Riding a motorcycle solo requires balance and control. Riding a motorcycle with a passenger means you’ll need twice those skills. Generally, as a woman motorcycle or scooter rider your passenger’s weight will be greater than your own. If you’re already operating a heavier motorcycle such as the Harley-Davidson CVO Streetglide, you’ll need to be entirely confident in your abilities before taking a passenger. Nevertheless, hosting friends or family members on the back of your motorcycle makes for fun rides or tours and is entirely rewarding! You’re able to give them a first hand taste of the enjoyment you have for motorcycling as well as a sample of the fun they’d experience if they decide to learn to ride as well.
There’s much negativity from riders where passengers are concerned. Many riders refuse to carry one because of the manner in which they change the bike’s handling. But riding with a passenger can certainly be a shared fun. Some motorcycles such as sport-bikes (modelled/designed after racing bikes) are not comfortable or designed well to carry passengers. And then, many motorcyclists just never bother to develop the good skills needed to host a passenger. But if you know what you’re doing it can be rewarding as well as advancing your skills and confidence.
These Guidelines Will Help You Succeed
First Time Passenger Must be a Motorcycle Rider: It is the best practise to ensure your first passenger is an experienced motorcycle rider. So ask your motorcycle friend to meet you in a large parking (don’t head out on a busy city street with your first time passenger) to help you practise. Your first kilometres with a passenger will likely be sloppy as you try to balance the added weight and steering inputs at slow speeds.
An experienced motorcycle rider as passenger can anticipate your moves and knows already about the protocol of a good passenger.
Prepare Your Motorcycle – Make the Adjustments: The extra weight will affect how a motorcycle handles. And you may need to your motorcycle shocks and suspension. Equally important is adjusting your tire pressure for the load. This is the same as when you would be carrying extra cargo. Refer to your motorcycle owner’s manual and make the necessary changes.
First Step Pre Ride Passenger Briefing: Before your passenger climbs onto your motorcycle, host a pre-ride briefing with them. Of course you’ve already either provided or insured they have full riding gear just as you do. A certified full face helmet (or helmet with visor) which fits; sturdy jacket made of leather; gloves, sturdy pants/ thick jeans; sturdy boots covering the ankle and protective eye wear against the sun. Ensure passengers are geared up and dressed for comfort no matter what conditions you’ll be riding in. Do not take a passenger without the aforementioned GEAR – their safety is in your hands.
Passenger Briefing On These Points:
- While they are on your motorcycle, they’re the person in charge, so to speak. If they want to slow down or stop for any reason, you’ll do so. Devise a signal such as a tap on your right shoulder in the case you might not hear them. As the pilot, you control the bike and your passenger controls you. Explain that you have no intention to frighten them while riding with you but in fact you want them to have the best experience possible.
- Climbing on or off. Ensure your passenger agrees to the following:
- They agree to get on and off the bike only at your permission
- They get on and off only while you are on the bike, and when you say “ready” or give the “ok” nod. The same is practised when you are ready for them to dismount.
- When they mount and dismount the bike they to their best to keep their weight centred on the bike – that they not pull the bike towards them but, rather, push themselves towards the bike.
- When riding/under-way …explain that they can talk to you if they want (if you have a communication system instruct its use) but ideally when moving have them pretend to be a sack of potatoes-relaxed. They can move about just not suddenly.
- They need not help you through the turns such as not leaning in anticipation or when you’re in a turn.
- Assure your passenger you are careful and cautious (not had an accident) – and that no matter what happens while moving, their feet at to stay on the passenger foot pegs (or floorboards) and never try to touch the ground with their feet to try to hold up the motorcycle. Inform them that in an emergency situation where you may need to brake harder than normal, their weight will come into yours and that is totally okay and normal. Explain that you are prepared for that occurrence.
- Instruct them to sit close to you and that this is best for the motorcycle too. If a heavy passenger sits too far back on the seat this can affect steering negatively in the front and created lift to the front wheel.
- Inform your passenger that a motorcycle leans to turn and that it works best if they lean with you. If they’re confused about this or often scared, just have them focus their eyes at the centre of the back of your helmet. This will keep their body position upright and in line with yours.
- Inform them they can also use their knees to hang on to you by squeezing them/the thighs against yours (if applicable per your motorcycle make/model).
- Instruct them where to hang on to you. When they become more familiar with acceleration effects on the bike etc. they can hang on to seat grips or rails.
- Inform that they are welcome to wave to oncoming motorcyclists but may not signal.
Follow These Good Practises:
- Deploy the usually hidden passenger footrests/pegs; show the passenger this is where their feet are positioned.
- Get on your motorcycle and raise the side stand (if the side stand is down, when the passenger mounts, their weight will compress the shocks causing the side stand to possibly dig into the ground and/or may push the bike to the right causing upset in balance)
- Do not turn on the motorcycle (added safety) but do have it in neutral.
- Ensure both your feet are on the ground and you have a good grasp on the handlebars.
- Pull in the front brake and keep it applied as the passenger climbs on to ensure the bike doesn’t move or shift.
- Once the passenger is on, check/adjust their sitting position to ensure not too far to the back of the bike; closer to you will optimize your balance/control.
- Once underway, expect that as you slow the motorcycle to a stop, this will be the time the passenger moves around and makes adjustments (they tend to sit very still when travelling at speed). This will challenge your slow speed control skills-and master them!
Your Job as Passenger Host: Many motorcyclists take a passenger out for the ‘ride of their life’, frightening them and entirely turning them off from motorcycling. Maybe your passenger has had such an experience. So really, your task is to be responsible and ensure that your passenger and your motorcycle is as safe and as pleasing as possible.
Rider – Your Challenges:
- Aim to ensure gear shifts are smooth to the point of the passenger not even sensing the shift has occurred. If your passenger helmet is knocking into the back of yours, you’re not smooth enough yet.
- When you move off from a stop, aim for a smooth kick off to the ride. The same for coming to a stop.
- You can try practising all this in a confined area free of traffic like a parking lot.
Ensure the following areas are practised and you’re comfortable before you take out your real first time non-motorcycle experienced passenger.
During the practise you will a likely experience awkward jerky movements including balancing wobbles – don’t sweat it – it’s all part of developing the skill.
- Passenger mounting and dismounting
- Moving off. Here is where riding the clutch at the friction zone pays off (again!)
- Stopping the motorcycle both normal and emergency / quick-stop
- Backing (engine off) – important practise required in parking situations.
- Slow speed turns especially right turns.
Although riding with a passenger will change your solo riding experience, it is something you will truly enjoy sharing with a friend.
Have fun and remember, don’t take a passenger on your motorcycle or scooter unless you feel you’re ready.