Quick Tips: Riding With A Passenger

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>> Aaron Cortez

September 17, 2014

Quick Tips: Riding With A Passenger

Anyone who has ever ridden with a passenger can tell you: with a good passenger, you barely notice that they’re there; but with a bad passenger, the whole ride can be unnerving and miserable. So what makes the difference? We give you a list of tips that can help make riding with a passenger a blast.

Sometimes, you just want to hop on your motorcycle and ride in solitude. It can be nice to just get away on your own to enjoy nothing but the wind on your face and the open road. But, other times, having a companion ride with you can be a great experience too; riding with someone you care about can be a lot of fun and a great bonding experience.

But how a ride with a passenger turns out has a lot to do with how prepared they are to be one, and how experienced you are carrying one. Anyone who has ever ridden with a passenger can tell you that with a good passenger, you barely notice that they’re there, but with a bad passenger, the whole ride can be unnerving and miserable. So how do you make sure it goes smoothly for both of you? Check out our tips below.

Quick tips for riding with a passenger:

  • While having the passengers arms wrapped around you might be romantic, its not the optimal place for them to hang onto, because they will transfer their weight onto you which can be unsafe. A better idea is for your passenger to rest their hands on the tank if possible, especially when stopping; this is more stable for them and allows you to shift your weight without any interference. If they can’t reach the tank, they should wrap their arms around your waist or chest, but never around your shoulders.

  • Make sure they are conscious of the hot exhaust; it can burn them before they even realize it. Also make them aware of the chain and sprockets, which can catch loose clothing and cause a disaster. There are a lot more dangerous things around the back of a bike than there are near the rider, so make sure they are aware of what they are.

  • Place a lot more emphasis on being smooth with the clutch, throttle, and brakes; what you think might be normal shifting of weight under acceleration or braking might be very unnerving to the passenger because they don’t know what to expect. Assume they have no idea what you’re about to do next on your bike – because odds are, they don’t.

  • Even carrying a small passenger can add a lot of weight to a bike; anticipate slower acceleration and much longer stopping distances. Give yourself a lot more room than you’d ever need riding solo!

  • Advise your passenger to be still when slowing to a stop or in the middle of a turn, where shifting their weight can have a major effect on the handling of your bike.

  • Tell your passenger not to lean in turns just because you do, because it can cause unexpected changes in the handling of your bike; but you don’t want them to lean away from a turn because they’re scared of leaning toward the ground either. A good rule of thumb is for them to simply look over your shoulder in the direction of the turn.

  • Let your passenger know to keep weight distributed evenly between the pegs and the passenger seat, and not put their weight on the seat alone; this will keep them more stable, especially through bumpy or rough patches of road. They should never put their feet down, unless they are getting off the bike completely.

  • Very important: make sure your passenger knows to only get on or off the bike when you tell them it’s okay to do so; them jumping off when you’re not expecting it can easily lead to you dumping the bike!

  • Tell them about the wave! Passengers usually have a lot of fun with this, especially if they are new to riding.

  • Just going with the flow in general is best; tell your passenger to be relaxed, not hang on too tight, not make any sudden or jerky movements, and not lean into (or away from) turns. The less a passenger does to interrupt your normal flow of riding, the safer and better off you’ll both be.

  • It’s a good idea to develop some kind of signal between the two of you; such as them tapping your leg if they want you to slow down or stop, or you squeezing their hand to let them know to hold on. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, but its important for you to have a way to communicate certain things to each other while at speed.

  • The bigger your passenger, the more all of this matters! Weight is everything on a bike, because it affects, handling, acceleration, stopping distance, and especially stability at low speeds.

  • If you have adjustable preload on the rear shock/shocks, you may want to crank it up. You’re adding a great deal of weight to your bike which can drastically change the way it handles, but adjusting the preload will make it more manageable.

The biggest thing to consider before deciding if you are ready to ride with a passenger is your own skill and comfort level. If you've just started riding, give yourself some time to get experience under your belt. In the first year, you may get more and more comfortable but you'll still come across riding situations that you haven't handled before. Riding with a passenger changes how your motorcycle handles and will introduce entirely new variables into the riding equation, so if you’re not skilled at riding solo, you should hold off on taking passengers until you are.

Riding a motorcycle, it’s always better to be safe than sorry – but when you add a passenger it's even more important, because you’re taking another person’s safety into your hands too. Make sure you know what you’re doing, and are comfortable giving them instructions on what to do as well. Once you have that down, all that’s left to do is have fun and enjoy the ride!

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