After completing my Ph.D. dissertation, I wanted to escape academia with a little saved money. I had a used BMW R 80 ST in the garage that begged to return to the Alps, where I had contracted Alpinitis. Alpinitis is a disease you get when you ride the Alpine passes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy. I did this six times and the addiction was, by 1987, incurable. I rode the ST across the United States, shipped it to Europe and rode around there for three months. Never once, even after riding for hours on end, did I notice any discomfort sitting on that bike. I didn't even notice it had a Corbin seat. Granted, it was someone else's Corbin seat that may have fit them better than me, but I loved riding that bike.
Jim with his beloved R 80 ST.
I loved it so much that after leaving the ST in Europe and coming home to work I decided I had to have an ST to ride here. I answered an ad in the BMW Owner's News for an almost-new ST with less than 3,000 miles on it in Reston, Virginia. I flew there from California, bought it and rode back across the U.S. via the Great Canadian Highway. I had to stop often because my seat was sore and my shoulders and arms ached. I realized this ST was exactly the same model as the one I rode in Europe – except it didn't have a Corbin seat!
A year later I flew to Munich to pick up my ST. I rode it from Germany to England to join the AMA Tour of the UK, including a visit to the Isle of Man. What a difference! It felt so good to ride the bike in Europe with a Corbin seat, the same model bike that back home with a stock seat gave me aches and pains.
In June 2015, I contacted Corbin to inquire when they would have a seat and Smuggler setup for my new R 1200 RS motorcycle. The Corbin rep who returned my email, Sergio, thanked me for my interest, but informed me that they didn’t have any such product for the R 1200 RS. He offered a free seat in exchange for letting them use my bike as their test bed. Another employee, Joni, scheduled the work and warned me Corbin would need the bike for about six weeks. We scheduled the drop off for just after the New Year because I wouldn't miss riding in the winter. I explained that I wanted a Smuggler trunk that fits behind the Corbin seat, because unless you have side cases for this motorcycle there is no place to carry anything. Joni had to check with Mike Corbin, the owner. She got back to me the next day and let me know they could make the Smuggler, but it would require them keeping the bike an additional three weeks.
My wife and I trailered the bike down to Hollister and met Freddie, who helped me unload it and explained that any accessories would be locked away and that the bike would not be ridden at any time.
Many weeks later, I came back with my daughter to pick up the bike and met Julio, who manages all custom repairs and factory tours. Julio gave me what they had already made, including the Corbin seat with Smuggler trunk, a Dual Canyon seat with a back rest for riding two-up, both sporting electric heat at the flick of a switch. They wanted me to try out the standard seat they made for pictures and advertising, then return for a custom seat to be made to go with my Smuggler trunk. My daughter and I were treated to an hour-long tour of Corbin's immense factory; it covers a large city block and includes the Wizards café, where you can have breakfast or lunch while you wait for your motorcycle.
Corbin uses a Contoured Comfort Cell foam which feels firm compared to the cushy-feeling stock seat that, over time, compacts and eventually loses its resiliency. This causes the rider to feel the seat is too hard, which is really the result of the foam being too soft to start with. Corbin’s closed-cell foam is made up of a series of small bubbles which hold air pockets that keep the saddle resilient indefinitely. This enables them to vary the density to suit the personal shape of the customer's seat. As a result, Corbin's seats are able to provide an average of seven pounds of foam density compared with three to four pounds on stock seats. In addition, Corbin's foam will take the shape of the rider and keep it that way after about 1,500 to 2,000 miles, providing better weight dispersal and a custom fit.
Corbin's closed-cell foam.
Corbin uses fibertech as a base pan material. It is stronger than plastic, won’t rust like metal and offers design flexibility for a precise fit to the motorcycle. With good base pan strength, the seat will always support you in the right places.
Every seat Corbin makes starts with a mold.
The seat I got was Corbin's black leather with blue stitching and a blue welt that matches the Lupin blue of the R 1200 RS, and is exactly what I would have chosen even though while touring the factory, I noticed Corbin offers many leathers in a riot of colors such as Bright Red, Navy Blue, Chocolate Brown, Indian tan, Oaknut. They also offer a menagerie of textured leathers such as Alligator, Snake, Ostrich, and Stingray, and in a variety of colors as well. You can also get your seat covered with textured vinyl in Yellow, Ninja Red, Burgundy, Teal, Lavender, Harley Blue and many more vibrant colors.
Corbin sports a dizzying array of seat covering options, including smooth and textured leathers and vinyls.
Pouring foam into a mold.
Leather is best for a motorcycle because it breathes, keeps you cool where you contact the seat, and will conform with the foam shape as it breaks in to give you a personalized fit.
During the two months I waited for my bike, I saw many pictures of it in motorcycle magazines and on Corbin's website. I had agreed to allow Corbin to have my RS a little longer to show it at the Quail Motorcycle gathering at Pebble Beach, in Carmel, California, but I was getting anxious to ride again.
While many bikers ride in to Corbin's factory in Hollister and wait on a first come, first served basis for their bike to be fitted with a custom seat, I couldn't wait to start riding again. I picked it up with the products already made for pictures and advertising and trailered it away to return after I had tried out Corbin's seat and Smuggler trunk.
Jim tests out his new Corbin seat, shown here with the Smuggle trunk in place.
Packing only my sunglasses, water, aqua vest, sun hat, notebook and pen in the Smuggler trunk, I was off riding up highway 49 out of Nevada City, across the South Fork of the Yuba river to my first stop at Downieville. I didn't want to get off my bike but Chris, my riding companion, was hungry. He skipped breakfast, so we had an early lunch of delicious soft tacos and iced tea at La Cocina De Oro.
We headed northeast on 49 past Sierra City to a waterfall that Chris found just off the highway before Bassetts, where we turned north on Gold Lake Road. I noticed that my position on the Corbin seat had me sitting a little more upright, which took the weight off my arms and eliminated the tiredness I felt riding the same distance on the stock seat. There was no extra wind turbulence as I was able to raise the windscreen on the RS. I was definitely having more fun with this new equipment.
Chris, left, and the author.
After riding around on it for several months with my daughter Jamie exclaimed, “I love it.” Also, my granddaughter who traveled with me to Hollister while Corbin made a custom single seat for me with a Smuggler trunk said the Dual Canyon seat was the best, especially because it was electric and kept us both toasty warm. When riding solo I prefer the Corbin single seat with Smuggler trunk as it holds just enough for day rides and avoids putting on panniers – perfect for traveling light. The Corbin single seat can also be electric and ordered separate to go with the stock passenger seat.
A good look at the solo seat with the Smuggler trunk in place.
The other finished product - Corbin's Dual Canyon seat and passenger backrest on the water-cooled R 1200 RS.