New Driver’s Guide | how to ride with a passenger
Riding a motorcycle with a passenger for the first time can be a daunting prospect… but in truth, it really shouldn’t be. If you’ve never tried it before, here are some tips on how to ride with a passenger.
It only takes a few small changes to your riding style and bike setup to make it an enjoyable experience for both rider and passenger.
Before we go over the techniques and theory behind carrying a passenger, let’s look at when you can and cannot carry a passenger on a motorcycle.
What motorcycle license do you need to ride with a passenger?
For starters, the license you hold will indicate whether or not you can carry a passenger. If you ride a bike on L-plates, carrying a passenger passenger. If you drive a moped up to 50cc and passed your comprehensive car exam before February 1st 2001 you do not need L-plates and can carry one passenger – some roads (like motorways) may however be excluded from use.
On which motorcycles can you transport a passenger passenger?
To legally carry a pillion passenger, the bike must have a “proper seat,” excluding the ability for a passenger to rest on a rear fender or rack. The bicycle must also be equipped with footrests that the passenger must be able to reach with his feet. To carry a passenger, the passenger must be able to sit astride the motorcycle facing forward with one foot on each of the footrests. Only one passenger can be carried at a time.
Here’s how not to carry a child as a passenger – no safety gear (other than a helmet) and the foot pegs aren’t even folded down!
Can a child be carried as a passenger passenger?
Yes they can and at present there is currently no legal minimum age for them to ride as a passenger. He must wear a suitable helmet, be able to sit astride the saddle of the motorcycle with his feet on the footrests and be able to stand properly. In addition, they must wear appropriate protective clothing and it is strongly recommended that they have parental authorization.
How to Ride a Motorcycle with a Passenger Passenger
Before getting on the bike, it’s a good idea to chat with the passenger, asking if they’ve ever been on the back of a bike, that’s a good start. If they’re new to two-up riding, let them know what’s going to happen and be sure to cover the corners on one bike and how the bike will lean into corners. They will no doubt have seen bikes on the road, but the feeling of stepping onto a bike for the first time is probably very foreign. Remind them to lean with you as you go through the turns and explain to them what will happen if they don’t lean like you do. It’s also a good idea to show them how and where to hold on – to you or to the bike’s grab bars if they’re handy.
What driving kit does a passenger need?
Like the cyclist, currently UK law only requires a passenger to wear a helmet as a minimum safety requirement. Just a helmet, a light jacket and jeans are not ideal. If possible, lend them some of your spare riding kit, boots, textiles or leathers, and gloves.
Do not overload the machine
Most motorcycles will have a maximum weight that the machine can support. You should not exceed this as you could be subject to a fine if you are stopped by the police or invalidate your insurance if you have had an accident. The bike’s maximum laden weight will be listed in the manual if you haven’t checked with a dealer before riding.
Should the bike be adjusted before transporting a passenger?
Most bikes require minimal adjustments before taking a passenger on the road. The main area of attention will be the rear suspension which now has to carry the majority of the added weight. Adding some preload to the rear shock to deal with this is a minimum requirement—dial in some of the rebound and increase the compressions slightly is a bonus.
Before carrying a passenger, it’s also a good idea to visually check your tires and fill them to the specified pressure.
Be relaxed when riding with a passenger
One of the easiest things to go wrong when riding with a passenger is to tense up. It’s really easy to do – I did it the first time I picked up a passenger – but it doesn’t help you them or the bike. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and your passenger will feel more relaxed.
The main problem encountered by passengers when driving is the impact of helmets when accelerating, braking or changing gears. The problem is that you (the rider) have a fuel tank, the handlebars and the foot pegs to hang on to – your passenger only has the foot pegs and you. They also won’t know when you’re going to brake, shift or open the throttle. You won’t be able to stop 100% of head clashes, but you can mitigate most of them.
The key here is to make smooth transitions from each of the bike’s controls, making your entries on the bike as smooth as possible. Braking and accelerating the bike as if you were going back on your bike test is a good starting point, you will give your passenger time to adapt their position on the seat and their grip on the bike/you depending on the situation. When changing gears, you can either feed the clutch as smoothly as possible, trying to match the revs to make the transition up and down the box as seamless as possible. Or you can up and down the gearbox without a clutch if that’s a technique you know. Try to do most of your braking in a straight line and when leaning the bike into corners try to make sure you can corner at a constant radius, nothing freaks out a nervous passenger like directional changes in mid-turn!
Put yourself in their shoes!
Most bikes have a passenger seat located higher than the rider seat. This means that leaning the bike into a corner will feel more pronounced to them than it will to you. You don’t want to neutralize the cornering feel out of the ride, tone it down a bit. Like leaning side to side, the action of pitching the bike back and forth will also feel more extreme to a passenger on a tall perch. Making your braking and accelerating inputs as smooth as possible is key.
Take your time
It goes without saying, but riding with a passenger should be about enjoying being on the bike with another person, not pounding along a B-road and scratching the hell out of footpegs! Riding like this will only freak out your seat mate and it will probably be the last time they volunteer to ride a bike again.
When riding around town, it’s probably a good idea to relax a bit with overtaking and maybe not adopt your usual militant filtering style. Do it anyway, of course it shows them at least one of the many advantages of a motorcycle, tone it down a bit and try not to force the motorcycle through tight spaces.
To start, you need to know your route, where you are going, where you are going to stop for a breather if it is more than a ten minute initiation walk! You should also plan more than you would if you were riding solo. Slow down earlier for intersections, enter the lane earlier and let other road users know your intentions earlier than you normally would.