For all the talk about two wheels moving your soul, your backside is actually more important to the riding experience. When you’re on your bike, your posterior is the main connection between you and your motorcycle (unless you’re riding trials).
The trouble is, most manufacturers don’t seem to understand this simple fact, and continue to crank out bikes with uncomfortable seats. My stock seat that came with my Suzuki DR650? It’s a sawhorse. I replaced that with a Corbin, but what if you don’t have that kind of money, or you’re unsure if you’ll like the end results any better than the stock seat? After all, not every aftermarket seat has great reviews.
There’s another solution: Buy yourself an Airhawk seat pad.
Seat pads aren’t a new idea – for years, riders have been strapping pads down to their bike seats, made out of stuff like sheepskin (smelly and nasty when it rains) or even wooden beads (makes you look like an ungracefully aging hippy).
The difference is that the Airhawk is an inflatable seat, but it isn’t just a balloon for your butt – Airhawks are made by the RoHO Group. That’s not a huge name in aftermarket motorcycle parts – instead, they are best known for making seats for wheelchairs and office chairs. In other words, they know how to make a seat that’s comfortable for hours on end.
RoHO seats use shape-fitting technology to create a “a system of soft, flexible air cells interconnected by small channels that allows air to flow from one cell to another at a controlled rate” – their words, not mine.
It sounds complicated, but look at the picture of the seat, minus its cover, and you’ll get the idea. Instead of sitting on one pad, that digs into your body around the edges, the Airhawk design means your butt essentially floats on a several air-filled cells, with airflow between them. It keeps your rear end both cool and comfortable.
It might sound funny, but the design works. I’d been eyeing the Airhawk lineup for a while (they make several different sized seats), and decided to give them a call late in the 2012 riding season. They sent me a seat, but unfortunately, it didn’t arrive before my madcap tour of Newfoundland. My NC700X’s stock seat irked me for the whole trip.
When I returned from the Rock, it was only for a few hours, as I headed back out on the NC700X on the Fall Tour with ‘Arris. The difference was, this time I had an Airhawk strapped on to the bike.
While I was touring in Newfoundland, I could usually tell when I’d been in the saddle a while – my backside would be protesting. That wasn’t the case when I had the Airhawk in Quebec. It transformed the Honda from a mild torture device – not quite worthy of the Spanish Inquisition, but maybe suitable for Guantanamo – into a nice, smooth ride. No matter how I moved around on the bike, I couldn’t really get uncomfortable. That air cell technology really works.
Installing the Airhawk was simple – it’s held in place by two straps that run underneath your seat. Once you have the Airhawk strapped on your bike, you can inflate it – it doesn’t need much air. You can actually inflate it by mouth.
I had the Cruiser R seat, but depending on your bike’s seat size, you might want one of their other units (imaginatively titled the Small Cruiser, Medium Cruiser and Large Cruiser). They also have a Cruiser Pillion and Large Cruiser Pillion seat, so your sweetie can ride behind in comfort. Of course, the seats are usable on most bikes, too, so one seat could work for multiple machines, if you’ve got a garage full.
Pricing for the seats starts around $100, and runs up to about $200, depending which model you want and where you shop. You can buy them directly from Airhawk here.
Airhawk stands behind their products; they offer a 60-day guarantee, saying you’ll be able to ride twice as far comfortably, and if not, you can get your money back.
Is the Airhawk for everyone? It certainly isn’t much to look at – the style-conscious might prefer to pony up the dough for an aftermarket seat. Sportbike riders wanting to hang off their machines might not like it, either.
But the only problem I had with the Airhawk was with one of the mounting straps; it tore loose from the seat cover, leaving me with only one strap securing the seat. A bit of needlework put the seat back together, though, and I’m hanging on to it – the next time I ride an uncomfortable test bike, I’ll have the solution.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.