Many motorcycle passengers are not exactly motorbike experts.
I know I’m not.
I’m happy to leave all the technical motorcycle stuff to the hubby.
It’s fine if he spends all Saturday working in the garage on a minor fix he estimated would take 10 minutes.
As long as I don’t have to.
And, happily, I don’t have to.
But as a regular motorcycle passenger, I do have SOME responsibilities.
Because, OK, you’re not actually controlling the bike out on the road.
Even so, what you do on the back of a motorcycle matters.
Your choices affect the rider, and his ability to control the motorcycle.
Over the last 30 years of riding on the back of a motorcycle, I’ve figured out that there are plenty of things you should never do as a motorcycle pillion passenger.
These clangers are like a list of unwritten rules.
And no-one mentions the rules until you break one.
There are 3 ways to learn the unwritten rules for motorcycle passengers:
- Trial and error (and lots of arguments)
- Waiting until the rider shouts “Don’t do that!” (which means more arguments), or
- Read through the quick list below.
What do you think?
Wanna choose option 3?
Motorcycle passengers often have a lot of questions about the best ways to ride on the back of a motorcycle. So it’s helpful to know what NOT to do. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be safer and more comfortable on your next motorcycle ride.
8 Things Motorcycle Passengers Should NOT Do
Let’s start with the most important rule.
1. Don’t get on or off the motorcycle without warning the rider.
So the sun is out, and the motorcycle’s purring in the driveway.
Grinning in anticipation, you spring happily onto the pillion seat.
You assume the rider’s waiting, and is ready for you to get onto the bike.
But what if he’s not?
He might be looking at the speedo, or adjusting a side mirror.
And at our place, he could also be deep in conversation with a biker cat.
Either way, he may have no idea you’re about to get on the motorcycle.
And so he’s not ready.
This can lead to disaster – before you even leave the driveway.
If the bike tips over, you might end up with a smashed mirror, scraped bodywork – and the biggest argument of your relationship.
The rider needs to be braced and ready for you to get onto the bike.
So let him know you’re about to mount the motorcycle.
Check he’s ready first, and then climb aboard.
2. Don’t ever get on a motorcycle without wearing full safety gear.
You wouldn’t play with a loaded gun – with the safety off.
And you should never get onto a motorcycle without full safety gear.
It doesn’t matter if you’re only going for a quick trundle down the road and back.
There’s no such thing as a safe distance to ride without protective gear.
We’ve all seen people out on motorcycles with a lot of skin showing.
Especially in the summer.
I often see guys in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops flying along on a motorcycle in traffic.
And of course, the motorcycle passenger’s in a tank top, a short skirt … and sandals.
I look at them, and shudder.
If you’re dressed for the beach rather than motorcycling, you’re BEGGING for trouble.
All it takes is one wrong move from one of those angry car drivers for you to lose a big chunk of skin from your bare legs, or break a bone that’s not protected by riding jeans and motorcycle boots.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a hot day or you’re only going down the road.
You always need full safety gear.
You really don’t want to learn this the hard way.
3. Don’t clash helmets with the rider.
When I first became a motorcycle passenger, I was always smashing my helmet into Pat’s.
It drove him crazy.
To a rider who’s trying to focus, it’s very annoying.
And it’s totally avoidable.
Until you get used to the added weight of a helmet, keep your neck a little stiffer than usual.
It’s too easy to become a human bobble head, with your helmet nodding all over the place.
It doesn’t take long to adjust to riding with a helmet, but until you do, keep your head away from the rider’s.
The fewer distractions he has, the safer you’ll be.
4. Don’t lean over radically.
The first time I ever rode as a motorcycle passenger, the rider told me to lean with the bike as we went around corners.
Of course, being me, I took this advice way too far.
I was lurching over to the left, and then over to the right every time we went around a bend.
Eventually he pointed out I could tone it down a little.
Now, of course, I look back in embarrassment.
Because as the motorcycle passenger, it’s not your job to steer the bike.
You don’t have to control the direction by leaning right over.
The rider’s already handling this.
He doesn’t need to compensate for random, unpredictable lurching from the back seat.
So just follow his body line, and lean slightly when he does.
5. Keep an eye on the road.
For me, being a motorcycle passenger means I get to relax and let my mind wander.
I come up with some of my best ideas on the back of a motorcycle.
But I’m not totally lost in Dream Land.
I always keep an eagle eye on the road in front of us, and pay attention to the conditions.
That way, I’m not surprised by a sudden pot hole, or a sharp corner.
It means I can press harder with my knees, and maybe hold on a little tighter.
The rider doesn’t need the human version of a sack of potatoes loosely flopping around behind him.
So it’s helpful to be more than a passive motorcycle passenger.
Try thinking of yourself as a co-pilot, watching the road and being aware of potential hazards.
6. Don’t wriggle in corners.
There’s an art to cruising through a corner safely and smoothly on a motorcycle.
It depends on the rider’s ability to read the sweep of the corner, and adjust the speed and angle of the bike.
So this is not the moment to adjust your sitting position.
It’s not a good time to wriggle around so you’re more comfortable.
And if you already have one eye on the road, you’ll know when a corner’s coming up.
So sit tight until you’re back on the straight part of the road again.
Then you can wriggle all you like.
7. Don’t distract the rider.
Riding through the winding roads of the green New Zealand landscape, there’s a lot to see.
There’s the ridiculous scenery, for a start.
It’s very distracting riding past snow-capped majestic mountains, icy blue rushing rivers, or bright purple waving fields of lavender.
But the scenery’s not the only distraction here.
There are lots of unexpected delights as well, and it’s tempting to point them out to Pat as we roar through this living painting:
- We may zoom around a corner to find a paddock full of llamas (instead of the usual hundreds of sheep).
- There might be a falling-down old shearing shed that we could laugh about renovating.
- I sometimes spot a charming little country coffee shop we’ve never noticed before.
And most of the time, it’s fine to point these highlights out to the rider.
But not when we’re leaning over, halfway around a corner.
Not when we’re well over the speed limit while overtaking a truck.
And not in heavy traffic full of unpredictable, homicidal car drivers.
You have to be smart, and choose your moment.
It’s not always safe to distract the rider, so think carefully before you do.
8. Don’t complain constantly.
It’s true that roaring through the world on the back of a motorcycle is NOT as comfortable as snoozing on the sofa in your PJs.
But it’s quite a lot more exciting, isn’t it?
Yes, sometimes the wind might be a little cold (so tighten your scarf).
Sometimes it’ll start to rain (so find a coffee shop, and wait it out).
And sometimes your leg will cramp up, or your fingers will get cold inside your gloves.
But these are pretty minor inconveniences, compared to all the good stuff that comes from being a motorcycle passenger.
Riding on the back of a motorcycle gives you access to a whole universe of adventures:
- It wakes up your senses, and makes you joyful to be alive.
- It reminds you that there’s more to life than work and chores.
- It offers quality couple time with your favorite person.
- And it makes you grin until your face hurts.
So try not to complain if things aren’t perfect.
Motorcycle Passengers Have it Good…
We get to experience the excitement of motorcycles, without having to spend our weekends getting covered in grease in the garage.
We get all the benefits, with hardly any of the work.
And now you know what NOT to do on the back of a motorcycle, you can enjoy the experience even more!
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