How to Ride a Motorcycle with a Passenger
Before riding a motorcycle with a passenger, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into .
The extra weight and new center of gravity will change how the bike rides, and you need to be ready for it. If unprepared, it can be an unpleasant ride for both you and your passenger – but it doesn’t have to be.
Between us here at RideNow, we’ve clocked countless ‘two-up’ miles, and these are our tips for riding with a passenger.
How Passengers Affect Handling
Riding with a passenger will change every aspect of your motorcycle’s handling. Braking is one of the most noticeable differences.
Your stopping distances will be longer and you’ll need to apply considerably more braking force should you want to stop in a hurry.
You’ll also need to get on the brakes earlier and smoother than you usually do, meaning you’ll need to plan any stops well in advance.
Trailing your back brake while performing slow speed maneuvers can help to smooth things out – it’ll also be more effective as there’s more weight over the rear tire.
The motorcycle won’t accelerate as quickly as it usually does, and the front end will be more likely to go skyward if you jerk the throttle.
The first time I rode with a passenger resulted in the biggest accidental wheelie of my life.
The key here is smooth acceleration, it’ll keep both your passenger and motorcycle happy.
Going around corners can be an eye-opener if you’re not used to riding with a passenger. Some passengers have the tendency to sit straight up as you corner – it’s a natural instinct.
The trick here is to tell your passenger to look over your shoulder on the side that you’re turning. This will help keep the bike steady and keep both you and your passenger’s movements consistent.
The running theme here is to keep your riding smooth, in every way – think riding in very wet conditions. You may notice that this extra focus makes you a smoother rider in general.
Going over a few ground rules with a passenger before you set off could save a few headaches in the future.
First things first, no sudden movements. Some passengers think the perfect time to have a full body stretch is while you’re going around a bend, so make sure to address this. Their movements should be consistent with yours.
It’s also good to over a few hand signals before you start. You can use whatever you want but these are what I use: One tap on the shoulder means “slow down, you’re going too fast”, two taps means “pull over”. And a simple thumbs up for “Everything’s good, keep going”.
Tell your passenger to get on and off on the left-hand side, to ensure they don’t burn themselves on the muffler.
When your passenger is getting on, keep the bike as upright as possible, bracing it on each side with your legs, and do the same when they’re getting off.
Some riders keep their motorcycle on its side stand when a passenger is getting on, but this is ill-advised, as it can be difficult to get upright with the added weight.
The slower you travel, the more gravity will try and pull you down. So, keep your motorcycle as upright as possible when traveling at slow speeds and when stopping. Trailing your back brake while performing slow speed maneuvers can help to smooth things out – it’ll also be more effective as there’s more weight over the rear tire.
Tell your passenger not to put their feet down when stopping – this could unbalance you and the motorcycle.
Your passenger can either hold onto you or the handholds, if your motorcycle has them. Make sure they brace themselves for acceleration and braking, keeping their body tight to yours. This will stop your passenger banging into you under heavy breaking.
Heavier passengers should use the gas tank to brace themselves under heavy braking – the last thing you want is your passenger pushing you over the handlebars.
Adjusting A Motorcycle For A Passenger
Common sense applies here – carrying a heavy passenger on a small motorcycle can be hard work. Likewise, bigger and more powerful motorcycles generally handle passengers with relative ease.
Apart from the issue of size and power, your motorcycle will need a pillion seat and rear footrests.
If you’re only carrying a pillion over a short distance, there’s no real need to adjust your motorcycle. But, if you’ll be covering any real distance , it’s worth your while adjusting your motorcycle’s suspension and tire pressure for the extra weight – the suggested settings for passengers should be in your owner’s manual.
One of the best things about motorcycling, apart from actually riding, is sharing the experience with a passenger. But, a sure way to turn someone off motorcycles, is by riding too fast or recklessly .
So, please keep the riding safe and sensible when carrying a passenger. With this in mind, go and spread the joys of motorcycling to as many people as you can.
You can also refer to this video for a few extra tips and tricks