It’s been sixteen years since I migrated from the East Coast to the Left Coast leaving behind family, friends, and familiarity. Since then I’ve made numerous trips back to the Eastern Seaboard on a variety of airlines, most with at least one layover. Of all the different flights I’ve been on there’s always one common denominator – I’m sitting in coach.
I’m usually in the middle seat, wedged in between some morbidly obese person who last bathed in the Ganges River and a poster child for Halitosis who talks incessantly. This, combined with a unique form of restless leg syndrome that only affects me on flights lasting more than an hour, makes for a very unpleasant experience. To add insult to injury, exiting the plane through first class I’m forced to admire the wide plush seats – seats constructed with large chunks of thick foam, wrapped in leather that hasn’t been farted on by thousands of people. Or if it has, it’s been farted on rich people. Their gas smells like Grey Poupon.
I might never be able to afford a seat in first class when I fly, but thanks to Seat Concepts I now have a first class seat aboard my motorcycle. I might even go so far as to say it feels like upgrading from coach to a seat on Air Force One, although (sadly) without the complimentary booze or ‘interns’.
As I previously stated in another post, the stock seat on my DRZ400 is slightly wider than a two-by-four and about as comfortable as a bar stool. Yes I can sit on it all day long, but without the benefit of alcohol I really don’t want to. Because of this, I’ve turned down long over-night rides and extended multiday excursions. I know that after 6 or 7 hours of having my butt planted in the OEM saddle’s mediocre foam, I’ll be hobbling around like some penitentiary pillow biter. While Seat Concepts’ products have several design features that increase comfort and extend seat time, it all starts with the foam.
There’s a vast array of foam available for just about every application imaginable. In fact, there’s such a wide variety that a four digit numerical rating system is used to distinguish density and firmness. A good example of this is a cheap couch cushion, which might have a rating somewhere around 1825. The density of the foam is measured at 1.8, the firmness at 25. Although furniture makers have the luxury of adding a taller cushion to increase comfort, motorcycle seats can only be so thick before platform shoes or drywall stilts are required to touch the ground. The simple solution is to compensate for (lack of) depth with a higher rated foam that provides increased density and/or firmness, offering better support and recoil.
Unfortunately, Seat Concepts doesn’t have a rating for their foam so it can’t be compared to a padded toilet seat or IKEA couch based on numbers alone. They don’t use a rating because their foam is unique to their products and made to their exact specifications. When I inquired about their foam’s rating I received a short, vague reply. I got the impression that the formula for Seat Concepts’ foam is a closely guarded secret – like the recipe for Coke or Kentucky Fried Chicken.
So I showed the Seat Concepts foam base to my local upholsterer hoping he could provide me with an educated guess as to what it might be rated at. Gently squeezing the pearl white foam in his hands brought a smile to his face. ‘This is good stuff’ he said, moving his hands up and down the mold. ‘This is really good stuff’ he said, obviously getting more excited. ‘I would guess this is somewhere around a 2560.’ He was squeezing the foam harder and faster now, staring at it intensely. ‘This has characteristics like memory foam!’ he exclaimed. ‘It might be a 2570! Maybe even higher!’ At this point he was basically fondling my seat – he was also sweating lightly with a perverse smile on his face. I quickly grabbed my seat and left.
When it comes down to it, the foam rating doesn’t really matter. The proof is in the pudding – or in this case maybe compressed NASA grade Marshmallow Fluff. Initially, I was skeptical of how firm the seat was. Somehow over the years I’ve come to associate comfort with softness – probably some Freudian thing in my subconscious, or maybe I saw Mr Whipple feeling up too many rolls of Charmin Toilet Paper as a kid.
Either way, when I first hopped on for a test ride I was surprised at how firm the seat was. It was perfect for the street but I thought this might be a negative characteristic when I hit the dirt. Surprisingly it turned out to be the opposite. The denser, firmer foam absorbed more of the high speed hits on flat-out roads and the sudden jarring impacts on technical trails. In fact it almost works too well – on tight single track I found myself getting lazy and sitting down more than I usually do.
Although the foam is the biggest standout feature, the seat’s shape is a close second. Wide and ergonomic in the back for the long haul, the seat tapers in significantly in the front. This caters perfectly to a Dual Sport’s split personality, allowing the rider to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride or scoot up into the pocket, squeeze the tank with his knees, and attack a trail. The wider design did have one inconsequential negative for me – the extra width means that straddling the bike while stopped my legs are further apart, which causes me to stand almost on my tip toes. Positioning myself at the very front of the seat alleviated this.
This was really the only negative point for me. The people who are going have the biggest issues with Seat Concepts’ products are those that demand instant gratification. These seats shouldn’t be ordered on a whim and aren’t plug and play. That means – do your homework. Seat Concepts offers multiple seat heights (for most seats), foam options for feather weight or heavy riders, and a variety of covers. If you’re uncertain what product will work for you or are wondering if something can be tweaked shoot them an email.
It also means when you order one of their products you get the foam and the cover, not the pan. Don’t expect to pull it out of the box and bolt it on your bike – it has to be installed, which will cost you a bit more. You do have options; Seat Concepts can install it (send them your seat pan and an additional $20), take it somewhere locally, or you can do it yourself. If you go the DIY route there’s a simple set of instructions included and a visual reference video available on You Tube. Seat Concepts recommends using a cheap air stapler from Harbor Freight (AKA Chinese Tools) if you don’t already have one in your scrapbooking room.
How great is this product? It won’t rid your lawn of Dandelions or put your kid through medical school, but it will provide a touch of luxury and a ton of ergonomic support. This easily translates into less fatigue and more seat time. If there’s a downside to this seat it’s the fact that it requires a little due diligence when selecting a seat and some patience – unless you decide to do it yourself there’s going to be some downtime for your bike. I chose to have it installed by my local upholsterer, which took quite a while. It was almost as if he didn’t want to let go of it.