To the recreational motorcycle rider, the idea of getting on their two-wheeled steed and riding off into the sunset is the ultimate freedom. Whether you notice it on a superficial level or actually recognize this feeling deep at heart is dependant on the rider. This to a country with long-running cowboy roots, the ultimate symbol of that freedom is the untameable Mustang.
Elegant yet rugged, defiant yet looking to be tamed, Harley figured it out, and some consider them to be a symbol of that freedom, using slogans like; “The road starts here. It never ends.” “American by choice. Rebel by birth.” So did Ford when they initially released the Ford Mustang in 1964. Another classic American company who understands the freedom, beauty, and needs of the people and this symbolism is Mustang Motorcycle Seats. To ride in a Mustang is to tame the mystery of look, convention, and comfort. Here’s a glimpse into this American company whose long in the saddle.
The American Story
Mustang Seats was founded 30-years ago in 1988, by Al Simmons, an energetic entrepreneur with a love for bikes, a high-standard, and clearly an interest in comfort. He set up shop in beautiful Three Sisters, Massachusetts, right on the edge of the town’s namesake.
Only 75-miles from Boston and 150-miles from New York City, you get the feeling they invented the term small town friendliness. The facility was once home to a textile mill from the 19th century that would get a substantial renovation in order to house the Mustang company of today.
The previous business would explain its idyllic spot near the water’s edge, as inside the 88,000 square foot factory used to be hundreds of looms that used the river water to power them. Although the space is still used for manufacturing, overall the place has changed dramatically to bring it up to speed with the 21st century where it runs at full steam. What was once an idea for making those long-haul rides more comfortable, has ridden its success into the world’s largest manufacturer of aftermarket motorcycle seats
Al explains that he came up with the name one day when he was chatting to his partner who owned a P-51 Mustang airplane, that “…there was only one thing better than cruising down the highway on a Harley, and that was flying at 400MPH in a P-51 Mustang.” With that, they took the name of the airplane and put it with the image of a mustang horse, and so it was born. “The iron-horse flying mustang.”
It’s only a seat, who cares.
When out shopping for a new ride I’m pretty sure the last thing on your list of inquiries is the boring old seat. I’m guessing your top three interests are likely the engine size or what it can do, like the Suzuki M1800R and its gas-guzzling capabilities you are rarely to ever fully use. Or the paint job, be that a glossy black with hints of orange for the Harley fans, or the obscene orange for the KTM fanatics, or the classic red-hearted Honda, color often well outweighs comfort.
Somewhere at the bottom of the list under categories that you can live with or swap out, are those less attention-getting bits, like foot pegs, windscreens, and the always used and more often overlooked, seat.
Why is this ass-kissing amigo so important then? Well first off you might consider the safety implications of a poorly designed seat. If it sits too high and your feet can’t properly touch the ground, then you might find yourself falling over with your leg under your bike. Sure you can adjust the suspension to compensate for this. That may, however, compromise the design of your bike, its clearance, cornering capabilities and more. Or the adjustment might merely be a more significant pain in the assets then a bad seat.
Another important area for consideration is the width, depending on how you ride, that space between your legs may also double as a grip to hold yourself to the bike. Too wide and you won’t get the right grip, too narrow, and you’ll be getting too much gas tank in the crotch. With the wrong seat-width to your ride, you might jeopardize the way you control the bike.
Last, though usually the most important, is the seat comfortable? If you’re like me, then those exciting off-road days on your dual-sport are quickly overtaken by envy when you see the sofa-styling of a Honda Gold Wing passing you by on the way home. You look in awe while trying to remember if there are still frozen peas in the freezer to numb the pain of your bottom end, as the last wave of baby boomers sits pretty in a Lazy Boy with wheels.
Well then, what does Mustang do that’s so different?
If you are wondering what the difference is from a major manufacturer with multiple decades of moto-manufacturing history to that of the Three Rivers people in their home state that no one can adequately spell. Masastuchus?, Massatusis?, Massacaschusstutis?, Massachusetts! That’s the one! Then let’s take a look into what goes on at Mustang Seats.
For starters, they care! That’s right, I know that you think that because you handed over 6-months salary and got a 5-year warranty, you believe that the people at Ducati really care about you. Well, they sort of do, as they care about most of the things you generally like on the bike. However, I’m going to bet that they care more about if you are going to keep your job and make the payments then how your tush feels on a Tuesday afternoon while you’re zipping from Alabama to Arkansas. These people at Mustang actually care, they have too, it’s their entire business. And if you aren’t hugely over the top satisfied, then they are out of business. If business growth is any indication, they really care about a lot of people’s tushes.
What goes into these custom seats is laughably laborious in a world that has been designed for automation. To make a fiberglass seat template they first come up with the overall design, then try it out. From there they will make some adjustments to the initial foam design by cutting away excess and sanding down the foam. Then it gets coated with a polyester and sanded it until it’s smooth. Then that design gets used to create a mold. Next up is a gel-coated pan that gets chopped glass sprayed onto it until it has a base of around a ¾” thickness. Once that final mold is finished they fill it with their own recipe of custom foam, another American made product of theirs.
For the steel baseplates, they need to be formed and welded after the steel is initially pressed over a mold. More complex then you might imagine, sometimes several pieces of steel are welded together to get the right design layout. Once everything is in place, they sort out the edging and powder coat the whole thing. Then when you have the fiberglass or steel base done, they mount the top-secret foam recipe that has been molded and pre-broke-in, into the plate. From here the covers get stitched together from patterns by the sewing team. Not the fully automated Singer sewing team, but one solitary person from their team who is responsible for completing the design from start to finish, by hand, with a sewing machine.
Next up they clean up any foam that might over-hang, mount the foam, then the cover with that hand-stitched cover we just talked about. Next up, it’s riveted into place and given a final inspection before it makes its way to the ultimate consumer. Before it hits that last shipping box it has passed through some fifty hands or more, incredible! Glen Lopes, member of the R&D and design team states that Mustang builds all of its own components, something unique to them. Truly an American made product for Americans, and the world over.
The talented people at Mustang also turn out a few things that are uniquely Mustang. In the past, they have put on their creative caps and come up with a seat for breast cancer awareness that they dubbed “Comfort for a cause,” “Seats (that) drive donations for breast cancer research.”
These pretty in pink creations come in choices that included different pink ribbon designs, contrasting stitching and entire inlays. A great way to show your support, raise some funds or even surprise your husband with a new seat on his bike! Who will then, in turn, surprise the fragile egos of every hardened biker he meets. A great way to make new friends.
Another personal touch with a lasting impression is the Mustang factory tours you can book to visit the facility and see for yourself the teams that bring Mustang seats to life. Group sizes from 2-24 are welcome to pre-arrange tours where one of the team members will walk you through and answer questions on all things seat. These two-hour tours are sure to leave you with a greater understanding of what really goes into fanny-protection fabrication.
The Bottom Line
Clearly, a Mustang is a thing of beauty that has been hand-crafted with care for your derrière. On a price-point basis, they run every scale of the spectrum, from $200-$1000 & beyond if you’re looking for something more customized. Somewhere in the range of $400-$500 should get you into something to fit your needs based around their most popular styles and builds. Granted shopping in and shipping out from overseas will almost always yield a better deal with worse results. If red, white and blue is right for you, then the brand born from an airplane and an idea for quality and comfort is the brand for you. In the words of Al Simmons himself, “The only way to get a motorcycle seat to look hand made, is to hand make it.”
Images: Mustang Motorcycle Seats