A Passenger Changes Everything
What you should consider
By: Debbi Serafinchon
There is nothing that beats the feeling of the road rushing by just inches from your feet and the wind in your face. As riders, we love the freedom the road affords us and every chance we get, you will find us behind the bars.
You wouldn’t be the first motorcyclist to spark awe in a child or non-rider enough that they may ask you to take them for a spin. Or maybe your spouse or significant other has no desire to ride their own, but they too love time spent on the back of your bike. Whatever the reason may be, there will come a time that you may choose to take on a passenger.
If it’s your first time or your millionth time, there are some important details to keep you both safe and enjoying the ride. If they have never ridden before, they may be nervous. If you’ve never had anyone on the back, you may be a little apprehensive as well. Taking someone on your motorcycle with you will affect the way your motorcycle handles, balances, turns, speeds up, and slows down. Sudden movements by the passenger will make the bike difficult to control and as the rider, you should be prepared for this.
You will want their experience to be one they will cherish so here are some suggestions to make it memorable.
Ensure your bike can carry a passenger.
You may have to adjust the tire pressure or shock absorbers to allow for the added weight. In the Operator's License Information manual on page 62, it states that a passenger should only sit on a seat designed for an extra person. The passenger’s feet must reach and remain on the foot pegs for the entire ride.
If you care about them, protect them! Motorcycle gear is expensive; we understand that. Ensuring your passenger is protected holds no price tag. Too many times an ill-fitted helmet will be used for ‘a spin around the block.’ While you may be the best rider in the whole entire world, you cannot account for the others on the road. We hope that morality (and maybe liability) make you take a tough stance about your passenger using the proper head protection. One that is too big will come off to easily and one too small with be uncomfortable. They should also be wearing proper fitting gloves, a protective jacket, and boots that come up over the ankle. At minimum, a pair of jeans or long pants of tough material should be worn.
The Pre-Ride Speech
Ya ya, I know. I’m killing the vibe here but this one is just as important as the gear. Talk to them about staying as still as possible without being rigid. Their body should be relaxed enough that they move naturally with the flow of the bike. Explain that body movement will alter the movement of the bike. Make sure you show them how you want them to encircle your waist when they are holding on to ensure they feel safe. Nothing like the clunk of helmet on helmet to remind you there’s someone behind you! Point out the hot spots on your bike they will want to avoid touching any part of their body to. No need to brand them.
The Mount and Dismount
With you on the already running bike, in neutral, stand up with your feet firmly planted and the seat pinched between your thighs, hold the front brake! Your passenger should always mount from the left, without using the peg as a stepping stool but they will anyways so be ready for it. Give them verbal confirmation that you are ready for them to get on the bike or you might be picking it up off the asphalt.
The dismount should also be done to the left. Again, make sure they understand that you are to let them know you are ready for them to get off the bike. Once again, the foot peg should not be used but be ready for it. Brace the bike with your legs and balance it while the passenger gets off.
Your passenger should sit as close to you as possible without crowding you or your ability to maneuver the bike. Have them put one arm around your waist and if possible, one hand on the tank. The reason for this is when accelerating, the arm around you will keep them from performing a somersault dismount off the back and one hand on the tank will protect your package (especially if you’re a man) from a close-up encounter with the tank when braking.
Do not try to go the extra mile to impress your passenger. You are a rider! You have already impressed them. Look for large gaps when changing lanes or entering or merging with traffic. Stay back a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Slow down a little, particularly in corners and going over bumps. Begin to brake sooner than you normally would. And try not to make any sudden movements your passenger may not be ready for.
If your passenger is a child, they must ride behind you with their feet on the pegs. This is a must! Helmets do come in XXS sizes so there is no excuse not to use a proper fitting helmet. Yes, I know helmets are expensive, but it is way cheaper then having to live with yourself should something happen.
In order to boost passenger confidence, the rider should be confident on the bike. Remember, you want your passenger to enjoy themselves, not scream in your ear to let them off at the next corner. Take your time so the next time you pull up with your bike, they are asking to go again!