How To: Ride With A Passenger On A Motorcycle

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Learning to ride with a passenger on a motorcycle is vital to making your motorcycle a regular part of your life. It can be a little scary at first but, using these tips, can be as comfortable as riding solo.

Make sure your bike can handle the extra weight.
Trying to carry a 350 pound man on the back of your Honda Cub is a bad idea, but so is carrying any full-size adult on a motorcycle without making sure it’s prepared for the job. The added weight will impact acceleration, braking, and suspension. While you can’t do much about the acceleration, you should make sure your brakes are in good shape to help stop a heavier load, and that your suspension is set up for additional weight. Passenger foot pegs are also a must.

Getting on the motorcycle.
Ask your passenger to wait until you tell them you are ready before they try to mount. Make sure the passenger pegs are down and then instruct them to mount from the left, non-muffler side. Make sure the motorcycle is completely upright and that your legs are braced to keep it that way before your passenger gets on the bike. While it may seem more stable when on it’s kickstand, the bike will be harder to straighten once the extra weight comes aboard.

Tighter is better.
Instruct your passenger to hold on to you tightly. If they have a loose grip, they will be more likely slam into you when stopping and also feel like they’re going to fall off when you accelerate. Regardless of how you feel about this technique, be it an added bonus or it makes you slightly uncomfortable, it’s better than feeling like your passenger could slip off at any moment.

Turning
Even slight movements from your passenger will impact how your bike feels when turning. Inexperienced passengers have the tendency to lean the opposite direction you’re turning, for fear of falling off. Before departing, instruct them to stay as straight as possible while simply looking over your shoulder to the side you are turning toward. That tiny amount of extra weight to the inside, plus the consistency in their movements, will give you all you need to adjust your steering inputs accordingly.

Stopping
Instruct your passenger to keep their feet on the foot pegs when you come to a stop. Your motorcycle is at it’s most vulnerable when stopped, as gravity tugs it downwards without any gyroscopic forces pulling it forward and helping to keep you upright. Their putting a foot down can unsettle the balance you have and tip you over. Also, at the end of your ride, ask them to wait to move until you let them know you are ready. Then have them dismount the same way they got on toward the left, non-muffler side.

Additional Tips:
- If you ride with passengers often, you may want to purchase passenger hand holds, either to wear or to attach to your motorcycle.

- Ask your passenger not to turn around or make any sudden movements.

- Avoid high speeds or dramatic lean angles, unless you’re Randy Mamola.

- If your passenger is able to reach the tank, they should use it to brace themselves when stopping or slowing.

- Keep in mind your stopping distances greatly increases with additional weight, and stopping will require extra effort on the controls.

- Agree on hand signals before you depart. One for, “Pull over.” Another for, “You’re going too fast, slow down.” As well as one for, “I’m good, keep it up.”

- Drag your back brake to smooth out the ride at low speeds.

- As always, make sure anyone riding on a motorcycle is wearing safety gear that fits appropriately.

What are your go-to tips when carrying a new passenger? Tell us in the comments below.

Related Links:
How To:
Be an Expert at Commuting on a Motorcycle
Tips: 10 Motorcycle Riding Tricks You Don’t Know, Yet

  • DrRideOrDie

    I actually follow all the advice you provided which is great. One thing that I was not prepared for is that the slightest adjustments by the passenger, say to look about or maybe stretch a little resulted in the bike wiggling about more than I had initially anticipated. I got used to it, but definitely communicated clearly them after the ride what the effect had.

    • Chris Cope

      I remember the first time my wife decided she’d do a little stretch as we shot down the highway at 75 mph. I just about pooped myself.

  • David Svoboda

    guys, do you have any idea if I could get an extra passenger handle for my Suzuki GS 500E? If I ride with top box on it, passenger has nowhere else to hold on to but me..
    Thx!

    • Brian

      why do that when you have the Cagiva Gran Canyon to do that with?!?!?

      • David Svoboda

        are you telling me to get the Cagiva Gran Canyon? i don’t trust Cagiva anyway..

        • Brian

          NO, I thought you still had one. I think it is a much better suited to being a 2 up vehicle than a GS500E.

          • David Svoboda

            no i never had one. where did you get that info from? )

  • Brian

    take your perspective passenger around on the bike in a parking lot or large closed off area and do some basic drills to get them familiar with leaning and braking and change of direction to acclimate them and discuss those tips you want them to be aware of.

    The other thing is, if you are taking said passenger on a long ride, you may want to think of ways after a long droning haul to awaken them from their experience to make them aware when you are coming to changes in how the bike will be handling( ie: coming off the highway into the city, where they will need to be more aware of using their hands again for one example)

    communication of taps and hand signals if you don’t have a comm system beforehand is a good thing also.

  • Ryan Deckard

    HFL had an awesome post about riding with a passenger a while back. A sort of do and do nots for such. I spread that around to all the girls I know that ride and guys that typically have a passenger as well. Lots of good points there.

  • Adan Ova

    Tell’em not to grab your shoulders. When traveling, make sure they are wearing the helmet with the visor down (for insects and rocks and stuff on the air). Be extra careful with the road (paint, oil, water, sand, etc). Announce with time when you are to encounter something that makes the bike jump (like a pothole or a bump) and apologize when your actions give them discomfort (like when you brake hard and they hit their helmet with yours).

    As with all motorcycle advice, if you have never ridden with a passenger, it’s very important that you practice first, on a clear, known street or an empty parking lot on good weather. You will later know how to accelerate, brake and steer properly.

    Your rear tire will probably need some more pressure; read the manual.

    Finally, one time someone told me something I found very true: make sure they are better protected than you are. They’re placing their lives and physical integrity are on your hands.

  • Ulysses Araujo

    The easiest way to mount (according to my wife) is to climb the left footpeg like a stair while holding on the pilot’s shoulders, with the bike already in upright position, go for the right footpeg and only then sit. You may want to check if the pillion footpeg is properly bolted and is capable of holding the weight before doing that.

    Instruct your passenger to wait for your signal to mount (as stated in the article) and to dismount too (of your passenger may make you drop your bike just as you arrived on that fancy café and are preparing to park the bike – not that this happened to me :) ). Some kind of “yeah, I’m ready” signal from the passenger is also reassuring – as some “wait a sec., I’m checking my gloves/wallet/instagram/look wearing all this motorcycle stuff” is sometimes also a necessity. The “pull over, I need to go to the restroom” sign is a long way better than trying to understand someone under a 55 mph wind noise.

    Instruct your passenger about filtering (if it’s legal where you are, duh) – avoid if you can with inexperienced passengers, as some people find it scary and there’s no way no predict what someone will do when scared. Stomach claw holds, shoulder punchs and neck chokes are to be expected in this situation. If avoiding is not practical, make sure he understood the “not turn around / weave / keep changing the shoulder she’s looking over” instruction, as it’s very dangerous while cars are just centimeters away. Instruct them to keep the knees as close as possible to you and use them as support when braking (just like you do when you grap the tank).

    • bossross

      My girlfriend used the ‘pilot’s’ footpeg since it’s lower like you mention this I don’t mind at all since both of my feet are planted on the ground.

  • kevin

    Another tip that I think needs to be said is this: Guys, unless your lady friend has explicitly told you that she’s an experienced passenger and adrenaline junkie that wants you to go fast, don’t. Despite what you may think, whacking that throttle open is not going to make her want you, it’s going to terrify her. And then she’s probably not going to want to ride with you ever again. Keep things smooth and under control until she’s confident enough to turn up that pace a little.

    • Rameses the 2nd

      And don’t try to attempt put a knee down when your pessenger has never been on a motorcycle before.

  • CruisingTroll

    Rider: BOTH feet down at stops. While you can frequently get away with only one foot down when riding solo, having both feet down at stops makes it much easier to keep the bike upright.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    Remember that you are not a MotoGP rider. Don’t try to over impress your pessenger. Ride in your comfort zone.

  • http://www.faster-faster.com/ Marc Fenigstein

    On signals, I always use:
    - Passenger taps on shoulder or chest to indicate “slow down.” Additional taps means “pull over and STOP.”
    - Rider taps on passenger left leg to indicate “hold on tight” whether for an upcoming bump, or a pass, or a twisty section.

    Some other thoughts:
    - No movement at slow speeds and stops. You kind of mention this in “Stopping,” but explaining to the passenger that the bike is hardest to balance when creeping or stopped is REALLY important. Their natural inclination is to stay still when fast, but feel safe and comfortable when slowing down and use that time to turn around look behind, etc.
    - Sport riding specific, passenger can/should brace against tank. On downhills and under braking, the passenger WILL be pressed against the rider. Both for rider comfort/fatigue and passenger guilt, they’re better off bracing their hands against the tank and supporting their own weight under spirited riding.

    Last and most important: as a rider with a passenger, you are responsible for someone else’s life. Wholly responsible. Whatever happens on that bike is your fault and you will have to live with it. You decide what that means for you and your passenger in terms of minimum gear, riding conditions and riding style – but do it with that understanding. When I first load up a passenger, I actually visualize the terrible accidents (not as a deliberate exercise, more out of neurosis) that could happen. Morbid, but it keeps me in check. I love riding two-up. Sharing the ride experience is one of my favorite things. Part of what makes it great, is it requires and demonstrates tremendous trust. Don’t ever violate that trust.

  • William Connor

    Great tips. The only one I don’t use is the kickstand tip. I leave it down because even experienced passengers slip, lose their balance etc. This has saved me several times from having a nice repair bill. I currently ride a Triumph Tiger Explorer and with a passenger the back squats nicely making raising the bike off the side stand easy.

  • Michael Howard

    One very, very, VERY important thing to keep in mind when carrying a passenger: You have someone else’s life in your hands – literally. You and only you are responsible for that other person’s well-being. Keep your ego in check. Don’t show off. The primary thing you should have on your mind is keeping your passenger safe. If you aren’t prepared to do everything in your power to protect another human being, you have no business carrying a passenger.

    • Michael Howard

      I wrote that before realizing Marc had already covered it. I deleted my post but, for some reason, it’s still here as “Guest”.

  • Piglet2010

    Make sure to have an emergency pull over signal in case your first time pillion is about to get motion sick – two laps on my first ever pillion ride had me quite close, plus my arms were getting pulled out of their sockets holding onto the fuel tank grab handles (as the back of a Gixxer Thou will not allow someone with a 34-inch inseam any lateral leg bracing in the turns).

  • HoldenL

    Any tips to avoid helmet bumping?

    • Michael Howard

      Perfect your shifting technique or ride something with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) that doesn’t have “gears”.

  • Stuart Chan

    Loving all the safety tips! Here’s one that’s for fun. My GF loves it when I let her choose the route during the ride. We’ll ride out of town and I’ll signal to her that it’s time for her to direct me. Tap on my left