A Backrest for the XJ

The design of the seat handle on the XJ 1100 makes it very easy to build a passenger backrest that is strong, comfortable, and looks like part of the bike rather than an add-on. No welding or special tools or skills are needed. If you can operate a hacksaw and a screwdriver, you can make a nice backrest for your XJ or any other bike with a similar seat and handle. Total cost for the project should be around $30.


1) Begin by removing the 4 bolts that hold the rubber handle behind the seat, and remove the rubber handle by pulling it straight up. You will now see that the aluminum frame surrounding the seat has some nice vertical flat spots, complete with threaded holes, which we can use to bolt on a backrest.
Remove the 4 bolts and the rubber handle

2) Put one of the 4 bolts in your pocket, and head for the hardware store. You will need to get the following items:

2 bolts just like the one in your pocket, but 1 inch LONGER.
A 3-foot piece of 1-inch square aluminum tubing. You could use steel, but it is heavier, much harder to work with, and it will RUST if not painted properly.
2   1-inch square plastic caps. (These can be found among the furniture parts, along with the knobs, hinges, chair-leg feet, etc.)
4   2-inch round-head wood screws.
A package of 40 1/4-inch flat washers.
A scrap of 3/4-inch plywood, at least 12 inches by 8 inches.

3) Get out your hacksaw and cut the square aluminum tube into two 17-inch long pieces. (This length could be made longer or shorter if you prefer a taller or shorter backrest.) The 30-degree angle at the bottom is needed to clear the plastic tool box under the XJ's seat.  (See the drawing below in step 5)

4) Hold the tubes in position on the seat frame, and mark the location of the bolt holes. Drill the holes. Bolt the tubes in place temporarily to see how they fit. Note that the bolts which used to go in from the OUTSIDE to hold the rubber handle in place now go in from the INSIDE. Use your new long bolts for the top hole, and an original short bolt for the bottom hole.

5) At this point you need to make a decision. The tubes can be left pointing straight up as they are now, in which case you'll have to make the backrest pad slightly WIDER. They could be shimmed at an angle using a couple of large washers or some scrap tubing, or they can be bent. DON'T try to bend them in a vise, they'll kink and collapse and you'll be making another trip to the hardware store. If you have access to a tube/pipe bending machine, go for it. If there is a shop nearby that fabricates hydraulic hoses for forklifts and such, they may be able to help you out. Another possibility would be an electrician, as they have tools for bending and shaping conduit.

You can leave the tubes pointing straight up, shim them at an angle, or have them bent.

6) Once you have the square tubes figured out, it's time to make the pad for your backrest. Cut the piece of 3/4-inch plywood to the shape shown. Again, these dimensions can be adjusted taller or shorter as you prefer. Sand it all nice and smooth, and round the edges slightly.
3/4" Plywood backrest pad

7) If you're handy with a needle, you could upholster the pad yourself. I'm definitely NOT, so I left it to a pro. Take your plywood to an upholstery shop, have them cut a 2-inch thick piece of foam rubber for the front, and cover the whole thing with black vinyl. They charged me $20.

8) While you're waiting for the upholsterer, finish up your square tubes. Remove them from the bike. Drill the 4 holes (2 in each tube) that will be used for screws to mount the pad. Clean up the tubes, and polish or paint them as desired. My XJ is black, so I just shot them with some black spray paint.

9) With your finished pad, you're ready for final assembly. Bolt the square tubes in place. Hold the pad in place against the tubes and mark the position of the mounting holes. Drill some small pilot holes into the plywood, just to make sure the screws go in straight without splitting the wood. Yes, you'll be drilling right through your nice vinyl upholstery on the back of the pad. That's fine, just be careful not to drill through the FRONT!

10) Stick a 2-inch wood screw through one of the mounting holes in the square tube. Stack 6 to 8 flat washers on the screw, then start the screw into the backrest pad. The washers will hold the pad forward of the tubes slightly, giving you a place to hook bungee cords for carrying goodies. Repeat with the other 3 screws. Once all 4 screws are in place, tighten them all firmly.
Use a few washers between the pad and the tubes

11) Double-check all bolts and screws to make sure they're tight. Finish off the top of the square tubes by capping them with those square plastic caps.

12) Grab your favorite passenger and go for a ride! You're guaranteed to get a BIG thank you.
The finished backrest looks something like this

Special thanks to Gary for permission to reprint this page

Gary Berg Kent, WA, USA

gberg@wolfenet.com           http://www.wolfenet.com/~gberg

What do you think of this idea?  Are the instructions clear?  Did you make one for your bike? Any ideas for improvements? Send me mail! Gary Berg