How to make your own sissy bar backrest pad

Basic upholstery skills are helpful when making a sissy bar backrest pad for your motorcycle, but even a beginner can complete this project by carefully following the steps. Carefully cutting the fabric, foam, and plywood are the keys to making a comfortable pad that also looks good. The materials required are available in most fabric stores or can be ordered from upholstery shops. Materials and hand tools that are normally used for woodworking and household repairs are all you need to make a basic sissy bar backrest pad.

Place the cowl-board against the frame of the sissy bar with the black side visible through the motorcycle sissy bar frame. This is going to be your pattern for the plywood and vinyl (or leather) fabric, and later it will cover the back of your backrest pad, so mark around the sissy bar, about 1/8 inch outside of the frame.

Place the cardboard on the table and align the ruler edge to make sure the lines are straight. If they are straight cut around the outside of the line with the utility knife. If the lines are crooked, fill them in using the edge of the ruler and then cut the shape out with the utility knife.

Place the cowl-board textured side down on the plywood and trace around it. Cut around the line on the plywood using the jigsaw. Hold the newly cut plywood against the sissy bar and look at it to make sure it fits. If any area is sticking up too much, shave it off with the jigsaw.

Put the plywood face down on the poly-foam and trace around it with the marker. Cut along the line using either the electric knife or the scissors. The knife will be the easiest way to cut the foam, but it is possible to cut the foam with scissors.

Cut a piece of vinyl upholstery fabric that is 4 inches larger than the plywood on each side. This will give you plenty of excess fabric to wrap around the foam and plywood. Lay the vinyl face down on the table, and put the foam on it, then the plywood.

Press down firmly on the centre of the plywood. Wrap the excess fabric around the foam and back edge of the board. Staple the centre of each strip of excess fabric that wraps around the back of the board, on each side of the back.

Finish stapling the sides that will be vertical when the backrest pad is installed, by stapling every 2 inches. Staple across the top and bottom edges. The corners will be stapled last.

Fold the top corners down around the sides of the pad and staple through the layers of vinyl on the back of the plywood. They will form a small triangular pocket that is closed at the top and folded at the bottom. By folding this way water will not get trapped inside of the folded vinyl. Fold the bottom corners under the bottom edge of the seat pad and staple them to the plywood.

Trim 1/4 inch off of the waterproof, textured cowl-board with the utility knife. Center the cowl-board, textured side out, on the back of the plywood. It will be covering the raw, stapled edge of the vinyl fabric. Hold the padded plywood and the cowl-board up to the sissy bar frame to make sure the staples will be hidden by the frame. You only need about four staples because the screws attaching the backrest to the sissy bar frame will help to hold the cowl-board securely.


The waterproof cowl-board is an upholstery item, so you might have to contact an upholstery shop to get it. Another option is to make the pattern out of cardboard instead of cowl-board, and cover the back of the seat with a flat piece of vinyl instead of cardboard, but this will require more staples than using cowl-board does. This project is similar to upholstering a slip seat dining room chair, but the corners are different to protect the backrest pad from potential exposure to rain.

Things You'll Need

  • Black textured waterproof cowl-board
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Utility knife
  • 3/8-inch plywood
  • Jigsaw
  • 2-inch thick medium density poly-foam
  • Electric knife (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Heavy duty stapler
  • 3/8-inch heavy-duty staples
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About the Author

Laure Justice is a professional copywriter, since 2008. Justice has a broad-based business education, holding an AA in business administration and a Bachelor of Arts in management, plus certifications in accounting and international trade. She has written for GMC, Bounty Paper Towels, Purina's Petcentric, Colgate, Type F, Kudzu, eHow and many others.