Guide to Riding a Motorcycle with A Passenger
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How to pack and prepare for a motorcycle trip means you need to ensure all essentials are included, yet space is limited so you need to travel light. The guiding rule truly is ‘less is more” which is also a fun part of the adventure of motorcycle touring!
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 regarding passengers where many even refuse to carry one. 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 many motorcyclists simply never bother to develop the good skills needed to host a passenger. It is rewarding, simple will indeed advance your skills and add to your 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 additional weight and inputs at slow speeds.
An experienced motorcycle rider as passenger can anticipate your moves and knows already about the protocol a good passenger makes.
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 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.
Brief Your Passenger on the Following:
- 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.
- Inform them that you have not ever had an accident, but 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 to happen.
- 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.
- 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.
Your Preparation for the Passenger: You may have to adjust your motorcycle shocks and your tyre pressure for load, the same as you would when carrying cargo. Refer to your motorcycle owner’s manual and make the necessary changes.
Follow These Good Practises :
- Deploy the usually hidden passenger’s 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 pleased as possible.
As rider, your challenges are:
- Gear shifts are smooth to the point of the passenger not even sensing the shift has occurred. If their helmet is knocking into the back of yours, you’re not smooth enough yet.
- When you move off from a stop aim for such smoothness that the passenger’s never quite sure that we have started to move. The same for a stop. Smoothness all around.
- Practise in a Parking Lot
The following are the areas for practise and ensure you’re comfortable with 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 – its 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.