Classic Motorcycle Seat Repair

article image
The worn-out seat on associate editor Landon Hall’s 1973 Yamaha TX650.

One of the first things anybody notices about your bike is the bodywork. Nice paint and clean sheet metal have a way of making even a tired old dog of a bike look appealing. That also extends to the seat, because whether you’re showing or selling, a torn saddle is an instant turn-off — especially if you’re selling. While a lot of prospective buyers will look at a torn seat and instantly think “price reduction,” more will think about the cost of having it redone, which can easily run a few hundred bucks.

That makes replacement a no-brainer, right? What’s surprising is how many owners don’t — or won’t — attempt to replace a torn or worn seat cover themselves, worried they’ll muck it up.

Yet unlike, say, rebuilding an engine, it’s a pretty basic proposition, requiring almost nothing in the way of special tools, and the end effect visually is almost disproportionate to the effort. Really, the biggest challenge is taking your time. And compared to a lot of other projects, it’s surprisingly cheap.

For this project, we replaced the worn-out seat on associate editor Landon Hall’s 1973 Yamaha TX650. Like most almost-40-year-old machines that have spent any time outside, the seat cover on Hall’s 650 was shot. More concerning, it needed to be replaced sooner rather than later before continued fraying and ripping led to overexposure of the foam core, which tends to crumble and degrade rapidly once exposed to sun and moisture.

The 650’s saddle cover is held in place by little more than a trim strip and a few dozen metal barbs stamped into the seat pan, which pierce through the cover fabric. It’s typical of the era, a design used by many manufacturers including British as well as Japanese, making this type of seat a good place to start for your first go at basic reupholstering.

For this project, we turned to Saddlemen for one of its SaddleSkins covers. Saddlemen makes both new seats (mostly for cruisers and dirt bikes), and covers for a variety of Asian and American bikes. Its replacement covers are designed to be installed permanently or temporarily. Temporary installs are made possible thanks to a drawstring sewn into the cover’s bottom edge, and while the folks at Saddlemen claim this works fine on many bikes, they acknowledge that best results are achieved by removing the old cover and permanently installing the new one. We wanted best results, so we went the permanent route, which, we suspect, most owners would. We found the quality of our cover to be excellent and, at $64.95, very affordable.

So follow along as we show you how to replace your own seat cover. MC

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine Featuring the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!