Our Sister Sites:

Bikernet Trikes Bikernet Baggers Bikernet Blog
Ride Forever - Bikernet.com
Monday Edition


Mudflap Girl FXRs Build, part 9

Saddlemen Comes to the Rescue with High Tech Seat Manufacturing

By Bandit, with photos by Ray C. Wheeler, and art by Chris Kallas
4/13/2012


Share this story:

Here's a link to the last chapter: http://www.bikernet.com/pages/Mudflap_Girl_FXRs_Part_8_Wiring_World.aspx




What a year, and we're cranking on so many two-wheeled fronts. Both Mudflap Girl bikes are running and one is in the wind, but I’d better back up. You're going to love this tech, and the ending.

I took the Mudflap Girl bike to Saddlemen during the holidays, at just the wrong time. They faced the holiday schedule, then dealer shows, including the Easyriders V-twin show, then Daytona, before the dust settled and the shop was calm enough to focus on a couple of custom seats.

Busters Bikernet-built Shrunken FXR in front of the Saddlemen headquarters.
Busters Bikernet-built Shrunken FXR in front of the Saddlemen headquarters.



Sure, the economy sucks, but you wouldn't know it if you stumbled into their brick manufacturing facility in a Los Angles industrial community. The shop is cooking, building twice as many seats as last year, and adding 420 new seat part numbers. Tom Seymour, his partner, Dave Echert, and Avery Innis have stepped into the luggage arena for touring bikes, cruisers, and sport bikes. They designed a line of bag inserts, sissybar pads, tank and fender trim, you name it. If you're going for a long ride, they have the product for you.



That's just the tip of the chrome and leather iceberg. The Saddlemen team will attend 78 shows, and events this year, from Sturgis to flat track racing, with the marketing director, Ron Benfield in the lead. The family atmosphere in their facility started to impress me after a couple of visits. I met 25-year team members and their sons and cousins. In fact, Avery kindly took a liking to an old Bikernet buddy, Buster Cates, and offered him a position on the team. Buster owns and rides our Shrunken FXR to work every day.

Always a spoof when I walk into the shop. A Saddlemen foam Road Sofa planted on the MF Girl.
Always a spoof when I walk into the shop. A Saddlemen foam Road Sofa planted on the MF Girl.



Let's cut to the seat-building chase. The Saddlemen team turned motorcycle seats into an engineered art form. They don't just make cool seats but poured engineering into the mix for comfort and long-ride ability. They studied the use of medical gels, then the spinal relief channel, lumbar support, and foam and fabric functions. Now they make heated seats, and the heels-down seats for shorter riders. Several of these elements add time and substantial cost to the seat manufacturing process. Plus they always attempt to make their seats fit better than stock.

The custom seat department.
The custom seat department.



Saddlemen has a team of custom seat builders who carefully design seats for special applications, race bikes, and sometimes, ultimately production seats. I was impressed with the myriad of seat manufacturing processes and how the team handled each one. Jose, the senior custom seat designer, worked with us through the entire process. First, he verified the position of the seat and the position of the frame rails, which are not always entirely symmetrical. Then he determined the center of the fender. He carefully masked off the entire seat area, and then began to hand-form a sheath of 1/8-inch wax. It performs a couple of functions. First, it molds perfectly to the frame, and second, it affords a 1/8-inch clearance for fabric to fill during the final stage.

Erik Lundmark, the cameraman, director, and producer of the next motorcycle TV series, IKustomz.
Erik Lundmark, the cameraman, director, and producer of the next motorcycle TV series, IKustomz.



"Every motorcycle has a seat," Avery said, "but there are multiple body styles." Avery is the engineering, design, and customer relations guru. He worked for Suzuki and Honda for years, and rides touring bikes and enduros. "All body styles don't fit the same seat or style of riding."

Jose (left), the lead custom designer, and Avery, the Saddlemen master of all things, and our guiding host throughout the process.
Jose (left), the lead custom designer, and Avery, the Saddlemen master of all things, and our guiding host throughout the process.



The wax helped the seat to locate itself on the frame perfectly. With wax strips, Jose formed a small channel on the inside of the wax seat pan to allow for fasteners not to protrude. The channel is about ½-inch wide and 1/8-inch thick. When the channel was placed securely, Jose filled the wax-to-wax edges with clay to prevent resin from seeping under the wax channel.
















After the first sheet of fiberglass was carefully laid over the wax and carefully coated with resin, we cut a dusty trail and planned to hook up the following week.














Spoof two: The Dalmatian dog fabric. Good god.
Spoof two: The Dalmatian dog fabric. Good god.




Day Two:



We returned to the shop. The doors open at 6:30 in the morning and shut down at 3:30. I found the timing to be very civilized. The staff can enjoy a comfortable afternoon at home. We didn't roll into the shop until 10:00 and Jose was already cutting and shaping the fiberglass seat pan, with the seat hook brackets molded into the bottom of the pan. Fiberglass contains amazing strength, yet adds flexibility. They are the official seat maker of the AMA pro racing/flat track, and now road racing classes, and they make all of Steve Storz café racer kit seats for Sportsters. They also sponsor dozens of flat track racers, the 5-Ball Bonneville Racing team, the Jordon Race Team, and Lotus.



Our TV camerman was on the spot.
Our TV camerman was on the spot.



Shaping the seat pan for the goofy ignition switch placement.
Shaping the seat pan for the goofy ignition switch placement.



They have a special table for shaping fiberglass. The holes suck the dust away from the grinding area.
They have a special table for shaping fiberglass. The holes suck the dust away from the grinding area.





With the seat pan shaped perfectly for my goofy Mudflap Girl ignition key system, we peeled out once more, and returned the next week for foam shaping.








Day Three:

"This is the most impressive aspect to making a custom seat," Buster said of the foam shaping process.

Spoof three: Avery and his menagerie of foam shapes.
Spoof three: Avery and his menagerie of foam shapes.




"The driving force is style," Avery said, "then we add performance with the gel, the spinal relief channel, and lumbar support." Initially, I shot for the coolest, cleanest design to feed my chopper soul, but realized I needed a long-distance rider for my future Sturgis runs. When the discussion of lumbar supports surfaced, my lip zipped tight. I didn't want to step into the middle of the comfort engineering mix.






My goofy key position worked perfectly into the channel design. Jose cut and shaped the 1.5 inches of foam with highly sharpened kitchen knives and coarse emery discs. Avery and Jose discussed the sketches for the position of the channel and the gel. One inch of gel represents 3 inches of foam.








Here's the company's gel description: Almost two decades ago, Saddlemen was the innovator of SaddleGel for motorcycle seats, bringing over a gel technology widely used in medical applications.




Without question, SaddleGel is the most important breakthrough in motorcycle seating technology in decades. This amazing product will increase the amount of time you spend on your motorcycle, creating the comfort necessary to ride all day. Every type of riding is more enjoyable, from touring to dual sport, canyon carving to street cruising.




When it comes to motorcycle seat comfort technology, nothing compares to a Saddlemen seat with SaddleGel. The proprietary SaddleGel technology was gleaned from the medical industry with specific origins in wheelchair pads and hospital beds. The gel was used (and still is) to prevent bedsores for those confined to beds for long periods of time and for people in wheelchairs—some for their whole lives. Know anyone that rides as much as a person confined to a wheelchair?




In the early ‘90s, the experienced riders at Saddlemen figured out a way to incorporate all the benefits of gel into a motorcycle seat and quickly learned it was far more comfortable than standard seats for a variety of reasons. For one, SaddleGel isolates engine and road vibration, a common cause of rider fatigue. SaddleGel is a molded solid with fluid-like properties that will not slide to one side or move around in your seat like air or water in a plastic bag. Instead, the proprietary design eliminates pressure points at the hip bones and tail bone by evenly distributing your weight across the surface of the seat. Otherwise, pressure points or hot spots can hinder blood flow, causing pain and discomfort. Normal circulation is never lost on a seat with SaddleGel. It keeps your rear end comfortable on a long ride, and ready to respond quickly as road conditions change.




Saddlemen SaddleGel is extremely advantageous, but we were able to maximize its benefits by developing a seating comfort system around it. Our integrated seat designs include a selection of materials that work together to make our seats as comfortable as possible, while still giving your bike show-quality style.



Avery has a product formula he learned from the president of Suzuki in 1990 at a business philosophy conference. "Every product must be evaluated for styling, performance, and value," Avery said. We discussed business notions and the alignment of the stars while Jose carefully shaped foam.




Day Four:




While I was missing in action, Jose refined the shape, inserted large segments of gel, and made a custom aluminum channel section. They need something to apply the upholstery to, and then fasten it to the bottom of the seat pan. Nothing is as easy as it seems. Then he added a final lather of breathing foam, only about ¼-inch thick, and we started to decide on the fabric and pattern.




"In the past, we all thought leather was the ultimate fabric," Buster said, "but not so." Learning the Saddlemen ropes fast, Buster discovered new, more resilient fabrics, stronger materials, and more comfortable weaves. Avery chose a long lasting carbon fiber weave for the front of the seat panels, then a brushed aluminum vinyl for the channel center and the lumbar region. They even planned to scan a Mudflap girl and embroidered her into the seal. The rear seat tab was positioned during the second layer of fiberglass. Avery chose another black vinyl for the back of the seat. It's tough, has the delicate touch of skin, and will last.







Jose marked lines for fabric patterns, and next he would drill and counter-sink the custom aluminum panel before upholstery and placement down the center of the pan. He ensured that the gel was properly glued with their coveted water-based adhesive, used for all foam application. The thin layer of porous headliner foam acts as a visual detailing source for seat shaping and adds breathing, but it's not long distance comfort foam. The Saddlemen-designed progressive foam and gel handled the tough job.




Here's the Saddlemen description regarding the spinal channel system: Our Gel Channel line of seats for sport bikes are designed specifically for the rider that needs a seat that can do everything—canyon carving, track days, or commuting.

They feature Saddlemen’s Gel Channel (GC) technology (patent pending) that incorporates a split piece of SaddleGel and a channel in the base foam to relieve seating pressure on the perineal area, increase blood flow, and keep the rider in the saddle longer.







While another week sped past, the Saddlemen staff sewed the pattern pieces together with marine grade nylon and polyester, colorfast thread for sun tolerance and lasting durability.

Avery showed us one of the Saddlemen seat patterns.
Avery showed us one of the Saddlemen seat patterns.




I never imagined so much thought, engineering, product testing, selection, and creativity would go into a goddamn seat. But when you think about it, you're almost as involved with the seat as you are with any other aspect of a motorcycle.










The call came: "The seat is finished and fine," Buster said. "Come and get this puppy."



We grabbed the new license plate, a new Aeromach mirror, a Bandit's Dayroll packet full of tools, and peeled out. This wasn't within the mantra of the Eddie Trotta break-in procedure. The well-organized Saddlemen facility was located about 10 miles from the Bikernet Interplanetary headquarters. We ran the driveline through several heat cycles, but it never felt the clunk of the BDL clutch allowing the JIMS 6-speed transmission drop into gear, or the Metalsport mag wheels and Avon tires skid across any dusty asphalt lanes.






The Mudflap Girl resided in the asphalt driveway, out front, as we pulled up to the Rancho Dominquez facility. For the first time, I swung my leg over the carefully detailed Saddlemen seat, and sat down, as if about to cut a dusty trail. I immediately felt at home.



While the Saddlemen gang hung out around my Mudflap Girl in their driveway and we warmed the H-D Evo engine, we tightened the leaky fuel filter, adjusted the position of the clutch lever, and then I dropped it in gear. It shifted so smooth, I didn't know I was in first. I was slightly nervous as I rolled out of the driveway. The seat was amazing, but would I survive the virgin ride home?




Actually, I did. The bike ran like a top, but my brakes were soft. My front brake bracket was sketchy and we shit-canned it for a solid alternate mounting position. I'm still trying to figure out why the speedo isn't working, something to do with the transmission speedo sensor. Bottom line: My plan to ride these bikes before paint teardown already proved beneficial. I had to admit with an ear-to-ear grin; this was, by far, the most comfortable motorcycle I have ever built. The smooth H-D engine, the quiet JIMS transmission, the perfectly comfortable Saddlemen seat, the Progressive shocks, the Spitfire frame and front end geometry; it fit me like a dream and handled with ease. I was pumped.
 

Next, we will cover my son's final build aspects, adjustments, and first ride. Hang on.




Mudflap Girl FXR Sources:

Spitfire


D&D Exhaust
 
Rivera/Primo
Advertisement
  

Biker's Choice

JIMS Machine
Advertisement




MetalSport
Advertisement


BDL/GMA


Wire Plus
Advertisement




Branch O'Keefe
Click the image for more info.
Click the image for more info.



Bennett's Performance


Custom Cycle Engineering
Advertisement


Saddlemen


Bub


Progressive Suspension
Click on the image for info quick.
Click on the image for info quick.




Share this story:



Back to Tech




Reader Comments


The MFG looks great Keith, maybe we can collaborate on my next bike build?

Thad
Clinton, LA
Monday, May 21, 2012
Editor Response The next build will be very secret and special, a one-of-a-kind. We will need all the collaboration we can get.
--Bandit

Your thoughts on this article

Your Name
Email
City
Country
v
State/Province
v
Comments
Anti-Spam Question:
Please enter the words you see in the box, in order and separated by a space. Doing so helps prevent automated programs from abusing this service.
Submit
Clear