10 Best Motorcycles For Carrying A Passenger

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10 Best Motorcycles For Carrying A Passenger

Taking someone for a ride is one of the neatest things you can do as a motorcyclist. But, some bikes are a lot better than others at carrying a backseat passenger. As selected by the RideApart staff, here’s 10 of the best.

What To Look For In A Passenger Bike

First, think of yourself, the rider. With the additional weight of an extra human on board, you’re going to need a bike that gives you excellent control, confidence and which makes it easy for you to support a total weight that could now exceed 1,000lbs.

Wide bars, a commanding riding position, comfortable ergonomics, a reasonable seat height and smooth controls help with this.

For the passenger, you want a spacious seat which gives them room to find different riding positions, a humane distance between that seat and the passenger pegs and, ideally, more to hold onto than your love handles.

A seat that’s much higher than the rider’s perches pillions perilously high. But, a seat that’s the same height or lower obscures their view. You’ll find a happy middle ground in rear seats that are just a few inches taller.

Also consider the shape of the seat. For styling purposes, many bikes now come with ridges or angles down the middle. For obvious reasons, these may be terribly uncomfortable for female passengers.

How You Can Make Passengers More Comfortable

The idea here is to make riding with you a fun, compelling thing for a passenger to do. Often, inexperienced passengers will literally be terrified by the mere idea of leaving behind the safety and stability of four wheels, so it’s your job to make them feel as comfortable, safe and confident as possible.

Start by having them wear appropriate clothing. Correctly fitted, good condition tead-to-toe safety gear is best, but at a minimum consider things like jeans so they don’t burn their legs on the exhaust and boots so they don’t twist an ankle climbing on and off. A riding jacket will keep their clothes from blowing around and you absolutely want them in a good helmet which fits properly (for both comfort and safety) and a good pair of gloves.

Brief them on how to be a good passenger and what to expect while riding. Make sure they know to neither hop on or off the bike without first getting verbal confirmation from you that you’re ready. And always have them mount and dismount from and to the left side.

Ride smoothly while they’re on board, short shifting clutchlessly to make gear changes as smooth as possible. Dragging a little back brake at low speed can help with stability and smoothness too. Avoid big inputs to the throttle, brakes or steering and remember, if their helmet taps yours from behind, it’s because you’re not riding smooth enough.

With the extra weight over the rear, braking distances will increase and some weight will be transferred off the front wheel, impacting straight line stability and steering. Basically, ride a little slower and more conservatively.

If your bike has the facility for doing so, adjust the suspension (front and rear) to handle the extra weight. At a minimum, crank up the preload.

BMW R1200GS
The adventure bike archetype is smooth, confident and all-day comfortable for a rider and passenger. Telelever front suspension eliminates brake dive, helping to avoid upsetting the passenger and the shaft drive keeps things smooth. Commanding control is delivered by the wide bars and tall, comfortable riding position.

Honda Gold Wing
The only two-wheeled bike a passenger can (and will) safely fall asleep on, the Goldwing’s passenger accommodation, complete with arm and back rests, feel like sitting on a Lay-Z-Boy.

Ural Patrol T
Or, they can fall asleep safely ensconced in a sidecar. The Patrol T is the most affordable sidecar in Ural’s range thanks to its one-wheel drive configuration. Performance is…classic, so allow some extra time, but riding one of these either as a passenger or rider is an utterly unique experience.

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  • Steve Ford

    I would suggest adding the 2014 Moto Guzzi California Touring to the list. I’ve recently purchased one, and can honestly say this is going to be one great touring machine!!!

  • Mark D

    When carrying passengers outside of the city, make sure they layer up! While it may be a pleasant 60 degrees, 45 minutes of going 70 on the highways means that you’ll need a sweater and/or a scarf to avoid hypothermia upon arrival.

    For carrying girls, I’ve also found that a small tank bag is perfect to carry the inevitable purse, without it swinging around her shoulders or wedge between you two (or, even worse, her trying to take a clutch!)

    Also; if you’re going to lane split, a pre-ride heads up to your passenger is just polite.

    • shamowfski

      “Also; if you’re going to lane split, a pre-ride heads up to your passenger is just polite.”

      I also find this advice prudent if you plan on doing stoppies.

    • IRS4

      Repeat after me : The bars are wider than your knees.

  • Stuki

    Man, you guys really, really, really! don’t much care for cruisers, do you? If there was ever a category invented for cruisers, it would be this. Long and heavy enough to render the added weight (Even of a genuine Harely Mama) inconsequential (Like a Wing), and so low even passengers can pretty much flat foot at stops……

    • bammerburn

      Thing is, there are other critical factors that makes a motorcycle a good motorcycle… which cruisers don’t have. Some of us prefer a bike that handles well. Some of us prefer a bike that has water-cooling. Some of us prefer a bike that isn’t overprized up the wazoo (looking at you, Mr. Harley-Davidson).

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        Don’t forget brakes.

        • Bill J

          Is this more of your “objective and sympathetic” assessment of the Harley brand? You would actually list a Ural over a Harley cruiser?? Please… :)

          • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

            Hey, less compromised chassis geometry, more character, less weight and better ride quality… objectively.

          • Jason

            With a sidecar? Of course I would!

            • Mr.Paynter

              Yep, me too.

      • Corey Lloyd

        I rarely find a cruiser that’s comfortable for the driver, let alone the passenger.

        I cite the staggering amount of Mustang seat upgrades, pillion gel pads, highway pegs, and handlebar cable kits I end up selling as evidence. The sport-standard guys usually just end up buying tires every so often.

        I think cruisers=comfortable is the biggest single myth perpetuated by uninformed consumers in this industry.

        The rare cruiser that does have a wide pillion seat still usually has the typical sketchy low speed handling, add some weight high up and you have a pretty rough rig to muscle around a parking lot. The article is best bikes for “carrying passengers,” not necessarily most comfortable for passengers.

        • Vince Streukens

          I drive a Yamaha Venture. I have a Corbin seat. I have driven 1000kms, 3 days in a row and was no more pooped out that had I been a passenger in a big car. I could have done a few more days as well. Try that on 9 of the above bikes and then we’ll chat Sparky…..

          • James W

            Dude that thing is barely a cruiser, its really not that far off from a tourer

          • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

            Did you have a passenger? If not, I don’t see your point b/c I’ve ridden 4 comparable days of back roads all day long on a V11 Sport with clipons. Physical conditioning plays an equal (bigger?) role except for the most track-focused bikes when it comes to big mileage days

        • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

          Definitely agree except for the liquid cooling. Hopefully one is carrying a passenger on an open, curvy road somewhere free of idling. Then, air, oil, liquid cooling choices are not critical. Close to half of the bikes listed are air/oil cooled. Maybe even half (don’t know about the little Honda)

          Cool article

    • Mark Trimmer

      Why by a bike so a passenger can be flat footed at stops, but the passenger will suffer with little or no suspension travel while moving?

  • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

    “Make sure you pick the base Bonneville for its raised rear seat”

    Do you mean as compared to the SE model, or its sister models Scrambler and Thruxton?

    …cause I still really want a Bonnie SE in blue and white.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yeah, the SE is good too. But the T100 costs more and performs less well. The Scrambler has plusses and minues, but that seat ain’t good for passengers. The Thruxton is just worthless.

      • Piglet2010

        Girls really like the purple/white colorway available on the base Bonnie. :)

        I have only had mine for 5 days, but the quirks I can live with, since it is a lovely bike in most ways. And the weight is only an issue when walking the bike or getting up on the center-stand.

      • James W

        The thruxton is the best looking though

        • 80-watt Hamster

          I must respectfully disagree. That honor belongs to the SE in the OP’s well-chosen blue and white.

          • karlInSanDiego

            with cast wheels? Nay! It undermines the whole retro look and beckons the 70′s invention of the Special Edition. And no the 70′s aren’t the sweet spot for Triumph, before you think it.

            • Piglet2010

              I would rather have cast wheels on a Bonnie.

            • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

              Performance > looks.

              • Keith

                Suzuki Burgman 650 … City highway …touring. I road Beijing to Dali Yunnan 2 up … Now the lady was only 95 lbs …. But both of us were very comfortable. 6 days dirt road or highway … As well as a couple of trails…. Even my Benelli 250 scooter is super comfortable 2 up….

  • sospeedy

    When I had a Yamaha FJR my wife fell asleep every time she was on the back. I guess that means she was comfortable….

    • bammerburn

      Or maybe you’re not pinning the throttle enough ;)

  • Bugsy

    Bike Magazine recently reviewed the 2013 R1200 GS as one of the poorest pillion riding experiences….not because they just “thought so”, but rather by taking a passenger on long rides, and then asking them their experience. Have you tested any or all of these bikes with a passenger, and interviewed them on their experience? Pillion riding is not about the person at the helm, but rather the person riding behind…I can tell you from experience that a number of bikes you have chosen here are poor long-distance choices for a passenger for a number of reasons. I’m curious how you get to “best bike for a passenger” without any data-points from the passenger.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      We’ve ridden on the back of them ourselves.

    • Martin

      I rode my GS all the way to Ushuaia with my wife in the back. She fell asleep many times even in dirt roads. Very comfortable for passengers if they can use the top box as back rest.

      • karlInSanDiego

        Pretty easy to come off a bike when you’re asleep, so I’d rate that as a negative. Exception might be if you have one of those Goldwing armchairs and then added a lap belt.

  • Ceol Mor

    Ride a motorcycle with the smallest, most uncomfortable pillion you can find. That way your “passenger” will be more inclined to get their own damn bike!

  • Jason 848

    Id like to not recommend a Husqvarna SMR 510 Supermoto. Took my gf for a rip to console her after selling “her” KLR… the engine terrified her, the seat was a 2×4 and the dual exhaust melted her jeans into her Alpinestars riding boot. That was the first and last time on that bike lol

  • Cristovao Morgado

    how about the best spot touring bike… the Ducati Multistrada???

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Great bike. It’s power delivery is very abrupt and leg room for the passenger extremely limited though.

      • Cristovao Morgado

        Power is manageable! it’s all on the wrist and you can use other settings.
        Leg room limited ? well if your like 1,90m !!! That’s the first time a EVER heard that

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          I’m just under 1.9m, so yeah, it was cramped when I rode on the back.

    • Marc

      Can’t speak for the new one, but the Multi 1100S has proven to be the perfect 2-up bike at least for my use. I like going fast, but will absolutely not go anywhere near the limits of a bike with a passenger on board. On the multi, I’m carrying the same corner speeds or more than I used to with a passenger on my R6, well within the limits of the bike/tires/road and both of us are far more comfortable. I do miss some of the oomph and scream of an inline four, but for giving someone the experience of real lean angles on real roads, I haven’t found a better bike.

      I definitely don’t find the power more abrupt than a sportbike… too soft if anything for my tastes, but maybe Wes is talking about the 1200 which was really snatchy until the latest version, even with the DP flash.

      • Sam

        Couldn’t agree less. My 1000DS has one of the worst pillion seats I’ve ever seen. It’s like Ducati looked up some Spanish Inquisition era vaginal torture devices and said “This is perfect! It will keep the girls off our tall sport bike.” The 2013 MTS has a much better pillion seat and I didn’t find it snatchy at all (in touring or urban mode). In sport it was a tad snatchy, especially when I slapped my cramp buster on it for the 2 hour test ride. A 2013 or newer S Touring is going to be my first new bike. Depend on if I can find one in the Fall or not.

        • Marc

          Apparently my pillions like their vaginas tortured…?

  • Dainjah

    Love the articles, but you guys have to do a little bit more proofreading before posting. I’ve noticed a number of mistakes on a number of articles.

    Cheers

  • Vince Streukens

    WTF?? I perused this article with great anticipation only to finish it and completely disregard the results. How is it possible to conclude that most of these bikes offer more passenger comforts than the big Yamaha tour/cruisers, the Kawasaki or the Harley tour bikes?? At a minimum, they are certainly on par with the Goldwing.

    You could only come to these conclusions if you were really drunk!

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Due to their high, swept back bars and forward foot controls, leverage over a cruiser style motorcycle is reduced and the passenger ends up feeling like a less natural addition than the bikes listed above.

      • Vince Streukens

        I drive a Yamaha Venture. I have a Corbin seat. I have driven 1000kms, 3 days in a row and was no more pooped out that had I been a passenger in a big car. I could have done a few more days as well. Try that on 9 of the above bikes and then we’ll chat Sparky

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          Sure. You don’t need to put a Corbin on any of the above though. And you can like go fast and have fun and use the brakes, too.

  • Andy Scott

    The BMW 1600 GTL is conspicuously absent?? I have a 1200GT that my wife loves riding on, but we do long rides. We just got back from 9 days in Colorado. I can’t imagine any of the above bikes other than the Goldwing/GS that my wife would enjoy.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      The K1600 is super comfy, but it’s not quite a ‘Wing in terms of comfort.

      • Michael Howard

        Ah, so did the K1600 get bumped off the “10 Best” list by the CBR250R or the Ural?

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          Yep. The CBR250 is absolutely wonderful as a first bike and is great two-up. Even the BMW can’t rival A FUCKING SIDECAR for passenger space and comfort.

          • Michael Howard

            Space, sure, but I just can’t see a “WW2 Jeep-ish” sidecar as being especially plush and comfortable – more as being bounced and jostled around like on an amusement park ride. For anything more than a short trip I think I’d much rather be a passenger on the Beemer.

            • Pete Rowley

              Even the Beemer can’t rival A FUCKING SIDECAR for three-up riding and, once the camp fire is lit underneath, doubling as a hot tub at the destination.

          • Mill0048

            +1 on the CBR250R, but for selfish reasons. It’s extremely toss-able with two, the seating is perfect (I’m 6’1″) and the motor’s torquey profile works perfectly with the added weight. Unfortunately, the lady friend finds it boring compared to my 600 (“Go faster!”), but I love the handling 2-up on this bike!

  • Chanson

    RideApart needs a VMX17 in its press fleet.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Why?

      • Chanson

        If it’s not on the list, I can only surmise that there has not been enough seat time to recognize its passenger pulling prowess. My shakey, heavy, cantankerous VMX12 is great in that regards (torquey, low CG, decent seat, neutral layout, high bars) and the newer model is only better (torquey-er, better tires, more ground clearance, actually turns!). It’s a good thing I didn’t make it to my scheduled test ride otherwise I’d probably have one.

        The best part is their effect on Harley riders: they either get confused and wave, tell you they’ve never ridden one but respect them, or tell you they have ridden one and wouldn’t buy it because it feels too much like a sports bike. In any case, they mistake you for a fellow human being and consider it acceptable to hold a conversation with you.

  • Sean Kerwick

    Might be the list of *new* bikes for passenegers, but I’d pick a Honda VTX1300 or VTX 1800 over many of them still today. And as used bikes, they are a better value.

  • Michael Howard

    The title for this article really should have been, “10 of the Best Motorcycles for Carrying a Passenger”. Or maybe, “The 10 Best Motorcycles We’ve Ridden for Carrying a Passenger”.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Well, that is actually the headline…

  • Cat MacLeod

    I’ve got to give props to the Ducati Multistrada. Wife says it’s more comfortable than any BMW touring bike.

  • cbibbs

    I’ve ridden from Detroit to Milwaukee (and back!) in a day with my ST300 with a passenger for half the trip (we were picking up an FJR1300 in Milwaukee). It may not be a Goldwing, but it is pretty darn close.

  • dllm

    surprised that Versys was not included…
    btw, the NC700X saddle sucks, too slippery reported by pillion…

  • Nick

    Nice write-up. I rode my Triumph Tiger 800 XC 2,800 miles (Seattle to LA and back) over 8 days with a passenger (my wife). We both had a blast, and were as comfortable as you can be pulling 400+ mile days on twisty 2 lane roads. I have the stock seat, and have not upgraded anything. I now have 10,000 miles on the bike, half of which have been put on with a passenger. I’ll take an upright seating position any day with a passenger, both for comfort and the commanding view. The 800cc motor never left me wanting more, and the gas mileage was awesome, even fully loaded with gear and luggage.

  • nomad2495

    How about sportier bikes, such as street triples and supersports be with a passenger? I know many of them have seats and well placed foot pegs, but how ride-able will they be with a second person, as most aren’t known for being able to take a passenger?

  • William Connor

    The Tiger 1200 is by far better for two up than the 800. More torque, more fuel, more space for a passenger, as good fuel economy with better weather protection.

  • Jason Channell

    My Triumph Sprint ST was better than expected with a rider. I worried a bit, due to the higher saddle, which makes me tiptoe the bike. With her on the back, it compressed the suspension a bit, and made it easier than I was expecting. It’s always a good sign when she asks when she can go for a ride again.

  • IRS4

    Wife and I took a short ride on a PC800 once – that was a nice wide pillion, and smooth ride. I don’t get why more bikes don’t have a nice big dished, grippy, saddle in back, at least as optional fitment.