Is riding on the back of a motorcycle scary?
Your first ride on the back of a motorcycle will shock you.
You’ll think you suddenly grew a massive pair of wings.
Because it honestly feels like you’re flying.
And yes, until you get used to it, it can also be kind of terrifying…
Riding on the back of a motorcycle is a unique experience. It’s noisier than you expect. It’s cooler than you can believe. Do it right, and it can be safer than it looks. It does wonders for your relationship with the rider, too! You just need to open your mind, and enjoy the adventure.
Your first motorcycle pillion experience may just change your life.
There’s really nothing else like it.
But what’s it really like?
Is it scary?
Is it dangerous?
And is it fun?
You’re about to hear the answers to these questions – and a few more.
Let’s look at what happens when you climb onto a motorcycle, and your leather jacket suddenly grows wings.
Riding on the Back of a Motorcycle – What Can You Expect?
There are 12 things you need to know.
1. Riding on the back of a motorcycle is scary (at first)
The first few times I rode on the back of a motorcycle my heart was thumping so loud I could almost hear it over the bike’s motor.
The pillion experience makes you feel vulnerable, no doubt about it.
There’s no way to prepare yourself for the feeling of rushing through the world on a roaring machine you could swear was actually alive.
But you can take steps to make it less scary.
If you’re with a rider you trust, and you’re wearing proper safety gear, soon you get a little more accustomed to the experience.
It stops being so confronting.
And believe me, the feelings of fear are quickly replaced by something much more fun:
Pure, simple joy.
2. It’s cool
Sitting on the back of a motorcycle is undeniably cool.
You’re probably wearing leather, so you have a head start.
And you’re zooming around on a gorgeous piece of metal sculpture.
So yep, people notice you.
In a car, you’re anonymous, and invisible.
But on a bike, you stand out.
People look up from their boring lives as you roar past.
Car drivers stuck in traffic jams glare as you zip past them on a symbol of freedom.
They can only dream of a world where Volvos are cool.
3. It’s noisy
Up close, motorcycles are louder than you ever thought, right?
Until you get used to it, this is one noisy experience.
So riding on the back of a motorbike is not quite like sitting in a library.
Nobody is saying “shush”.
And if they are, you definitely won’t hear it.
Layers of sound are coming at you from everywhere:
- The motor is purring, chugging, roaring and whining
- The wind is howling around you, and whistling through your helmet
- Cars and trucks pass with bursts of exhaust and squealing brakes, and
- If you want to talk to the rider, you’d better start shouting.
Nothing about this experience is quiet.
4. The whole world has sped up
Sitting on the back of a motorcycle, it feels like you may be travelling at the speed of light.
The world seems to be rushing by at a million miles an hour.
This is like a fun fair ride on two wheels.
Except everything is happening a lot faster.
Don’t turn your head to the side.
Don’t try closing your eyes.
That’ll just make everything feel even more strange.
Keep your head facing forward, take a deep breath, and smile.
This must be exactly how birds feel.
5. It’s dangerous
I’ve never pretended that motorcycles aren’t dangerous.
But the way I see it is: everything has risks.
Life itself is dangerous, let’s face it.
(I get into quite the rant about why the dangers of motorcycles are worth it over here.)
If something goes wrong on a motorcycle, there’s a risk of injury.
Of course there is.
So you have to be smart.
There are three main ways to make yourself safer:
- Choose who you ride with (here’s how to choose the right rider)
- Wear full safety gear, and
- Pay attention and watch the road, so you know what’s coming.
We face many kinds of dangers every single day.
If we thought about the risks of all our everyday activities, we’d never leave the house.
We’d be cowering, terrified, in a corner of the kitchen with the lights off.
So if you choose to ride on the back of a motorcycle, do it with your eyes wide open.
Know what you’re going into, and make smart decisions that offer you maximum protection.
Speaking of which…
6. Safety gear is absolutely essential
Anytime you climb aboard a bike, you need to be wearing safety gear.
As with the rest of life, something can always go wrong.
That might happen 5km down the road, or on a long road trip.
And maybe it’ll never happen.
But with safety gear, at least you’re covered, come what may.
On a motorcycle, you need more than a cool leather jacket.
There’s a full safety getup needed here.
- A road legal motorcycle helmet
- A leather (or thick) jacket that zips all the way up
- Motorcycle jeans or leathers (or sturdy pants)
- Boots that cover your ankles
- Leather gloves (preferably thick riding ones).
Whew! It’s a lot, right?
Naturally, all this gear takes some getting used to.
But once it’s in place and you’re sitting on the bike, those layers of protective gear do two things for you:
- They’re practical insurance in case something goes wrong, and
- They help you relax and enjoy the ride – it’s one less thing to worry about.
7. Motorcycle helmets feel weird
Out of all the safety gear you’re wearing, your motorcycle helmet will feel the strangest.
Having a helmet buckled to your head for hours takes some getting used to.
Even half face helmets feel a little strange at first.
Personally, I’m a fan of the full face style of helmet.
It’s bigger and heavier, sure, but it has a lot of advantages.
It protects you from the wind, reduces noise levels, and stops dirt and stones landing on your face.
Once your helmet’s on and securely fastened under your chin, you’ll notice a few key things:
- You have a smaller field of vision
A helmet cradles your head and the lining stops quite close to your eyes.
That means you’ll need to turn your head to see what’s happening to the side of you.
- You might feel a little closed in
A helmet can make you feel a little claustrophobic at first.
In the meantime, don’t panic.
Open the visor to let some air in.
You’re never going to suffocate even with the visor closed: air still flows underneath your helmet, up past your chin.
- Your head feels heavy
Wearing a helmet can make you feel like a top-heavy bobble head doll.
You seem to be nodding your head every time the wind blows.
That’s normal at first.
Just keep your neck a little stiffer than you normally would.
Soon it stops feeling heavy at all.
- Helmet hair is inevitable
It doesn’t matter what kind of helmet you wear: a full face, a half face, or a golden, glittery retro style helmet.
All of them will flatten your hair.
Don’t worry: it’s not fatal, and there is a cure.
Check out my sure-fire fixes for motorcycle helmet hair over here.
8. It’s romantic
Riding together as a couple is wildly romantic.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re setting off to do thousands of kilometres on a long road trip.
Or you’re out on a Saturday afternoon ride to a little café for a late lunch.
This is a shared journey, a shared experience.
You’re zooming through the world together on a powerful machine.
And at the end of the ride, you can’t stop grinning at each other.
Yep, that’s a bonding experience.
Let’s not forget that riding pillion is quite an intimate thing to do.
It’s very much an up close and personal kind of a situation.
I always remind the hubby that with me on the back, there’s no way he can avoid the snuggling.
He does his best to deal with it.
9. It’s seen as rebellious
Even now, motorcycles are still linked with outlaws.
So will you need to get 30 tattoos to fit in?
The Harley riders you get talking to on your Sunday ride are likely not gang members.
They’re executives who wear a suit and tie all week, and chair meetings in boardrooms.
Even so, a lot of people still see bikers as Bad and Dangerous.
And, for sure, some are making a living by breaking the law.
Just like the rest of the population.
But all the bikers I know are just normal people who love motorcycles.
We don’t sit around carving our initials into each other’s arms with rusty knives.
We’re not packing the big pile of cocaine on the kitchen table into little plastic bags, so we can go sell it on street corners.
Most of the bikers I know are great human beings.
(And the ones who aren’t I don’t bother with.)
I have to laugh at our weekends away at Triumph events.
Everyone looks pretty cool.
Plenty of beers go down.
There’s a lot of bike talk, of course.
But in the morning, this bunch of tough looking men are up early, cooking breakfast for everyone, and making me a cup of tea.
That’s the reality for those in the know.
But to many other people, motorcycles are still about rebellion.
They’re loud, and they’re ridden by leather-clad desperados.
So be it.
10. Riding on the back of a motorcycle is surprisingly physical
Riding a motorcycle looks like you’re just sitting there, enjoying the view, right?
Surely the bike’s doing all the work.
Well, the motorcycle’s definitely busy cranking out the power (and the fun).
But being a pillion passenger is surprisingly physical.
There’s some evidence that riding a motorcycle counts as exercise.
For a start, you’re using your legs to anchor you to the rider and make sure you don’t fall off.
So by the end of a ride, your thigh muscles may be feeling like they’ve had a workout.
Your neck might be a little stiff from supporting a helmet for the first time.
Your back might be a bit sore from sitting in a new posture.
Riding on a motorcycle (yes, even the back seat) is more physical than it looks.
11. It’s exciting!
So far, we’ve talked about how riding on the back of a motorbike can be shocking, and potentially dangerous.
But there’s another surprise waiting: this experience can be truly joyful.
Roaring along in a warm breeze, you leave all the boring and stressful details of everyday life behind.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to ride in nature, under trees or beside rivers.
Wherever you ride, all your senses will suddenly burst into life.
Your face starts to smile on its own.
Your breathing slows.
Your body relaxes.
These are wonderful, life-affirming moments.
They make you happy to be alive.
But you need to be out on a bike to experience this kind of intense joy.
You won’t find it watching TV!
12. Riding on the back of a motorcycle can be addictive
After your first couple of rides as a passenger, you’ll know whether this is something you want to do more of – or not.
If you’re not really into it, fair enough.
It’s not for everyone.
But if you love it, you’ll be wanting to do it again – and soon.
Riding makes you happier.
It changes your state of mind, every single time you do it.
It’s a natural high for sure.
Before you know it, you’re asking the rider when the next ride will be.
You’re pulling on your riding jeans as a subtle hint that it’s time to break out the bike.
You may even think about getting your own bike.
Because, yep, motorcycles are addictive.
But this is an addiction that you don’t need to hide – or cure.
There’s no need for an intervention here.
This kind of addiction makes your life BETTER.
Motorcycles make you more relaxed, more positive.
They give you quality time with your favorite person.
And best of all, this kind of addiction won’t lead to rehab or jail time.
Riding on the Back of a Motorcycle is a Trip!
If you’re going to do it, you’ll be needing an open mind, and a sense of adventure.
But now you know what it’s like to ride on the back of a motorcycle.
Part amusement park ride, part speed-of-light space travel, there’s nothing quite like it.
Will you be giving it a try?
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