Airhawk

I recently completed my latest motorcycle touring holiday. I travelled more than 4000 kilometres (2500 miles) over the course of two weeks and two days, to attend the Philip Island MotoGP. The VFR800 is definitely a more comfortable touring bike than the CBR929 Fireblade that I made the trip on last time, but it is some way short of a Goldwing in terms of touring comfort. Fortuitously, a friend of mine lent me his Airhawk seat for the journey.

I am always sceptical of miracle motorcycle products. I have seen instances where some one’s praise of a product is little more than them trying to justify the purchase price of whatever product they are expousing the virtues of. In the past I have purchased and used sheep-skin seat covers for some of my motorcycles. To claim they make no difference, would be doing them an injustice. But, when you are riding a motorcycle for long periods of time, multiple days in a row, their improved comfort is short lived.

My suspicions that the Airhawk would be no different were proven to be wrong. I was more than a little amazed by the improvement in comfort the seat provided. Small interlinked air-pockets help evenly distribute the pressure. Because the pockets are interlinked, air is free to move between the various pockets. An unexpected benefit is the extra shock-absorbtion the seat provides. Hit a big pothole and you don’t get the proverbial boot up the backside. On an extended ride, this fact alone makes for a more pleasant journey.

I did eventually feel discomfort on the bike, riding up the Hume Highway on my return home. I don’t know if it was due to the boredom of the ride, but (rather unscientifically) I feel that some of the discomfort was caused by a lack of movement needed to ride in a straight line. Riding the Hume, is largely about sitting still and holding on. Not needing to perform gear changes or large steering input meant I was stuck in the one position for long periods of time.

Like all good (and many not-so-good) web reviews, I should really summarise my experience with the Airhawk seat with a pros and cons list.

Pros

  • shock absorbtion
  • greatly improved comfort
  • adjustable inflation to allow for different rider weights
  • weatherproof and quick drying time when compared to sheepskins

Cons

  • reduces the rider's feel for grip levels in corners
  • over and under inflation limits the effectiveness and improved comfort

In an unusual "neutral" category:

  • it changes the rider geometry on the bike

For me, the change in geometry was not substantial enough to be problematic. I was concerned about the increased weight placed on my wrists made by effectively raising the seat height. It is only a small change in geometry, but even small changes alter how the bike feels. For vertically challenged riders, it may also make the reach to the ground just a little more unnerving. Of course, not being a journalist and trying a formal review, I missed the obvious action of measuring just how much height was gained by using the seat. At a guess, I would say between 15-25 mm of increased seat height can be expected.

Given that I lent the seat, I will not give a subjective value-for-money opinion on the product. However, if I don't find one in my Christmas stocking this year, it will go on the list of things to purchase for myself!