Riding Through Special Situations : Two for the Road !

Part of the fun of motorcycling is sharing it with another person (or riding two up). Bringing a passenger along can make the experience of riding more rewarding, but it also requires extra care on your part.

Riding With Passenger

Adding a passenger changes the weight distribution on your bike, which in turn changes the handling dynamics. The bike will turn differently with a passenger on board and will need more distance to stop. You can compensate for this somewhat by adjusting your suspension and increasing the air pressure of your tires. Suspension adjustments vary from bike to bike, but most modern motorcycles at least have a preload adjustment on the rear shocks that you can adjust to a firmer setting for carrying a passenger. Again, consult your owner’s manual for the exact procedure for your bike.

Always go over the rules with your passenger before riding. The other person may not be aware of things that seem obvious to you. Once, I gave a ride to a stranded motorist on the back of a sport-touring bike. I helped the young man put my spare helmet on and gave him an extra pair of gloves I had in my saddlebag, then took him to the nearest gas station for help. I thought I’d done a good job preparing the kid, but after I dropped him off, my wife, who followed on her motorcycle, said he’d ridden the entire way with his feet sticking out in the air - I’d forgotten to tell him to put his feet on the footpegs.

Before riding with a passenger, go over some rules of the road with him or her. Explain the following concepts :

- The passenger should not get on the bike until you have it off the stand and secure in an upright position.

- The passenger should hold onto you by the waist or hips while riding. Some riders may prefer to grasp the passenger’s hand rail (on bikes so equipped), but I always feel more secure when the passenger grasps my waist or hips.

- The passenger should keep his or her feet on the footpegs at all times, even while the bike is stopped.

- The passenger should keep his or her feet away from all hot parts, especially the exhaust pipes.

- The passenger must sit behind you on the passenger portion of the seat. If there is no passenger seat, there should be no passenger. And never seat a child on the gas tank in front of you. Also, the maximum capacity of a bike is two people. Never attempt to give a ride to more than one person.

While giving someone a ride, have him or her relax and lean with you, or else remain upright. Whatever they do, they shouldn’t stiffen up and lean away from a turn. This greatly reduces your ability to negotiate a corner.

Above all, don’t try to impress your passenger with your riding ability. I once came upon an accident scene where a kid and his date wiped out in a corner on their way to a frat-house formal. The young man had tried to negotiate a curve too fast. Both victims wore evening party clothing instead of protective gear, and neither had a helmet. The bike was totaled, but neither the rider nor the passenger was seriously hurt.

They were a mess, though, with their expensive clothes shredded to bits, and both had numerous cuts and bruises. He was embarrassed, and she was furious. Being a passenger on a motorcycle is exciting enough, and nothing will impress your passenger more than a safe, smooth ride.