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Are motorcycle backrests a waste of money?

Pillion Backrests Corbin seats
Not much room for a pillion!
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Riders seeking extra comfort often add a backrest to their seat and pillions love them, but are they a good investment in comfort or simply a waste of money?

Some big touring motorcycles come with backrest options, otherwise you can buy an aftermarket seat from brands such as American companies Sargent and Corbin which have backrest accessories.

Corbin backrests

The latter has just released their range of Edge Ovalbac backrests which they say look “perfectly at home on a cruiser or a sportbike”.

Pillion Backrests Corbin seats
Corbin backrests

It works with all Corbin seat models and is not cheap at $US283 (about $A400+), so you better make sure it’s worth it!

For seats that take two rests, the Corbin backrests can be used on the front as a rider’s rest or at the rear as a passenger rest.

The angle of the backrest adjusts and is slightly curved for a greater area of body contact.

Corbin’s backrests can be made in matching materials and colours so they don’t look like an afterthought.

And they are quick to install.

Waste of money?

Ok, so they look good and have been ergonomically designed. But are they of benefit or a waste of money?

The Ulysses Club of Australia recommends backrests, saying they support your lower back, provide more comfort and reduce fatigue on long trips.

I’ve ridden many bikes with backrests and some provide good support and feel comfortable.

However, all the rider backrests I have tried have been on cruiser motorcycles where you tend to recline into them.

I can’t see how this backrest would work for sports bike riders as Corbin suggests, even though the angle can be adjusted.

The riding position on a sports bike requires you to lean forward, so you aren’t leaning back into them.

Instead, it may become an annoyance as your back rubs against it on bumps instead of adding support.

A physiotherapist rider once told me backrests can detrimentally affect your posture if you don’t sit in them properly.

She says that without a backrest you develop your core muscles by resisting the wind and stronger core muscles help ease lower back pain anyway.

I have also found that a backrest (either for the ride or pillion) can make it difficult to throw your leg over to mount the bike.

So, if you already have trouble throwing a leg over, buy a backrest that folds down so you can mount easily.

Pillion backrests

Pillion Backrests kangaroos roadkill roo Triumph Bonneville
The seats on my old Bonnie were NOT made of roo leather, so settle down, guys!

While I have my doubts about rider backrests, they are usually a good idea for pillions.

I say “usually” because on adventure bikes on rough roads, they can actually hurt the pillion as they rub and bash into their spine.

If you have a rider backrest as well, they limit seat space for the pillion.

Pillion Backrests Corbin seats
Not much room for a pillion!

However, my pillion-in-a-billion loves backrests. She says they are not only more comfortable, but also mean she doesn’t have to hang on to me.

They also instil a feeling of security should I suddenly decide to accelerate hard or pop a wheelie … and isn’t that always on the cards!