Like any self respecting LD rider, I needed a new seat. The stock one wasn't going to cut it for more than a few hundred miles a day.
I did a fair amount of reseach about the various options out there, but in the end, I decided to go with Rich's Custom Seats. Most of the reason was because they were local, but also because I knew a few people who had these seats and liked them.
The saga starts with a trip to Rich's shop in Kingston, WA. The day I picked for my fitting was also chosen by nature for a big rain storm. So I was pretty much soaked by the time I arrived.
The process starts by Rich and the employee who will build your seat looking at you sitting on your bike on the center stand. Rich then gives some instructions to his employee (Rich doesn't actually build the seat - he directs the process) who then tears down your stock seat and begins building it back up.
About an hour later, they were ready for a test sit. The seat felt comfortable, but I was concerned that the seating position was too far aft and was causing me to lean forward too much. I went on a test ride and Rich's employee made some adjustments to move the seating position forward. Thinking back on it, this is where I made a tremendous error. Rich's employee was moving the seating position by inches when I wanted it moved by miles - I should have been adamant that, no, really - I want to sit that far forward. At one point, Rich jumped on the bike and told me that the best handlebar position would be with them moved aft several inches. I already have a bar riser that moves the bars back and up as much as they can go without going the Heli bar route, which involves some modifications to the brake line.
At this point it was getting late, and I was getting tired. I was also second guessing myself left and right and telling myself that I should trust that the position they're building the seat would work in the end.
I then made my second major mistake of the day - Allowing myself to be talked into a leather seat cover. Even better, this mistake cost me an additional $200, but more on this later.
After second test ride It felt okay - I thought. For whatever reason, It felt fine on the test ride. Once the gel went in and the cover went on, things weren't so rosy.
As soon as I got on Highway 16 and headed for home, I knew the seat wasn't how I wanted it. It was really uncomfortable. So much so that it surprised me that I didn't notice it when I did the test ride. However, I was still thinking that the seat just needed to go through the break-in period.
Add to this, the leather cover on the seat was extremely slippery with my Aerostitch riding suit. Every time I would brake, accelerate, or turn, I would slide around on the seat. At least with this, there was a reason I hadn't noticed this before. All the test rides were done before the cover was sown, so I was sitting on the foam of the seat, which is nice and grippy.
I'll be the first to admit that I should have been more assertive during my fitting. However, at this point I was hoping the seat just needed to be broken in which Rich said would take about 1,000 miles.
I did the BMRx rally a few weeks afterwards, so 1,000 miles went by in about a day. At the end of day one of the rally, I knew things weren't getting any better. Basically nothing had changed and i was still sliding all over the place and the only semi-comfortable position for my butt forced me to lean so far forward that it caused back pain.
By the end of the rally, things were downright bad. I had the absolute worst monkeybutt I've ever had. (This coming from someone who rode a SaddleSore on a stock R1200GS seat. )
When I left the shop, Rich made it clear that the seat was guaranteed and I should come back if I didn't like it. So,I made appointment to have it adjusted. The good news was that they were able to make it better - basically it was rideable without immediate pain. The bad news was the seating position was still so far back that it causes back pain and I was still sliding on the seat, but not as much as before. Additionally, the angle the seat placed me at forced my hips to be rotated forward which placed a lot of pressure where pressure shouldn't be. In short, it was really uncomfortable. (See the video below for a good example of what I mean.)
At this point I was a little freaked out. The Iron Butt Rally was in less than 6 months I had a seat that I couldn't ride comfortably for more than a few hundred miles. Not good.
Now, you may be saying, "Why don't you just take it back and have them fix it?" Basically, because I read their website. According to the Terms and Policies page on Rich's website (http://www.richscustomseats.com/process/terms):
Please read the fine print so we don't have to talk about it later.
An Adjustment is any change implemented to change the seat angle, relieve uncomfortable pressure, widen or modify pocket, create better ground reach, or slight adjustment in forward or aft position no more than one inch in any direction.(Must be able to reuse cover)
A Modification is any major change requested that constitutes a cover change or replacement. Or any Modification that was not originally requested during the fitting process. These changes are NOT considered warranty items and will be charged for accordingly!
Based on that, I would definitely need a "modification" and not just an adjustment. The seating position was totally wrong and needs to be significantly moved. The question becomes do I want to pay to try and fix this?
At this point, I didn't have much confidence that the seat will ever be how I want it without sinking more money and time into this seat. Even then, I was still doubtful it would ever be right.
After thinking long and hard about it, I decided to give up and go a different direction. I read the fine print, so I haven't even bothered calling to talk about it. I'm not willing to sink any more money into this seat, nor continuing to waste Saturdays riding up to the shop.
I bought another stock seat pan and made an appointment for a ride in at Russell.
While the stock seat is pretty bad, at least it allowed me to sit where I felt comfortable reaching the handlebars.
Fast forward four months and I was ready to have my ride in appointment at Russell. I made the 560 mile trip down and got a hotel so I could be at my appointment at 8:00 am the next morning.
Similar to how Russell does the mail-order seats, my seat builder Chris took pictures of me sitting on the bike on the stock seat. One difference I noticed was that this was done with someone holding the bike up for me - NOT on the center stand. Whether or not that made a difference, I'm not sure. But the bike is definitely oriented differently on the stand.
From here another difference - they gave me a loaner seat so I wasn't stuck at the shop. A nice touch.
I came back from my ride about 3 hours later for a test fitting. Like Rich's this was done with someone holding the bike up. One other difference I noted was that Rich insisted on me doing a test ride. For what ever reason, Russell didn't. I'm sure I could have gone on one if I'd asked though.
The fitting went well, and I actually didn't have anything I wanted to change. It felt pretty good and positioned me forward like I wanted. I left for another ride around town and came back a few hours later and the seat was ready to go.
Given all the issues I had with sliding on the leather previously, I chose to go vinyl for this one. And I'm really glad I did. The vinyl looks really good. I really have a tough time telling that it isn't leather without a pretty detailed inspection.
I did have a few issues while the seat was being broken in. However, I think some of this is due to my butt being already sore from riding down to Russell on the stock seat. In the end, I'm glad I went with Russell and can whole-heartedly recommend a Day-Long Saddle.
Pros - Rich's
The seat looks gorgeous. It's like a work of art. I can't say enough nice things about how it looks. I can definitely recommend Rich if you're looking to get something recovered. His upholsterer does amazing work.
It's an hour an a half away if I need to have an adjustment done.
Pros - Russell
Very comfortable. The break-in period had me a little nervous, but in the end I really like it.
Your seat builder (at least from the customer's perspective) is the expert and in charge of your build. (At Rich's, Rich was the one directing the process, but not actually building the seat.)
Having a loaner seat for ride in was a nice touch.
The seat looks great.
The seat fits with the stock passenger seat in place
Cons - Rich's
Quite frankly, it's just uncomfortable. I just can’t recommend a Rich's seat for an FJR to be used for long distance riding. No matter how good it looks. I spent $650 on something that is sitting on a shelf in my garage. To be completely fair, I know two other FJR riders who were very happy with their seats, and other one who was not. Based on what I've read, that seems to be the case in general: Some people love their Rich's seat, others have a poor experience. It seems to be about 50/50. (Like this thread at AdvRider)
I would call it "Hearing but not listening." I thought I made it pretty clear that I wanted my seating position to be further forward. I should have been more assertive during my initial fitting that the seating position wasn't where I wanted it. I trusted that they were steering me in the right direction. In my opinion though, It shouldn't be up to the customer to try an convince someone making them a custom seat that they know where they want to sit. At the end of the day, a customer paid for something that doesn't work for them. In my book, that's a problem.
I didn't have the passenger seat in place when I went to have the seat built, however the seat is built up so high in the back I can't get the passenger seat on. It's not even close.
Cons - Russell
It's a long way away and any adjustment is going to require sending it in, or two days of riding.
Ground reach is now something I need to think about. Previously, I was able to get to the ground with both feet flat. Now, I'm on my toes. This is made very clear on Russell’s site, so it’s not like I didn’t know this going in.
Post IBR Update
Regardless of anything written above, I’m very happy with my Russell seat after sitting on it for 11 days straight. It was VERY comfortable riding the IBR and I’m glad I spent the extra time and money to make my butt and back happy.
It did take longer to break in than they said, so keep that in mind. (One definite disadvantage of the ride in service!)