DIY Project: How to Build a Motorcycle Seat (Custom Plywood)

When it comes to your motorcycle's seat, many events can make you want a replacement. Maybe it's gone through some damage, or you've possibly had it for so long that it's not as comfortable as it once was. Perhaps you're feeling creative, and you want something a bit more customized. Whatever your reasons, a new motorcycle seat is in your future.

If you want, you can purchase a new bike seat, already made. These parts can come in a variety of levels of quality, and the costs can cover just as full of a range as prices of motorcycles. But if you don't want to pay the expense or you're itching for a DIY project, you can make a motorcycle seat at home. We've got the details down below.

What You Need

If you look around, you'll find a few different approaches to building a DIY motorcycle seat, but we're going to use a method that involves setting up a plywood base. To do so, you'll need:

  • Duct tape
  • Cardboard
  • Sharpie
  • Nails
  • Padding
  • Jigsaw
  • Plywood
  • Glue
  • Socket set

This DIY project is one that you don't want to stop halfway through since you'll end up with a still usable, but otherwise uncomfortable to ride bike. Gather up all your supplies in advance, and you'll be able to finish this project in a weekend, or potentially in an afternoon. You don't even need to be exceptionally handy to take care of this job, though higher-quality work can give you an edge for used motorcycle values if you choose to sell.

Now let's get down to business!

How to Make a Motorcycle Seat

Before you can start making your new motorcycle seat, you need to remove your current one. To do so, you'll need to undo the bolts that keep it in place. These bolts can be a bit tricky to reach, but once they're off, you won't have to worry about getting them back in place, as we'll be connecting our new seat differently later. Depending on your bike, removing the back fender can also help.

While taking off the back fender is optional, removing the side covers is not. You'll want to take these off to give you better access to the bolts. Keep track of your washers and other bits of hardware so you can put your side covers back on once you've assembled your new motorcycle seat.

With all the mounting bolts out of the way, you can pull off the seat! To complete this process, push on the lower end of the seat (most often on the front end). Still applying pressure, take hold of the tail end of the seat and pull it up. If you've held onto everything correctly, your seat should come up, and you can pat yourself on the back to taking care of the most challenging part of this DIY project!

Determine the Best Spot for Your New Seat

Since you're custom making a DIY seat, you have the advantage of building it in a way that's most comfortable for you. Take some time to sit on your motorbike, adjusting your position, and taking note of where your body naturally wants to rest. Having someone to take pictures can help you get a different perspective, too.

With this information in hand, you'll be ready for not just making a custom DIY motorcycle seat, but a comfortable one form-fitted for how you ride.

Outline Your Frame

With the old pieces out of the way and an idea of what area your seat should support, it's time to determine the plywood frame's outline. Using your cardboard and your sharpie, lay out the material and use it to trace an overview of the structure of your bike. This approach will give you a much more accurate measurement of your frame than you would get by tracing directly onto your plywood.

Once you've drawn out your outline, cut the extra cardboard away and check that everything still matches up, making a new template, or trimming your existing one until you get the right matchup. You don't need to set the cardboard to the contours of your bike; remember that plywood isn't flat, so your template doesn't need to be either.

The fact that plywood doesn't sit flat is essential in another way, too: the original mounting holes won't work for this DIY seat. Thankfully, you can use the other holes on the front end and those by the fender mounts, which should be visible with everything we've taken off so far. Mark these holes on your outline and cut them out as well!

Prepare Your Plywood

With a successful outline ready to go, you can now cut your plywood. Lay out your cardboard template, trace the necessary guidelines, and get to work with your jigsaw. (For those of us not comfortable with this power tool, letting a friend handle it is okay.) Once you've completed this process, line it up on your bike and make sure everything still looks good before settling in for the attachment.

Depending on the layout of your bike, you may want to use bolts now or wait until you get the rest in place for nails later on. The latter option allows for quicker disassembly, but the former has more overall stability. If you choose to use bolts, take advantage of your drilled out socket holes in your plywood now. We recommend reading through to the alternate mounting option before continuing so that you can pick which will meet your needs best.

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Add Padding

Naturally, you don't want to sit on a flat sheet of plywood while riding about, so you're going to want to install padding. You have numerous options available for you, and even material like carpet padding will do the trick. Whatever kind of foam you use, however, you'll want to have at least two full layers to give you comfortable support—and you can add more if you so desire.

Much like your plywood base, you want to have your foam at about the same size as your seat. Don't forget to leave overhang so that it can protect your thighs from sharp edges and corners. You can once again use your cardboard template as a base.

For your first layer of padding, you can use a staple gun to connect it to the plywood. For any subsequent layers, you'll need glue to join them. Finally, cut out two strips of padding at about two inches wide to add extra protection against the edge. We'll combine these in the next step, so just set them in their place.

Upholster the Seat

For convenience's sake, we'll be using our duct tape to give our seat its final look. Keeping it as taut as possible, run a strip lengthwise, then another widthwise. When laying out this second line of tape, put your foam strips in your proper place. From there, you'll continue to layer your tape from the center out, keeping everything tight and making sure there is some overlap of the strips. To finish, wrap the tape around the nose of the seat.

Of course, if you're handy with leather (or you want to hire someone else to take care of that stage), you can do so. You can also see here for instructions on how to use vinyl. The duct tape method does have its charms, though.

Mount the Seat to the Bike

To finish things up, you'll want to finalize mounting the seat to the bike. At a minimum, you'll want to use five nails as your locating pins. This configuration allows for easy removal of the seat if necessary. If you want more stability, you can add more nails, making sure to connect to the brackets. For best results, sit on the seat to confirm it's in the right position before attaching.