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Seat Skinning Pictorial

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Here's how to go from this:

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To this:

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For about $20 or less.

Materials needed

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Staple gun (assume you have one)

Flat head screwdriver (assume you have one of these as well)

Scissors (sharper is better)

"About a yard" of seat material: $15.90 (shop sold me a piece 4X5 if not bigger, a yard is 3X3)

1/4" staples for staple gun: $4 +/-

Torn up seat (free with purchase of rider)

This will work great on any dirt bike seat. It will be better than nothing on a sports standard motorcycle. It should do pretty well on a "solo seat" from a crotch rocket. Do not even think about trying it on your king/queen seat off your cruiser or Goldwing. If you've got a seat with a fiberglass or metal seat pan, you'll either need to glue it or better yet, let the pros handle it. There's a reason a king/queen seat will run you $300-500 to have skinned.

A few tips:

Front pivot staplers are going to be more temperamental than rear pivot staplers. I highly suggest using a stapler like in the photo. Pros use an air stapler, those work better if you have one.

Seat skin material comes in all sorts of colors, textures. The more uncommon the color, the fewer selections of textures/grain, "grippyness" and elasticity.

If you've never done this before, ask for material that's stretchy. The more elastic the material, the easier it is to form and the less likely you'll have wrinkles.

On that subject, you can usually get black in any combination of texture, grippyness and elasticity in stock at your local upholstery shop. You may also be able to find this at a boat dealer or marine supply house.

Leave it in the sun for an hour or two before starting, it will make even the toughest material easier to work.

You can use fabric, but I'd put something under the fabric such as thin neoprene so if it gets wet it's only the outer layer and doesn't soak into the foam.

If you're unhappy with the thickness of the seat or the cushiness, now is an ideal time to fix it. If you want a cushier seat, add 1/2"-3/4" foam. If you want a firmer seat, you can double up the skin or stretch it really tight. Of course, you can replace the foam entirely too. The upholstery shop will be able to help you pick out what you need.

You want to work on a very sturdy surface, either the floor or a counter top. You will find you're putting a lot of pressure on your work surface, the kitchen table will feel wiggly and your work shop bench probably has grease and metal filings and splinters that you don't want on your seat.

The factory uses a ton of staples. You don't need that many, but you do need a lot. You're probably looking at one staple for every 3/4" minimum. The more the edge of the seat contours, the more staples you want.

It's easy to say "I took home economics it fifth grade, I can sew the end so it's super clean". Grandma's singer won't be able to handle this material for too long and I spent about two hours sewing a foot-long seam on the first seat I did by hand. You'll need a big-gun sewing machine to do that. It looks cool, probably not worth the effort on a dirt bike.

Of course, don't be like me, clean your work piece before you get started.

The process is pretty simple.

Start by removing all the staples and skin on your existing seat with a flat head screw driver. Keep the screw driver pointed at the inside of the seat, it's easy to stab yourself when one stubborn staple decides to give up.

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Once that's done, throw out the old skin.

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Estimate and cut your new material. Like most things in life, it's easier to cut a little long than it is to add it back on later.

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Start in the middle of the seat with a few staples on one side.

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Pull the center section tight and staple the other side two or three times about 3" total from the end of one staple to the end of the last one. Keep it uniform.

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I usually work from the middle where I started towards the back. However, if this is the first time you're doing this, or if you're working on a mini seat like I am, you might want to work towards the front.

Either way, leave the end unfinished.

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Starting to take shape:

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As you've got both sides stapled down, you can cut off excess material as you go.

Now work the other side. Pull and stretch and if you can "wriggle" the stapler over the material towards the inside of the seat to get a better stretch.

Since everything but the ends are done, you can finish this end.

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Do not pull the front end insanely tight, the seat pan will pull away from the gas tank and look funny. You want it on the loose side of snug, it'll look fine. Everything else pull super tight, not this area though.

This is how I like to finish the ends, fold one corner in, staple it down.

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You'll probably need to cut some material off before stapling the other corner down.

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Then staple the large part of the end.

Just for mikewrf18, I put a wrinkle in it. (not really, it just sort of happened that way)

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Work the material towards an edge or corner till you see where it's loose. Just push it gently with your finger tips, you'll see where it wants to go.

remove several staples from that area, pull it tight and restaple.

You're done!

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Be sure to drip some sweat off your chin onto the seat before taking the photo.

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The whole process takes about 1/2 an hour. The best part is at least for when I've bought material, they always sell me way more than I ask for. Last time I told them I wanted to do one seat. They sold me enough material for two full sized seats and a mini.

This time, I've got enough for three more mini seats. So as long as you don't lose your staples or previously purchased material, you're really looking at about $5-7 per seat.

I had the same shop I bought this material from skin a seat on my street bike. It came out great, perfect fit, piping around the seams and cost me $125 five or six years ago.

I'd venture to guess most upholstery shops would charge $50 start to finish for a dirt bike seat, so four seats is 2 hours of my time and $20 or $200 of their time. I'd say two hours of my time is definitely worth $180.

Edited by Smacaroni
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Thanks. Now I hope I don't have to do this again for a while. That big three-corner tear is the penalty for attempting to violate all of Newton's laws at once. I'm not sure where the slice came from, but it was probably just age.

I actually bought blue because I am pretty sure I'm going to be doing this again on this particular seat at least once or twice more. Although if you ask my kid, he says I'm never going to sell that bike, so it's probably a good investment.

I say "the person with the right price hasn't come along yet". If somebody offered me enough to buy another one, perform all the same work without making any of the mistakes and still make a profit, I'd seriously consider it. Anything less than that, I would regard as "giving it away".

Well, here's another $20 to the price tag. Which if I were buying a bike and the seat was ripped, I'd definitely be trying to knock a lot more than that off to take it home. So fix your bike seat skin, it'll save you from guys like me who will eat away your selling price like termites in a lumber yard.

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Thanks for taking the time to write it up and take pics. Looks good!

I appreciate you leaving a wrinkle on it for me! I feel better now! :busted:

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Excellent write up!

Thanks for going through the trouble of giving us a step by step, DIY money saver!

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Not a problem. Saving money or being cheap - depending on your perspective, is one of my many talents.

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