How To Ride Your Motorcycle With a Passenger

Jake Robison - October 22, 2022

Riding with a passenger can make the trip a lot more fun, but it's not something you just do. Any additions to the motorcycle will impact how it rides. When the addition is a person, the changes in handling the bike can be more than most beginners will realize. Before riding with a passenger for the first time, it's essential to understand what is needed, what will change, and how to ride safely. Use the following information to help prepare for the first ride with a passenger.

Purchase the Right Bike for Riding with a Passenger

The right bike can make a huge difference in comfort and safety. It's easier to ride with a passenger on some bikes than others. Touring bikes, for instance, feature more comfortable rear seats and passenger grips for them to use. Sports bikes, however, may require modifications before they're ready to ride with a passenger. This can include adding rear foot pegs, installing a more comfortable seat, or adjusting the rear suspensions. It may also be necessary to increase the tire pressure. Higher pressure can help the bike accommodate the extra weight it's holding.

When the goal's to ride as a passenger regularly, it may be a good idea to look into a bike that's ready for it. Various pre-owned motorcycles available today will be a perfect option and allow an easier time learning to ride with a passenger. With any new bike, ride it a little bit solo to make sure it's appropriately adjusted and get used to how it rides before adding in riding with a passenger.

Prepare the Motorcycle

Many bikes may be ready to hold a passenger but will still need minor adjustments to make sure they're ready. Shocks and the suspension may require minor adjustments to prevent potential issues while riding with a passenger. The tire pressure can also be adjusted to prepare the bike for extra weight. Adjustments should be made similar to the way they would be when carrying extra cargo. The motorcycle's owner's manual should include information about what adjustments will be needed before carrying a passenger and how to make them. Always read the manual first and make adjustments as recommended before going to other sources or riding with a passenger for the first time.

Try With an Experienced Passenger First

Being a passenger does take some experience. There's a lot they need to learn, like what to do or avoid doing, how to stay balanced, and more. Riders ready to take on a passenger may not want to start with someone new to being a passenger because of this. It's a much better idea to start by practicing with an experienced passenger. An experienced passenger already knows how to be a good passenger. They know how to anticipate the rider's moves, how to sit and when to move or lean, and can even provide tips and advice to improve the ride.

Understand the Challenges of Riding With a Passenger

The reason it's a good idea to practice first and to ride with an experienced passenger in the beginning is because there are challenges to having another person on the bike. Control over the motorcycle is a little different, so it's always a good idea to practice before heading out on a trip. This provides ample time to learn how to ride with someone else on the bike.

With a passenger, it's crucial to do gear shifts as smoothly as possible. The passenger shouldn't even be able to tell that the gear has changed. When starting or stopping, do so slower than when riding alone, as there is more weight on the bike. It's also important to understand that turns can be more challenging because of the added weight. By anticipating things like these, it's easier to know what to change and how to make changes to make the experience fun and safe for the rider and the passenger.

Know How to Communicate

Anyone who has ridden a bike before knows how loud it is, especially when there's a lot of wind or traffic. Talking – or yelling – won't always work. Instead, there are alternative ways to communicate. Passengers may need to say slow down or stop if they are worried about something or need to take a break. One standard method passengers can use to communicate with the driver is hand signals. Tapping a certain number of times can tell the driver to slow down or stop.

An alternative for hand signals is a motorcycle helmet communication system. This is the most effective communication method and is perfect for longer rides. With a communication system, it's possible to talk to the passenger without the wind or traffic getting in the way. There's no need to worry about missed signals, and it's possible to provide instructions while riding if needed. It's also possible to discuss where to stop on longer rides instead of needing to stop the bike to talk. As a bonus, speakers added to the helmet can allow the driver and passenger to listen to music on the trip.

Always Wear Appropriate Gear

Everyone on the bike should have safety gear that fits correctly. A quality helmet is a bare minimum, but it's also a good idea to wear heavy pants, leather gloves, a jacket designed for motorcycle riding, and solid shoes. On longer rides, it's better to invest in gear designed for use on motorcycles, but this may not be needed when first practicing. The passenger's shoes must be free of laces or have the laces tucked in tightly. If they are loose, they can get caught in the bike and potentially cause damage to the bike or an accident.

Start Practicing Before Going on the Open Road

Practice makes perfect. Like learning to ride the bike initially, picking a wide-open parking lot and practicing riding with a passenger before going on the open road together is a good idea. Newer passengers may need the practice, too. Even with an experienced passenger, riding a bike with the extra weight is different. The weight distribution can significantly affect how the bike handles, so take time to learn how to ride it with a passenger. Practice taking corners, starting, stopping, and accelerating in the parking lot to know how to do them with someone else on the bike.

Practice Mounting and Dismounting

Balance is crucial when riding a motorcycle, and the balance is different when there's a passenger. As important as it is to practice riding, it's also important to practice getting on and off the bike. Get on the motorcycle, raise the kickstand, and turn it on. Balance with feet on the ground before the passenger gets on the bike. The passenger should always approach from the left side, away from the mufflers, to avoid burns. Dismounting is the same. If the motorcycle has mufflers on both sides, make sure the passenger is aware of the potential for burns and gets on and off carefully. When dismounting, have the passenger get off first, keep the bike balanced, then dismount.

Start and Stop Slower

With the extra weight on the bike, it's essential to prepare for it when starting or stopping. A motorcycle accelerates slower with extra weight, but if the driver isn't ready, cranking the throttle too fast can cause the front end to jerk up. Turn the throttle slower than when riding without a passenger to accelerate slower and more smoothly. When braking, remember that it can take longer to slow down with a passenger, so start sooner. Though fast stops may be needed in an emergency, always break as slowly as possible when riding with a passenger to avoid potential issues or an accident.

Practice Taking Corners With a Passenger

Taking corners is another area where it's different riding solo versus riding with a passenger. Suspension is compressed more with the added weight, so it's necessary to be more careful when turning to avoid scraping the ground around the corner. Experienced passengers will know how to handle corners, but if they are new to riding, make sure they don't lean too far around the corner. This can mess with the bike's balance and cause it to fall around the turn. They should move with the bike but avoid any sudden movements.

Discuss the Rules Before Heading Out

When just starting to ride with a passenger, it's a good idea to ride with someone who is experienced and already knows the rules. However, go over them anyways as a reminder and for practice. The rules will need to be discussed whenever a new passenger will be on the bike. The primary rules to discuss include the following.

Getting on and Off the Bike

The passenger should wait until they're told they can get on or off the bike and must remain on it until they're given the okay to get off. Jumping on too soon or getting off before the driver is ready can mean the bike falls or someone is injured. Waiting until they’re told to get on or off allows the driver to control the bike completely and keep it balanced.

Keep Their Feet on the Pegs

Passengers should keep their feet on the foot pegs or floorboard during the entire ride. Putting their feet down could lead to injuries. They also should not put their feet down to try to support the motorcycle, even in an emergency. Doing so could cause injuries.

Watch the Helmet

The passenger should sit so that their eyes are on the back of the driver's helmet during any turns. This keeps them aligned automatically, so they lean into turns with the driver. If they lean too far or the wrong way, it can cause an accident, as it's harder to go around the corner.

Sit Close and Hang On

The further forward the passenger is, the more centered their weight is on the bike. Holding on and sitting close can make it easier to steer with a passenger and prevent accidents. With more experience, passengers can hold onto grips or rails instead of the driver, but at first, holding onto the driver is the safest option.

Keep Communication Open

Drivers and passengers must trust each other and communicate appropriately to ride together. They must be able to tell each other if something is making them scared or uncomfortable, if it's time to stop the ride, or anything else. If there is no trust, the passenger may not follow the rules, which could mean getting into an accident.

Remember, New Passengers Won't Know How to Ride

As mentioned, it's always better to start learning to ride with a passenger with someone with experience. Riding a motorcycle alone and being a passenger are very different, so even if someone rides often, they may not know how to be a good passenger. It just takes experience. After practicing with a more experienced passenger, it is possible to ride with someone new. However, practicing with them on the bike first before going on a longer ride is recommended, so they learn how to be a good passenger.

When practicing with a new passenger, go over the same steps used to learn how to ride with a passenger. Teach them how to mount and dismount, where to keep their feet, hold on, and sit during the ride or around turns. Doing this all ahead of time can teach them what to do and make the passenger more comfortable, so everyone is safer on a longer ride.

Riding with a passenger can be fun, but it should be practiced first. Due to the added weight, riding with a passenger differs from riding solo, so changes in how someone rides will be needed. Use the information here to learn how to ride a bike safely with a passenger before heading out on a solo trip. After some practice, when you and the passenger are more comfortable when riding together, it'll be time to hit the road and enjoy the ride.



Jake Robison


Jake Robison has operated powersports dealerships since 2003.  With an extensive background in the motorcycle industry including sales, service, parts, finance, management and powersports training, he covers all things motorcycles and enjoys sharing valuable information to newcomers on two-wheels

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