Kawasaki Seat Recovery

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This is what we started with. Pretty typical for an almost-30-year-old motorcycle that's spent plenty of time out in the elements.
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The first step was to remove the old staples securing the original cover to the plastic seat base. This was easily done with a screwdriver gently pushed under the staples, wriggling sideways to pull the staple up.
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A pair of needle nose pliers came in handy to help pull out tight staples.
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After removing all the staples from one side, we gently pulled the cover back to inspect the seat foam. Fortunately, it was in good shape and didn't stick to the old cover.
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With one side done we worked around the back of the seat and back to the front. It really doesn't matter where you start or which direction you go.
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With all the staples removed we were ready to remove the cover completely. We worked slowly, to make sure we didn't damage the foam core.
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Here's the seat with the old cover completely removed. Fortunately, the foam's in great shape.
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Next, we draped our new seat cover over the seat base and gently warmed it with a hair dryer. You want the new material to be at room temperature; best is around 75 degrees F.
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As this photo shows, the cover starts taking the shape of the seat after warming, settling into the contours of the foam core.
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When trying to staple the cover as was done in the factory didn't work, we decided to secure it with 3/8-inch long #8 flat head screws, with trim washers to keep the fabric from bunching as we tightened down the screws. Starting at the front, we pulled the fabric where we wanted, carefully drilled pilot holes just smaller than the screws (#6 bit) through the fabric and into the seat pan, then secured the fabric with the screws and washers.
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After securing the front, we moved to the middle of the seat pan and installed a screw on both sides. As with the front, we drilled pilot holes, being extremely careful we didn't drill through the plastic and through the fabric on the outside where it would show. It sounds harder than it is, but if you just go very slowly it's fairly easy to keep from drilling all the way through.
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Next, we moved to the rear, pulling the fabric evenly to each side as we worked and folding the fabric at the radii in the seat pan to get a clean line before drilling and screwing. We found this part pretty much impossible without an extra seat of hands.
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Then we moved back along both sides, pulling the fabric tight and securing it in place. If you look at the second screw from the right, you can see where we had to fold the fabric over itself to get a nice clean line.
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Finally, we worked across the back. The two staples visible were the only staples that successfully penetrated the plastic seat base. We left them while we worked, and then replaced them with screws at the very end.
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Although we're not 100 percent satisfied with our results (we had a little trouble with the fabric bunching), our "new" 1982 Kawasaki GPz 750 seat looks great, especially compared to the tired old skin we started with.
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And that's it, we're done. This was definately a trickier seat to recover than the 1973 Yamaha TX650 we did, but all things being equal it came out well, and at less than $70 for the cover it was certainly time and money well spent.

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.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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