August 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm #9453
Rank: 1200cc Rider
- Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
This article was written by a woman for women but applies to anyone wanted to pillion on a motorcycle. Don’t shoot me for the title 😉
Jennifer and I on the DR650
When Wes isn’t cuddling Sean on a motorcycle, it’s my job. I recently putted a Honda Shadow around a parking lot at the veterans’ center long enough for the nice folks at the MSF to declare me fit to pilot a motorbike, but that hasn’t stopped me from riding as a passenger as often as I can. That’s me up top, on the back of Sean’s GSX-R600. I’ve put in thousands upon thousands of miles sitting on the back of a bike. Taking one motorcycle means we spend less on gas, I get the exhilarating enjoyment of riding a bike with a safely speedy rider who’s far more skilled and experienced than myself and, because of that, there’s the added educational benefit of learning about riding, experiencing different lean angles, entry speeds, lane positions and observing the decision making and judgement skills that go into riding skillfully in traffic. It also means I know a thing or two about riding pillion, so the guys asked me to share that skill with the rest of you.
Apart from all that practical stuff, it’s simply a truth of the world that chicks dig guys who ride motorcycles and guys want chicks on their bikes. Knowing the ins and outs of riding with a passenger or how to be a good pillion (leave it to the Brits to have a refined equivalent for the term “riding bitch”) will keep you both safe and happy, thus making it more likely for you to get naked together later.
I want a ride on your motorcycle
Ladies, I understand why you’re excited about going on a motorcycle ride. Motorcycles are awesome and riding them with cute boys is even more awesome. But slow down for a second. Whoever you get on a bike with literally has your life in their hands.
I know a lot of motorcyclists. I know a fair number who are competent and admirably skilled. Yet, I can count the list of riders I’d consider riding with on one hand. Why am I so picky? Acquiring the skills to get a motorcycle moving isn’t all that hard. Having the confidence and ingrained skill to know exactly what input to give and to what degree in the split second one has to avoid a crash only comes with experience. When you’re wrestling a bike that has the added weight of a passenger, that’s compounded even more.
You’re most likely a passenger because you don’t ride. If that’s the case, how are you supposed to know if you trust someone when you might not know the first thing about motorcycling or the rider’s experience? If you don’t know the rider well enough to be able to answer these two questions, then ask them before you get on the bike:
How long have you been riding and how often do you ride?
Keep in mind that years aren’t really as important here as frequency and miles. A rider who has ridden 30,000 miles over three years is more than likely sharper in their skillset than a 20-year veteran who only rides a couple hundred miles a year. If a rider is a commuter, that’s a good sign. They’re used to riding daily, dealing with traffic and navigating themselves out of a number of close calls per week.
Do you have experience riding with a passenger?
I’ve been shocked before to find out that some of the most competent riders I know have a) never ridden with a passenger on their bike and b) never been a passenger on another rider’s bike. If a rider has no first-hand experience of how a bike behaves differently with two bodies on it, you probably don’t want to be the test dummy.
If you’re a rider and a potential passenger doesn’t bring up either of these questions, have the conversation with them anyway. They’ll be more confident in your skills and less likely to be nervous on the bike, and hopefully they’ll learn about the questions they should ask the next time they consider being a passenger.
If you’re a rider and you can’t give answers to these questions that inspire confidence, you’re probably not ready for a passenger. Do you have a freshly minted motorcycle license? Yes? Great! But please leave the solo seat cowl securely attached to your bike, put the passenger seat in a closet somewhere and don’t even consider letting a girl near it for a long, long while. I just got my motorcycle license, too. (Yay for us!) When you’re a lady like me, it’s easier and more socially acceptable to be a newb about motorcycles. I simply know there’s no way in hell I should even consider taking another person’s life in my hands when I’m fairly certain, given my newly acquired skills, my own is on thin ice. Gentlemen, you know this is true for you too, but testosterone makes you think you have motorcycle skills in your DNA. You don’t. So if you’re new or don’t have that much experience, just be honest about it.
What do I wear?
For a long time motorcycle gear was the bane of my existence. I wanted to go on bikes, but I also wanted to look good, and that’s hard in borrowed gear. Wearing booty shorts (or the cute dress you wore to the bar) is just not allowed on motorbikes. I know you likely want to look fashionable and hot while you’re riding around with the sexy guy who is taking you for a ride on his motorcycle, but I guarantee you want your skin more. An armored leather or textile jacket, pants no lighter than actual denim jeans (not jeggings), boots that cover the ankle, leather gloves and a helmet are the minimum you should be wearing in terms of gear. And it doesn’t count unless it’s worn properly: zip up the jacket, lace up the boots and the chin strap on your helmet needs to be tight. I don’t like to be cold, so I also layer a lot when I’m riding. Wearing tights or leggings under jeans can make a longer ride a lot more comfortable. Wearing the right gear also makes the ride so much more enjoyable — having fun going fast without the fear of losing skin is not over-rated in the slightest. Skilled and safe motorcyclists take gear seriously. If a rider isn’t concerned with what you’re wearing, or what they’re wearing for that matter, don’t get on a bike with them.
Riders should hold fast to the fact that motorcycle gear for your passenger is every bit as important as your own. Yes, your old jacket is better than nothing, but it likely swallows that cute little lady whole, and makes it a whole lot more likely for her to get road rash up her back if the bike does go down. If you’re serious about sharing motorcycling with others, invest in some gear they can use or advise them on what they should pick up.
Attachments:August 6, 2015 at 6:53 pm #9455
Rank: 1200cc Rider
- Bike: BMW Supertanker, R100GS & Velorex 562 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
Also, make sure the pillion has an adequate seat….August 6, 2015 at 8:12 pm #9456
Rank: 50cc Rider
Riding with a pillion takes 90% of the fun out of the ride, unless its a “tour”. Passenger on a small capacity bike, or sport bike, *nightmare”.August 6, 2015 at 8:22 pm #9466
Rank: 50cc Rider
I think something like a busa, bandit or zrx1200 would be okay With a pillionAugust 6, 2015 at 8:25 pm #9468
Rank: 1200cc Rider
- Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
My DR still goes well with a pillion, even with 15/41 gearing.August 6, 2015 at 9:59 pm #9469
Rank: 1000cc Rider
- Bike: 2010 BMW R1200GS Adventure
It’s a 2 way street. Pillions should ask questions of the rider (have you taken pillions, how much experience do you have) and riders should be asking questions of the pillion (have you been pillion before, how much experience, check their gear etc).
Riders. It is not your job to scare the pillion witless and call it skills (more typical of the sports bike riders). It is your job to make them feel safe, keep them safe and consider their needs. If they are new to being pillions then ease them into it giving them basic instructions and fleshing it out as they gain confidence and experience. They’re far more likely to enjoy it and do it again that way…
I’ve taken everything from 50kg experienced pillions that felt like backpacks to 140kg new pillions that drastically altered the handling of the bike to officials and media (photographers and film crew) for events like Ironman where speeds can be 10kph or 100+kph and they’re all over the place on a custom built rack.
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