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How to ride with a passenger on a motorcycle

You’ve decided to go for a motorcycle ride with a passenger. That can be fun for both you and your passenger, but this decision should not be taken lightly. Indeed, it is a responsibility and thus requires certain precautions be taken to limit risks and maximise the safety of both parties. Discover our best advice in this article.

Is your motorbike set up to seat a passenger?

Even if it seems obvious, it is important to stress that a motorcycle must be equipped and authorized for two riders. To check this, you can consult your vehicle registration document.

An approved motorcycle must be equipped with a tandem seat arrangement, foot rests, and strap or handles for the passenger to hold on to.

The equipment for a motorcycle passenger

In the movies you’ve maybe seen passengers travelling behind the driver on a sunny road with their hair in the wind and dressed in a t-shirt and trainers. Don’t follow their example! Motorcycle protection is essential. The passenger, no less than you, must be correctly equipped:

Helmets

Helmets are mandatory. They can save lives. But to do so, it must be the right size. In other words, the passenger’s head must not move around when wearing a helmet.

Clothing

On a motorcycle, the purpose of clothing is not only to keep your passenger warm. They are also protection in the event of a fall. If they are reinforced at the joints (knees, elbows) and at the back, they will better protect your passenger. Knee pads, elbow pads and a back plate make up, for example, good reinforcements. Gloves, which in certain countries are mandatory and must be approved, protect the hands from the cold and in the event of a fall.

Shoes

We also recommend adapted shoes to protect the ankles and the malleolus (the bumps on the sides of the foot). They can be high-top shoes or boots, for example. The idea is that these sensitive parts of the foot be covered, ideally with a good level of thickness.

On a motorbike, the passenger, no less than you, must be correctly equipped

Take the time to provide explanations

It is always important to take a minute to talk to your passenger before heading off, especially if they don’t have any experience. You can also explain to your passenger how to get on the motorbike and how to behave once on the road. 

How should a passenger get on the motorbike?

Generally one gets on on the left side, but this is not an obligation. What’s important is that the passenger gets on flexibly and at the right time.

The right time is when you, the driver, tell the passenger to get on. He or she should wait until you are comfortably seated, with both hands on the handlebar, ready for someone to come on behind you.

The passenger can then put a foot on the toe clip, a hand on your shoulder and the other on the mud guard or the luggage rack and, in a quick and flexible manner, place his or her other leg on the other side of the motorbike, then sit down on the saddle.

How should a motorcycle passenger behave on the road?

If your passenger is not experienced, their initial feelings may be overwhelming and affect their behaviour on the road. Fear can lead to twitching, which can disrupt your driving and compromise the safety of both of you. For this reason, we recommend starting off slowly, not riding too fast, and avoiding rapid accelerations until the passenger feels more at ease.

Follow the movements

The passenger may hold on to the driver’s hips, or to the straps or handles of the motorbike designed for this purpose.

It is important that the passenger remain in position in order to make your driving easier and that they slightly tilt their head to anticipate turns, bumps and other imperfections.

For the ride to go smoothly, the passenger should follow the movements of the driver by leaning, without resistance or exaggeration, in the same direction as the driver during cornering. The passenger should look right for right corners and left for left corners.

As you ride, you’ll learn to “feel” the passenger. You’ll know if your passenger is calm and relaxed or, on the contrary, if they are twitchy and agitated, not seated in the right position, or if they're leaning too much or not enough. In this case, don’t hesitate to talk to them during a stop to understand what’s got them unsettled, and reassure them if need be.

Communicate

On the road, depending on your speed, it will sometimes be difficult to communicate and understand each other through speech (unless your helmets are equipped with a motorcycle intercom). Before setting off, you can, in this case, agree on a non-verbal sign the passenger can make to communicate to you that something is not right. For example, tapping twice on your thighs.

How to prepare for a long motorcycle trip with a passenger

Check your tyre pressure

It is important, especially before a long trip, to check the pressure of your tyres and to ensure that they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. An under-inflated tyre, for example, with a motorcycle weighed down by a passenger and baggage, may overheat at high speeds on the motorway, which means that there is a risk of a blow-out or tearing.

Practice

If your goal is a long trip, we recommend that you first practice locally with your passenger as a means of preparation. It’s an essential step if you’ve never ridden together, and in particular if it’s the first time on a motorbike for your passenger or if it’s the first time you’ve gone riding with someone behind you.
That will also allow your passenger to check that their equipment suits them. For example, that their helmet is comfortable and doesn't constrict their head.

We hope that these preparation and communication tips will allow you to have a lot of fun on the road in the company of your passenger and as safely as possible. Have a safe trip!

Article written with the technical contribution of BMC Moto

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