10 Tips for Riding a Motorcycle with a Passenger

Automologist HAN gives us a few tips on how to bring someone along for the (motorcycle) ride.  

Riding solo may be the best way to enjoy your motorcycle but having a passenger is unavoidable when you commute or travel somewhere together to make meaningful memories.

 Couple enjoying the sunset. Image credit: motorcyclekiss.com

So, having a passenger should not be regarded as a negative (such as destroying the bike’s power-to-weight ratio). Instead, think about having an extra set of eyes to warn you about dangers, or keeping you company, so that you don’t doze off at the handlebar, or won’t feel lonely when you stop to admire the sunset.


Happy motorcycle couple. Image credit: adventureriderradio.com

There are no written rules about how to ride with a pillion, but some logical reasoning applies.

(Before we proceed further, please bear in mind that I refer to passengers as female for ease of writing, and that I am not being chauvinistic nor implying that all females are passengers when it comes to motorcycles. I’m writing based on my experience of riding with my wife as the passenger. Hope you understand. Let’s begin…) 

Ask a Few Questions

First and foremost, if you’re going to ride with a pillion new to you, start by asking if your pillion-to-be has ever ridden or been a passenger on a motorcycle. It’s great if she has but it’s still great if she hasn’t because you can (hopefully) instill some good habits.

Speak to your pillion about riding. Image credit: twoofusphotography.co.nz

Gear up, both of you

I know this isn’t easy—if a friend needs a ride urgently, for instance—but always have your passenger geared up. Look for ways to provide an extra set of riding gear – bring your spare set, loan from a buddy, etc – whatever it takes to have your passenger protected.

Don’t be someone who’s akin to a person who protects himself with an anti-radiation suit during a nuclear fallout but leaves the passenger protected by sunblock. She may be the most beautiful sight you’ve laid your eyes on, so how would you feel if she needed skin grafts.


Always gear up.  Image credit: Yahoo images

Getting on the bike

Explain to her the technique of getting onto your specific type of bike, taking note of luggage, accessories, seat width, seat height, etc. Do not skip this step as it’ll save you from lots of drama. (Been there, done that.)

Anyhow, the best technique is for your passenger to grab your shoulder, step up on the footpeg, lift herself up and step her free leg over to the other side. Sliding the free leg up to the other side is clumsier and much less elegant, unless you ride a low-slung cruiser without a backrest.

You should brace yourself in preparation when she climbs on. Signal to her when it’s okay to get on or off.

Getting on the bike.  Image credit: mcn.co.uk

Hold onto something

Allowing your passenger to place her hands on her thighs is okay, but she may soon feel precarious. Instead, let her know to hold on to the grab bar, if she wants to avoid physical contact. However, it is best that she grabs your waist or places her palms on the fuel tank. That way, both your masses are combined for better stability.

Brief her to tap on your shoulder should she need to tell you something, slow down or stop. (If she grabs you by the neck it could very well mean she does not like your riding.)

Holding on. Image credit: mcn.co.uk

Keep her feet up

A new pillion may feel that she should help you to balance by placing a foot or feet down when you stop. Advise her to keep both feet up unless it’s time to get off.


Image credit: www.kuryakyn.com

Valentino Rossi does not race with a pillion.

Some, if not all, riders are seduced by corners without thinking twice. They are fun for the rider, but scares the wits out of the passenger, regardless of experience. Just be cool for this one trip as you can still have a crack at the Genting Highlands time trial record in the future.

Advise your pillion to relax her waist and torso and lean with the bike. She does not have to hang off, and definitely not lean outwards.

Easy with the corners – Image credit: whatsoninvers.nz

Relax and do not squirm around

While your passenger should be relaxed, she should not contort herself all over the place for selfies (for example) when you ride, especially in traffic or worse, off-road.

Relaxing ride – Image credit: michelinman.com

Adjustments to the bike

Increase the rear tire pressure to what’s recommended for riding with a passenger, and the rear shock’s preload to compensate for the extra weight. Low tire pressure will cause a wobbly rear or even a puncture if it is too low. Too little preload will cause the rear to squat and take too much weight off the front.

Remember to also adjust the headlamp(s). They are not WWII searchlights.


Image credit:  www.corporatesuspension.com

Change in motorcycle performance

Just as you would adjust the bike’s settings, you should also adjust your riding to suit the extra weight. The bike will accelerate slower and take longer distances to stop, so always think further ahead than when you ride solo.


No riding three-up please. Image credit: dinyue.net

Ride smooth

Unless your pillion is the talent scout for a MotoGP team, there is no benefit in showing off your skills. Accelerate, brake, change gears, and lean into corners smoothly. Take it easy so both of you enjoy the ride. Doing so shows that motorcycling is enjoyable and that motorcycles are not 100% death-traps.

No showing off to the pillion. Image credit: mcn.co.uk

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