Passenger Friendly: Being an Effective Passenger and Two-Up Rider

Tips for those who ride together

At Women Riders Now, we encourage every person whos interested in motorcycle riding to give the riders seat a try. After all, for every fearless rider who took naturally to the handlebars, you’ll find a formerly timid rider amazed to find herself comfortable at the controls. But whether it’s personal preference, physical limitations or another circumstance, it’s perfectly natural for some people to feel more comfortable in the passenger seat—and we applaud you if thats your decision.

Because so many riders, especially couples who tour, prefer to ride two-up, learning to be a good passenger is a crucial part of riding safely and riding right. Here are some tips that every passenger—and rider with a passenger—should keep in mind when riding two-up.

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Riding two-up is a great way to share the experience of the open road, but its important to remember that both the rider and passenger play a role in maintaining a safe and fun riding experience.

Tips for Being a Good Passenger

  • Be sure the rider is ready for you to get on the bike. Once on, sit still. A shift in your weight can drop the bike, especially at a stop.
  • Once riding, lean with the bike. Looking over the riders inside shoulder in a curve will nearly always provide the correct angle.
  • If you are to be the navigator, be sure to give directions soon enough that your rider has plenty of time to maneuver.
  • Pay attention to the rider’s physical signals. You can often predict and brace for a quick stop just by feeling the riders muscles tighten.
  • Communicate. If you need to stop, let the rider know.
  • Take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) beginner course.Better yet, you and your rider should consider taking the course together.Many non-riders say they gained valuable knowledge in the rider course that made them better passengers.

motorcycle passenger tips
Taking the MSF course together is an ideal way for riders and passengers to learn how to ride two-up safely and comfortably.

Tips for Being an Effective Two-Up Rider

  • Realize that the passenger is more prone to wind effect, cramping and boredom. On many bikes, the windshield deflects the airflow over the rider and into the passenger, who is often seated higher on the bike. That air pressure can strain the passengers back and leg muscles as he or she tries to simultaneously stay back from the rider and fight the wind effect. Passengers may also get colder than the rider due to the wind chill.

    In addition, most passenger seats are not as comfortable as the front part of the saddle. Many of them keep the passenger leaning at a slightly backward angle, straining the back and putting the impact of bumps on the tailbone. If you plan to bring along a passenger regularly, you might consider investing in a good aftermarket seat designed for both the riders and the passengers comfort.

    As the driver, remember that you have the constant mental stimulation of piloting the bike. The scenery might not be the most fascinating for your passenger (there are only so many words that can be made out of the letters on the DOT sticker on the back of your helmet). Give your passenger a break off the bike every few hours to stretch his or her legs and break up any boredom that might have set in.

Be sure you’re aware of and comfortable with the adjustments necessary for riding two-up. Always allow for the added stopping distance you’ll need with the extra weight at stoplights and during parking lot maneuvers.

  • Have your passenger hold onto you tightly enough to move with you as you lean into corners, and make sure he or she knows to brace as you are about to brake. Dont try to impress your passenger with quick acceleration or knee-dragging cornering. He or she wont be delighted.
  • Make sure your passenger has the same protective gear as you do when riding—helmet, leathers or a riding suit, and a rain suit.
  • Always stop on request. Remember, this is supposed to be fun for both of you! Your passenger trusts you with his or her safety. Earn the trust.

Looking for more stories about riding in back? Return to the WRN Passenger Friendly section of the WRN Beginner’s Guide

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8 thoughts on Passenger Friendly: Being an Effective Passenger and Two-Up Rider

  1. This has me a bit confused:Once riding, lean with the bike. Looking over the rider’s inside shoulder in a curve will nearly always provide the correct angle.What is considered the inside shoulder? Hubs says one thing.. I think another.Hubs says the shoulder going with the curve, for example, right curve/right shoulder. I say, right curve/look over left shoulder. Who’s correct?Body should lean with the bike but I the passenger should look over opposite shoulder if I understand this.

    1. Your hubby is right in this case. Just like the article states, you want to lean with the bike, not against it. If the lean is to the right, you’ll be looking over the rider’s right shoulder. If you are looking over his left shoulder, your body’s weight is counterbalancing the motorcycle, making it more difficult to control in the curve.When in doubt, believe in your bike’s operator. Many happy miles to you and yours.

  2. I am both a rider and a passenger. Toby helped fine-tune my piloting by being my passenger. The perfect passenger becomes part of the bike so that once you adjust to the difference in weight, you literally cannot tell they are there. Some riders do not make good passengers because they try to pilot the bike from the passenger seat. We do not have helmet communications, so when we ride two-up and he is driving, I use the same set of knee signals on him I use on my horse. It was actually funny when I suggested this to him. He was telling me I had to find a way to signal him without getting in the way of the rear view mirrors, so I said, “OK I will just ride you like I ride my horse, if I press into your side with my left knee, it means you need to turn right at the next turn off, if I press into your side with my right knee, it indicates a left turn coming up. if I press into your lower ribs with both sets of finger tips at the same time, it means ‘caution, possible crap-storm ahead, slow down’ and if I give you both knees at once it means “spank them ponies!”He had his doubts but within 2 minutes of using these signals, we had a smooth system for me looking at gps while telling him where we needed to go with no verbal communication or hand waving…for those who are not familiar with horse riding cues, horses are trained to move away from the pressure of your knees and calves in a specific manner… which is why it all sounds backwards but works really well.

  3. The most important point not listed here is to sit vertical and do not jump off! Twice I have had passengers think we were going over after I had to make a panic stop and go to my left leg to catch us. The passengers bailed to the right causing me, and the bike, to go all the way over such that I was catching the bike from completely going over and almost wound up breaking a hip!I know it may seem counter-intuitive but, if you really are going over, tuck your legs in, the crash bars fore and aft are there to protect your legs if they are tucked in. We ride an Electra Glide, which has these. Other model bikes may not. I first learned this snowmobiling which I rode before motorcycles. I am a licensed instructor in Illinois.

  4. Great article! When my husband and I bought our first motorcycle in 2008, a Harley-Havidson Heritage Softail, I had only been on the back of a bike a couple of times and was honestly scared to death of them. Since he hadn’t ridden in several years, we decided to take a experienced rider/co-rider course. I was on the back of the bike during the entire class. At the end, he had the option of taking the testing part without me but he opted to have me on the back as that’s the way we would be riding. It was a wonderful class and taught me a lot about being a passenger. I would highly recommend it to anyone, especially new co-riders.

  5. I have been riding for more than 30 years, mostly two-up. This is a great idea to take your partner with you to take courses!

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