Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Story by David Booth//
December 1 2019

Here’s a tip for all you DIYers looking to beef up your suspension with a new Fancy Dan multi-adjustable rear shock: all the damping adjustments in the world won’t matter a whit if your spring rate isn’t in the right ballpark.

I learned this the hard way. I recently splurged big time on a shock for my woefully underdamped V-Strom 1000. The shock is top of the line and features 22-way adjustment for high- and low-speed compressions damping and the same number of clicks for rebound.

The problem was none of them made a difference. Full hard or full soft? Nada. Ditto for low- or high-speed compression. I could play with the entire range and nothing made an improvement; the big Suzuki still banged off bumps. My wife, who had complained about the stock shock, was apoplectic: “You paid how much for that damned thing and it still doesn’t work? And you’ve been futzing with it for how long?

Turns out my new shock’s spring was way too soft. I took the whole kit and kaboodle up to John Sharrard of Accelerated Technologies and he quickly determined that the supplied spring – 550 pounds per inch – wouldn’t hold up my 80 kilograms, let alone the (I dare not mention how many) kilos added when She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed climbs on.

Once I slipped in a 625-lbs-per-inch affair – yes, a stiffer spring for a better ride – and, presto, what was once “bottom and wallow” is now smooth sailing.

So sensitive to adjustment was the damping now that Herself required no more than a couple of clicks from my baseline setting before she was happy as a clam. And, guys, when your wife, who mightn’t know a shim stack from a damper rod, asks – nay, tells – you to remember a specific high-speed compression-damping setting, there’s a lesson you need to learn.

Now, here’s the thing: this article isn’t about suspension. It’s about seats – probably the only thing motorcyclists complain about more than suspension. What I learned in my year-long quest to make that same 2018 Stromtrooper comfortable is that seeking the ultimate in seating has the same circuitous path to satisfaction as optimizing suspension.

To wit: the most important thing about finding solace for aching buttocks is not foam density. Nor is it seat shape. Nope, the most important thing to alleviate distressed glutei is…

The seating position. Yup, what I am saying is that just as the aforementioned shock that required the spring be in range before damping adjustments had any significant effect, your posterior has to be in the right position before any difference in firmness of foam will make a significant improvement.

Now, I know at least a few of you are thinking to yourself: “Duh, Dave, that’s obvious!” But the fact is that biker forums are rife with owners seeking advice about foam formulations and/or gel inserts, but the only question they never seem to ask – “Where are you sitting on the seat?” – is the only one that matters.

I gleaned this information the hard way, having spent the past 12 months sifting through four seats – stock, Shad, Sargent and Luimoto gel – without finding much salvation despite their difference shapes, sizes and firmness. Fed up, I decided to concentrate on the other comfort problem I has having – namely the 2018 XT’s handlebar being too low for my aging lower lumbar.

Well, lo and behold, every time I tweaked the amazingly adjustable Gilles 2DGT risers – adjustable for height in five-mm increments and four-mm in rearward travel – my butt hurt less until one day, seven rearward adjustments later, my backside found hindquarter heaven. Fantastic, thought I, the Sargent – the seat I was testing at the time – finally is broken in – and is it comfy or what! But no, then I slapped on the Shad and, wow, when did it get so good? Crap, the stocker isn’t half bad either.

So, now I am testing all four seats again. All are far more comfortable than before. Thanks to the Gilles’ 28-mm setback, my rump, once aching after but an hour in the saddle, is now happy to be riding for a whole tankful without stopping.

So, what have I learned? Well, for one thing, I think that owners claiming one particular seat solved all their problems will find it has less to do with “wonder foam” and more with the fact that they now just happen to be sitting where the seat manufacturer meant them to sit. And the rider with the same seat who hates it completely? Well, that may have less to do with his compatibility with stiff Corbin foam than the fact that, thanks to foot peg and handlebar location, he’s sitting in the wrong spot.

In other words, the solution is not what you’re sitting on but where you’re sitting that counts. The lesson to be learned here? Get your seating position right and only then begin spending the big bucks on fancy seats.


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