Bikers Workshop Series

Fitting a Utopia Backrest to a GL1800.

By Steve Saunders.


Like many other Goldwing owners, I've bought a riders backrest for every Honda Goldwing motorcycle I have owned and there is one fitted to my current (and sixth) Goldwing, a 2003 GL1800. I wouldn't be without one (I'm surprised Honda never offered one as an option on the Goldwing) and it's usually the first accessory I buy, no matter what model Goldwing I own at the time. I usually buy the Markland type with the chrome hoop that bolts over the grab rails on the bike. After a while I realized that the side rails on the hoop tend to push the passengers legs outwards, making for some discomfort on long rides on the big Honda motorcycle. This was never a problem on any GL1500 I had, but the much wider saddle on the GL1800 is made even wider by the rails on the backrest. I decided that I would try a Utopia backrest for a change, if only to relieve the nagging coming through my helmet headset!
The main thing holding most Honda Goldwing owners back from buying a Utopia is the fact that you have to cut into the saddle to fit the backrest bar, but there comes a point when you just go and take a chance. The installation really is simple and I've prepared this tutorial complete with plenty of pictures that should help you out as you go. Also, at the bottom of this page you will find a link to a short video tutorial as well.

Click the thumbnails for a bigger image.


First thing is to remove the saddle from the Goldwing, then turn it upside down and place the Utopia T bracket as shown. It's easy to centre the bracket, then just mark the saddle base through the two holes with a marker or better still a press the marks with a pointed awl or thin screwdriver (the drill bit won't slide off the mark this way).

Now drill the two holes with a 7mm drill bit. Be careful not to go right through the foam and out through the saddle cover as well! Honda charge big money for Goldwing saddles. I've highlighted the two holes in the second picture as they are hard to make out against the white foam inside the saddle.

Next thing is to stick the supplied plastic pad into it's correct position on the saddle. You have to centre it side to side as well as placing it 25mm (1")  from the face of the riders back pad to the front edge of the plastic pad. To centre it really well, run a straight edge (thin piece of wood or a rule as shown) along the centre lines on the front and back flat (sitting) parts of the saddle cover. I ran a piece of tape across the middle of the plastic pad before sticking it in place under the steel rule. As you can see, this results in a properly positioned pad. The slot in the centre of the plastic pad is were you will be making your cut, this will be approximately 50mm (2") from the front face of the riders back pad.

Before taking your mothers best steak knife to the saddle, I think it's a good idea to slit the saddle cover with a sharp craft blade first, so that you get a very clean cut with no saw marks. Then get mothers best and cut into the foam at an angle similar to that shown in the second picture here. You have to go at this angle to get past the shallow pillion part of the base and down past the holes you drilled earlier. You need to go down at an angle so that the knife passes the "hump" or "ledge" in the seat base. Cutting straight down will see you having to pull the knife sideways to clear the hard plastic (I know, I've tried it that way) and this will stress the foam and cover. Going at the correct angle will see you cut right in front of and past the hump, right in front of where you drilled the holes (sight the angle before you cut). Get this right and the bar will slide down to the holes very sweetly with little effort. Cut up and down several times, removing some of the loose foam and making room for the backrest bar.

Insert the backrest bar as shown (ie the welded tube for the bolt at the front) and wiggle it downwards until the holes in the bar line up with the T bracket. In the second picture here you can see me using a screwdriver to line up one of the holes while threading the other bolt in loosely. Remove the screwdriver and put in the second bolt and tighten the two of them. The third picture shows the T bracket just before I tightened the bolts. Note the Velcro pad in the second picture, you need to pull off one half and put it aside for later.

Here is a couple of shots of the backrest bar fitted. You can take this opportunity to lift the plastic pad a bit and settling the saddle cover so that you don't have unsightly creases.

The first picture here shows the Velcro pad you saved earlier stuck onto the frame crossmember behind the relay box on the Goldwing. This apparently adds to the stability of the backrest. Ensure that no wires are draped across the top of the crossmember or they will be damaged by the T bar when you fit the seat, with possibly very interesting results!

You can see the actual backrest fitted to the bar in the first picture. I put a plastic washer under the bolt head and one under the nut as well to prevent them damaging the powder coated finish (no washers were supplied for this with my backrest). I also replaced the nut with a self locking one to prevent the backrest pad from flapping about after five minutes of use. The last picture shows the completed job, saddle fitted on the Goldwing.


If you want to download the video tutorial, right-click the link here and "save-as" to a location on your computer. It's a large file so will take a while to download. If you have a fast connection then just click the link and play the clip live in your Windows Media Player.
Backrest fitting video tutorial (Windows WMV format). 4 minutes, 39 seconds playing time. 13.1mbs file size.