- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 10 July 2008
Enjoying the open road with a friend or partner can be great fun but strangely, carrying a pillion passenger is not covered in great depth by the motorcycle test, despite it being a very important skill.
Because of this, many motorcyclists may be carrying pillion passengers without taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the comfort, enjoyment and above all, the safety of both themselves and their passenger.
Whilst most motorcycles do feature a pillion seat, certain bikes, particularly tourers like the Honda Goldwing or Yamaha Virago, are designed with passenger travel very much in mind. Others however, make carrying a friend much more difficult and so it is important to prepare yourself, your bike and your passenger for the journey ahead.
There are things that you can do before you take to the road and the first and probably most important thing that you should do is look at both your licence and motorcycle insurance policy to see if they allow you to carry a pillion passenger.
Those of you with a full motorcycle licence (or moped licence for moped riders) are permitted to carry a pillion passenger whilst riders with only a CBT are not permitted to ride with a passenger on board. As a simple rule, if you’ve got L-plates, you’re riding solo.
Your motorcycle insurance policy will also dictate whether you can be accompanied on your bike. Many bike insurance policies consider pillion passenger cover as an optional extra, so consult your insurance documents or contact your insurer before you start the engine to check that you are covered. Remember, it is illegal to take to the road without sufficient insurance cover.
But if you can get on the road, how can you ensure that your journey, whether you are the one in control or the one holding on, is both comfortable and safe?
Here are a few tips to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
Maintain the bike.
Whilst bike maintenance is something which we should all take seriously as a matter of course, remember that any problem could become even worse when carrying another rider.
This may sound strange, but when picking out your clothing for the ride, dress in what you would most like to be wearing should you be unfortunate enough to crash. Helmet, leathers, gloves, boots – everything you’ll need to protect you from injury. Remember that as a pillion, statistics say that you are much more likely to suffer injury that the rider.
Mount the bike, hold on and stay on board.
If you are the passenger, let the driver position the bike before you attempt to climb aboard. Getting the bike out of a parking spot is easier with one person on the bike. Once the rider is ready, step over the bike without touching the foot pegs, sit on the seat and bring your feet onto the pegs.
You can hold on to either the rider or the hand rails, but make sure that you hold on at all times. In-experienced passengers are recommended to hold around the waist of the rider as it allows them to follow the natural lean of the bike. Many motorcycle accessory retailers also stock belts which wrap around the rider and provide the passenger with handles to hold on to. Others advise having one hand around the rider’s waist and another on his back or shoulder. This prevents you falling off the bike when during acceleration and keeps you from banging helmets together when braking. Use whichever system you are comfortable with.
Once you are on the bike, make sure that you stay on it. When the rider puts his foot on the ground at a junction or traffic lights, don’t put your foot down as well. If you decide to plant your foot on the floor and the rider sets off, you could suffer serious injury.
A bit of a no-brainer really. Despite what you may see on the television, the aim isn’t to give your passenger the fright of their life. Make sure that both of you reach your destination safely.
Don’t sit up straight.
If you are a passenger, don’t sit up straight as the bike leans as this can seriously affect the handling and makes it more difficult for the rider to right the bike back up after completing the turn. At the same time, don’t lean excessively as this can lead to sudden shifts in the bikes’ centre of gravity.
Pay attention to the road.
You might not be the one in control of the bike but that doesn’t mean that you can take your eyes off the road. Any sudden, unexpected steering movement or change in speed and you could end up being thrown from the bike. Keep your eyes on the road so you are aware of things that could cause the rider to change course.
As with mounting the bike, make sure that the rider is ready for the pillion passenger to dismount the bike before you take your feet off the foot pegs. The passenger should dismount first.
Enjoy the journey.
Whilst carrying a pillion passenger brings risks, riding together can be extremely enjoyable if done properly. Accessories such as intercom systems are very popular for bikers looking to communicate throughout the journey, so climb aboard and enjoy the ride.
The Insidebikes quick check-list for carrying a pillion passenger:
1. Check your licence.
2. Check your motorcycle insurance documents.
3. Dress for safety.
4. Mount correctly.
5. Ride sensibly.
6. Hold on and stay on.
7. Follow the bike.
8. Keep your eyes on the road.
9. Dismount when the rider is ready.
10. Have fun!