Sharing your love of motorcycling with friends, family, and loved ones is one of the most rewarding things a rider can do. It’s not only a way to connect with the people around us, but it’s also a great way share the addiction and bring more people into the fold.
That stops being effective, though, if your pillion passenger has a bad experience. Legs don’t belong around shoulders when you’re on a motorbike, and an uncomfortable seat or frightening ride can turn anyone off the greatest mode of transportation there is.
For your enjoyment we’ve listed 10 of the best vehicles to carry a passenger on this year, but first, some general tips for selecting a bike and taking a passenger.
As a Rider
One extra human can add as much as 30 percent to the total weight of your bike and rider package. That has an impact on your agility, your body as a rider, and on stopping distance. You need a balanced chassis, good ergonomics for control (wide bars for example) and a moderate seat height all help. Anything with a smooth power delivery and handling will be good too.
As a Passenger
First and foremost, let’s erase any misconception that a sportbike passenger seat is any good. They’re too high, too narrow, too hard, and often, too close to underseat exhausts to make them comfortable. A flat seat is no good either, as then your passenger’s view is of the back of your helmet. It might be a great helmet, but it’s not a great view. The seat should be thick, smooth (not humped or ridged) and wide. Grab handles are a bonus, but I usually prefer the passenger doesn’t use them if they’re new or inexperienced.
How You Can Make Passengers More Comfortable
Rule Number 1: Your passenger doesn’t care how many miles per hour you do in how many seconds. They don’t care that you won your last six track days and got bumped to intermediate after two laps. They care that they’re suddenly not protected by steel and airbags and highly aware of their own fragility. So let’s put them at ease.
Start with gear. If you have spare gear, make sure they wear it. Proper pants, boots, jacket, gloves, the lot. If you have no spare gear but insist on taking a passenger: Give. Them. Yours. If you ride a bike in full gear and your passenger has no gear on you are a bad person.
Next, the pep talk. Brief them on how to be a good passenger and what to expect while riding. Make sure they know to neither hop on or off the bike without first getting verbal confirmation from you that you’re ready. Also, always have them mount and dismount from and to the left side.
I give my passengers a choice, if there are grab handles, I tell them it’s okay if they want to use them, but I feel more comfortable and find it easier to ride if their arms are around my waist, often with their hands on the fuel tank. My go-to line is “be my backpack”. I am reasonably rotund so can accept a fair amount of weight against my back and through my arms. Again, smooth braking and maneuvering means you don’t have to take a lot of weight. If they’re not comfortable with that level of physical proximity, I ask that they keep their body inline with the bike at all times.
Ride smoothly while they’re on board, short shifting to make gear changes as smooth as possible. Dragging a little back brake at low speed can help with stability and smoothness too. Avoid big inputs to the throttle, brakes or steering and remember, if their helmet taps yours from behind, it’s because you’re not riding smooth enough.
If your bike has the facility for doing so, adjust the suspension (front and rear) to handle the extra weight. At a minimum, crank up the preload. Some modern bikes with electronic suspension have preset modes for passengers. Use them.
Now that’s out of the way, on with the list!