While most of us might not have the skills to rebuild an engine or transmission, reupholstering a motorcycle seat cover is a project within reach of the average Do-It-Yourselfer.
In the March/April 2010 issue of Motorcycle Classics, we show you how to recover the seat on a 1973 Yamaha TX650. We chose associate editor Landon Hall’s Yamaha because it uses a retaining system similar to many other bikes of the period, with simple metal barbs stamped into the seat pan that pierce the fabric and hold it in place. Exercising patience and working carefully, we achieved excellent results with our new cover from Saddlemen. Frankly, given the somewhat decrepit shape of the underlying seat foam, it turned out even better than we hoped.
But not all seats are created equal, as we learned when we turned our attention to recovering the seat on editor Backus’ 1982 Kawasaki GPz 750. Instead of the Yam’s metal seat base, the GPz uses a molded plastic base. And instead of metal barbs to pierce the fabric, the cover is stapled in place at the factory. That didn’t seem much of an issue until we discovered the plastic base is too hard to pierce with a standard stapler. Using an electric stapler and a heavy duty hand stapler, we could get staples to just pierce into the seat base, but never far enough to securely hold the fabric. What to do?
Looking for a way to nail the fabric in place, we played with a couple of ideas, including fabric tack strips for furniture. Eventually, we decided to simply screw the fabric in place, using 3/8-inch #8 flathead sheet metal screws with finish washers. The 3/8-inch length was important to ensure the screws wouldn’t go all the way through the plastic, and the finish washers ensured the screws wouldn’t turn on the fabric, which would bunch up the fabric. Although not factory correct, it worked perfectly well, and you wouldn’t know the difference without removing the seat and looking at the underside.
Other than that, it was a fairly straight-forward proposition, although frankly, we’re not 100 percent happy with the final results. Unlike the Yamaha seat, which has a fairly flat, slightly crowned profile, the Kawasaki seat has a small lip at the front followed by a mild step up in the foam from front to back and ending with yet another small lip at the rear. Try as we might, we could never quite get the fabric to pull tight where the seat foam rises, and now that we’re done, we wonder if we shouldn’t go back, remove the cover and use some adhesive to hold the cover tight to the foam. The Saddlemen cover matched the original perfectly in all critical dimensions, so we think the problem was one of experience, not product. Even so, there’s no denying it looks fabulous compared to the ratty, torn and weathered cover we started with.
To see how we worked out way through our GPz seat just scroll to the top of this page and click on the “Image Gallery” icon to the right of the opening photo, then click through the photos.