A Wild One

Motorcycle innovator Mike Corbin continues to create the easy ride

Mike Corbin, owner of Corbin Motorcycle Seats & Accessories. Photo: Robert Eliason

In the outskirts of Hollister, a hidden gem can be found—one mostly known to motorcycle enthusiasts, longtime residents or travelers headed northbound toward Highway 156 on San Felipe Road.

It’s a place akin to the magical place where emerald cities are discovered. And much like the fictional girl who followed a yellow brick road to an emerald city, motorcyclists from all over the world follow a tree-lined road—Technology Parkway—to find a similar place of wonderment.

When they get there, Mike Corbin will remind them, “You’re in the finest motorcycle seat shop in the world.”

Corbin Motorcycle Seats & Accessories has been a fixture at 2360 Technology Parkway since owner Corbin opened it in 1998. Customers who walk through its showroom doors will find themselves entranced by a room where older-model motorcycles and not-yet-released electric cars coexist. But in this factory, everyone should pay attention to the man behind the parabolic curtain.

Born and raised in Gardner, Mass., Corbin’s love for motorcycles began at age 14 with his first bike ride. After graduating high school, he joined the US Navy and served as a master electrician aboard the USS Ranger CVA-61, serving in ports along the Pacific Coast from 1961 to 1964.

Returning to Massachusetts after the Navy, he began a career as an electrical contractor—and also began making and selling motorcycle seats on the side.

In 1968, Corbin chose to manufacture motorcycle seats full time. He recalls being met with skepticism by a co-worker who asked him what he was going to do next.

“I said, ‘Well, I’m going to make motorcycle seats,’ ” Corbin recalls. “He waited for a minute and then said, ‘That’s a dumb idea! Motorcycles already have seats!’ ”

But Corbin found a way to make them better.

“We actually invented the idea of having a factory that manufactures an aftermarket line of motorcycle seats,” he says. “Before that, people would have seats recovered at upholstery shops or something like that.”

And 51 years later, the doting husband and father of 10 continues to create quality motorcycle seats for every bike dating back to 1958.

Being at “the right place at the right time” helped launch the business’ success when the motorcycle industry flourished after the film Easy Rider was released in 1969 and Easyriders Magazine was founded in 1970.

After selling seats in Massachusetts and Connecticut, Corbin decided to move his family to California’s Pacific Coast.   

“I always wanted to come back to California,” he says.

In 1980, he began making motorcycle seats in Watsonville, and later moved his shop to Castroville.

In 1995, Corbin and his son attended Hollister City Council meetings in hopes to restart the historic Hollister Rally, which made headlines in 1947, for its 50th anniversary.  

While bringing back the rally, Corbin found his shop in Castroville was too small for his growing company.

“So, I bought land out here and built this building,” he says of his 82,000-square-foot Hollister factory.

And with Corbin’s showroom and warehouse in Ormond, Fla., which sits at 11,000 square feet, he adds, “We’re about two acres under roof.”

Corbin also built the Wizard’s Cafe onto the site to “enrich the experience of the motorcycle community,” he says. Made specifically as a waiting area for ride-in customers, the cafe serves breakfast and lunch Tuesdays through Saturdays.

The Hollister factory employs roughly 100 people, many who have reached the 20-year mark (“You want to hold these good people,” he says), and purchases only raw material such as leather, foam chemicals and fiberglass.

“We make everything ourselves,” he explains.

Creating about 150 seats per day and 25,000 seats per year, the factory ships its products to customers all over the world.
Corbin says only a small number of people actually visit the shop on a daily basis. The seats, he adds, “are ordered on the internet or on the phone. On the website, we have a configurator so you can choose all the materials and colors. And we make the seat and ship it to them UPS or FedEx.”

Ralph Porras from Pacific Grove was impressed with the quality of care and service he received on his ride-in visit.

“The experience was excellent,” he says. “They were really respectful and catered to what I needed. They had a lot of great options for me.”

Another ride-in customer, Matt Marine of Morgan Hill, upgraded his former manufactured Corbin seat to accommodate two people.

“My girlfriend has been wanting to ride more now, so this is not as comfortable, so I’m getting it more flat,” he says. “They do such a good job, and they’re so comfortable in comparison to stock seats. If you’re on the bike a lot, it’s worth it. They make the best seats in the business.”

Due to the high demand of its quality products, the factory’s vast production line of jobs and departments—seamstresses and cutters, engineers, electricians, mechanics and an information technology department—are sewing the fabric onto the seats, molding them, putting electric heat inside, inspecting and testing them, generating web pages and taking pictures of products—all to create the orders in a day’s time.

When completed, the seats are cleaned and boxed, and UPS or FedEx trucks ship them out at the end of the day.

The company also creates saddlebags and electric cars.

“Our design shop is designing a whole car,” Corbin says.

It has previously made the 300 Sparrow—an electric car—and has the prototype for the new Sparrow on display in the showroom.

The company has also been working on “the greatest invention ever,” Corbin says—a seat that can heat or cool. He and his son are currently patenting the idea.

Corbin is also working with motorcycle industry locals to keep the Hollister Rally an annual event, with or without the cooperation of the city council.

41Live! promoter Bob Richards Jr. says the rally—renamed the 47 Camp Ride—will definitely take place at Bolado Park over Fourth of July weekend this year.

“You could bring out [a big celebrity] to Bolado Park right now, set it all up, and [the city council] would still say the rally is cancelled,” Richards says. “They think just because it’s not downtown, it’s not a rally.”

Ever the innovator, Corbin says he’s determined to continue his events annually.

“The motorcycle industry is working very hard to keep the rally alive organically,” he says. “So we’re the ones in the businesses, and we can make it happen.”
Contact Corbin Motorcycle Seats & Accessories at 831.634.1100, or call toll-free at 800.538.7035. Visit www.corbin.com for more information.

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