I need to replace the mesh seat on my recumbent bicycle, because one of the buckles snapped yesterday. The mesh itself is badly stretched and abraded, and a few of the webbing straps are badly worn, so it is not worth repairing the seat—it’s replacement time. I can still ride the bike, but it isn’t as comfortable with the front strap no longer functional.
Now I’m trying to figure out exactly what fabric and parts to get. One person on the Ryan owner’s club mailing list conveniently provided a parts list recently, though the seat I have currently does not exactly match his list (for example, I have all 1″ webbing, no 3/4″ webbing). Here are some things I’m trying to decide:
- What type of mesh should I get? He recommended black Leno Lock mesh from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics MESHBLK at $14.03/yard, but I’m also considering Phifertex Vinyl Mesh at $12.95/yard, which is available in many colors, or Phifertex Plus at $17.95/yard, which would provide less stretch, but also less ventilation. The Phifertex Plus is sold as a sling mesh (capable of supporting a person’s weight), but the others are not. I suspect that any fabric rated for seats will have too little ventilation for the recumbent. The leno weave fabrics are likely to provide more stability in an open mesh, because the warp threads twist around each other, rather than running straight, locking the weft threads in place. The bentrideronline forum posts generally recommend the Leno lock mesh from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics, so I’ll probably go with that, even though it is a bit too stretchy.
- What sort of webbing should I get? The edges of the seat use 2″ webbing to stabilize the seat and attach the straps, plus a couple of diagonals from the center front to part way up the sides, to support the weight of the rider. The rest of the straps are 1″ wide. But should they be nylon, polypropylene, or polyester straps? Nylon has high strength, but is rather stretchy. Polypropylene has less stretch, but poor abrasion resistance and UV resistance, and polyester has the best UV resistance and the least stretch (about half as much as nylon webbing of the same weight under the same stress). It also doesn’t absorb water, and is more resistant to mildew and rot.
I can get black polyester 1″ webbing for about 35¢/foot, and 2″ black polyester webbing for about 75¢/foot, but colors are a little more expensive: I can get 10 yards of red 1″ with reflective stripes for $18.90, or plain red for $1.48/yard. For a bicycle application, the reflective stripes may be a useful safety feature. Red 2″ seatbelt webbing would be about $10 for 5 yards.
- I also need to get buckles for the 7 cross straps and the two straps that go over the top of the seat. I’m undecided between simple side-release buckles (Fastex FSR1 59¢), and dual-pull side release buckles (generic GTSRD1 47¢) from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics. Cam lock buckles (generic GCB1 46¢) are also a possibility. I’ll also want a a tri-glide for each loose strap end (generic GTG1 12¢).
So, unless I can get a new seat from the manufacturer of my bike (Longbikes in Colorado), even though they discontinued this model about 10 years ago, I’ll probably be making my own seat soon. It’ll cost me about $50–60 for materials, but I suspect that an already sewn seat would cost more like $150, and I wouldn’t have the option of red straps with reflective stripes.