No Longer Flying Solo
Many people who have logged thousands of miles as passengers move to the front at some point in their lives. Surely their countless miles on the back have prepared them for becoming the driver?
If you are freshly in the saddle, pull those reigns back on treating your buddy to a ride to celebrate the new license. Before you put anyone on the back of that bike with you, please take some time, lots of time, to practice – and I do mean more than a few minutes. After all, as a new rider you are just now getting the feel of that bike, learning what you are and aren’t comfortable with at this stage. Becoming a confident solo rider takes a lot of practice in itself. It all takes time, people – time, patience and practice. Please allow yourself that time.
Even if you’ve been riding for a while, and haven’t carried yet, understand it puts a whole new light on how that bike handles. Especially braking and turning situations. With an extra load, your lean angles will be dramatically decreased, which means you have to take those turns slower. Your braking distance is substantially increased, which means you have to begin your braking much sooner. So, practice – and please don’t practice in traffic conditions. You’ve all got friends that will get on back with you for a while as a guinea pig, right? Okay, get back out there on that parking lot and get the feel of that extra weight before you find yourself in a dangerous situation you just may not be ready for.
Do you have passenger pegs on your bike? If not, get them before you take on a passenger. Those pegs serve a purpose to two; stability being one, your and the passenger’s safety is another. Incidentally, if your passenger cannot reach the passenger pegs, I strongly suggest you not carry that passenger. Those pegs, while we’re on the subject, are where the passenger’s feet should be all the time. That’s right – all the time. Whether you are moving or come to a complete stop, instruct your passengers to maintain foot contact with those pegs at all times. Why? Stability. The less movement going on behind you, the more stability you have.
OK, you’ve done your pre-ride safety checks, the suspension and tire pressure are where they should be, now you’re ready for the passenger, right? Well, you may be ready, but is your passenger ready? Does your passenger know what’s in the job description of “passenger?”
To start, your passenger should be dressed to ride, not go to the beach! They should leave their feet on the pegs at all times and hold onto your waist. There are a couple of reasons for this. No, one of them is not to make sure they’re still there – although a good point! If your passenger is holding onto your waist there is reduced motion behind you, which can deter from your concentration – yup, it’s that stability thing again. Imagine if you haven’t already experienced this firsthand, what a pain it is to deal with a passenger that’s doing everything but dancing on the sissy bar. Keep it stable back there. It’s best for both of you!
Another reason for the passenger’s hands to be on your waist is simple unspoken communication. What does it tell you when your passenger is holding on so tight the circulation to your feet are fast approaching none? Maybe it’s because you just passed yet another opportunity to hit a bathroom and things are getting tense! It may also well be that they’re nervous, or just downright scared. Pull over, take a break and find out what’s going on and why? Remember, you are responsible for that person’s well being and the safety of both of you.
Make sure your passenger knows to move with you as you move with your bike. You all know what I mean. When we ride solo, we become one with our machines, am I right? And what a grand sensation that is! When our bike leans, we lean – on fluid motion. This is even truer with a passenger who must also become part of that motion. Just have your passenger look over your shoulder in the direction of the turn, easy enough. When you go left, your passenger should be looking over your left shoulder into the turn with you, not fighting your efforts by looking or leaning right or fighting to stay upright.
As motorcyclists we have to know our limits and the risks, understand them and accept them. When we carry passengers, we accept and assume those risks for our passengers as well. Use good judgment and teach your passenger the basics. So whether you are splitting the wind up front or enjoying the wind draft from the back, be careful.
Stay safe, smile and keep the rubber side down!!