Earn your 'MFA'
Masters in Foam Applications
Certainly the most frequently asked questions in the seat business involve foam. I won't dismiss the notion that it is important, but it is very over rated when it comes to comfort. Those in the seat business are fond of saying their seat is better because their foam is better, or that closed cell foam is better than open cell foam, and so on. I will share some of what my building of thousands of saddles has taught me about foam-
Closed Cell VS. Open Cell
In the hospital setting, where many of you know I am a Critical Care Open Heart Recovery RN, we use closed cell foam almost exclusively. Because it is more comfortable? Not always, though closed cell foam has several advantages, these being the two most important ones for using it in motorcycle seats:
1) Fluid proof (and not just water)- In the hospital we have lots of nasty stuff that can soak into open cell foam. I won't gross you out with the specifics but you know what I mean. Since it is not possible to bleach and machine wash most of these things, and not practical to throw them away, closed cell foam prevents these nasty bodily fluids from soaking into the bed, wheelchair,etc, rendering them dangerous for the next patient. Therefore, closed cell foam on a motorcycle
seat can prevent it from getting soaked in the rain.
2) Less rebound upon compression- Open cell foam will push back. The harder you push, the harder it pushes back. Closed cell foam can displace latitudinally. This is especially true with the gel-type foams, which are in the closed cell catagory. Think about a waterbed. Your fist can touch the bottom because you can displace the water. This can be an advantage on a motorcycle seat, which is why I now insert gel-type foam inserts in high pressure spots on all of my saddles. In the hospital setting, the sedated patient cannot reposition his body to distribute weight. Gels reposition for him. Motorcycle riders are stuck in a different but similar situation. They are limited by space to repostioning.
But, it isn't pefect. There are disadvantages as well:
1) Heat retention/water retention- Because closed cell foams have virtually no air pockets in comparison to open cell foams, they tend to be very warm, even hot next to the skin. In the hospital setting this brings circulation to the area in an attempt to cool, which is great for healing and preventing bedsores. Not great on a ride across the desert on a hot day! And because of their fluid proofness, your sweat stays right next to your butt. Again, not a great idea.
2) Difficult to Shape- Closed cell foams are very difficult to shape after the molding process. I have yet to find one that cuts, grinds, and shapes well. The inserts I use that are closed cell are not modified, rather they are placed on a bed of open cell foam that can be sculpted.
That brings us around to what makes a comfortable motorcycle seat.
My opinion is that a comfortable motorcycle seat is 90% fit and 10% foam. Really, a well fit seat can be constructed from solid steel and be relatively comfortable. Horse saddles costing thousands of dollars are nothing more than hard leather on harder oak or fiberglass. Adding foam does reduce vibration, allow for movement of the leg up and down to reach the ground at stop signs and allow two people of drastically different weights to sit on the same surface with comfort. It also allows for a larger margin of error in the fit of the seat.
I don't claim to be perfect when it comes to fitting the human butt. Each is slightly different. I do think I am better at it than most. I know I think about it when shaping each seat, one at a time. I know when someone shares with me that they feel this or that on their seat, I relate their butt to my seat and their bike. When it is done correctly, you should never have to think about my seat at all.
The Various Foams I Use to Create Saddles
1) Light Open-Cell
There are lots of different types of foam available, and each has its own unique properties. When applied in the right areas to match your specific, personal needs, these properties combine to make a comfortable motorcycle saddle. In the pictures above, we have an array of every foam used in the production of your saddle. Why do we use so many foams? Because it is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve equal and balanced weight distribution with single density molded polyurathane foam. Lets examine the various foam type I use in my saddles and what properties each possesses.|
This type of foam is basically a finishing touch. It provides the padding to create the quilted look on stitched seats. Also, it provides a secure backing for the covering material. Overall, similar to a pillow-top mattress.
2) Sun - Mate's Hybrid:
Sun Mate's hybrid foam is a cross between an open-cell and a closed-cell foam. It does not rebound as much as normal foam, yet neither will it absorb as much as pudgee. I use this medium-density foam for lower impact zones.
3) Medium High open-celled foam
I use this style of firm foam on the "wings" of the saddles you see on my web page. This is the foam that supports your weight.
4) Pudgee foam
This extremely unique foam is completely closed-cell, and most closely resembles a gel. It will displace your weight rather than rebounding as shown in this "before and after" example.
5) High-Density closed-cell foam
This foam is especially dense and will not easily compress. Foam of this type is reserved for especially heavy riders, in cases where our medium-density foam would provide "too much give."
6) Stock Foam
Obviously, the stock foam already on your seat is perfectly molded to the shape of your pan. The base of the foam sticks to your pan exactly, without slipping or sliding. Therefore, it would not make sense to remove the stock foam completely. Because of this, some stock foam remains on your saddle.