Motorman’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques
I’m often asked what kind of seats I have on the Harley Electra Glides I use in my rider skills show. I know the reason they ask is because most people are not happy with their stock seats, or the after market seats they’ve tried. Plus, the fact that I’ve had the seats we use upholstered in a distinct black, white and gold pattern, must be the cause of the curiosity. First, let me say the seats we use are Harley Davidson Sundowner Solo seats that I’ve had reupholstered in the white, black and gold pattern. The reason I like these particular seats is that they are the only ones I know of that brings the rider 2 inches closer to the handlebars. What’s more, the nose of the Sundowner Solo is very narrow which allows the shorter rider to flat foot the bike much easier. The fact that the Sundowner is also comfortable is an added bonus.
Sitting upright and close to the handle bars gives the rider much more control, especially when turning from lock to lock. Plus, being flat footed makes it much easier to back up the motorcycle when the need arises.
Recently, I replaced two of my Electra Glides with 2008 Street Glides and unfortunately, Harley does not make the Sundowner Solo for any of the 08 models as of yet. Since the stock Street Glide seat is too far from the bars and too wide in the nose for shorter riders and both these Street Glides will be ridden in my shows by women, I had no choice but to modify the stock seats.
I’ve done this type of modification myself, but since I also wanted some custom upholstery on the Seats, I decided to let a pro do the job. I took the seats to Anthony’s Auto Upholstery, Inc. at 903 East 93rd Avenue, Tampa, FL 33612, 813-931-8722. But, if you like to try this modification yourself, here’s how it’s done.
1. Use a sharp flat screwdriver to remove the staples from the upholstery and the seat pan.
2. Once the upholstery is removed, you may find the stock foam is covered with a saran like wrap. The saran wrap keeps the foam from getting soaked through when the seat gets wet. Remove that wrap by simply peeling it off.
3. Next, put the uncovered seat back on the bike and sit on it. If you’re trying to get flat footed, the best thing to do is narrow the nose or the front sides of the seat. With a magic marker, make some marks on the side of the foam where your thighs meet the seat. If you want to get closer to the bars, you will have to acquire some dense foam from an upholstery shop and cut it to fit behind you on the rear lip of the seat. This can be tricky, so get plenty of extra foam. To shape the foam use an electric knife and some rough sandpaper.
4. Once you get your foam in place and you’re satisfied that you are close enough to the bars, mark the sides of the seat.
5. Now, it’s time to start trimming the sides. Do it a little at a time on each side. Try to make the slices as smooth as possible. Once you’re satisfied that you’ve taken enough foam off, use the sandpaper to smooth out the cuts and shape the seat.
6. If you’re unable to smooth the foam enough and you’re afraid your rough cuts will show through the upholstery, don’t worry, a piece of thin head liner foam can cover all your mistakes. Some 3M foam glue will hold the headliner foam in place.
7. All that’s left to do is stretch the stock upholstery over the foam and staple it in place. If all you’ve done is narrow the nose, the stock vinyl should go right back on if you pull it tight and use plenty of staples. If you’ve added foam to move you forward, you’ll probably have to have a shop make a new skin.
8. You now have a custom seat made especially for you for much less than you’d pay for an after market seat that may or may not fit you. Many thanks to Anthony’s Upholstery staff, they did an incredible job on the seats for the new Street Glides.
Remember, all it takes is a little practice. Good Luck!