Sitting down on the job…
a high mileage review of seat cushions
Butt Pads according to Mike
Taken from VOC Newsletter May-June 1998, Volume 88
By: Mike “Iron Butt ’97” Lauzon , Ottawa River “Rat” Rider
| The time of year is upon us when we are looking forward to a summer of great rides and good friends. Many of us are looking for a little something to make our excursions more comfortable and thus enjoyable. In this article we will have a look at a few products that might do just that!First, here is a little bit of background. Last year I had the rare opportunity to ride all summer, traveling a whopping 43,015 km (26,669 mil.). While doing so I had the pleasure of meeting VOC President Mike Risk at the Family Reunion in Woodstock, Virginia. Bo Cross, our chapter president, was also at the Reunion. We both overheard that Mike had several seat pads available for “testing”. We were both interested in more information on the pads, as the literature we had read didn’t paint an adequate picture. So off we went to find Mike. After much conversation, we convinced him that our tail ends would be ideal for testing the pads on our long trek home back to Canada. Eh!
So we did! Off we went through the Blue Ridge Mountains along with the boys from Tennessee’s Kentucky Lake Cruisers whom I had met earlier on my way to the Reunion. After leaving the mountains, we parted company and Bob and I headed west to Virginia Beach and from there up the East Coast back to Ottawa. Two weeks after arriving home I left with fellow chapter member Frank “Scooter” Bates for his hometown of Parsboro, Nova Scotia. From there I toured solo through Newfoundland before Scooter and I headed home. This trip, along with the ride home from the Reunion, gave me a few miles to try out the butt pads. Here is what I found….
I tested three different brands of cushions. The first was the “Jetstream Air Vent Saddle Cushion”
from Wind-Tech Engineering in San Antonio, Texas. It sells for $29.95 (US) and is basically a foam cushion covered with vinyl and ventilating mesh with a non-slip backing and tie-down strap. I have a stock seat with one inch of foam used for snowmobiles added to it. Having this pad on top didn’t do too much for me. As a matter of fact, it changed my seat contour so it wasn’t’ as comfortable as my seat alone. After about 300 to 400 miles I gave up on it. It also raised my seat height and I have short legs so this hastened my decision. The next up to bat was the “AirHawk” manufactured by ROHO Inc. of Belleville, Illinois
. It’s an air cushion consisting of tiny cells of air that can be pressure regulated. It retails for $199 (US). It has a tire valve
that you can put enough air in so that you kind of float on it. This way it isn’t too hard or too soft. However, I found that even though the AirHawk had a non-slippery side to it, I still had the uncomfortable sensation of wanting to slide off the seat. Mind you, this didn’t happen unless I put it on the seat upside down! Beyond this, it made a trip more bearable up to about 150 miles. After that I just preferred my own seat. In summary, to start a trip it was great, once the feeling of falling off left me. For me, the cushion was most comfortable after I had removed a slight amount of air so I could feel my seat.
The third cushion, the “BUNS-EZ” is made by S & M Sales of Ainsworth, Iowa.
It retails for $65 (US) and is filled with gel polymer with wet-suit material forming a non-slip side.
This too is comfortable for about 150 miles. It is also capable of being heated in the microwave. This made it my preferred butt pad. On those cool fall mornings it sure was comfortable. A heated seat! It is only about a half-inch thick, so it didn’t really increase seat height.
After riding many miles, I started to thing about possible combinations. For the sake of space, I’ll get to the ultimate duo. Allow me to explain. I have a friend who has MSS. Due to her condition she is unable to travel far because of road vibrations and what not. As a passenger she tried the gel pad on top of the AirHawk. This improved the comfort so much that she was able to comfortably ride down to the summer B.B.Q. held by the New York Chapters. During my trip to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland I, too, found this configuration very comfortable. If there are any seat/cushion manufactures out there, please take note! For me the disadvantage of this duo was the increase in seat height. Damn those legs of mine! Editor’s Note: Mike “Iron Butt “97”
By: Bob “Bony-Assed” Cross, another, Ottawa River Rider
Now that you have heard from the “ultimate butt” himself you must be wondering about us normal folks? Those of us that still have nerve endings under the hide of our softer parts and are fortunate to be able to saunter down the boulevard without the aid of a skateboard under our behinds in order to avoid dragging our cheeks (or worse!) on the tarmac. (Just kiddin’, Mike!)
The fact is that all the cushions are an improvement over sitting atop what Yamaha provides us. Also, if one of them meets your comfort needs, they are a considerably cheaper alternative to an aftermarket seat. Which one is “best” depends on your particular anatomy, riding style, and geographic locale. Each has its good and bad points.
I decided to first rest my buttocks on the Jetstream cushion. The literature with the product indicated it is available in three configurations. A burlap covered model, a synthetic fur design and the one we tested, which had a ventilated mesh cover. One of the biggest complaints I have with sitting on the stock seat is I find the vinyl cover hot and sticky. The Jetstream’s ventilated covering beckoned as a solution to this problem. In addition, it comes with a handy adjustable tie-down strap. The other cushions offer a tie-down as an option at additional cost or not at all. A tie-down seems like a nuisance until you consider the reality of having to stand on the pegs at speed to later find your 100-dollar-plus cushion shredded on the pavement.
In practice, however, I found the Jetstream rather disappointing. In the hot summer sun along Virginia Beach, were we headed after last year’s Reunion, its cooling effect was minimal, as was its contribution to reducing numb butt. I also found the tie-down didn’t stop the cushion from annoyingly sliding around under my posterior. Unlike my riding companion, my 6’2″ frame and long legs didn’t suffer from the pad’s added thickness.
Next, I placed my derriere upon the BUNS-EZ gel pad. Mike mentioned that the pad can be heated! He forgot to mention that it can also be cooled by placing it in a freezer for a couple of hours. In the heat of August I wanted to try this feature. Finding a freezer while on the road was the tough part, so I opted for the motel’s bar fridge. After this treatment, the initial cooling effect was refreshing, but not long-lasting. In fairness, it might have been better if left in a freezer for two or three hours as opposed to overnight in a fridge. The vibration dampening/cushioning effect was there, but not pronounced for me. I attributed this to my boy backside. Those of you who know Mike, who loved the gel pad, will affirm he doesn’t suffer from this affliction! On the plus side, the pad was very well constructed and should provide its owner with years of service. It also does double-duty off the bike as a heating pad or cold compress.
The AirHawk cushion was my final perch. It is an impressive piece of engineering with a heavy-duty, multi-celled inflatable air pad and a hi-tech covering designed to reduce the “stick rear” syndrome I despise so much. It had overall excellent construction. It ships with a patch kit with east to understand repair instructions and an impressive owner’s manual. The folks in the marketing/design departments at ROHO Inc. sure did their homework. The cushion is available in three sizes to suit almost any fanny or saddle, including the pillion seat. We tested the small cruiser model. Which looked good atop the Virago’s throne. So what about performance? I am please to say that the cushion felt as good as it looked. The key to success is proper inflation. The pad should be filled just enough to keep your heinie off the seat. This wraps your buns in a comfy pocket and gives the sensation of floating. I found the seat nice and cool in hot weather and pleasantly warm in cool weather. In addition, my numb-butt almost disappeared! I discovered that nay hint of tingling could be cured simply by wiggling from side to side on the pad. This provides a hell of a massage that invigorated my gluteus maximus and made everything wonderful again! An added bonus in design is that because the pad is rubber and the cover very thin and fast drying, you’re always warm and dry even in the rain! Sheepskin would never be the same. Unlike Mike, I found the pad adhered well to the seat without sliding. Of course, I had it on right side up, which helps! Now for the bad news. At $199 (US) the AirHawk is priced more than three times higher than its nearest tested competition, the BUNS-EZ gel pad. No matter how good the pad was, I personally found the price far too steep. The phrase, “You get what you pay for” holds true, but there are limits.