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If you’ve ever had the chance to become a motorcycle passenger, you already know how fun and exhilarating it can be! I’ve had the chance to be both a motorcycle rider and a motorcycle passenger many times and I have a good idea of what it’s like in both positions. I have an understanding of the needs and expectations of the motorcycle rider, which I can help you to follow for a safe ride.
I’ve taken my wife on hundreds of miles worth of rides while she got to sit behind me as a passenger. We had a great time brainstorming together and came up with some tips and tricks to help passengers understand what to expect and how they should act to be the best passengers possible.
1. Wear a Helmet
This is an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at how many passengers think they don’t need to wear a helmet. For passengers, helmets are equally important as for drivers.
Your helmet should fit snugly around your head. A full-face helmet is recommended for added security and safety. It is a smart idea to get a helmet made specifically for you if you plan on riding your motorcycle indefinitely. Click here to read our article on the best motorcycle helmets that are affordable for passengers.
If the person you plan to ride with does not have an extra helmet, or you can’t locate a spare helmet anywhere, do not ride the motorcycle at all. At the very least, the driver should give you one helmet if you’re caught in a jam. However, I know I’d prefer that my passenger wear a helmet if I had only one. I don’t want their death and/or injury to be on my conscience.
It drives me insane to see a motorcyclist on the road with a passenger wearing no helmet. That passenger deserves better.
2. A jacket is a must
If you’re planning on riding a motorcycle as a passenger, you should count on wearing some sort of jacket. A genuine leather jacket is the best jacket for riding because it offers the most protection in case of an accident.
But if you’re a passenger, you may not have a leather jacket handy and your motorcycle partner may not have an extra one. You should try to get the thickest jacket possible if this is the case. A denim jacket is a better option than nothing if you have one.
You’ll need to at least wear some type of jacket because if you don’t wear any type of protection, you’ll further your chances of injury.
Again, if you plan on being a long-term motorcycle passenger, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a decent leather riding jacket.
3. Ankle-Covering Shoes
Unfortunately, not everyone learns this lesson the right way. I will save you from this error by telling you that you must wear ankle-covering footwear while riding a motorcycle, especially as an passenger.
Our ankle bones stick out a little and are susceptible to touching things our feet normally wouldn’t. When you’re riding a motorcycle as a passenger, your feet are right next to a tire that’s spinning thousands of times a minute. It can be very painful if you are too close to the wheel or if there are rocks and stones that get in your ankles.
You will also be very close to very hot exhaust pipes. It is not something you want to do. Those burns can be very painful.
If you have some heavy duty riding boots, that’s obviously perfect! I find that you don’t need to get too fancy with your shoes though, as long as the ankle covering is thick. My wife has some fashionable ankle boots that she’ll wear while we’re out for a ride and we’ve found those work great.
4. Wear long pants
Too many times I’ve seen men and women riding motorcycles with shorts on. Sometimes women even wear skirts (which I’m still trying to figure out how that even works). You must wear long pants if you plan to ride a motorcycle.
Leather pants are the best type of pants to wear. However, most people don’t end up wearing them. At the very least, you should wear a thick pair of jeans.
Long pants are the same reason I mentioned for wearing ankle-covering footwear while riding. Your legs and feet are exposed to extremely hot pipes and fast spinning tires. You rely on your legs for a lot, so it is wise to protect them.
5. Don’t Wiggle
It’s extremely important to stay still while you’re riding as a motorcycle passenger. It’s easy to move around in any other type of vehicle with no consequences, but now you’re riding on just two wheels with someone else driving.
The driver will be shocked at any type of movement that you make in the back. You don’t want to give the driver any surprises because that can lead to losing balance and in the worst case scenario, possibly tipping the bike over.
My wife was on the motorcycle as my passenger during one of our rides. My turn was to the left, my wife was adjusting herself a little to compensate. I lost my balance. Luckily we did not tilt, but it took me a good few seconds to regain the motorcycle’s composure.
It will often be difficult to not move around a lot, especially if you’re going for a long ride. Make sure that when you mount the motorcycle and begin your ride, you are in a comfortable position that won’t require much adjustment after a few minutes.
6. Get close to your driver
If you’re planning on being a motorcycle passenger, hopefully you are comfortable enough with the driver to be very close to them physically while going on a motorcycle ride.
It’s a good rule of thumb to get as close to the back of your driver as you can. You don’t need to be locked on to them, you just need to be close enough to be able to understand their body language such as how they lean during turns; this makes it easier to follow what they’re doing and may help you better react in the case of an accident.
It may take a few rides to figure out the right distance between you and the driver if you’re new to this kind of thing. It helps to hit helmets at stops and bonking by sitting close. You’ll still probably bonk helmets, but when you sit close the distance to bonk isn’t near as big.
7. You should be prepared to yell while riding
It is difficult to communicate with the passenger and driver while riding a motorcycle unless you have Bluetooth helmets. Don’t plan on saying much except maybe at stop lights. It can be difficult and frustrating to try to start a conversation while riding.
But if you absolutely have something to say, you’ll need to speak up pretty loud because it’s really hard for a motorcycle rider to hear what you’re saying through a helmet that is covering your mouth, high winds, and a loud motor in the background.
Communicate as little as possible while riding if you need to.You can find them at “stop,” “turn,” Oder “hurting.” This will make the trip easier for both you and your motorcycle driver.
8. Use Hand Signals
If you have to yell during an emergency while riding, it will likely be your first choice. But if you don’t want to have to yell at all during a motorcycle ride, Hand signals can be a great way of communicating with your motorcycle driver.
Before you jump on the motorcycle together and begin riding, it’s a good idea to have a discussion about hand signals. There are universal hand signals fellow motorcyclists give to each other while on the road, but the two of you can come up with your own especially if you’re new to this.
Find hand signals to indicate that you need to stop, you’re tired, you’re doing okay, to go slower, or to go faster. It can be confusing for you both to remember too many hand signals. Stick to the basics.
My wife and I do one thing together: when we come to a stoplight, I turn our heads to show that I’m asking her if she’s alright. She’ll usually give me a thumbs up to report she’s doing okay or a thumbs down which means we need to take a break (usually it’s thumbs up though). It’s convenient this way because her hands are already in front of me and easy for me to see.
9. Tie Your Hair Back
This is a good point my wife brought up because I don’t have long hair (and was unaware). It doesn’t matter if you have long hair and are a woman or a man. it’s most comfortable and safest to wear your hair in a pony tail, or at least have your hair tied back.
Sure, I get it. It may not be the best choice for your hair to wear a helmet. My wife believes that wearing her hair up while wearing a headband helps to keep her hair healthy.
Tie your hair back to prevent your hair from straying too far in front of your eyes. Even though you won’t be the one driving, it’s still incredibly annoying and can be unsafe if you can’t see where you’re at.
If you have longer hair but not long enough to put in a ponytail or pull it back but still want to make sure it doesn’t get in your face, you can try using some hair pins or hairspray to ensure your hair stays in place while your helmet is on.
10. Follow Your Driver wherever He Goes
You may notice while you’re riding, your driver tends to lean during turns. It doesn’t matter what your driver does, it should be something you do.
It’s important though to not do it too much; this can lead to imbalance of the bike. Simply take your driver’s lead and do exactly as they do. This will help the two of you be more in sync and will provide a safer ride when the driver knows exactly what you’re doing.
Your motorcycle’s driver can be assisted with leans to help maintain stability and traction on the road. It’s important to not “fight” Lean your body in the opposite direction to where the natural turn leans. Your body should be in alignment with the centre of the motorcycle.
If you’ve never been a motorcycle passenger before but are preparing to be one, don’t worry about this too much. This skill often comes naturally and does not require much thought.
11. Put your arms around the driver
As mentioned before, riding a motorcycle as a passenger is much more enjoyable if you feel comfortable with the driver. Your best place to rest your arms is around the driverIn essence, you should hug them from the behind.
If you aren’t that comfortable with the person you’re riding with, you can also place your hands on their hips, maybe grab on the belt loops of their pants. If the motorcycle you’re riding is a bit more luxurious, there may even be handle bars for your to grab onto made specifically for passengers. Do not hold onto your shoulders, as this will give you no security or grip.
You can wrap your arms around your driver to get closer so that you can read their body language and make better stops and turns. And since the driver is holding on to the handlebars and you’re holding on to the driver, you can guarantee you won’t be going anywhere without the driver.
This is especially important if the motorcycle you’re riding does not have a back rest or back support to catch you. It can get a little scary when the driver takes off and gravity has it’s effect on you, pushing you back and almost pulling you off the back of the motorcycle. Hold on tight so that doesn’t happen.
12. It’s possible to get a little itchy
This may sound odd, but it isn’t unheard of to get a little itchy while riding a motorcycle, especially if this is the first time you’re riding as a passenger.
It’s not a very common thing, but it’s common enough for me to hear about among several people, my wife included. The vibration from the bike can have an impact on your body. Itching can occur if you have poor circulation or are in close contact with the bike. Weird, right?
This is most likely to occur in the thighs or back. It makes sense since the thighs wrap around the bike while the back rest is against the backrest. My wife says that her back is irritated by the motorcycle’s backrest.
But don’t be afraid of this, it most likely won’t happen to you because it’s not common. But if it does, just be aware that you’re not going crazy. If you feel uncomfortable, tell your driver and ask for a rest.
13. There are some bumps in the road
Your body may not be used to riding a motorcycle in this first rodeo. It can feel awkward depending on how your motorcycle was built.
Long trips can be cramped up. This is because you will not be able to sit in the same position for long periods of time. If you’re worried about cramping, communicate with whoever you’re riding with and express your worries. They can give you some helpful tips about how to keep comfortable on their motorcycle specifically since they’ve had more experience on it.
It’s important to remember to not make sudden movements or adjustments if you do become stiff or cramp up while riding; this can cause some imbalance for the motorcycle driver. Let the person you’re riding with know that you need to pull over and do some stretches. Stretches performed before, during and after riding will increase circulation and help prevent cramping.
14. Assist the Driver
If you have a better idea of where you need to go and how to get to your destination, it’s helpful to assist the motorcycle driver with directions.
Although riding a motorcycle can be a lot of fun, it can also become stressful for the driver. This is because additional safety precautions must be taken. You’re more susceptible to additional dangers while on a motorcycle, and with a passenger added to the equation, the driver should want to ensure the safety for both of you.
So giving a little extra assistance to the driver is always welcomed, even if you think they know where they’re going. You can do this by simply pointing your finger in the right direction; it’s convenient to do that anyway if your arms are wrapped around them.
15. Don’t Ride If There Aren’t Foot Pegs
It is possible to be trapped in an instance when there are no foot pegs available for the motorcycle driver but plenty for the passengers. You may find that the foot pegs are missing from the motorcycle because the owner took them off or they have fallen off because of a hard hit.
If you’re caught in this situation, do not ride the motorcycle. It’s extremely dangerous to ride on a motorcycle without a place for your feet.
Your feet are close to a tire spinning thousands upon thousands of times per minute, and very hot pipes. The likelihood of injury to your feet and legs is increased if your feet are just dangling about. You’ll also not be able to brace yourself while slowing down and/or abruptly stopping.
You shouldn’t share or use foot pegs for the driver. To drive safely, the driver must have a firm foot grip. Sharing a foot peg can result in the driver not being able to shift properly (as the gear lever is located close to the foot peg).
16. Wait Until the Driver Comes on
There can be some confusion when there are more than one person involved. So that they can balance the motorcycle while the passenger rides, the motorcycle driver must always be the first one to mount it.
Because the handlebars are so far forward, it would be difficult for the passenger to hold the bike steady if they were to do so. A passenger with less experience with motorcycles should not attempt to balance the motorcycle on their legs.
17. Keep an eye out for danger
Personally, I enjoy having my wife riding with me on my motorcycle as a passenger. Not only do we get to be close and have fun together, but it’s nice knowing that she is providing an extra set of eyes to look out for potential hazards.
If you’re planning on being a motorcycle passenger, help your fellow rider out and be on the lookout for any potential danger around you. The one who is driving the motorcycle does their best to stay out of the way of any potential danger, but at the same time they need to keep their eyes on the road and watch where they’re going.
Consider merging cars and pedestrians. As if you were the driver. You have an advantage though because you get to keep looking from side to side and not worry about where you’re steering because someone else is doing it for you.
18. Brace Yourself When Stopping
As a motorcycle rider who has spent hundreds of hours riding with a passenger, I can’t tell you how much it helps to have the passenger help out a little when it comes to stopping. This is not to say that you should ram into their backs when approaching a stop.
As a passenger, it’s a big help to brace yourself when the motorcycle comes to a stop. This prevents the driver from overscooting and causing them to have to adjust, hopefully before they can start driving again. Bracing will help you avoid helmet collisions (which are likely to happen anyway).
To help you brace yourself, lean back a bit and press down on the foot pegs. This will stop you from moving forward too much. If you go forward some, that’s totally fine as you can’t always prevent momentum completely. Make sure to be aware of any stop lights or signs so that you are prepared.
19. Let The Driver Know If You’re Uncomfortable
It would be a lie to say that all motorcyclists are good drivers. Sometimes when you’re on such an amazing machine you want to show off some of it’s potential. If you’re riding a motorcycle with someone, they may want to show off a little to you and expose what their motorcycle can do.
If you’re ever a passenger and become uncomfortable, whether that be due to the driver’s skills or some other reasons, you should tell your fellow rider that you’re uncomfortable and need to stop.
Riding a motorcycle is so much fun and you don’t want to ruin your experience by feeling uncomfortable while you’re riding. It’s okay to tell the driver to slow down or stop because you need to catch your breath. If they’re a decent person, they’ll follow your wishes.
20. Be careful who you ride with
This tip is a continuation of the previous one: If you’re not comfortable with the person you would like to ride with, don’t ride with them.
If you know they are a reckless driver, don’t take any chances with them. You have every right to say no to someone you’re uncomfortable with. Communicate with them what your expectations are when you’re riding a motorcycle. You should trust your instincts.
21. Communicate with the driver
All this said, Communicate with your passenger while riding a motorcycle. You should be open about your fears and what you would like to see/do. Also, let the other person know what you are expecting from the experience.
You will get tips from the driver on how to ride your specific motorcycle. In most cases, the person you’re riding with will be appreciative of your communication and be open about their expectations as well.
How can a passenger unmount a motorcycle safely? First, the passenger must dismount the motorcycle. The driver follows suit. The driver can then steady the motorcycle while passengers dismount. Depending on the motorcycle’s size, a foot stool may be handy. If the passenger is not able to stand on one foot, they will need to swing the other.