The benefits of having a leather motorcycle seat go beyond appearance, and include having a seat that conforms to the rider's body, breathes during long-distance rides, and has good durability. A custom leather seat, however, can cost considerably more than one covered in vinyl. Fortunately, recovering a seat is a weekend project that many riders can undertake themselves as long as they have the proper materials to do the job right.
Remove the existing cover. If the motorcycle seat you are working with already has a cover, pull the staples that hold it in place. If you do not plan to make substantial changes to the motorcycle seat foam, you can save the covering to use as a template for the new leather covering.
Make a template. If you change the seat foam, or if you do not have the old cover, you need to make a template out of muslin or another inexpensive cloth. Trace the seat onto the fabric, then add margins that are at least double the height of the side of the seat. For example, if the seat measures three inches thick on the sides, add six inches of margin to the traced shape.
Cut the leather. Using the template, trace the shape onto the leather. If you are using relatively thin leather you can cut it with leather shears. If you are using a heavier duty leather, use a razor knife to cut out the seat shape. Do not try to cut through thick leather in one pass unless you can do so easily. Multiple passes with the knife will usually result in smoother cuts.
Recover the seat. Starting at the front of the seat, pull the leather over the foam and staple it to the seat pan. Work your way around the seat going from side to side and pulling the leather snug. You will have excess leather that you can trim after making sure the leather fits the seat smoothly.
Fine tune the covering. As you ride on a newly recovered leather seat you may find that the leather stretches and becomes loose in some areas. If this happens, simply remove the staples in the area that needs tightening, pull the leather smooth, and reattach it.
When you trim the leather be sure to leave enough margin, about 1.2 cm (1/2 inch), so that you can work with the leather if you have to make adjustments due to stretching at a later time. If you ride a lot, and may have to recover your seat more than once, so save your template to make the job easier next time. While the covering is off the seat, make any adjustments to the foam that will make your ride more comfortable.
Do not trim the leather until it is in place and you are happy with the appearance. You need the margins in case you have to make adjustments.
Tips and warnings
- When you trim the leather be sure to leave enough margin, about 1.2 cm (1/2 inch), so that you can work with the leather if you have to make adjustments due to stretching at a later time.
- If you ride a lot, and may have to recover your seat more than once, so save your template to make the job easier next time.
- While the covering is off the seat, make any adjustments to the foam that will make your ride more comfortable.