Count yourself among the lucky if you have a companion who will accompany you on your motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle with a passenger can be a fun bonding experience, and as people who have ridden together for years can attest, touring together two-up well is something that takes a bit of practice. Here are some tips to get you touring together like pros quickly.
HAPPY PASSENGER, HAPPY TRAVELS
It is always a good idea to keep the passenger’s comfort and safety in mind when designing your trip. This means thinking about the trip from their perspective since they are not as engaged with the machine as you are. Choosing a quality route and companions, as well as making frequent stops will help keep them comfortable. Selecting a motorcycle with a heated seat and a backrest will also help them be comfortable for long days in the saddle, as will ensuring they are wearing comfortable and protective safety apparel.
ENSURE YOUR BIKE IS WELL EQUIPPED
Choosing the right motorcycle to ride on is an important part of getting someone to ride with you. It sounds obvious, but make sure your motorcycle is built for two-up riding both in terms of engine size and equipment. If planning a long trip, make sure it’s a comfortable saddle for the passenger to sit on. This keeps them from moving around too much and also keeps their attention on the joy of riding rather than the pain of their posterior. Your choice of motorcycle should have decent passenger foot pegs, and for comfort, a top box or duffel bag is ideal for avoiding passenger backaches.
At EagleRider, we offer a variety of add-on options including backrests, additional storage options, disk locks, and more. For more details on popular rental models and their comparison, see our GUIDE TO THE POPULAR HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLE MODELS.
Different machines have different saddle styles, some of which carry the passenger quite high, so if you are on either end of the height spectrum, think about this as well. If you are renting a motorcycle for a long trip, bring your passenger to a motorcycle dealer, or better, do a one day rental of your selected bike before the trip to make sure that your passenger doesn’t suffer from too much wind buffeting because of a high seat or a low windshield. An ounce of preparation could be the difference between a great vacation and a ghastly one.
START WITH THE BASICS
It is important to teach your partner how to be a good passenger. Start by familiarizing them with the motorcycle, teaching them things like where they should stow their belongings, how to avoid the hot exhaust pipes, and where seat heater switches, speakers, and such are located. Understanding the machine will go a long ways towards their riding comfort level being a passenger while touring.
Next teach your passenger how you want them to mount the motorcycle. It’s generally preferred to mount from the left, because that is where the side stand is located and the bike is a bit lower that direction. It’s up to you whether you want them to mount with you straddling the bike upright while balancing it, or having them mount while the bike is on the side stand and then you being the machine, and them, upright. (The latter way of mounting is easier for passengers who are not very flexible in their hips and legs but it’s more work for the driver.)
EXPLAIN HOW TO BE THE BEST POSSIBLE PASSENGER
Next, talk your passenger through the mechanics of riding: simple stuff, like when you push on the handlebars, the bike leans the opposite direction. It’s important that passengers understand to not make any sudden and severe movements while stopped or at slow speeds. Explain that the larger adjustments are welcome once you’re over a certain speed, which you decide. Also explain why it’s a bad idea to try and “help” the driver turn and carve corners, or worse, stick a leg out to help catch the bike. The best passengers don’t move around very much, and just turn their heads in the direction of the turns, without actually turning their bodies.
Most passengers want something to hold on to during the ride, so it's important to tell them where they can grab on the bike and on your person. Putting their arms around the driver’s neck, shoulders, or arms is a very bad idea, so tell your passenger where you are most comfortable being held onto. Gently let them know this is a safety issue and let them practice by holding on to you tightly when you first start riding together.
ESTABLISH A SYSTEM OF COMMUNICATION
Without a helmet to a helmet communication system, it is essential for the rider and passenger to have a way of communicating while riding. Some riders would rather not yell and would prefer for the passenger to give them a gentle tap on the leg to get their attention. Tell your passenger what method works best for you to get your attention while underway. Developing a simple set of hand signals will eliminate many problems and pull-overs to the side of the road. Passengers feel more comfortable when they feel they have some control over when to stop for photographs, food, or bathroom breaks. Whatever method works for you and your passenger is up to you, so long as there is an effective means of communication.
POLISH YOUR RIDING SKILLS
Two-up riding can be intimidating both for the passenger as well as the driver. If you are not yet confident carrying a passenger, it’s a good idea to practice some two-up riding to ensure a good trip. Refreshing your riding skills by taking a skills or safety class before your trip is a great way to inspire confidence for both rider and passenger. The dynamics of the bike’s movement is much different with two people aboard, so if your one-up skills are top notch that will carry over to your two-up riding. Some safety schools even offer two-up training.
START AND END WITH SAFETY
If it sounds like it’s all about the passenger, in many ways it is. If your passenger isn’t comfortable, then the rider won’t be comfortable. Passengers don’t have all the distractions of the road, traffic, navigation, and driving the motorcycle, so their discomfort is going to be more noticeable to them. First-time passengers might even be a little fearful, especially if their first ride is a long trip. All of this adds up to more movement on their part, which ultimately gets transferred to the drive.
Motorcycles handle differently with more weight on them. Besides the weight of your pillion, you will most likely also have extra baggage on board. Adjust the suspension so the motorcycle functions the way you expect it to. The wind will catch your motorcycle differently with two people as opposed to one, and definitely allow more space when passing. With the additional weight on the back of your bike the rear brake will have increased stopping power. Find time to play with the mechanics of the bike a bit in a controlled environment with your passenger on board before hitting the open road.
Keeping your passenger safe comfortable will go a long ways towards your having a terrific trip, as well as a phenomenal two-wheeled trip. The shared experience, as well as the companionship off the bike, is worth the extra effort in keeping your passenger happy and engaged with the ride. Who knows? If all goes well it might just be the passenger who initiates the next trip to your dream destination.