There are a number of reasons that you might wish to add a cushioned seat pad to the existing seat of your motorcycle.
- The stock model is simply too hard
- You regularly travel long distances
- Medical or physical conditions prevail
- You lack ‘natural’ cushioning in the relevant area and are more bony than fleshy
- You’re worried about circulation issues
We all want a comfortable and stress-free ride. The consequences of ‘numb bum’ are not just applicable to your bum. The soreness can radiate upwards causing lower back pains too.
Any bodily pain or discomfort experienced while riding a motorcycle also becomes a safety issue because of the distraction factor.
For riders who are touring this can become a big issue. These individuals spend weeks not hours on their seats and any failings in the seating area are quickly and harshly exposed. Regular breaks and ‘onboard’ exercising and stretching help but a good quality seat pad is often the best investment.
There are a number of seat pad models on the market today but how do you know what to choose?
Here are a few factors to look at:
Popular seat pads come as sheepskin, gel or air pocketed cushions. Consider what might happen to them if they get wet in the rain. Will they dry out quickly enough? Will a wipe with a cloth be sufficient? How will they react in the heat and are they washable?
Here’s some characteristics of the three types:
- Because of its hollow fiber properties sheepskin keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Allows air to breath underneath you as well as the cushion
- Easy to dry after being wet
- Doesn’t give off a static charge.
- Absorbs sweat immediately and can submit it in to the air seven times faster than synthetics.
- Sheepskin against the body activates the blood circulation and the immune system supporting the relaxation and regeneration of the body.
- The rider’s weight makes each cell transfer air with the surrounding cells causing an even distribution of pressure.
- Helps eliminate the painful pressure concentration and numbness.
- Unlike foam based cushions and gel pads, air cushions have 2 dimensional airflow channels that allows free flow of air for better dissipation of body heat and avoidance of moisture buildup.
- Air cushions absorb most of the motorcycle’s vibrations and road shocks before reverberating through the rider.
- Gel pads originated with the medical industry for wheelchair bound patients to protect them from sores. They are comfortable for motorcycle riders but some feel like they are sliding around on the seat with certain models.
- Many gel seat pads are composed of interconnected gel cells that promote consistent blood flow by allowing body weight pressure to be evenly distributed.
- Alleviates pressure points reducing the chance of cramps, numbness and pins and needles.
An add-on seat pad is unsafe if it cannot be securely attached to your existing bike seat. Think about your bodyweight shifting during acceleration and braking or when handling bends.
The same goes for pillion seat pads. Straps must be strong and secure and once installed shake them thoroughly to check for movement.
Prices range from 20 quid to 200 quid. The latter often custom made, heavy durable models of high quality. Cheaper types include sheepskin covers and foam padded designs.
Aside from alleviating numb bum and other discomforts the seat pad also acts as an additional shock absorber. It can slightly increase your height and view of the road ahead.
Riders who can barely place their toes on the ground to begin with should consider whether a thickly cushioned seat pad will throw them off balance when coming to a stop.
Top Seat Pads Reviewed
Let’s have a look at our top five models.
Wild Ass Air Seat Cushion Lite Cruiser Style
The Wild Ass lightweight polyurethane pad is also air-based and easily inflatable by hand.
An ideal accessory for custom and touring bikes it greatly eases a rider’s circulation alleviating all the usual numbness and other pressure point associated discomforts.
A safety strap goes underneath the seat to keep the cushion in place and is included in the package.
Reduces heat and moisture build-up
Lowers shock and vibration levels
Tailored cushion pouch included
Pretty damn expensive
Lambland Hand Finished Premium Sheepskin Seat Pad
Come on, you know you want one!
With all this serious-looking bike gear and bespoke accessories around let’s let our hair down a little and introduce something adventurous like a genuine sheepskin seat cover.
Charley and Ewan had something similar in Long Way Round. They must be good.
Lambland specialize in quality sheepskin. Their motorcycle seat covers come in natural ‘sheep white’ or plain black. Each cover is 2 to 3 inches of soft wool pile and measures approximately 50cm by 25cm.
Other colours available by request
Dries quickly after rain
Comfortable to sit on
Low price compared to material designed models
May need adjusting or cutting to fit some seats
Straps are not included. You’ll need to make your own
Airhawk Seat Cushion Cruiser R Small Red Stripe
The Air Hawk’s interconnected air cells provide the padding and cushioning effect to reduce those stiffness-inducing pressure spots. It is these pressure spots that affect circulation and lead to numb bum and other movement-constricting blockages around the body.
The air cells can be re-pumped if running low although they’re less forgiving to punctures and leaks. A mesh fabric cover allows breathability and also provides a level of ‘grip’ keeping the rider’s rear in place during maneuvers.
The Airhawk’s design is to reduce discomfort around the rider’s scrotum, coccyx and tailbone area. A more predictable and familiar ride than gel the air cushion is also a good shock-absorbing and vibration reducing accessory.
Mounting loops and straps included
Breathable mesh on top and sides
High price tag compared to other brands
Wild Ass Air Seat Cushion Lite Pillion Style
A matching pillion passenger seat pad is also available from Wild Ass with the same features and advantages as the main seat option.
Specifically designed for the rear passenger (and the passenger’s rear!) it sits neatly on the smaller seat section fixed by adjustable safety straps.
On any brand of seat pad it’s always important to ensure these straps are secure and very firm to avoid bodyweight from causing the pad to slide across the seat.
Universal fit for passengers on almost all motorcycles
Can be used by the rider on very short or narrow saddles
Special features allow the passenger or rider to use the cushion lengthways or sideways
DebbonAir Motorcycle Gel Pad
The DebbonAir Pad is based on medical products such as wheelchair seat padding where patients are prone to all the discomforts of immobility.
Motorcycle riders can also be subject to long periods of sitting still and similar gel-based cushions and pads will alleviate the numb-bum feeling.
The idea is to spread the rider’s weight loading more evenly to avoid concentration around the hip joints. The medical grade polyurethane gel is less prone to puncture and leakage and its antibacterial properties mean it shouldn’t accumulate mold with age.
The seating experience may feel a little strange to some riders as gel gives a squidgy, liquid-type ride as if perched on a mini waterbed.
Reduces high-pressure points
Helps alleviate circulation problems
Comfortable to sit on
Detachable neoprene cover so you can use externally or internally
More expensive than some models
The benefits of seat pads are many. Sometimes you won’t know what you’ve missed until you try one so go and do just that. Many users report a much more comfortable ride. Long journeys in particular become a more pleasant experience and tour bike riders should definitely add one to their machines.
Seek the advice of doctors or specialists if you have any pre-existing medical or physical issues. They may be able to recommend a certain type more suitable for your condition. If you’re going to spend over 50 hours a month in the saddle then make sure you’re comfortable.
Safe and happy riding to all.
Recommended Reading: Motorcycle Gear Hub