When I first started working on the rolling R90S restoration back in March of this year, one of the first inquires I made was to FlatRacer, a specialist BMW customizing shop in the UK.
When I had first obtained the R90S in the mid-1990s, its saddle was, as most saddles of this vintage are, kind of a Swiss-cheesed mess of corrosion and holes. As a confirmed poverty rider, I’d cut a back alley deal for a used saddle from a tall mysterious man who was operating out of the trunk of his car.
Unsurprisingly, I guess, said used saddle followed the original one to its own mass of corrosion and holes not that long afterwards, in the the scheme of things.
The first thing to go was the rear hinge that mounts the saddle to the frame of the motorcycle. Given that the saddle pan sits on a number of rubber mounts, and the front hinge and lock spindle were still intact, I just resolved to suffer through it, adding it to a list of many defects that are now entirely corrected. Not having the rear hinge would seem trivial, but as one of the fixed mounts for the entire saddle platform, it resulted in the pan not sitting solidly on its rubber mounts, with the results of increased vibration and the saddle sitting somewhat lower than originally designed.
I researched all of the available options for replacement saddles of this vintage, and came to the conclusion that FlatRacer was the only one worth spending my own money on. The original equipment Denfield saddles, with their steel pans, had relatively short life expectancies. Laugh if you want to, but remember that we’re talking about a 40 year old motorcycle. A 40 year old motorcycle that had already outlived two OEM saddles, to be precise. Reproductions that used ABS plastic or fiberglass-reinforced ABS plastic pans all had owner complaints that the pans were too thin and not up to the task. FlatRacer, on the other hand, was making a very strong hand laid fiberglass seat pan that would last at least as long as the bike.
So I wrote their shop in England, and got a very nice and comprehensive response from Edgar Marques, their principal.
At that time, Edgar indicated that they were working on another project, and were temporarily unable to ship the saddle I needed because their molds were worn out, and needed to be remade. My understanding is that because of the thickness of the fiberglass that they used, and the heat that ‘glas generates while curing, that the molds really had a hard time of it, and an appropriately reduced life expectancy.
It was also clear that Edgar really knew his detailed stuff when it came to old BMWs — because he could tell me exactly what had failed on my seat pans without ever having seen them — “…thin material, deck not level, always flexes and breaks rear hinge…”– and could tell me how his product had corrected all those design flaws.
I resolved to wait for Edgar to finish whatever he was working on, and to get a saddle I knew I wouldn’t have complaints with later.
Let’s just summarize by saying that I’m very glad that I did.
I joked with Edgar that I would wait for his shop to be able to work on my need, and I hoped that we wouldn’t still be talking about it in October.
I would politely request that you not look at the calendar, if you would, please.
Two days ago, the UPS guy, who has to be getting tired of the amount of motorcycle parts I make him carry, dropped off a box that indicated it had originated in the UK.
After a frenzy of unpacking and unwrapping, I had this.
No biggie, you think, its a seat.
But its the parts that no one will see that really indicate how nice a piece this is. The nose of the saddle, for example.
Nicely finished, with a shape that perfectly engages the flange on the rear of the fuel tank.
Then, there is the real business end.
Again, Edgar’s knowledge of my motorcycle was on full display. The fiberglass work is thick, strong and clean. Replacement hinges were made of stainless, with the hinge bases hand shaped to account for the differing measurements of the front and rear mounting positions on the pan. This saddle is designed to fit multiple models, which differ in their mounting points. The hex head mounting screws, which were included with the saddle, were inserted into the holes which were appropriate for my model.
These are small things, but they speak of a larger attention to detail and mastery.
The saddle mounted to the seat cowl of the R90S with minimal fiddling, and the adjustment of the seat post lock was easy and straightforward.
Once on the road, the transformation was complete and total.
Whereas the old tailsection was loose and flopping about like a dead fish, the new one feels like its made from a solid block of alloy — there is zero movement of the saddle and cowl/rack assembly when underway.
The seat foam is of the proper density and well shaped — there are subtle bevels at the edges of the saddle where the stocker used to feel almost square. Moving around in the saddle and hanging off for corners is now far easier.
FlatRacer makes all kinds of performance and appearance modifying bits for old BMWs — they have some lovely fork preload adjusters, and rearsets and other nice alloy and fiberglass bits.
I have a feeling this won’t be the last thing that comes in from my new friends in the UK.