Tips on upholstering a cafe seat?


XS650 Addict
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Houston, Texas
A while back I bought a cafe seat from an ebay seller for my XS650 cafe project. Well made, came with a big piece of durable vinyl and chrome snaps to secure it to the seat.

Problem is, I've never upholstered a seat before. I've located a source for the foam pad(s) and I know how to trim the foam. But I've never done any sewing before, and I'm thinking that, to do this right, a fair amount of sewing will need to be done so that it will have an authentic cafe look.

I suppose what I probably should do is just take it to an auto/motorcycle upholsterer after getting the foam shaped the way I want it, and have them do the rest. But being a DIY kinda guy, I wouldn't mind trying it myself.

So if you'd be willing to weigh in here, I'd be willing to pay attention. :bike:
If you want to give it a go yourself, go buy some cheap material and plenty of it, make your seat cover the way you want it and then try it out on the seat. You can either make a pattern out of paper for each piece as you go or pick out the stitching on your practice cover and use those pieces as your final pattern.
Good ideas, Teebs . . . and teach myself how to use my wife's sewing machine in the process. Heh. She'll probably take over and do the sewing for me. :D ;)
Hell, I forget we even have a sewing machine. It's been years since she's dragged that thing out. Doesn't matter though. Knowing her, if I try to do it, she'll pester me until I give in so she can take over.
Well, you have it made then. I'd go for it. Using cheap material and doing a test run, what are you really out if it doesn't work out? If you use something with the same general weight and flexibility as your final material you shouldn't have any problems.
Hmmm . . . maybe a medium weight canvas or denim would probably come close to the vinyl. Yeah, I'll give this a go. I can pick up an old pair of large size jeans at a thrift store for next to nothing, rip out the seams, and should have enough material for a pattern, I'm thinking. Thanks for the insights.
You're welcome. Hopefully we'll see some pics of the process, or at least the finished product. Good luck, brother.
Well, it will be difficult to take current pics, because three of my bikes are currently buried under a huge pile of emptly boxes that I save for shipping various things. Two others are dismantled. Obviously, none of these are currently running. But I do have some pics I've taken I can share. So here goes, since you asked for it.

Man-o-man, that was a job. Recently my website's hosting service had a catastrophic server crash and lost all data. I had tons of images uploaded there, and I've only been gradually uploading them again. Almost no mo-cycle photos, so I've had to dig and dig and dig to find some.

I'll start with the XSes, then the rest. A few of the XSes look rough, which is what they looked like when I found them. They've since been dismantled and/or the project has begun and/or parted out.

1981 SH. Owned it for 10 years, sold it a couple weeks ago.

1980 SG:

1977 D w/1975 tank. Came with the motor, but I didn't get a pic of it before tearing it down.

1978 E and early XS1 (XS1's motor is in background in first pic)


1987 Sporty 1200 hardtail. Only pics I have of it were from a crappy digicam.

1976 BMW R90/6:

1988 BMW R100RS:

1974 Norton Commando 850:
Thanks, Jim! I've had a soft spot in my heart for Nortons and especially the Commando ever since I was a young teen. I found that it was a bit anti-climactic after I finally got one, though. Back in the day, the Commando was one of the fastest bikes on the road. Nowadays, its performance is rather . . . stately. It runs well, but the suspension still needs some sorting out, and the seat is plain awful.

I was attracted to Beemers because I have friends who own them, and I couldn't keep up with them comfortably on my XS whenever we got up on the freeway. Those old airheads are stone-cold reliable, and are great road machines. They'll run at 5000-5500 rpm all day long and the engines are smooooth at those revs. I felt very fortunate that I was able to pick up the two I own for the prices I paid. They both needed work, which I was happy to do, and which saved me literally thousands.

The Sporty -- well, I thought I fell into a great deal on it, and planned to fix it up a bit, then sell it and make a few bucks off the deal. Come to find out the PO had not disclosed a rather serious engine problem. It has a crack in the right side case at the output shaft that he JB Welded. Can't be seen unless one removes the primary sprocket cover then looks close behind the sprocket. I felt like I'd been gut-punched when I discovered this. Me, I'm just not the kind of person who will sell something without disclosing all its faults. And I realized that, with that crack, the value of the bike had plummeted by thousands. I have basically three paths of recourse: 1) part it out, and I probably won't get my investment back even selling the individual parts, 2) strip down the motor and have the case heliarced, or 3) buy a set of clean used cases. Apparently this is not an unusual problem with these motors, cuz I've seen used bare cases for that motor sell on eBay for as much as $1500. At this point, I'm hoping that I can have the case repaired for a not-unreasonable sum. Minimize my losses when I finally sell it.

The XS650 was the first "large displacement" bike I ever rode -- back in about 1972 or so, which was why I jumped on the '81 when I found it for sale. Just something about these bikes that I've always really liked. They have a very high smiles-per-mile factor.
Get the crack heliarc'd. Don't see it as a big issue or expense no more than $100.00.

Yes the Beemers are a different breed and extremely smooth and road/highway worthy. I had two K75's nice power and comfort just a little funky looking in the engine bay. My last was a
'94 R1100RS it just loved to gobble up miles. Too bulky and heavy for me.
Here's a few pics of them. But my real passion is for these XS's. I always wished to have a complete collection SR500, XS650, XS750/850, XS1100. The one two three and four cylinder family of aircooled Yamaha's. The 650 is still my favorite


Get the crack heliarc'd. Don't see it as a big issue or expense no more than $100.00.

I always wished to have a complete collection SR500, XS650, XS750/850, XS1100. The one two three and four cylinder family of aircooled Yamaha's. The 650 is still my favorite

I've been tempted to go this direction myself, but more than anything else right now, I'm interested in streamlining my stable. I'd like to eventually pare down my collection to three bikes: an XS650, a Beemer, and the Norton. Biggest problem I have with this decision is I can't make up my mind which of my two Beemers I'd be willing to part with. They're two very different machines with entirely different performance characteristics, and I like each one "best" for what it does. So after considerable thought on the matter, I've reluctantly decided that I'll most likely just keep both. And I'll probably end up keeping one of my other XSes for a parts bike, if for no other reason.

I have a neighbor who has a K75s. Not familiar with the above GTS, but his has the bars that look more like clip-ons, same as on my R100RS. I've ridden it several times -- it's definitely a fun bike to ride, and that three cylinder motor purrs like a sewing machine.

I've been figuring that it would probably cost me four or five times your estimate to have that Sporty's case heliarced. If it really would be that cheap, then that would be great. I'd probably have a better shot of breaking even on the deal. Still, that bike is pretty low on my priorities list; it's gonna be a while before I get to it. At the top of the list is getting my XS cafe project completed.