Let's talk SEATS!

Let's talk SEATS!

It's rare to find someone that doesn't like to be comfortable, and within the dual-sport and adventure riding world, it's no different.

However, it is a known fact that finding an off-road bike with a comfortable stock seat is as complicated as finding a 4k video of a picnic between a unicorn and a sasquatch.

That leaves us, the riders, with the task to find comfort for our derrieres on our own, but when choosing a seat, comfort shouldn't be our only concern.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SEAT  

To find the right seat, you first need to figure out why you feel you need a replacement to start with.

The most common complaints are:

  • My seat that is too tall
  • My seat that is too low
  • My seat that isn't comfortable 

That roaster is indicative of a problem. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with those complaints, but I lack to see usability anywhere on the list, and that is an issue.

It is easy to adjust the height of a seat, as it is to make it as comfortable as the lazy boy you have in your living room, but that doesn't make the seat user friendly on its own.

The seat connects our butt to the bike by giving us a base to move around, but it also provides support when standing.

When that's changed, it has direct implications with other parts relating to our ergonomy, like handlebars, risers, and footpegs.

This being, choosing the right seat should never be a "one problem-solution," and it should be seen as the vital part it is, and as such, its time to talk about what I rave the most, compromises.

SEAT COMPROMISES

It doesn't matter the bike or the rider; there is a universal equalizer that all off-road and many road riders can agree upon, bike seats are insanely uncomfortable.

It's pointless if the complaint is that they are too soft, too hard, too hot, or anything in the middle; we all agree, our seats are terrible if you are to use them for more than a couple of hours straight.

This means there are options to suit all tastes.

When we merge that with the knowledge that fixing one problem with the seat may result in a few more ergonomic ones, I believe a good starting point is to go over standard solutions.



Reference: Image from advdepot.com

 

COMFORT SEATS

Most bike brands offer a comfort option that you can get from the dealer, as you can from many different aftermarket brands. They tend to not cheap, but they get the job done.


Reference: Image from bmw-motorrad-bohling.com

Many of these seats are packed with technology like heated sections or unique blends of foams, but they all apply the same basic principle, a broader base.

This broader base shouldn't be discarded if you are considering doing any off-road.

The reason why enduro bikes have basic flat and slim seats is to allow maximum freedom of movement to the rider.

A comfort seat with a broader base will make your movements a lot harder, and without moving, you won't be able to be efficient and safe off-road, even in simple dirt pack roads, when using some kinds of comfort seats.

That is the reason why many - myself included - decide to have our comfort seats custom made.

Many incredible artisans worldwide are specializing in bike seats, and if you prefer, many top brands also offer custom work.

Using combinations of foams, gels, dividing different densities over different parts of the seat, and shaped in a way that doesn't disturb your riding, you are bound to have an excellent riding experience. 

It's not a cheap process, but it's most definitely worth it as you can get the comfort of a comfort seat with a regular seat's usability.


Reference: Image from BN Enduro Camp


Another very valid option is the use of add-ons that are not permeant, like air cushions, gel pads, or my favorite, a sheepskin.

These options can be used on-demand and removed similarly, making them perfect for that specific trip where you feel you need just that little more comfort.


Reference: Image from horizonsunlimited.com

 

LOW SEATS

Off-road bikes, where I include adventure bikes, have tall seat heights, and there is no way around that except lowering the bike or the seat.

The first option is one many avoid at all costs, meaning that lowered seats are as popular as popcorn and movies, which is no indication of quality.

Contrary to popular belief, lowering a seat isn't just dropping it; that is the worst move one can do, and let me explain why.

When measuring our inseam, we always do it standing up and in a relaxed position. However, on the bike, we have a seat under us that has width, and once we open our legs to accommodate the seat, our inseam decreases.



Reference: Image from BN Enduro Camp

 

When seats are lowered, the tendency is to shave some material from the top, effectively reducing the seat height.
 
What many tend to forget is that the byproduct of that action increases the seat width, which will force us to open our legs wider.

In some cases, that results in a decrease in our inseam, making reaching the floor, even more challenging than before.

That is why some models, like the 1200GS Family, amongst others, have a seat fitting that allows you to lower the seat height without having to use a lowered seat.



Reference: Image from BN Enduro Camp


I'm not saying with this that lowered seats don't work because they do; however, thought needs to be put into it, and side shaping should also be in the plans of a good lowered seat.

Still, we are bound by the width of the frame.

Do a little test of your own, remove your seat, and sit directly on the frame.

This will vary from bike to bike, but more often than not, your legs will be so spread apart that even if you can flatfoot both feet, your balance will be off, and your confidence will follow suit, so tread lightly when choosing the lowest of the lowered seats.

Another unavoidable issue with lowered seats is their riding position.

If comfort seats rely on a broader base, lowered seats rely on a cavity where we fit ourselves, and following the footsteps of the comfort options, that makes riding harder.

The ability to slide around the seat is removed, and in some cases, close to impossible, which tells us that when off-roading, that means trouble.


Reference: Image from aliexpress.com


HIGH AND RALLY SEATS

A high seat is the opposite of a low one, where some more material is added to raise the overall height; however, and as opposed to a low seat, high ones tend not to have many downsides to their users.

As it is possible to raise the top and fill the sides, most seat manufacturers manage to maintain the original seat's proportions.

However, some manufacturers will try to add comfort features, making it not uncommon to see tall seats getting a broader base, so pay attention to your mobility needs.

But if you need high mobility and a high seat, I believe the market has a better offer, and one usually only available for tall riders or for those that have done tall bike training, enter the rally seat!

Usually slick in design, with the Dakar style pouch option in some cases, rally seats come into their own when the going gets tough, making them stock on all enduro bikes.


Reference: Image from cycleworld.com


Out of the box, they aren't usually the most comfortable option, by any stretch of the imagination, because as we saw, for high mobility, seats need to be slim and thin in design, so when thinking about a rally seat, having it custom made is something to consider.

It is also essential to keep in mind that the comfort threshold for a rally seat on an enduro bike is very different from what you can get on an adventure bike, where the seat can accommodate a lot more foam.

That means that not all rally seats are flatbeds like what you find on an enduro bike; for larger adventure bikes and dual-sports, it's possible to have them with a slight dimple, so don't rule out trying one out of sheer principle or fear.


Reference: Image from shop-africanqueens.de

 

THE SEAT AFFECTS ERGONOMICS

At this point, it shouldn't come as a surprise that your seat affects your ergonomics on the bike.

As changing the seat moves you up and down, even back and forward in some cases, your footpeg distance, and lever position may vary.

This being, if you have a bike and you feel you need to improve on comfort or just shear ergonomics, always start with the seat.

There is no point going over handlebars, screens, and any other mod you may have already pulled the trigger on, just to find that they don't work with your new seat.

Assume that the seat is the foundation of your ergonomics, so plan around it. It will help you invest wisely and cut down on setup time, allowing you more free time to ride and enjoy a job well done.

 

 


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