Installing The Legendary Rigidaire System
Article by: Will Ramsey – Faith Forgotten Choppers – faithforgotten.com
Originally Published In The March 2015 Issue OFf Cycle Source Magazine
There’s really no way of getting around the fact that riding stripped down hardtailed choppers is just plain cool. Riding a rigid frame bike really connects you to the road, but sometimes it’s a harder connection than your spine would like. We’ve all had those unseen bumps in the road that spike your kidneys right into your throat. Sometimes looking cool just plain hurts. But there is a solution to turn your chopper into a softer ride…. Just Bag it! About 15 years ago Paul Cox designed the Ridgidaire Pneumatic Motorcycle Seating System. This system delivers a comfortable “air ride” to any hardtail chopper. As with many innovative products in this industry, the Ridgidaire has seen quite a few imitators. Now imitation and competition can often create a sort of evolution as design continually improves to outsell the competition. However, this is not the case here. I’ve yet to see a seat suspension system that has the stability, the adjustability, or the clean visual aesthetic of the Ridgidaire. As a result I have installed 6 of these systems in the last two years and yes I paid for every system including the one in this tech article. Traditionally this system has always had a compressor that mounts under the transmission and adjusts the air pressure. About a year ago Paul finished designing his manual system that replaces the electronic compressor with a manual pump. This new system is easier to install and more affordable but in no way does it compromise the characteristics that have made the Ridgidaire system the very best on the market.
The Ridgidaire system comes well packaged and completely assembled with a nose pivot for the seat pan.
Although the instructions are very well written and quite detailed, the simple act of disassembling the system pretty much teaches you all you need to know about reassembling it.
First things first, the cross member on the frame must be removed. If this is not being done in a frame fixture, it is best to have the rear wheel installed with spacers. This will help minimize shrinkage during the welding process later.
After cutting the cross member out the remaining material is ground off to a smooth even surface.
I have always advocated the use of a file for metal finishing. It will only take a few minutes longer but you will get a better result than with a grinder alone. But that’s just my opinion…
The mounting bracket supplied by Paul is intentionally made wide and must be trimmed to fit the frame.
The vertical band saw makes quick work of shortening the bracket. This could also be done with an abrasive cut off wheel or a reciprocating saw. The choice is yours.
Since there is no room to weld all the way around the bracket, the ends are sanded at about a 30 degree angle to allow full weld penetration from the top side.
I use a small sander to clean all the metal around the weld area. No surface rust can be present for welding!!
I like to mount the bracket flush with the top of the rail which places the bottom of the bracket about 2.5” from the top of the rail. Be sure to start thinking about the distance you need to clear your fender. It’s a good idea to hold the seat pan up and visualize the entire system.
The 30 degree angle sanded on the ends of the bracket allows me to get complete penetration while welding only from the top side. I choose to do this in two passes to avoid the possibility of voids in the weld.
The second weld pass fills the remaining space and lays flush with the top of the frame rail.
Once all the metal has cooled down we can begin assembling the air bag system. This is so simple that it needs very little explanation.
The hinge must be bolted or welded to the seat pan. I generally use Fab Kevin’s seat pans and the hinge supplied with the Ridgidaire kit will bolt directly to those pans without any modification.
Be certain that the Seat Pan is centered in the frame and positioned to allow clearance from the fender. Sometimes your eyes are your very best measuring tool.
The pivot is welded to the frame first. On many frames the pivot is welded to the tubing but in this case (1981 Shovelhead frame) the excessive factory gusset provides a flat surface to weld to.
After proper cleaning of the metal involved, the seat pan is welded to the rear pivot that articulates on top of the air bags
Due to the brilliant use of quick release air lines it takes less than 3 minutes to finish the assembly of the unit.
And with a few pumps the Ridgidaire system is complete and ready for the bumpy roads. Your kidneys will thank you later!
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