Seasoned motorcyclists know the value of a quality seat. This starts with the design including width, length, height, and the type of upholstering. Another important factor in the comfort and performance of a good motorcycle seat is the material used for the padding. Nothing but the best will do, but what kind of foam is used in a motorcycle seat, and what is the best option? Whether you're customizing your ride or repairing an old worn seat, here are the kinds of motorcycle seat foam you may want to consider.
What kind of foam is used to make motorcycle seats?
Two types of foam are most commonly used to make motorcycle seats. These are open-cell polyurethane foam and closed-cell polyethylene foam. According to It Still Runs, the main difference between these materials is their chemical composition. The foam is made in single pieces and layers. Some are pre-molded into the shape of the motorcycle's seat pan.
Open-cell polyurethane vs closed cell polyethylene foam
Open-cell foam is made of a collection of small broken cells within a framework. It provides a soft cushion by allowing air to enter into the cells. The advantage of open-cell polyurethane foams is that they are extremely flexible and best when used for the top cushioning layer of a seat. The ideal specifications of open-cell polyurethane foam for bike seats include a density of 2 pounds with a 40 lb indentation load. The indentation load refers to the amount of weight required to depress the foam and cause an indentation. These specifications refer to the firmness of the foam.
Closed-cell foam consists of a collection of sealed foam cells. A gas compound expands the foam during its creation process. The gas becomes trapped inside the cells during the curing process for the foam. The results are a denser cushion that works best as a supporting layer for a motorcycle seat. It is the most popular choice for racing motorcycle seats because it provides a better grip than the lighter weight open cell foam during extreme maneuvers. The firmness can prevent the rider from sliding off the motorcycle seat.
Which is better?
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of foam. Open-cell polyurethane is prone to water absorption. If there are tears or holes in the upholstery of the seat, water may seep in, get trapped in the foam layers and lead to deterioration over time. Closed-cell polyethylene foam is firm. If used alone, the results are a stiffer seat that is not as comfortable as a seat that has a top layer of polyurethane foam. While one is not necessarily better than the other, they do provide different features in the construction of a motorcycle seat. It comes down to a matter of personal preferences and achieving the ideal levels and balances of softness and firmness.
Other materials for customizing a motorcycle seat
Custom bike shops also use a variety of other foam type materials when customizing a motorcycle seat for their clients. D&N Upholstery discusses the benefits of two other cushion materials. When they reupholster bike seats, there are two options to achieve the ultimate in seat comfort. D&N uses memory foam for the upper layer. They have also used gel pads. It's a matter of personal preference for the client. There are differences between the two that you should know about.
Which is better, gel pads or memory foam?
You won't find either gel pads or memory foam in a factory bike seat, but custom shops provide these options. D&N recommends using gel pads because of multiple advantages. Gel pads make the seat more comfortable than memory foam. They are better at conforming to the shape of the riders' bodies to get the ideal fit for riding comfort. It's about getting the proper density when layering the pads. Memory foam is amazingly comfortable at first, but it doesn't provide the long-lasting support that it had in the beginning. Gel pads are longer lasting and more durable. Whether you're taking your bike in for a custom remake of the seat or taking on a do-it-yourself job, you might want to consider using gel pads if your aim is extreme seat comfort.
Where can you find foam for motorcycle seats?
If you're planning to start a custom or restoration project, it's wise to find a vendor who provides high-quality material choices. You can find motorcycle seat foam from a variety of different places. Grainger Industrial Supply offers good deals on high-quality foam. Also, check with fabric and hobby shops to find a good selection of options. Some big box retailers also carry heavy duty foam materials. Just make sure that the brand of foam you buy is of high-quality and that it is of the proper density and weight.
Custom shops generally hold to the traditional use of either open-cell polyurethane foam or closed-cell polyethylene foam for the construction of motorcycle seats. Each type has its plusses and minuses, but you can combine them for the ideal firmness and conformity in spots where it counts. You can also choose to use gel pads or memory foam for the upper layers of the seat to enhance riding comfort. There are pros and cons to each type of motorcycle seat foam material.
Although none are necessarily bad, it's a matter of personal preference about which is the best choice. The riding styles you do is also a factor to consider before choosing which type of foam to use. For example, racing bikes with the closed-cell polyethylene foam offer an extra safety feature to keep riders more firmly stuck to the seat. Tourers who hit the open road for extended trips may prefer a motorcycle seat that is more cushioned with the softer open-cell polyurethane or gel pad cushioning for the upper layer of the bike seat. There are several choices available to create the ultimate motorcycle seat.
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Written by Benjamin Smith
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