Looking For Company? 5 Tips For Riding With a Passenger

There’s a reason most motorcycles come with a seat that fits two, bikers like to bring others along for the ride. However, unlike a passenger in a car or any other vehicle for that matter, having another person on a motorcycle should be approached with a little caution and understanding.

It should be noted, this article was originally published on February 19th and is republished as part of the recent update to the Clutch and Chrome website. Some may ask, why is adding a passenger to a motorcycle such a big deal?

As riders may’ve noticed, most motorcycles only have two wheels and consequently rely on balance to not only maneuver but also keep the machines upright. Additionally, smaller amounts of weight play a larger factor in a motorcycle’s performance compared to other vehicles. Both of these are significantly affected by that second body on a bike.

Finally, mistakes made on a motorcycle usually result in more dramatic results putting even more responsibility on the rider for the passenger’s life. Never an easy truth to wrap your head around.

Clutch and Chrome brings together five tips and best practices for riders to consider before letting a passenger put a leg over their motorcycle.

1. There is such a thing as too soon

‘Three months or 1000 miles, whichever comes first’ is a popular recommendation of when is the right time a newer rider should allow a passenger on their motorcycle for the first time.

Whether fresh to riding or coming back to the saddle after time away, newer bikers should be very careful about when they let that first passenger on their motorcycle. They need to learn the skills and confidence of handling their motorcycle in different types of situations with just themselves before thinking about adding a passenger.

Bear in mind, the above recommendation is just that. If after three months or 1000 miles a biker isn’t fully confident in his abilities, they shouldn’t invite anyone into the saddle and instead, wait until they are.

A similar guideline should be used for experienced riders moving into a new motorcycle, laying down fifty or even a hundred miles of learning the motorcycle’s handling and capabilities before bringing someone else on the saddle.

2. Make sure your motorcycle is as ready as you are

Once a biker feels they can effectively handle the motorcycle with a passenger, the ride itself should checked and if needed, adjusted.

The most obvious point, is the motorcycle equipped for a passenger? Is there a place for them to sit? If using a popular ‘stick-on’ passenger seat, does the motorcycle have foot pegs for the additional person?

If the answer to any of these are no, then it would be dangerous and in some states illegal to have a passenger ride the ill-equipped motorcycle.

As far as adjustments are concerned, many motorcycle or tire manufacturers recommend alternative tire pressures when riding with the additional weight of a passenger. Similarly, the motorcycle’s suspension may also require adjustment for the same reason.

If there were ever a time to perform a pre-ride check, being responsible for another person’s life should be enough incentive to make sure the motorcycle is in working order.

The open road is always fun with one more - 2016 Road Glide Ultra
Source Harley-Davidson

3. Is the passenger as ready as you are?

First, passengers should wear proper protective gear, be tall enough to reach the footrests and mature enough to handle the responsibilities.

To this point, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation advises the passenger should consider themselves a second operator and share responsibility for safety. A passenger on a motorcycle is much more involved with getting from point A to point B than say those who ride along in a car. What they do and how they behave will impact a riders control over the motorcycle.

Before getting anywhere near the motorcycle a passenger should be asked whether they have ever ridden on a motorcycle. The acceleration, movement, noise and even openness of a motorcycle can be overwhelming when first experienced. Regardless of a passenger’s experience it just might behoove the biker to let them know what to expect. A freaked out passenger is never fun and certainly distracting.

Do they understand or know the hot and dangerous parts of a motorcycle? How will they brace themselves when the motorcycle pulls away? Where will they put their hands during the ride? Do they know the biker and passenger helmets will most likely hit each other during downshifting or in the instance of a quick stop? From how to mount the motorcycle to where the passenger will put their feet and hands should all be reviewed before the motorcycle is switched on.

As far as where the hands should go, common thought is for the passenger to hold operator’s waist or hips or motorcycle’s passenger hand-holds.

Pegs aren’t just for getting on and off, passengers should keep their feet on footrests at all times, including while stopped. To this point, they should understand any movement made while at lower speeds will heavily influence the handling of the motorcycle. Furthermore, they should avoid turning around or making sudden moves that might affect operation of the motorcycle during slower speeds.

An easy piece of passenger advice for leaning; When in a corner, they should look over the operator’s shoulder in the direction of the corner.

4. Riding for two

As mentioned earlier, everything a biker knows about riding changes with a passenger, starting with getting on the motorcycle.

Once all the needed discussions are had, the biker or operator gets on first. The passenger mounts after the motorcycle’s stand is raised and the motorcycle is securely braced.  By the way, the biker or operator is the brace, so footing should firm and readied for another person getting on the motorcycle. If shorter in stature, even the lightest of passengers will feel like an elephant getting on a motorcycle as they use the pegs to position themselves.

Bikers should hold the front brake lever if the surface isn’t level and look back to make sure hands and feet are where they should be.

Most importantly, a biker should always keep the passenger informed throughout the ride and this starts with notifying them when pulling away. Speaking of which, this is when a biker will begin to notice the difference between operating a motorcycle with one and two people.

Starting from a stop may require more throttle and clutch finesse and certainly a biker will want to exercise careful control over the motorcycle. While bikers may be familiar with how a motorcycle rides, or even how they ride the motorcycle, the passenger is not. A considerate and informed riding experience will keep the person on the back of the bike as happy as they can be.

Other things bikers will notice, braking procedures may be affected with the need to brake sooner or even apply extra pressure. The additional weight over the rear tire may increase the usefulness and stopping power of the rear brake, especially in quick stop situations, which is good to know.

The additional weight will increase braking at speeds or when riding on a downgrade. Similarly, the additional weight may lower the motorcycle, affecting cornering clearances and requiring bikers to give extra attention and allowance when going into something as simple as a corner.

Speaking of weight, more time and space should be given for passing.

Finally, depending on the style of motorcycle being used, that extra body on the back can act as a sail, effectively catching the wind. This is most notable with side winds.

Did we mention appropriate riding gear? 2016 BMW Motorrad K 1600 GTL
Source BMW Motorrad

5. Be the ambassador of motorcycles

Even if this isn’t the first time the passenger has ridden on the back of a motorcycle, the ride with you could be the last if not handled correctly.

In the last tip, communication was mentioned. Keeping a passenger informed of what’s happening, checking if they’re having a good time and comforting any fears they have are all part of taking a person on a motorcycle.

Many riders have been known to open the throttle occasionally and if we were all being honest, performed a few maneuvers that raised the heart rate a tad. These habits or tendencies should be stowed with the water and rain gear bungeed on the back with a biker treating the ride as a something happening for the passenger and not themselves.

This tip is especially important if the passenger isn’t familiar with the biker world, with their only reference to our two-wheeled past time being that one ride.

If the thrill and unique experience of riding can be conveyed during that trip, regardless of how brief it may be, we could all enjoy a new addition to our biking family and that is always a good thing.

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