Seeking Advice on Riding With Your Children

Reader wants to take her daughter as a passenger

seeking advice on riding with children
WRN assistant editor Tricia Szulewski with
her then 8-year-old daughter Kaia.
Tricia says, “Give the child rules before
ever allowing them near a motorcycle, just
like you would any passenger.
Show them where the hot parts are, tell them
to always keep their feet on the footpegs,
and most of all, get them good
gear that fits well. This is your most
precious cargo, after all.”

Dear WRN,

I was wondering how many women ride with their children. I am 47, ride a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883XL, and have two girls, ages 9 and 14, who want to ride with me. Just curious how many ride with their kids and any advice they can give me about that.
Kim O.
via email

Please post your response in the comment section below.

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23 thoughts on Seeking Advice on Riding With Your Children

  1. I have a 9-year-old who rides with me and my husband everywhere. He rides on my bike. I was on a Harley Softail and a few things happened on the road due to others in cars and my 9-year-old got scared and didn’t want to ride much anymore. I was saddened by this, and my husband and I thought maybe if I went to a trike it might help my 9-year-old would ride again with us. As much as I hated to give up two wheels I did it and it was the best thing I ever could have done. My 9-year-old is back to riding and is loving it again! I only have one problem with the trike and that is that other bikers think of anyone who rides a trike as not a biker. I’m not saying all are like this, but I have run across some who do. I traded in my Harley for the Harley trike for my son and one day I’ll go back to a bike but for now those bikers that have issues with those of us who ride trikes please give us a break and why not ask why we are on trikes. Some have medical issues and can’t ride on two wheels anymore but don’t want to give riding up. Then there are those of us who do it for other reasons but it doesn’t mean we’re not bikers.

  2. Get a backrest. My daughter rides two up with me and prefers the bike with the backrest. She doesn’t have to hold on as much as without. She even carries a little camera and gets some neat pics.Wear a backpack so your daughter has a pocket to put things in, sucha as a camera, water, etc. She can carry water bottles that are easy to drink from with a full face helmet.

  3. Assuming the rider is experienced and skilled, to begin with, and assuming the child is old enough to understand what’s going on and has full gear (including a properly fitted helmet and armor and abrasion resistant materials on the legs and upper body), then by all means. However, putting babies on a motorcycle is asinine and much too risky. I cringe when I see that. Don’t people have any sense? The damage that can happen to a really small child from the bike just falling over can include death quite easily, and there’s no baby motorcycle gear.

  4. Absolutely, ride with them! What a great way to share time. My personal thoughts on the subject—as long as you are comfortable and confident with them on the bike with you. ATTGAT (all the gear all the time) even passengers. My husband and I are both MSF RiderCoaches and when our daughter expressed an interest in riding, we gave her a taste of it in a safe parking lot on a small bike we owned. We also insisted that she take the MSF Basic RiderCourse. She was all for that idea, but wanted us as her coaches. We said no. She had to be taught by someone else (just how we felt). She took the course, got her license, and we rode many times with her sandwiched in between us on neighborhood rides. She hasn’t ridden since then, kind of lost interest I guess, but we are so proud that she saw what she wanted and went for it!

  5. I spent the first summer after my first child (son) was born without a motorcycle in the garage and swore that would never happen again! Which meant I needed to find a way to include him.When he was little, we had a Ural, a sidecar rig that was a blast to ride on country and dirt/back roads but not as useful on highways.So we found a high-quality child harness (sometimes you have to search for snowmobile ones) that the child stepped into, then came up and over their shoulders (the harness part) and snapped together, but it also had a wide sash that went around me or hubby (the drivers) to keep the child steady. And we’ve been riding with our kids ever since.Both my kids (daughter born four years after son) started riding with us when they were 4 to 5 years old. That said, it can be a little less enjoyable when you’re worried about harm coming to them and not just yourself. You have to be in the right place mentally, and if you’re not, that’s totally OK, they will survive with or without getting to ride!It is no longer “cool” for my 14-year-old son to be seen riding on a motorcycle with his mom (heaven forbid!), but my daughter is my biker chick!

  6. This was how I got my love for riding. My father started me out on a Honda Minibike when I was 2. I told him when I was old enough, I didn’t want a car, I wanted a bike.My dream came true when I was 15. My dad got me a 1972 Suzuki 380GT to learn on. I got my driver’s license on my bike and my car within six month of each other, but rode my bike all year long in all kinds of weather. I learned to bike in the snow at 16!My dad also helped me learn to change my oil, tires, brakes and chain and care for my bike. He always made me wear a helmet, gloves, long pants and sleeves and a jacket.I think riding with my dad as a girl helped me to be a better biker.

  7. My grandson started riding with me when he was 2 years old; he’s now 14. First on a Honda Magna, then on a BMW LT — large comfortable bike for touring. He was tall for his age. I used a riding belt to keep him on the bike securely as he tended to fall asleep when he was on the bike. It worked great! Used the belt until he was about 11. We did short trips as well as many trips from Utah to SE Kansas to visit extended family. Never had a problem with it. If you want more info on the riding belt you can find it at Can also be used for snowmobiles, etc. with children.

  8. My daughter started riding with her dad on his bike when she was 2 years old. We took precautions and she only rode a few miles to her great-grandparents house. I would follow along behind the bike to block anyone from getting too close. She fell in love with riding. When she was 9 years old, her dad would take her on longer rides, but she had helmet, wore a jacket, and protective gear.

  9. When my daughters were 10 and 15, I bought a Ninja after having been bikeless for many years. I taught them how to lean, and they could hang onto me or the passenger grips. We took short trips around town or into some small, nearby towns, and quickly learned that my 10-year-old loved it and my 15-year-old did not. That was fine; the 15-year-old was basically my size and it added a lot of weight having her on. The Ninja kind of hurt my clutching wrist, and with either kid on with me, it hurt even more to have that weight pushing against me. Eventually, even the younger one complained about the positioning, so we bought a Vulcan, which was more upright. The trouble with that was that the Vulcan wasn’t cool enough for my daughter. She doesn’t like cruisers…at all! So even though it was a little more comfortable, she really didn’t want to be on it. I also felt a little more cautious with a larger bike and exposing my kid to some of the insane traffic around here. I became increasingly nervous and didn’t even want to go alone, much less with a kid on the back. As has been mentioned, your kids are your most precious cargo. I wasn’t happy putting my kid in danger, and we kind of took a break for a year or so. When I got back on after the break, and my daughter with me, I felt calmer and more confident. I don’t know why. Maybe just because she was older and understood traffic better. But she was noticeably bigger, having gone from a child to a young woman.In the meantime, my husband pretty much stole my Vulcan, so I bought another sportbike, which my daughter gladly got back on. She is now 17 and has her own bike (Honda CBR250r), though she also rides mine (Suzuki GS500) occasionally. I am glad my kids had the opportunity to ride with me as passengers. I think it helped my younger one be a better motorcycle rider herself.

  10. Our 3 children have been riding with us since they each turned 12 years old. I personally think that with the amount of vehicles and careless motorized vehicles on the road in this day, that I don’t think its wise for a child less than 12 or 13 years old to be on the back of a bike. They need to be physically strong enough to use their core to balance. They need to be mentally aware of the dangers. And they need to understand that even if it’s hot outside, wearing protective clothing is way more cool.But I think most importantly, you, the driver, are ready and responsible to take on the weight physically and mentally if something was to happen. Have you had proper training? Can you ride safely by yourself if you got into a sticky situation? It’s scary enough when parents put children into motorized vehicles with all kinds of steel around them. Now we are taking that away and just using protective clothing and luck.I wish you all safe riding. Solo or with children. Personally, I don’t carry passengers at this time. When grandchildren come along the same rules will apply. And I will have to re-evaluate my own skills and theirs.

  11. My partner and I have a 10 year old son. He rides with us often! We worked our way up from short rides around the neighborhood to doing longer rides. He especially loves when he gets picked up from school on the moto and when we get to go to concerts with the bikes. He has full riding gear and knows the dangers of riding. I highly suggest taking kids out if both of you are comfortable!

  12. I bought my first motorcycle in 2003. My daughter was only 6 then. I told her that when she can touch (put her feet on) the passenger pegs, then I would let her ride with me. Meanwhile, we “practiced” by sitting backwards on a stationary chair with the back of the chair in front of me.We practiced how she should sit/still and how to handle when I leaned to turn, and not to fight it. Two years later when she turned 8, she was ready. But I wasn’t. I had bought 2004 XL Sportster, and put on passenger pegs and a sissybar with backrest. I was afraid to ride with her. I had a friend of mine take her on her first ride in the neighborhood. When they returned, he told me how well she did. That was enough give me the confidence to take her out. We’ve been on poker runs together. Then, teenager-hood struck and her friends and boys more important. That’s OK. Then I bought a bigger bike. Took her for a ride (since her, I have given people rides, including a male friend who had broken down). Just this last year she said she wanted to ride with me on one of the over-night (or weekend) trips! I was ecstatic to her say that. Hasn’t happened yet because she’s a busy gal now, with her work plus college. But I hope to bring her along for some mother-daughter time. ~Peace

  13. My advice is not to.

  14. I’m on the flip side. I ride on my own now, but I grew up riding on the back of my uncle’s motorcycle (which gave me the love of them). I remember rule one was that I had to have a helmet. Mind you, this was early 90s, and I started with just my bicycle helmet, but it was worn at all times, as was a long-sleeve jacket, jeans, and close-toed boots. I was 10 when I got my helmet, and remember being so excited to be able to ride with him for the first time. He was extremely careful with me (and my brother who got to ride around the same time). Didn’t go too fast, explained how to lean, and what to do in corners, and even made sure I knew whatever pedal and control on the handlebars did before we got on! As I got older, the helmet turned into a nice full face, and for a very special Christmas gift I got a great brand new textile jacket with armor in it. By instilling a good sense of respect for what the bike could do, and what to do and not to do (sometimes with a pulling over and having a talk about “don’t lean that way!”) helped instill a love of biking to this day. Oh, and BTW, it was all done on a Kawasaki ZX-11 sportbike! I haven’t had a passenger yet, having only had my own bike for four years now, and I’m nervous to try. I’d be curious to hear from others how they’ve done with their first passengers, and what types of bikes (because I have a sportbike myself!).

  15. My son is 13 and rides with me often. It looks funny because he looks like a grown man in all his gear, but he still thinks it’s cool to ride with his mom.

  16. It’s always a matter of the owner’s personal feelings about safety. Not the children’s “wanting to ride” fast! Getting the bike fitted for “smaller kids” is tough as many states have laws about passengers. Not specifically about carrying kids, but general in nature. Feet “on” the pegs for instance. If the kids can reach ad have their feet stay on pegs, great! However, if they can reach, you must find alternatives. One such alternative is “small floorboards” with wooden blocks added (bolted / painted / rubber mat added for grip) for “short-legged” passengers. These can be easily detached, and makes you the “coolest mom, grandma, aunt in the history of the world!

  17. I rode pregnant and I rode with my boys until they got bigger than me. My comments apply to not just children but passengers in general.Kids are like any passenger and you need to be able to handle that difference in weight on your bike. A passenger who is larger than you can control what happens on the bike. They need to fit the bike so that means that their feet are comfortable on the passenger pegs.Gear them up and make sure they understand what they are to do, primarily sit still! You should always set down your rules and expectations with any passenger, even someone who rides their own.Lastly, never put a child on a bike without a backrest. I further recommend no passenger rides without a backrest to support them and keep their butt on the seat.Ride safe, your children are a very precious cargo. There will be other suggests about attaching them to you and handles you can belt to yourself for them but in my opinion, if they are not big enough and strong enough to hold on and support themselves on their own hen they are not ready to be on the back of a bike.

  18. I take my 16-year-old and 10-year-old grandsons on my HD frequently. Most important is to teach them how to be a good rider. Keep their feet on the pegs, proper riding gear, to look over your shoulder when cornering, etc. They love it! Now if I could only get my German Shepherd to ride with me.

  19. First head over to AMA’s state law page and see if there are any state restrictions on passenger age in your state. the passenger footpegs would be the next requirement, and I’ve found that the rear seat height to passenger peg distance can vary significantly between bikes. I started taking my daughter just before she turned 6, but admittedly she’s tall for her age.OK, so if they fit and it’s legal, time to gear up. HJC and a few other companies make youth helmets. Youth gloves are available, mostly for motocross use but they work. You should be able to get these at nearly any dealer or online. For shoes I just have her wear over-the-ankle hiking boots. Long jeans. And riding jackets are hard to find; an older child may fit in an XS women’s jacket.For riding give them a quick briefing about how and when to get on and off, point out the hot exhaust, where to put their feet and what to hold on to. A backrest of some kind may offer piece of mind, but I’m not sure how necessary it really is.In her first rides my daughter would pull me in strange directions when we leaned, but she eventually got the hang of it. Now she loves going for evening rides and have even taken 2-hour rides to the beach. Just be aware of where their balance is and where their feet and hands are.Obviously make sure the bike is in safe working order, check tire pressures, brakes, lights, etc.

  20. I often have my now 11-year-old daughter as my passenger. She has been a passenger before I had my bike, so she knew the basics on where the bike gets hot, how to get on/off the bike, where the footrests are, etc. We have developed some helpful practices. She likes knowing about how long the trip will be, which avoids some of the questions about “how much longer?” When she has a question or wants to say something, she will put her hand on my shoulder and wait for me to lift my shield and turn my head to listen. This helps both of us as she often sings while riding or used to talk to me without me knowing. She was very tired once while riding, so I would reach back to gently squeeze her leg by her knee as a gesture to see how she was doing. She responds by squeezing my arm. That practice continues. She likes knowing some basic hand gestures to “help” as a passenger. She also enjoys having a camera (with strong wrist strap) to take pictures while riding. I really enjoy riding with her as my passenger.

  21. My husband and I ride with our 9 year old. She prefers riding with me because she can get her arms around my waist. We both have backrests and go for short rides, which are progressively getting longer the older she gets. We had a harness (which we had to modify for her size), but she absolutely hated it. If we went on longer rides, I think it would be necessary, though. Having a passenger affects balance and takes some getting used to.

  22. My wife rides with our son, who’s 8. It’s mainly short trips. Make sure they have the right gear, and understand the bike. Other than that, there are no worries. A back rest may make everybody feel a little safer. That may not seem like much of an answer, but that’s because there really isn’t much (extra) to worry about.

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