As a motorcyclist, friends and family may drop subtle hints and maybe not so subtle hints about going along for the ride.
You may or may not be so inclined. Or maybe you're the one wanting to share the freedom of the open road.
Whatever the case, two up riding can be immense fun or a harrowing experience for both you and your passenger. Like anything that requires a bit of skill and involves some risk, preparation is your best friend. As the expert behind the wheel, so to speak, it's your job to explain how the motorcycle handles and what you expect from your passenger. Additionally, both you and your passenger need to practice before riding into real-life situations.
Tips for Two Up Riding
- Know Your Motorcycle
Adding a passenger impacts the handling of your motorcycle. Accelerating, braking and turning require a bit more effort. It is a good idea to practice in a safe area like a parking lot riding with a passenger. This helps you get a feel of your ride with extra weight and helps your passenger know what to expect.
- Know Your Passenger
Most people like to feel in control. A passenger or pillion is at the mercy of your riding and therefore cannot do anything other than to jump off. Helping curb this apprehension goes a long way towards a fun ride for all. Expect a first time motorcycle passenger to have lots of questions and even be quite nervous despite their desire to ride.
Turning probably causes the most apprehension, at least in the beginning. This is where your passenger can help you "drive." Your passenger needs to move with you when cornering. The most effective method is for him or her to hold on to you tight and lean into the corner with you. You both move together as one. The passenger should look over the shoulder in the direction of the turn. For example, when turning right, the pilot and bike lean to the right, and the passenger should be looking over the pilot's right shoulder.
Help your passenger get used to braking and accelerating. Their point of view is primarily the back of your head and to their left and right. They don't see a lot of what you see coming, so opening the throttle or braking suddenly may cause a knee jerk reaction from your passenger and disrupt your concentration or path of travel.
Communication is key. Develop a set of hand signals, or even better, use a two-way Motorcycle Communication System like a Chatterbox especially on long rides. Passengers can get bored or need a bathroom break and sitting for long periods is uncomfortable, especially if they are not used to it. Yelling over the motor and wind noise is less than ideal.
- Know Yourself
Taking someone along for a ride may sound like fun but ultimately if it's too uncomfortable for you and affects safety then go it alone. As the pilot, you are responsible for your passenger's safety. If you don't like it or it doesn't feel right don't try and be a "good guy" and take your friend or family member out for a spin.
The bottom line, just like when you first started out, practice makes perfect. Two up riding is a completely different experience on the bike so practicing in a safe setting is the best way to enjoy having a passenger. Another option is to take a motorcycle riding course with a potential pillion if long term two up riding is planned. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation course is a great start and many places allow you and your passenger to take the course together.
If your passenger is doing anything that disrupts your navigation, be sure to tell them. Passengers may fidget, hold on too tight, too loose or in the wrong spot. Let them know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.
Two riders means two helmets and two sets of gear or ATGATT - all the gear all the time. There's no such thing as a passenger's helmet or passenger's riding gear. Your passenger should wear at a minimum a DOT approved helmet and all the riding gear you wear - boots, jacket, pants, (leathers) and gloves. If you crash that means your passenger crashes too.
Once your passenger gets the joy of riding down, he or she may eventually want to change positions. Passenger riding is a great way to introduce someone to the joys of taking the controls on two wheels. At any rate, much of the two up riding experience depends on you. It may even help to be a passenger to another riding buddy so you can know the experience and help any future passengers along.