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.
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.
Does your passenger want to go fast? The ‘Busa is one of the fastest motorcycles ever made, but also includes a huge passenger seat and, for a sport bike, reasonably low pegs. The smooth, torquey motor masks the bike’s outright pace, making smooth progress effortless. Comfortable and controllable for the rider too.
Are you a relatively inexperienced rider? You’ll struggle to find any bike that’s easier to rider than Honda’s jack of all trades. Same’s true with a passenger on board and they’ll find a comfy seat along with big grab handles too.
Suzuki V-Strom 650
Wes once carried a 6’5” Frenchman across LA through rush hour traffic on the back of one of these and swears it’s the most confident motorcycle he’s ever ridden with any passenger aboard. Excellent rider control, smooth performance and wonderful ABS brakes are a huge help.
Moto Guzzi Norge
Want to carry a passenger without sacrificing fun? This humble looking Moto Guzzi remains an absolute blast to ride even with someone on the back. A torque, air-cooled twin adds some welcome classic motorcycle character while some of the most intuitive handling out there helps keek your pace up, even while loaded down. The stock panniers are huge and detach easily, allowing you to bring your luggage straight into your hotel room.
Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Smooth motor, excellent handling and a great view from the tall rider seat combines with a surprisingly spacious, completely flat passenger seat and huge grab handles.
The little Honda that could barely loses a single MPH from its top speed with a passenger aboard. Thank a torque, friendly motor for that. If you’d like to carry someone along on your first bike, this is the best motorcycle to do so with. Passenger accommodation is even spacious and comfy.
Girls love hopping on the back of a classic motorcycle. Make sure you pick the base Bonneville for its raised rear seat, superior suspension and lighter wheels. There probably isn’t a more appealing bike out there to inexperienced passengers.