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Sittin’ pretty

By Mark Jags

Saddlemen Explorer Special



No matter how good your bike looks sitting in the garage or parked along Main Street for Bike Night, it was made to be ridden. And while that sleek, low profile swatch of leather or vinyl you call a seat complements the lines of the machine, it’s going make your posterior complain terribly when you eventually take that road trip. Luckily there are plenty of motorcycle seat manufacturers that not only make some beautifully styled saddles, but also some very functional ones.

Since I’ve already got one strike against my traveling comfort because of the machine I choose to ride, I’ve been in what seems like an endless search to find the right mix of style and comfort in a seat for my Sportster. Through the course of conducting my research and trying different seats, I’ve found that, at least for me, the more comfortable seats allow for some wiggle room so you can shift your position around just enough to keep the blood flowing in the butt as much as possible. I also like having some lower back support.

With those two key elements in mind, I was really excited to try out the Explorer Special Seat from Saddlemen. The Explorer Special, made of Saddlemen’s proprietary SaddleHyde material, has a deep, wide contoured bucket that cradles both rider and passenger. In addition to the progressive density foam, both the driver and passenger seats incorporate a SaddleGel insert that claims to ease tailbone pressure and improve circulation. But the feature that most intrigued me was the split-cushion design that separates the lumbar support and forward seat cushion so they compress independently, reducing tailbone and hipbone pressure. The Saddlemen website shows a neat illustration on the benefits of the split cushion design, but whether it worked or not was yet to be determined.

As soon as I received the seat, I put it on the bike. (You know how it is when you get a new toy.) The weather was still on the low end of the thermometer here in Western New York, so I knew I wouldn’t have an opportunity to really test out the seat until I rode to New Hampshire in June for Laconia Motorcycle Week.

A quick visual inspection of the seat revealed good-quality construction, with nice stitching, uniform shaping and chrome studs. The cover is riveted to what appears to be a fiberglass seat pan. It’s certainly larger than my stock seat as far as height (driver’s lumbar support) and width go, but it’s billed as giving two-up touring comfort, so you have to expect some extra padding somewhere.

Initial impressions on my first test ride revealed that the seat felt firm, but not too hard, and that I attributed to the gel insert. The lumbar support was gladly welcomed, along with the riding position being a little farther back. Since I have long legs, getting farther back on my Sportster is a bonus. I actually had to tilt my 12″ mini-apes back a little so I wouldn’t have my arms locked in the fully-extended position.

As planned, the new seat got a 1,200-mile-plus workout through a variety of weather conditions in Laconia. Those of you who’ve been to New Hampshire in early June know what I’m talking about. When the dust settled on the trip, I came away satisfied with the seat’s performance. The tall back of the driver’s seat provided great lumbar support and I felt very secure in the “cradle.” Having said that, I didn’t feel locked into the seat, and because I could sit a little further back, there was enough wiggle room to adjust my position around when needed. It was hard for me to determine whether it was the split cushion or the gel insert that made a significant difference in comfort, but whatever it was, it worked.

Overall, the Saddlemen Explorer Special is a well-made seat with nice styling and rugged construction. And as with any motorcycle seat, the level of comfort is highly subjective due to the uniqueness of everyone’s body shape and riding position. But one thing that is not subjective is quality, and this one gets high marks in that category.

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