So, you just got off the bike after a couple of hundred miles and discovered....Oh your aching back. Did you know back pain is disabling to 5.4 million Americans and affects a whole lot more of us to a lesser extent? In many cases the cause is simply poor posture which is precisely what most of us have while riding a motorcycle. We lean forward to reach the bars, our feet are not always in the most comfortable of positions and after awhile the stress goes straight to the spine. Well, there are solutions. Many of them are aftermarket and we'll touch on a few of them here but we'll also show you how simple it is to make your own.
"Fire and Steel" straight from the Kawasaki catalog. the installation couldn't be simpler. Remove the drivers seat, remove the pillion pad, remove the four bolts holding the pillion pad mounting bracket and lift the bracket off the fender. Place the backrest rack over the spot you just removed the bracket, put the bracket back on the backrest rack, re-install the four bolts and the seats. Go ride. This same unit is available for Nomad and Classic 1500 but are different part numbers.
If there is any downside to this backrest it's how it looks if you decide to go with a solo rear fender. The hoop around the pillion pad just doesn't lend itself well to the 'stripped down' look. This backrest also tends to sit a little far forward for many riders so surgery is sometimes needed to move the pad backward. This is explained on this Gadget page.
Occasionally pillions will complain about having to straddle all the upright tubing that supports the drivers backrest.
"Custom World International" offers another backrest for Nomad but it too has a huge hoop that runs from the backrest down to the top shock bolt . As with the F&S backrest the hoop isn't particularly popular with pillions but it is a very comfortable backrest for the driver. The backrest has tremendous fore/aft adjustment and can also be adjusted vertically to fit just about any rider.
Utopia! No, not eureka but I 'have' found it. This is probably the most comfortable backrest you can mount on a Vulcan.
If you've never heard of the "Utopia" backrest then you've never owned a Goldwing, a Valkerye, a Venture or any of the big tourers! You've probably seen these backrests on other touring bikes but figured they came from the bikes manufacturer. Not so.
The "Utopia" backrest is different because it has a single vertical bracket that pops up through the pillion pad. This is also probably the largest backrest you've ever seen on a Nomad/Classic at a full 12" wide and 9" high. If your torso is short you might want to sit on the bike while someone measures 9" above the top of the pillion. This is where the 'top' of the backrest will hit your back at its lowest setting.
If there's a downside to the Utopia it's that this is not a simple bolt on like the units mentioned above. If you're not comfortable doing the following then this is not the backrest for you.
1. Remove drivers seat (10mm bolts on each side) 2. Remove pillion pad (single 10mm bolt at front then slide forward) 3. Remove the pointy bracket from bottom of pillion pan (2 10mm nuts) and strap 4. Remove all the staples from the cover with a combination of small screwdriver and pliers (a staple remover 'might' work) 5. Carefully pull cover off foam pad and set aside 6. Remove foam pad from plastic pan (it isn't glued but it might be a little stuck) set aside 7. Set bracket that comes with backrest atop pan and mark holes to be drilled for 2 bolts (note, if you have a very long reach and always found other backrests pushed you too far forward you might want to bolt the bracket onto the pan 1/2 to 3/4 inch further back than where the photo (below) shows. The backrest has a huge forward adjustment but nothing to the rear from vertical) 8. Bolt on bracket 9. Replace foam, carving carefully with a serrated knife (the one you use for turkey does a great job) at the front to obtain clearance for the vertical portion of bracket (note, if you get carried away with the knife you can always put pieces of cut foam back but you really don't need the hassle) 10. With foam pad in place, replace cover (do not cut any holes yet) 11. With cover in place, carefully feel for the top of the bracket and make a slit in the cover there. Make the smallest slit you can and still get the bracket through the hole. DO NOT cut where the seat cover threads are. 12. Staple the cover back on the pan. Utopia recommends an electric stapler but I found the manual type gun worked just fine. (not a desk stapler) 13. Put the pointy bracket back on the pillion (your choice whether to use the strap or not but most riders junk them) and mount the assembly on the bike. 14. Look in the pouch on the backrest and you'll find instructions on how to secure it along with an allen wrench and a black plastic thing with a slot in it. 15. Place the black plastic thing over the backrest bracket on the seat and form it to fit. Once formed, pull the protective paper off the double sided tape and stick it in place. This prevents the seat material from tearing and provides a bearing surface for the swivel part of the bracket. 16. Mount the backrest to the bracket. You'll have to tighten the nut and bolt a little to prevent it from flopping forward on its own but not so tight that you can't easily fold it forward when you want to. 17. Note the backrest adjustment, a silver cap nut with a nut on it. Loosen the nut, sit on the bike and estimate where the fore/aft and vertical adjustments are most comfortable. You can either use that nut as a locknut to prevent the adjustment from changing or leave it at the bottom of the bolt. 18. Taking a 7/16" wrench and the supplied allen wrench with you, go for a ride and make your backrest adjustments when you can stop safely. You'll need the allen wrench to move it up or down. There is a 1" range of adjustment vertically.
But You ride with a solo seat and don't want to put the pillion back on to use this backrest? Not a problem if you happen to be handy with machine tools (or hacksaw if you're really patient) The mount shown here is made of stainless steel. I have painted the bottom portion (triangular) to match the fender but left the vertical portion in primer for the photos. Once painted black it blends right into the seat and visually vanishes. The triangular portion measurement is dictated by the three bolts that normally hold the pillion pad and front of the pillion pad bracket in place on the fender. The upright portion is 4" in height from the triangle. I simply used the bracket that comes with the Utopia backrest for additional height and fore/aft adjustment.
Are you ready to save some money now? You may have seen other neat fixes on the Gadget pages from Jax who has an uncanny ability to look at a problem and find a solution at any department store.
Jax's backrest solution is made from a cast off pillion pad, a towel bar and a simple piece of sheet metal . Bolt them together and you have a super simple, nearly free backrest . Fortunately for Jax the Corbin seat shown has a nice slot for the towel bar. You might have to create your own way to attach the bar to the rear fender. The bracket shown above for the Utopia backrest would be just about perfect.