams, whereas others add gels to their foam. Whether you need gel or not depends on your preference. The aim of the gel is to reduce vibrations, which in turn reduces fatigue. Keep in mind that the addition of gel usually increases the cost of the seat. 
  • The cover: High-quality saddles use either leather or marine-grade vinyl to protect the foam and pan. A cover must stand up to a variety of harsh elements, including weight, moisture, friction, UV light, chemicals and extreme temperatures, so your seat cover should be the highest quality possible. Vinyl tends to require less maintenance than leather, but leather tends to look more distinguished as it ages. 

2. Consider Motorcycle Seat Styles 

Motorcycle seats, particularly those made by Harley-Davidson, usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • One-piece seat: One-piece seats are composed of a single section and are the most common motorcycle seat available. 
  • Two-piece seat: The two-piece seat consists of two sections, the solo and the pillion pad. Some two-piece seats allow you to ride with only the solo. One advantage most two-piece seats offer is they allow you to store gear on the fender directly. This setup often allows interchangeability, meaning that if one person is uncomfortable, one of you can change your seat without the other having to change theirs. 
  • Extended solo: The extended solo is a solo seat that features a tail flowing into the fender. This seat is created largely for the sweeping lines that integrate with the bike. It offers sufficient padding on the fender to serve as a temporary seat for impromptu passengers. 
  • Sprung saddle: Similar to old-fashioned pogo seats, sprung saddles elevate the rider off the frame. They include springs between the frame and the seat pan, helping to isolate road shocks. Sprung saddles can have a variety of seat springs, including beehives and clothespin springs, that can affect your bike's overall look. 
  • King-and-queen: These enormous seats, which were all the rage in the '70s, are a spacious throne for you and a partner. 

3. Choose the Right Motorcycle Seat Height

The height of your bike seat is one of the most important considerations when picking and riding a motorcycle. Motorcycle seat height is defined as the distance from the ground to the motorcycle saddle's lowest point when the bike is positioned upright. This measurement can vary depending on the suspension settings. For example, a bike set up with more preload can sit higher and will settle less when you rest on the saddle. 

The simplest method for relating seat height to body type is by taking an inseam measurement, which is the measurement from your groin to the ground. Saddles are designed in an array of sizes, shapes and heights because every motorcycle type serves a different purpose and function. 

Due to a motorcycles' styling and engineering variables, saddles have different shapes, which affect your ability to reach the ground. The lowest seat heights tend to be found on cruisers because their engines are often narrow inline V-twins. These engines are located in front of the rider, leaving lots of room for the seat to be lower. 

Sportbikes usually have higher saddles because higher seats allow for more ground clearance, which in turn allows the bike to lean over more when turning. Sportbikes often feature multi-cylinder engines that are transversely mounted, which also forces the seat to be placed higher. 

Dual-purpose, off-road and supermoto motorcycles feature increased suspension travel, which is often great for smoothing out any surface irregularities. This also increases the elevation of the bike and the saddle. However, you should take seat height ratings of off-road motorcycles with a grain of salt. 

Many bike manufacturers advertise seat height measurements.

4. Remember to Factor in Saddle Shape

Many bike manufacturers advertise seat height measurements to make the seats seem lower than they actually are and attract more buyers. Some manufacturer websites even have filters that show bikes with the lowest seats. But these figures don't tell the whole story. 

This is because off-road motorcycles feature narrow seats, which allow riders to extend their legs more. Although the seats are tall, the figures for the seat height are somewhat misleading. The narrowness of the seats makes touching the pavement easier. Conversely, sportbikes tend to have saddles that are wider because the rider must sit over a multi-cylinder engine that is transversely configured. This width typically makes it more difficult to touch the ground, as the rider must stretch their legs around the large, flat area of the saddle. 

In summary, don't take seat height figures at face value. These values cannot substitute for sitting down on a bike and seeing how easily you can touch the ground. 

5. Test the Height for Functionality

What height is too high? While the ability to have both of your feet firmly planted on the ground is often reassuring, it is not a necessity. The most important thing is that your bike meets your comfort needs. The only way to be sure of that is by sitting on the bike in question. 

When trying out the bike, you'll notice that its weight will greatly affect your ability to keep it upright. Whereas you could probably hold up a light bike using just the tips of your toes, you may not be able to hold up a heavier bike unless you stand with flat feet. 

Come to Fat Head Cycles for all your Harley-Davidson needs.

Come to Fat Head Cycles for All Your Harley-Davidson Needs

If you're interested in learning more about our Harley-Davidson products or services, reach out to us byfilling out our online form. You can also schedule an appointment or request a quote. 

Chris Rutter
Chris Rutter


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