An Open Letter To Motorcycle Manufacturers




Could it be? Could motorcycle manufacturers be unacquainted, unfamiliar or just plain uncomfortable with female anatomy? If the way in which pillion seat shape has evolved in recent years is any clue, the answer to that question could be yes. And no to vaginas. Bike makers, HFL’s den mother has a bone to pick with you. — Ed.

Dear Honda, Ducati, BMW, Triumph, Moto Guzzi & Yamaha,

If you’d call my boyfriend a professional motorcycle journalist (and I’m assuming you would since you let him ride your press bikes), then I’m what you might call a professional motorcycle journalist sidekick. This means I ride pillion. A lot.

There’s a beautiful motorcycle sitting out in the driveway right now. Triumph, you’ve done well with the new Speed Triple. It’s one of the most comfortable bikes I’ve ridden as a passenger — the pegs are in a great position, my head sits just above the rider’s giving me a perfect field of vision without the nasty head bobble that so often comes with being able to see and the gas tank is a super comfy reach for bracing myself when slowing and stopping. So what I am complaining about? The damn triangular protrusion in the center of the pillion seat is all up in my business.

Which got me thinking: who the hell designs these passenger seats I’m riding on all the time? My labia and I would be much obliged if you could please pass this note along to the responsible party in each of your organizations. We’re fairly certain they need to be shown the error in their ways, given a basic lesson in female anatomy, and then be directed toward the achievements of the bicycling industry which, by all appearances, has already put a lot of energy and effort into solving this problem.

So what is the problem exactly? You are shaping passenger seats with a ridge raised in the center, sloping down to the sides. Yamaha’s R1 passenger seat is probably the worst I’ve personally experienced, but the offending triangular design can be seen across nearly all major manufacturers. You’ll find it on the Multistrada, the S1000RR, the 848, 1098 and 1198, the Norge, and the VFR1200F. The list goes on. Yes, such a shape looks pretty for a seat cowl, but the functionality of said shape as an actual seat is downright awful.

Let’s talk about lady anatomy for a minute. Girls (the folks using these seats a majority of the time, FYI) have this thing called a vagina. It lives between our legs and in most cases prefers to be handled with care. When a lady sits, her sit bones have a wider footprint than those of a male; it’s that child bearing hips thing in action. That means our sit bones are left hanging out at the lowest point of the slope while the peaked center places a majority of the force on our delicate lady bits. Here’s a picture I drew for you, just in case I’m not making myself clear:

Labias around the world would rejoice if you considered either of two alternate design options. Why not take a cue from Suzuki’s GSX-R? A peaked solo cowl seat cover looks great, but the seat itself is flat and non-pokey.

Or, even better, just admit that you’re putting passenger seats on bikes to get men laid and do everything you can to make it comfy for the target of their affection. Do riders a solid and consider putting a vagina-friendly channel on passenger seats. Bicycle seat manufacturers have figured out all kinds of neat tricks to be nice to lady parts. Feel free to take a hint from them.

Whatever you elect, just pretty, pretty please stop making passenger seats shaped like torturous triangles of labia death. That is all we ask.


Ashlee (and Ashlee’s labia)

  • Brammofan

    Thank goodness I’m a decent lip-reader or I’d be all, “twhat? I cun’t hear you.”

    • Mark D

      10 pts to Mr. Mallin.

  • Restless Lip Syndrome

    Lmao! My husband’s Ducati was excruciating to ride for any length of time and even worse as a passenger. I used to quip that virgins had no business riding on the back of one of these bikes.

    My solution was two-fold. I got my own bike(s) and I developed great leg muscles so I could brace myself when riding passenger.

    • nick2ny

      I was riding down the westside the other day and there was a lady in tight jeans and heels riding pillion on an 848 and leaning forward. The 848 has that leather pyramid that’s pictured in the article. It was a smooth enough road but the lady must’ve been getting quite a seeing to. It looked like it the whole situation would cause massive discomfort, but it was night, she was dressed up, possibly inebriated, and she wasn’t complaining, so who knows.

      I went home and told my girlf about it and she said expressed the same sentiment that is expressed in this article. Also, as Wes mentioned before, superbike seats are more for ferrying people around in an emergency than carrying passengers.

  • stempere

    Moto Guzzi had it right with the V11, a large flat seat with a round/picky cover that goes on top.
    My ample bottomed ladyfriend really likes it and always asks if i’m ridding the v11 or the corsaro before deciding if she’s going to join me.

  • skadamo

    Ashlee, thanks for helping more guys get ladies on the back of their bikes.

    Now if mc mfr’s could also make the pilot seat more comfy for any human that would be extra cool.

  • Cheese302

    simple solution. install

    • Brammofan

      Needs a “turn down your speakers if at work” warning. :D

      • stempere

        You expected the “Screaming Orgasm Contests” videos to be SFW?

      • Cheese302

        oh god sorry

  • Gene

    Oh for god’s sake. Motorcycle seats affect men badly too. I had to put a channel in my stock FJR seat to stop the horrible tingling & numbness I used to get.

    OK, now you’ve started The Seat Rant.

    The stupid DL-650 seat was shaped in a “U” where you couldn’t change position to relieve any sort of pressure.

    Then there’s the goddamned stock SV-650 seat. I couldn’t make it from Orlando to Daytona on that piece of shit without having to stop in pain at every rest stop.

    I haven’t seen a comfortable stock seat on a Japanese bike in 15 years, passenger or rider. I’ll cut The Rant short here.

    • ursus

      A channel would add comfort and ventilation in the summer and as a place for rain to go instead of ones crotch. I have been considering how to modify the seat on my bike to add one.
      As a precedent, there have been open-center horse saddles at various times in history with one of the most recent being the McClellan cavalry saddle.

      • Michael

        They did it sometimes. Try FZ1. My ‘sidekick’ said that is awesome. And compared to SV it is just brilliant. Same for a rider seat.

    • Sean Smith

      GSX-R man. Go sit on one and tell me that seat sucks.

      • Jeff

        As an owner of an SV and a GSXR. I have to agree with him. The SV is like a lazyboy when compared.

        • Sean Smith

          Really? Maybe it’s just the 09s that are comfy.

    • Gregory

      I cover my KLR seat with wooden “taxi driver” beads. I had to buy the wooden bead seat cover from an auto supply store, cut it, re-tie it and then strap it underneath the seat. It works great. Air flow in summer. Rain drain in winter.

    • Kitty Zentz

      Well, well, well……finally a topic of great interest. Easiest solution is to quit riding on the back. I find the front seats of mr Rocket and ST amazingly comfotable and the power of beimg in control quite stimulating. Nothing quiet like a 2300cc vibrator, but I digress.

      Second option, quit wearing thongs. Sexy off bike, horrid on.

      Third option, tell the boy no num-nums until he puts a labia loving seat on the back.

      Option one is the most fun, I assure you ;)

  • Greg

    Most motorcycle saddles are “styled” rather than ‘engineered’ and since 80% (at least) of motorcyclist ride less than 2k miles a year, sales are not impacted by comfort.

  • PCPaul

    Seats have almost always been the part of a bike that received the lowest design budget…

  • HolyHandGrenade!

    When the pillion starts paying, the pillion can start complaining.

    • Sean Smith

      I think that Ashlee has more than earned the right to complain. She’s the secret fourth member of HFL’s team. She edits quite a few of my stories, shoots lots of good photos, makes picture quotes like this, this and this free of charge for the site and sometimes writes interesting and hilarious stories like this one.

      • HolyHandGrenade!

        So its ok to have a cheeky article but not cheeky comments?

        • Ashlee Goodwin

          No. Never.

          • coredump

            Ooooo, someone has a sore vagina. Oh wait… someone DOES have a sore vagina.

  • Gingerbeard

    I hadn’t noticed this before (I have an early UJM with a flat “bench” seat) but that thing in the second picture looks like a BDSM device…
    What were the designers thinking? Did the leather bodysuits confuse them?

    Seriously, it looks like a wooden pony:

    • Joe

      The nipple clips are a nice touch, maybe those who are riding pillion could use them to take their minds off the seating problem.

    • Steven

      the new bonneville only looks flat for the rider. it’s got a pan that drops down an inch. the upshot is that the rider is stuck up forward. it’s obnoxious.

  • wwalkersd

    Stock motorcycle seats, in all positions, are designed to look good in the showroom. The rider portion is designed to feel good for a five minute showroom sit. They all suck for actual riding.

    Both of my bikes have custom seats. Best accessory dollar you’ll ever spend.

    Unfortunately, Ashlee, you’re stuck riding press fleet bikes, which always have the stock seat. Maybe you should try to get sponsorship from an aftermarket seat maker. My preference is Bill Mayer Saddles in Ojai.

  • Zaron Gibson

    The funny thing is, those bicycle seats with the channel were originally made to help for men. They were put on to relieve pressure on the Dorsal artery and vein. They have since adopted the idea for women seats as well (but made them wider) because women started riding with the channeled men’s seats due to the increased comfort. Here’s a write-up with illustrations showing the problem.

  • Noah

    You can always ride 2-up on a Ducati monster, that way the pillion is sitting on a postage stamp while the pilot is getting his groin rammed into the tank every time the bike slows down. Equality.

    • John

      Did about 400 miles this past weekend on 620 monster for the Indy Gp. Your right, the pilot is rolled forward to the tank, and the pillion is narrow and tapered. As Ashlee as has pointed out, narrow is not friend of wide sit bones and sensitive lady parts. A new seat is at the top of the list of upgrades for this winters refresh. The Ducati performance seat doesn’t look like much of an improvement. Does anyone have a recommendations for reputable upholsterers?

      • Wereweazle

        Corbin seems to be hit and miss. Either you absolutely adore your corbin seat and wouldn’t ride on anything else, or you hate the thing with a passion. They make a seat for your Monster. Worth a look.

      • 80-wattHamster

        Russell or Baldwin. Baldwin is (or at least was) a solo op, but so far everyone over at the Versys forum that’s sent him their seat has had nothing but good things to say. At least one accessories site that used to sell Corbin has gone with Russell instead. Anecdotal stories about Corbin’s declining quality abound. There are others if you search. Mustang seems to still have a decent reputation.

        • Wereweazle

          Except neither of those brands make a seat for the Monster. And, from what I saw of the Russell, their focus was on the equivalent of a lazy boy for your bum. I think what he’s looking for, and what I’d like from a seat, is something that removes the slant into the tank while still allowing you to lean off the seat a bit if you wanted. Corbin and Sargent both focus on this.

          • John

            Thanks for the reply. I will be looking to Sargent, Corbin, and as some recommended above Bill Mayer Saddles.

  • Will

    I really like the idea of explaining that the weird looking thing on your seat is for putting vaginas in.

  • Sasha Pave

    Well said Ashlee’s Labia! I’ve learned over the years that it’s very important to have comfy pillion ergonomics. Seating position, peg position, back rest (on some bikes), and saddles.

    Gear also matters. A heated vest/jacket works wonders on chilly rides.

    Miserable passenger = Miserable ride. I’ve learned this the hard way!

  • HolyHandGrenade!

    Can we file this under – No Shit? Or how about – Who cares? Uncomfortable pillion accomidations have never kept a girl from getting on a bike – so making the seat more comfy is in no way going to affect one’s chances at scoring. Probably have better results to that end with a cosmetic upgrade. Besides, any chick willing to bone a guy just for having a bitchin’ bike is more than softened up down there and can take the P pounding.

    Anyone wanting a wife or girlfriend to ride back there should
    A. re-evaluate
    B. buy a bike made for touring,
    C. spend a few hundred bucks and get a new seat.
    D. get a gel pad

    • Wes Siler

      Why do you hate women?

      • HolyHandGrenade!

        I dont (but I can see how the comment comes across like that). I just dont see how this is in anyway informative or anything one was not aware previously.

        This is like complaining that a hammer is not a screwdriver. Its a repli-racer. Comfortable passanger accomidations exist on bikes – just not liter bikes. Bikes like this are retro fit for a passanger but are not designed for a passanger. There are solutions to make a passanger more comfortable – like buy a Goldwing.

        • Ashlee

          Got it. If something is inadequate, then as consumers we should just shut up and live with it. Thanks for the pointer. :)

          I’m pretty sure a seat is made for sitting on. If it’s bad at that, then it’s a bad seat design.

          Not to mention, this is clearly a very, very serious topic that I intended to address in a very, very serious way.

          • Adrian

            Ya. Good point. The seats in general seem like an afterthought. My Triumph Tiger has the most comfortable one I’ve experienced yet, but could use some improvements. Don’t know about the pillion seat, as I can’t reach the handlebars from back there.
            But a worthy topic, despite some of the vitriol it has stirred up on here. Who would have thunk it.

            • jonoabq

              +1 My 06′ tiger seat was long haul comfortable out of the box. Back to back 500+ mile days were no problem, ever.

        • cookinginpawleys

          The tiny upswept tail on repliracers do nothing for performance. It is just a design cue to make the bike appear light and in fashion with current trends. The tiny posterior with lots of space between it and the rear wheel just creates a lot of turbulence, which creates more drag. It is a bad design similar to the underseat exhaust trend that we are finally getting away from.
          Sportbikes we drooled over just a handful of years ago were far more comfortable for both passenger and rider, with performance numbers that will still make you crap your pants when ridden on the street.
          If weight is that important, then an aftermarket solo tail is in order.

        • Sean Smith

          The point is that if someone is going to put a passenger seat on a bike, it should be a seat.

          If they want it to look a certain way, fine, just sell the bike with both a solo cowl and a passenger seat. That ridiculous thing on the back of the R1 is neither attractive or functional.

          Besides, some people like to go fast. Why shouldn’t you be able to take a passenger for a 150mph, knee-dragging thrill ride?

          • cookinginpawleys

            I agree completely.

        • coredump

          Why are you bitching about more content getting posted? It was funny and I learned something, which to me makes it a quality article.

      • Greg


        I especially like the “girl on back of bike = bitch lookin’ to score” equation.

        Besides, most bikes have horrible saddles period…for both rider and passenger. But, you’d have to rider farther than the local bar/stunt show/Starbucks to know that.

        • HolyHandGrenade!

          “Or, even better, just admit that you’re putting passenger seats on bikes to get men laid and do everything you can to make it comfy for the target of their affection”

          I was not the first to that conclusion.

          • Greg

            Yeah, here’s the problem with that assertion….from my perspective. The person that has spent the most time on the back of my bike has been my daughter. Her love of motorcycling started with long rides on my Triumph Daytona, which lead to dirt bikes of her own and just recently a street license and bike. All of which gave us a great way to spend time together and a perfect escape when things got tough, like when her mother died.

            I guess the backseat on her bike is there to get some guy on it? :-/

            So, from where I sit, there’s more to having a backseat on a motorcycle than getting laid.

            • HammSammich


            • vegetablecookie

              I would suggest you install some spikes in her backseat. That should take care of ‘em boys. :)

            • John Reed

              Ditto.. 20 year old daughter grew up on the back of my sport bikes, along with her own trail rides, and eventually her own street license. Wife, same story – started as pillion, found she loves bikes, and just got her own Tuono. Use the rear seat for whatever you want – but Ashlee’s right on ‘target’……

            • Sasha Pave

              Well said! And a great way to get your daughter interested in bikes and spending time together.

              Same here with my dad, spent a lot of time as a kid riding around pillion on his street bike, which led to me getting into road riding/racing myself.

              Now I plan on doing the same with my boys.

            • Dumptruckfoxtrot

              Agreed. I have girls and guys ride on the back of my motorcycle all the time and I never view my motorcycle as a way to get laid.

    • Joe

      Why should I have to buy a touring bike for my wife to be comfortable? Why can’t she be comfortable on the back of a sportbike?

      • HolyHandGrenade!

        You dont and she can be – see option C and D but even then the seat is never going to be wide enough without adding a different tail section or a “butt buddy” type device.

        Worst name for a product ever.

        But honestly a prpper sport bike is never going to be comfortable for a pillion, no matter how much gel or space age padding you add back there. The seats are far too narrow. There have been bikes designed for passanger accomidations that are still sporty – such as the Buell XB12XT, or a Yamaha FJR.

        • John

          I think the point of this article is that if bicycle companies with their “vast r&d budgets” (joking)can figure out how to make seat comfortable for hours, why cant motorcycle manufactures? Why cant it be comfortable off the show room floor, why do consumers need to shell out an additional 600 bones to an aftermarket company for a “good” seat. It just seems ludicrous that this is the excepted norm.

          • Gene

            Sing it, bro! but as a bike buyer, there’s not much force you can exert.

            If I pass up that R1 because the seat sucks, is Yamaha ever going even know, much less care? The OEM gel crap is a joke.

            And it’s extra sad because a 1/2″ foam pad slapped on a bare fiberglass race body is more comfortable than anything in a showroom today. They spend bucks/time to “engineer” crap like the seat in the 2nd picture.

    • fasterfaster

      Having done a 300 mile day filled with oysters, views, and high velocity on the R6 with a lovely lady and her lovely lady parts on the back, only to return home and find her too tender to stay upright let alone horizontal, I can vouch for the fact that this is a problem. If it isn’t for you, it’s because you’re not making the most of your bike.

      This is info that is clearly not obvious to moto designers/manufacturers, because it isn’t that hard to make a seat both aesthetic and comfy. With a few seconds of thought put into it, you can make everyone happier at no additional cost. I can’t figure out how you can possibly find something to complain about in this article.

  • Aienan

    Now, the F800GS Seat has other issues (Lack of padding in the pack I imagine), but it is relatively flat otherwise. How is that seat for passenger comfort?

  • WhoDey

    great article!
    rider’s complaining about uncomfortable pilot seats are just as annoying as geezers telling me to turn down my music.

    • HolyHandGrenade!

      Why do you hate women?

  • randry

    If the Labia ain’t happy – nobody’s happy


    The third HFL article written by a woman (iirc), the third article about riding pillion. I hate to doubt your feminist credentials.

    • HolyHandGrenade!


    • Wes Siler

      Why does HFL hate women?

      • the (unfortunate) roomate

        because they arent as good as we are at everything. idiot.

        • HammSammich

          Thank you Mr. Schrute. :)

      • pinkyracer

        It’s not that HfL hates women, it’s just that I get paid a lot more to write elsewhere. My mom always taught me not to be too generous with my talents, or boys would just take me for granted. ;-) When HfL can afford to pay more, I will be begging to write for them. Perhaps about things like the 24 hour endurance race I’m doing this weekend.

    • nick2ny

      Here’s your article written by a girl about getting a motorcycle license. She’s getting a TW200 the day after tomorrow (shameless plug for my site to follow…)

  • Dennis

    Saddlemen has a new line of sportbike seats with that labia-friendly groove. Also is a sweet kiss of relief to the perineum in general.

  • rohorn

    The problem isn’t the seat, it is your pants

    • pinkyracer

      that’s awesome!

  • Gregory

    I’ve never had too many complaints from either my Hyosung GV 250 or from my Kawasaki KLR 650. The Hyosung had a flat rear seat, a back rest and rear floor boards for the passenger. The Kawasaki has a rear box to act as back rest and a flat rear “bench” seat.

    Avoid sport bikes, and your girlfriend will have a comfortable ride.

    Portland, OR
    2008 Kawasaki KLR 650

  • Rick

    if the seat covering is attached with staples, pull enough out to peal it back, hack away at the foam, then take it to an upholstery shop and have them re-staple the edge

  • Ilya
    • Sean Smith

      It’s true. Ashlee fell asleep in the Gear-Up on the freeway.

  • cromagnon

    Excellent article Ashlee. Please continue to share your views/experiences/opinions.

    And thank you for giving your labia a voice.

    • Joe

      Because everyone loves a talking labia!

      • Kevin

        Yaaaaaaay vagina!

  • pinkyracer

    I must be a freak of nature. Either that or it’s just my legs are too long. On the back of any Sportbike, my knees are up near my chin and there’s no way I could angle my coochie to hit the way you’re describing. But the front seat of my R1 is mighty comfy. They don’t call ‘em crotch rockets for nothing. I tell everyone it’s a girl’s bike because I can’t imagine how men can be ok sitting on their junk like that. And now that I’m cycling I haven’t found anything to compain about in that dept.

    • je

      “On the back of any Sportbike, my knees are up near my chin”

      OOOOHH Really…

      • pinkyracer

        yeah, my legs are longer than Dani Pedrosa. ;-P

    • Sean Smith

      The R1 is kind of an ergonomic nightmare. Wes and I both agree that the seat and tank combination is a penis killer.

      • pinkyracer

        yeah, I don’t know how guys ride them. total chick bike.

  • Brad

    From your lips to God’s ears.

    I’m frankly stunned that more guys don’t complain about getting their nuts smashed up against the tank. I can remember one ride on a bumpy road…singing falsetto for a week!

    • motoguru

      “From your lips to God’s ears.”


  • motoguru

    Try riding 2-up on a Brutale (750 especially)… Fucking nightmare for all parties involved.

  • KR Tong

    All hail the mighty banana seat.

    • Mark D

      Hear hear. Except that the stock EX500 seat, while wide and flat and coochie-friendly, is basically flat with the riders seat. My pillions generally get a great view of the back of my helmet, and not much else.

  • jason

    I solved that by making the seat myself to fit my anatomy right, and most important feature is a channel of soft foam right down the middle. Bones get firm foam, soft parts soft foam. Tricky to make, but you only got one set.

  • je

    Buell select seat.. we know how to take care of our ladies..

  • Johndo

    THe Triumph gel seat on my 2009 Speed Triple was awesome. Could ride 700km a day no problem. And it looked just as good as the stock one.

  • John

    There are some good ideas at for modifying your existing seat for comfort (unfortunately nothing specific for women but you could probably get there from here). That said, I agree with Ashlee, seats should be made for the ‘natomy of the sitter.

  • Archer

    So, I’m sitting in a marketing department meeting today, company president, chairman of the board, marketing manager and some of us engineers making final plans for the 2012 product line.

    During conversation, someone mentions that we ought to look at a bike site to get ideas for product names.

    My laptop is hooked up to the 80″ plasma screen on the wall at the head of the conference room table. And as the sole rider in the room, I’m all too willing to oblige.

    I decide to punch up HFL as a starting point.

    Can you see where this went when the headline came up for all to see?

    Thanks HFL. Lesson learned.

    • Wes Siler

      We’ll try and keep things more press releasy from here on out.

      • Adrian

        Please don’t. This site, the subjects and the style are just perfect!

        • Sean Smith

          It’s too late; we already called corporate and locked in the new style.

        • mugget

          Why does everyone always close with “IMHO”. Screw that – just say it as you know you want to.

          This site, the subjects and the style are just perfect! In my awesome and correct opinion!

      • Archer

        Oh, no, please don’t. I just thought it was amusing, given it was the first nsfw headline in a couple weeks. I really should have known better than to come here!

        • fasterfaster

          “Labia” is NSFW? Fuck me, that’s oppressive. Motorcycle companies build something that humans straddle and ride for hours. If they can’t talk about the realities of that in proper scientific language, maybe they’re in the wrong business.

          • Brammofan

            I second this. Labia is Latin for “lips.” Sure, it is most often used to refer to the folds of skin surrounding the vulva, but NSFW? Now, “An open letter to motorcycle manufacturers from my pussy lips,” there’s your NSFW for you.

    • Roman

      I had a co-worker pop in with the big ol’ booty from the Hayabusa article filling up my screen.
      Me: “Hey man, it’s a motorcycle site….seriously”
      Him: “It’s cool, I don’t judge”

  • wwalkersd

    OK, somebody’s gonna say it eventually, so I guess it might as well be me. Does that pillion seat look like it was designed by somebody whose last project involved instructions including
    “insert tab A into slot B”?

    Sorry, Ashlee.

  • always_go_big

    Love the piece, excellent yarn but had a thought – maybe this is why manufacturers make bikes like the ZRX1100, ZZR’s and the like, fast enough but comfy too.

  • Von Scotch

    Did I mention I’m an amateur gynaecologist? I’m no expert, but I’ll have a look.

  • Sentinel

    They probably think all girls on bikes are just like the “Harley Whores” that can’t get enough of the vibrating action, so thought they’d “one-up” them if you will…

  • Eben

    I think you’re missing the point. It’s a test. Speed Triple owners have notoriously large and unruly penises (955 guys even have scales and spikes and stuff like that). If you can’t handle a little seat ridge in your junk, you don’t want to be sleeping with one of those guys.

    Ducati owners tend to have genital warts. A little different, but the same rule applies.