How to Install Motorcycle Seat Gel Pads

Published by Naseem Muaddi on January 10th, 2012

Many customers have asked what I could do to make their motorcycle and scooter seats more comfortable. I’ve always recommended installing a gel pad – which only measures ½” thick, but feels like a couple inches of foam.

There are two ways to do this job – depending on a customer’s preference and the amount of comfort desired.

The first and more comfortable option is to glue a gel pad directly over a seat’s bare foam cushion. However, this tends to give seats a thicker look that many customers don’t like.

The second option is to cut out a section of a seat’s foam and replace it with a gel pad. While this keeps the seat’s original profile, it’s the less comfortable option.

Both, however, are definitely more comfortable than no gel pad at all.

I recently installed a gel pad using the second option. Here’s how I did it:

After stripping the seat’s cover, I marked the cushion’s center and outlined the section where I wanted to install the gel pad. Install the gel pad where the customer feels the most discomfort.

Using a sharp razor blade, I cut out the section where the gel pad would be placed.

I drew a line on all sides of the cut section measuring ½” from the bottom. Discarding the bottom section and using the top enables me to keep the factory curve of the seat.

To keep the foam steady while cutting it, I glued it to a piece of wood.

I glued the top half of the foam back inside the seat, but only after tracing it on a gel pad. This guarantees that the gel pad – once cut – will be the appropriate size.

I cut the gel pad and glued it on top of the foam I just re-installed.

I cut a piece of headliner material large enough to cover the entire motorcycle seat.

I glued the headliner material over the entire seat. This ensures a uniform look that is free of bumps or creases once the seat cover is installed.

I then trimmed the motorcycle seat in ostrich-grain vinyl.

And there you have it, a more comfortable motorcycle seat!

I buy my gel pads from a Philadelphia-area supplier, George Shaw & Associates, for $55. I’ve experimented with other pads that cost less, but they tend to repel glue. The pad that I use has a thin plastic-skin covering that glue adheres to very well.

The installation process takes time, but isn’t too difficult. I like offering the service because it allows me the opportunity to up-sell customers who need a new seat cover, as well as attract those who are just looking for a comfort fix.

What are your thoughts on gel pads?  Do you use a particular brand that you think is best? Or do you use memory foam instead? If so, what are the pros and cons of using one over the other?

* Naseem Muaddi is owner and proprietor of Delaware County Auto Upholstery – the Philadelphia-area’s premier custom trim shop.



18 Responses

  1. stitcher_guy says:

    Great how to. However, considering the retail cost of the gel pad itself, and the labor involved to make the swap, plus the complaints I hear from gel-pad owners, I discourage my customers. Instead, we do a similar approach only using layers of graduated foam. And instead of cutting straight down through the main bun and leaving a hard ledge felt by the customer whether using gel or foam, I cut at an angle into the bun allowing a gradual fade to soft. I never get a complaint, and can do a large Harley seat for $85 — less than the retail cost of buying gel.

    • Nadeem says:

      Out of curiosity, what types of complaints do you hear from folks who’ve had gel pads installed? Also, do you find that using layers of graduated foam – though shaved on an angle – adds a bit of unwanted bulk to seats?

  2. stitcher_guy says:

    Cost, too “squishy” and traps heat when the bike is sitting out in the sun are the three biggest complaints with the gel. And with the foam, I don’t get any additional bulk, because I follow the same style as you. I cut out the original hard foam in the center of the seat, and fill in the hole. I keep the outer two inches or so of the original bun to retain the shape of the seat and then fill in the center. Increasing ride distance depends on being able to relieve the pressure on the trunk arteries going between the legs. When they’re cut off, you go numb. A little bit of give in the foam right in the center of the seat, and it’s much more comfortable. Same reason bicycles now sport holes in the center of their seats.

  3. Nadeem says:

    Other great comments this article received on The Hog Ring’s Facebook page:

    Custom Interiors by Vos: Great how to. Been doing them this way for years. Never had a problem.

    Cheryllea Stitch Brown: We use the gel pads as well at xtreme upholstery, never had a problem

    Brad Wurzbacher: personally i think gel is trash, and all mental when it comes to how comfortable a seat is. i have never put gel ina customers bike and said to myself “yeah thats a huge improvement”. there is just so much to offer in the market of foam and memory foams that i believe gel is useless, it fairly expensive even at wholesale, and it can be just a pain to work with

    TheHogRing.com: Brad you may have a point – as we really can’t say that gel pads feel a whole lot more comfortable to us either. Then again, no one on THR’s team rides a motorcycle. However, some of our customers, who ride long distances on their bikes, swear by gel pads.

    In regards to them being difficult to work with, there are all kinds of new pads available that are much easier use than ones from years past. They are expensive, but if it’s what the customer wants, it really couldn’t hurt to offer them as options.

    Thoughts?

    Stitches Custom Auto Upholstery: Im looking for a wholeseller for the gel pads, anybody know where I can get them?

    TheHogRing.com: Our gel pad supplier is George Shaw & Associates in PA (302-444-5656). Miami Corporation also offers them through their online store.

    Brad Wurzbacher: i buy gel through miami myself…and i agree about the options for customers if they come in i show them a gel pad if they ask, but once i show them a completed memory foam seat i keep on hand that always sways them from gel. harley seats are notoriously trash from the factory, so i modified a sporty seat with memory foam instead of gel and it turned that piece of harley junk into an almost touring caliber seat…im a big proponent of memory foam over gel. and its shapes like butter

  4. Based on the example and the comments I am glad to say I have been doing it right for years. I use the best of both worlds. The gel pac with Confur (memory foam) over top and then a 1/4″ scrim to finish. Most customers swear by them but I have had a few who didn’t feel they were much different.
    http://roykeithclassics.com/Bike_seat__tec_tip.html

    • Naseem Muaddi says:

      Hey Roy,
      Thanks for sharing. That’s a great tutorial on your website. I like the idea of combining the gel pad with the memory foam. Who’s your supplier for the memory foam, I’d love to try it out at my shop?

  5. Glad to contribute. The gels are from Pro-Pad and the memory foam comes from Skandia. They have several densities. They also carry very firm closed cell foam called Insolite. It works great for custom bike seats and armrest pads where firm foam is needed.

  6. Rick Fisher says:

    I have had good customer feed back installing gel pads in the way described, thanks for the tips. I am also looking for a good source for exotic leathers for my motorcycle customers, any suggestions?

  7. Elle says:

    I have a solo seat that already has memory foam attached. I wanted to add a gel pad then cover it myself. Is it okay to put the gel pad on top of the memory foam and then cover with some thin batting of some sort?

  8. marty says:

    I use 3 different gels depending on the type of seat it is to be fitted to. I also make my own gels, to help with the grading I can add firm segments which stop the seat feeling squishy.
    My gels don’t absorb heat as much and my foam/gel mix helps with a more traditional feel.
    Gel has its issues but with a little thought most can be worked out and a comfortable ride can be achieved.
    In the UK a warm seat is a comfort not a problem, I even add seat heaters under the gel, but in hot climates some gels can retain heat my tip is don’t let them warm up in the first place not easy I know but it is worth the effort because any seat with a gel fitted is going to be far more comfortable than one without. But beware I have come across many badly made gels that have no benefit at all even some production seats have useless 5mm gel in them. Do your homework and use quality products fitted correctly will be worth it in the end.

  9. Custom Upholstery n Fabrication Custom Upholstery n Fabrication says:

    ive recovered several harley seats that had gel formed into the foam bun. they are always in the bottom of the bun though. i wonder if you followed the direction in this tutorial but instead put the gel under instead of on top if that would cut down on the heat issue

  10. Hello, I think we really have to listen to our customers issues and then use the appropriate solution for the problem. We never try to push a product on a customer just to make an upsale. A lot of customers come in with. No problems and want gel installed, if you don’t have a problem adding gel might create one. Our experience is a good orthopedic gel really helps with certain issues ( butt burning , fatigue , sore buttocks …)on some of the Strret bikes and real low seats you really need a dense material that doesn’t collapse easily. Our biggest gripes come from customers that have purchased biker gel that is real soft and offers no support. We also remove memory foam from our local competitors because it feels good at first however once compressed it looses all support and breaks down.we also have had to remove air bladders and have not had good results with the Sqwoosh pads. I do agree that layering foam is the key and really gives us the edge from large manufactures who have not yet figured out the perfect foam , however it does take years to find the right foams. And we offer a limmited lifetime warranty on our comfort pack seats . By doing this warranty we insure customer satisfaction as well as are able to keep track of what foams and gels we have the best response from for each rider.

  11. i have no idea about How to Install Motorcycle Seat Gel Pads , but my friend suggest to search online and i see your post. This post give me great information and details….

  12. tom says:

    I install gels in motorcycle seats I use all my scrapes and melt them down and make a new sheat of gel but all gel pad are diffent you can not mix the gel

    I use a clear looking gel

  13. Reading these comments is interesting. There are several different ways to install gel pads, and my company offers both straight gel and foam/gel combinations. We have had great success with our product, and we never complaint softness nor the gel and/or foam breaking down.

  14. seatmaker seatmaker says:

    I have been installing gel in seats now for 25 years. I use medical gel only. By using Naseem’s method your costs are lower than using other foam and I have never had a complaint. I also put a layer of insulating material over the pad as gel can get hot.
    I started back then as a favor for a friend who is a parapalegic. Trikes are still a big business for me.


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