Cafe racer motorcycles have been enjoying a resurgence in popularity, even though their forerunners date back to the early 1950s. In simple terms, a cafe racer is a stripped-down motorcycle with a slant forward for improved performance. A "bubble-style" solo seat is a trademark of the breed, often formed from lightweight fibreglass by the bike's builder. Creating a custom cafe seat is well within the reach of a determined cafe racer owner, using materials gathered from your local hardware and craft suppliers. With a little effort, you'll be doing the "Ton" in style!
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Tape measure
- Electric saw
- Floral foam
- Contact adhesive spray
- Serrated knife
- Electric sander
- Sandpaper in varying grits
- Compressed air
- Aluminium tape
- Automotive wax
- Fibreglass cloth and resin
- Paint brushes
- Putty knife
- Angle grinder
- Body filler
- Soap and water
- Filler primer
Take measurements of your seat rails and tail portion of the motorcycle's frame, using a tape measure. Measure the width of seat rails at the base of the fuel tank and at the end of the tail.
Cut a piece of plywood to size, according to your measurements, using an electric saw. This board will serve as the foundation for the seat's pan. Cut the plywood so that it extends over the seat rails by at least 1/4 of an inch to allow for seat hinges and other mounting hardware.
Glue several blocks of green floral foam to the end of the plywood seat pan, using contact adhesive. The foam will be shaped into the seat's rear "hump". Use as many blocks of foam as needed to create a minimum height and length of 10 inches. The entire foam structure must be as wide as the plywood seat pan.
Shape the foam into a rough version of your intended design, using a serrated knife. Make your cuts as symmetrical as possible to avoid making extra work for yourself.
Fine-tune your seat hump, using an electric sander fitted with medium grip sandpaper. Use light pressure on the sander to smooth the foam's surface.
Clear away any sanding dust from the seat form, using compressed air. Cover the entire seat with aluminium tape then spread a thick coat of high-quality automotive wax over the tape.
Create the Seat Form
Prepare your materials. Cut your fibreglass cloth into smaller strips and pieces that match the shape of your seat, using a sharp pair of scissors. Cut enough fabric to create minimum of four identical layers and set the cut pieces in separate piles. Mix your fibreglass resin according to the manufacturer's directions. Pour a small amount of acetone into a separate containers and place your paint brushes in it.
Coat the entire surface of the seat with fibreglass resin, using a paint brush. Immediately place your first layer of your fibreglass cloth over the resin. Coat the fibreglass cloth layer with fresh resin, applied in a dabbing motion with the tip of your paintbrush.
Continue to place successive layers of fibreglass cloth, followed by resin, until you have at least four separate layers built up on the seat form. Dip your paint brush in the acetone-filled container to prevent the brush's bristles from hardening between coats.
Smooth out any raised areas and air bubbles, using a putty knife. Allow the fibreglass resin to cure for at least 24 hours. Pull the fibreglass seat off of the seat form after the fibreglass has cured completely.
Moulding the Seat
Trim away any excess fibreglass material from the seat, using an angle grinder.
Smooth the surface of the fibreglass seat, using an electric sander fitted with 80-grit sandpaper, followed by 300-grit sandpaper. Fill in any low areas in the seat, using an automotive body filler. Allow the filler to cure for at least 30 minutes, then smooth with 300-grit sandpaper.
Clean off the surface of the fibreglass seat, using soap and water. Allow the seat to air dry completely.
Coat the entire seat with a filler primer then paint it to your desired colour scheme.
Finishing the Seat
Tips and warnings
- For best results, have the seat padded by a professional upholster. Alternatively, you can upholster the seat yourself, using high-density foam and vinyl.
- This method may not work for all motorcycles, as shown. Use your best judgment to modify the procedure as needed to suit your motorcycle.
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