Tuesday, February 3, 2009
It used to be standard procedure when you bought a new bike to replace the stock tires and rear shocks as soon as your finances allowed. The tires—known as rim protectors—became yard swings for the kids, and the shocks made great doorstops.
The bike I own now—an ’05 650 V-Strom—came with decent tires and suspension. I left the tires on long enough to wear them down to the tread-wear indicators and replaced them with Dunlops. The rear shock is still working tolerably well. That, or I’ve grown insensitive to its shortcomings; ditto the front fork.
The seat, though—the horror...the horror.
Here's one of the ugly truths of the motorcycle industry: the seat of a motorcycle is not meant to be comfortable. It’s meant to look good so you’ll buy the bike. Only later when you actually ride it will you discover it’s like being ridden out of town on a very fast rail.
And so it was with the V-Strom.
The rider’s portion of the seat was shaped sort of like a horse saddle, but without the firmness that would have otherwise made it slightly bearable. It did terrible things to parts of me I only ever want pleasant things done to. By the time I got home on the day I picked up the bike, I had already decided it had to go.
I’d have gotten rid of it sooner, but there are littering laws.
It was another Suzuki, a GS1100 I had on loan from Suzuki for about a year in the early 1980s, that showed me how good a stock seat can be when someone at the factory cares more about how it feels than how it looks. I’ve heard it was made by a Japanese sub-contractor called The Perfect Seat Company. This might be apocryphal, but I’m inclined to believe it’s true. Because if that seat wasn’t perfect, it was as close to it as I’ve ever sat on.
It was broad, and flat, and composed of a foam the density of which was, I’m certain, exactly the same as that of the clouds in heaven. Now and then I see a used GS1100—or the almost identical 1000 or 850—for sale, and every time I’m tempted to buy it just for the seat.
Many years after I turned the GS1100 back in to Suzuki, I bought a well-used GS850 for $800 from someone whose garage had shrunk and needed it gone. Rider assigned me to do a story about fixing up the old crock with aftermarket parts, and even though the stock seat was fine except for missing the trim rails, I replaced it with a Corbin.
Sad to say, some time later the engine started making scary noises way down deep in the crankcase, and I sold it to a mechanically inclined friend for what I’d paid for it.
I kept the stock seat, though, and it hung on a peg in my garage for years. I figured if I ever did get another GS Suzuki someday, I'd already have the Perfect Seat for it.