Passenger Friendly: Riding on the Back and Loving It!

The perks of passengering

By Linda Balough

Independence. Freedom. Solitude. At one with the machine and alone on the road. OK, so the going-it-alone image may be the reason for getting into motorcycling, but sooner or later, most riders want to share the experience—turn to someone and say, “Did you see that? Wasn’t that last curve great?” Its then that riders look at the empty seat behind them and wonder if there’s room for someone else in the world of curves and horsepower.

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Can two people be content wedged together on one bike, with one holding all the power of maneuvering the machine and one literally putting his or her life in the hands of the operator? Sure! Thousands of couples ride motorcycles two-up for thousands of miles a year and love it.

Terri Schlensker loves the backseat and has no desire to hop in the drivers saddle anytime soon. She loves the comfortable ride behind her husband, Don.

Some couples meld together on the bike as one rider, comfortable and happy, each with his or her own experience. I rode many years with retirees Terry and JoAnn King of Lafayette, Ind., who moved in unison aboard their BMW K100RS, leaning in perfect harmony through each turn of sweepers or switchbacks. On one occasion, I led the group, gleefully chasing a Porsche over Independence Pass in Colorado at a knee-dragging pace. Just as I was feeling a bit smug at keeping up with what was obviously a skilled local driver, I glanced in my rearview mirror to see the K-bike behind me, with a grinning, dapper, gray-templed rider on my tail and a happy, 50-something passenger leaning over his shoulder, videotaping my chase. That kind of copiloting comes with faith, communication, skill and years of practice.

With more and more women getting off the back and into the riders seat, is the day of the passenger coming to an end? Not on your life. Patty Barton of Three Rivers, Texas, and Charlotte DeGaetano of Pulaski, N.Y., who met while attending a STAR Days rally in Kentucky with their husbands, shared their experiences. “We ride with a group of people, and while several of the women are on their own bikes, they haven’t put any pressure on me to ride my own bike,” Charlotte said. Patty laughingly explained her motivation to hop on the back of their bright- red Yamaha Venture. “Well, if I want to spend time with him, this is the way to do it.” She likes not having the responsibility of being the pilot. “This is a lot better. I just sit back and let Randy do the work. Besides, I have a lousy sense of direction.”

While Charlotte has ridden dirt bikes, she prefers the backseat of their red Venture, a position husband Frank declares is invaluable. “She is the navigator and can watch a wider area than I can. On a ride six years ago near Richmond, Va., she kept us out of an accident by noticing a car coming up on our right,” he said. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he added that, of course, her most important job is to pay for the gas.

What does it take to be a good passenger? Some passengers just don’t get it. They sit like a sack of potatoes, afraid of creating any input that would upset the bike. A good passenger, however, works with the rider, looking over the shoulder on the low side of the lean and keeping in touch (literally) with the rider in order to read what he or she will make the bike do next.

Terri Schlensker of Cypress, Calif., who rides behind her husband, Don, on his Harley-Davidson Screamin Eagle Road Glide, says in order to be comfortable riding as a passenger, you have to trust your rider. “Sometimes I cringe a little when he gets a bit aggressive,” Terri said. “But I remind myself that he has taken advanced rider courses, and I just relax and go with him (as he leans the bike).” She added that buying the big 2001 Harley improved her enjoyment. “When we first started touring, my lower back would hurt, and the wind and weather would tire me out. On this trip, a 2,200 mile tour of the West, I haven’t hurt at all.”

The couple has ridden together for 20 years, since Dons days in the military. While taking a break outside their motel in Oregon, Charlotte explained her love of touring on their bike. “This was the first time Ive seen the redwoods. We could use helmet headset intercoms and point out the scenery, and I could just relax and enjoy the view and the smells and the feel of riding through those forests.” Sometimes the backseat is the “best seat in the house.”

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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17 thoughts on Passenger Friendly: Riding on the Back and Loving It!

  1. One important point to note that passenger movements and wiggles are felt and noticed more by riders at low speeds than high and at higher speeds, no way should the passenger move side-to-side. Pushing yourself straight back in the seat with both feet on the floorboards is okay and the rider probably won’t even feel it.

  2. My guy rides on the back sometimes. I also have had other male passengers too!

  3. Rule #1 Don’t get on or off without permission#2 Look over the shoulder in to the turn#3 Lean back when I slow and forward when I take off#4 Don’t wiggle when I’m going slow

  4. I am a hard-working, athletic, outdoors-loving, 40-something-year-old, that likes to ride tail. I love the experience, solitude, and the socializing.

  5. I am interested in how many women ride with male passengers. I have, but I have never seen anyone else do so.

  6. I’ve ridden on the back of my husband’s bike since before we were married. I was 15, but I’d ridden with my brother and my sister at an even younger age. I have always said that my husband was the best rider ever. I didn’t know where the bike ended and he began. At the age of 39 I wanted to ride my own. I got my license and I’ve only been on the back half a dozen times.I love the feel of riding my own. My dream bike was a Street Glide. I moved from a Honda 600 to a 750, then a Softail Deluxe and now I have a Street Glide. I still consider riding on the back but just can’t seem to do it anymore. Nothing wrong at all with those who don’t want the responsibility but want the fun. As long as your on the bike and having fun, what does it matter?

  7. My husband and I have been riding for many years together, and while I got my endorsement two years ago and will eventually have my own, nothing can compare to when he and I alone on his bike. I think it’s the perfect metaphor for our marriage. Whether we are with a few friends, riding with 100+ for a run or by ourselves, ultimately it’s he and I and an intimate respect for the other’s abilities. I think having my endorsement changed me as a rider and I see things now that I didn’t even know to look for before, which allows me to help him on occasion. I know that I’ll never be completely off that seat even with my own bike, because as mentioned in the article – it is the best seat in the house.

  8. I am trying to find a back seat riders group or club. I have a friend who does not ride and knows no one with a bike. She would like to ride on the back as a passenger. The only group I found is ROAR in another state. My husband and I ride but our friend with a bike moved out of state. Please let me know if there is such a group in the Denver area. Thank you.

    1. Barbara,You bring up an interesting proposition. I would suggest you visit the WRN Forum and post a notice there, and visit the WRN Facebook page and post a notice there.

  9. Hi,I love reading your stuff. I like being the passenger. Just started on a trike Harley, but can you you help. I am having difficulty getting on and off. There is a small sissy bar between us and one behind me.

    1. Great question Maureen. We will put it out to our readers in the Your Questions Answered section and let you know when we do so you can see all the responses.Readers are welcome to also post responses here below this story.

  10. Finding others online who, like myself, enjoy being the passenger is a challenging task. So I was happy to discover this post.Three years ago our youngest left home for college so my husband and I decided it was the perfect time to ride. I love it. At first I was apprehensive about spending eight hours a days on a bike; discomfort, boredom didn’t sound fun.But the spontaneity, discovering breathtaking country, daydreaming, relaxing on the back, and snuggling up to the love of my life is pure fun. I ride on the back and at this point don’t want it any other way. Do you know of any forums for two up riding?

    1. Glad you found our site and our Passenger Page. I do not know of any forums for two-up riding, but the WRN Forum, here on our site, is has lots of great info for riders and passengers. I encourage you to click on the highlighted link here and check it out. No one has ever asked about this, but since many of our readers are passengers I will create a new section just for two-up riding. How about you post the first question to get it going?

  11. I have always been nervous on our Harley even though I know my husband is a great driver, but when my 27-year-old niece got killed on her motorcycle after surviving two tours in Iraq I became terrified on the bike! I think more so seeing what it had done to the family. She was wearing helmet etc. It has been two years now and my husband misses me being with him so we are going to start slow and see if I can at least not be tied in knots the whole ride! Would really appreciate any advice of things I can try to help with this fear.

  12. I’m a horse person but my spouse has always had a bike so after several years, I got a helmet and jacket and took a few rides. Not my style but marriage is a compromise. I took a safety course and rode by myself. I passed by one point. but the class made me more scared to ride by myself so I sit behind him. He takes me short distances and I am getting more comfortable. Planning a 4-day day trip to Yellowstone in July. Who knows what the future will hold for us. Enjoyed the articles.

  13. I enjoyed your post.I have been riding on back of a ’47 Knucklehead for the past 30 years. I love it, and I’ve never had the need or desire to have my own bike or ride in front. It is indeed the best seat in the house.

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