How to make a cafe racer seat

Honda cb550 cafe racer seat

As you guys know here at HCR we are building a CB550.The time has finally come to make a café racer seat. Before going out and buying one on Ebay for $100 or more. I though I will just try and use what I have around the garage and try to make a seat under $10. Now keep in mind I am at an advantage since I can borrow my mom’s sowing machine. So I just wanted to share with you guys how the proses went and how it turned out. Since finishing the seat I had a few compliments on it and overall I think it looks good.

Starting out

So let’s get started. Now that I have decided on making my own seat I need to figure out what design I will be going with. There were a few options I have thought of. But I decided I want this bike to be shorter. I don’t really like café racers that have the rear seat any longer then the center of the rear rim. So I cut the frame right up to where the rear shocks are mounted. For now that will work until I can borrow my friends welder and weld on a rear hoop.  So with that in mind I started coming up with ideas.

Wooden seat pan

Original I wanted a seat with a cowl in the back. Sitting down and thinking about it I thought I can make it out of a wood log. Then I could make a flat leather cushion for the inside. So I found an old stump we had at home and I started carving it into a seat. After an hour of work I noticed that this wood was all split in side and I was worried about it breaking of on the thinner pieces. I was determine to sticking to my $10 budget. So I started to think of other materials I can use to make a seat.

angles of the seat pan

I remembered watching some Youtube videos late at night where these guys where making furniture out of card board. This stuff was light weight and easy to get. I was shocked when the guys made a king size bead and put it to the test. The bed was able to hold more than 25 people without breaking. They had to stop at 25 people. Not because the cardboard was giving out, but because there was no more room for people to stand.

Cutting out the foam

So I took some cardboard boxes and started cutting out the desired shape. I made about 10 pieces and glued them together. This actually worked out good. I was able to sit on it and it held by weight.  Since it was so thin (because I only had 10 pieces). The cardboard would bend side to side. This would have worked okay if I would bondo or something else to make the cardboard stiff. But I did not have bondo at home and I figured I can come up with a better seat. I was determine to find a better alternative to this problem.

Leather stiching

So I temporarily gave up the idea of a seat with a cowl and thought if I can make a brat style seat. I found a thin quarter inch wood panel and started cutting the seat pan out. Since the frame has 2 slight bends I needed to have 3 pieces for the seat pan. This way it would fit well around the frame.Then I stared searching around the house for foam. I was not able to find anything so I thought I would go to a nearby Goodwill and see if they had anything. After visiting 2 Goodwill’s I was able to find a foam covering for a quean size mattress. They charged me $1.25 for it. This gave me more than enough foam to work with. So I came back home and started cutting around the wooden seat pan. I made about 3 pieces and noticed that this foam is nice but when I would sit on the bike I would still feel the wooden seat pan. And this foam had a lot of height to it.

Leather stitching


So I knew I had to figure something else out. By now I was sure I can make this style of seat work. So I looked around the garage and I found the perfect material that would work complementary with this foam. It was actually a used yoga matt. This was perfect. It was hard enough for me not to feel the wooden seat pan and at the same time it was soft enough to sit on for a while. So I started working out combinations of how I should place the other foam with the yoga mat.

fitting the leather

And I found that the best comfort would be using 1 foam on top stitched on to the leather. Then I would use 5 cut out pieces of stacked yoga mats and all that mounted to the wooden seat pan. This gave it a stiff firm feeling but at the same time it was soft.It is the closes combination I found to the stock seat. Now with the patting figured out it was time to find leather to cover all of the patting. I remember that I saw a leather jacket at goodwill for sale for a dollar.  So I picked it up and took it home. At home I grabbed an exacto knife and split the whole coat in to its original pieces. This left me with many leather pieces to work with. Now I did not want to just wrap it in leather I wanted to also have a stich pattern on top. So I took the top piece of foam that I got from good will and glued and old bed sheet to both sides of the foam. I did this so that the stitching won’t rip up the foam. I wanted the threads to catch the bed sheets and hold everything together.

finished set

Then I made sure that the leather will be longer than the size of my seat pan. I wanted to stich the pattern on the seat first, because I knew that the length would change because of it.Now with the pattern stitched on it was time to measure it to the seat pan and cut out the top. I will place it over my wooden cutout and re trace the design on the leather and cut of everything that is unnecessary. With that done I started cutting out the side pieces that will wrap the sides. I measured around the total length and made 2 strips of leather witch would wrap both sides of the seat. With that I I beguine stitching around the outside. It would be hard for me to explain to you how to properly do it. So I found a video that explains the same exact proses I went through. Except they are making a seat cover for their stock seat.

honda cb550

After I was done stitching my seat cover I had to glue the inside yoga mats together. So I used house caulking that I got from home depot for $2. This worked out good. I just wanted to make sure the shape of the foam will stay the same over the years. With everything ready it was time for me to put it all together. So I did and I had a lot of left over leather on the sides. This was good because I was using that to stretch the leather cover over the seat. I also used a staple gun from our garage to secure the leather to the seat. Then when I was done securing it all around I cut of the unnecessary pieces.

here is a link to a YouTube video that helped me out through out the process.


2 Responses

  1. george January 15, 2016 / 10:43 pm

    how did you make stay on the frame?

    • Zhenya January 19, 2016 / 10:09 pm

      Hey George, I cut out a wooden piece of wood and secured it with zip ties to the frame. Then i added Velcro to the bottom of the seat and to this wooden piece. that is what holds them together.

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