What You Need to Know as a Motorcycle Passenger

Jake Robison - August 09, 2022

Many assume that motorcycle passengers have it easier than those riding in cars, but that's not the case. For your safety and that of the rider, good etiquette is essential. As you're getting ready to hit the road, check out these tips on what to do, what to wear, and how to make the riding experience an enjoyable one.

Stay Close

Riding as a passenger involves a certain level of closeness. While you don't have to be joined at the hip, you'll want to sit close enough to the rider that it's easy to feel and imitate their body language. In tight turns, for instance, passengers should lean with the rider—so staying close will keep you coordinated.

Every bike is different, and not all types of motorcycles have the same accessories. If you're not on a bike with passenger hand grips, hold onto the rider's belt loops or wrap your arms around them. By remaining close, you and the rider will stay safe on two wheels.

Wear a Helmet

Of all the parts riders and passengers should protect, the head is the most important. Motorcycle accidents can cause severe head injuries, especially when a rider or passenger collides with something or is thrown from the bike. Be a good passenger and protect your head—wear a DOT-certified helmet on every ride.

As you're looking for a helmet, proper fit is essential. A helmet that's too small will cause pain, while one that's too big will be lost in a crash. To ensure a good fit, do a quick test. Put it on, fasten the chin strap tightly, and grab the back of the helmet, pulling it up and forward. If it comes off, find a better-fitting helmet.

Keep Your Hair Under Control

Whether you're a male or female with long hair, it's safest and best to wear it tied back when you're on the bike. While no one likes 'helmet hair', wearing it up can prevent it from blowing into your face and obstructing your view of the road.

Protect Your Eyes

While a full-face helmet with a flip-down visor is best, some passengers prefer the breathability of an open-face helmet. If that describes you, add goggles to your shopping list. A pair of riding goggles will protect your eyes from bugs, wind, rain, and flying debris.

Wear Protective Gear

Motorcycle riders and passengers are exposed to the elements, but proper riding gear provides an additional layer of protection. Leather jackets, denim or leather pants, thick gloves, and sturdy boots will all work to protect your body in the event of a slide. If you're planning to ride at night or in inclement weather, a reflector jacket will make you (and the bike) easier for drivers to see.

Sit Still

Car and truck passengers' movements don't do much to affect a vehicle's handling, but it's much different on a bike. The average motorcycle weighs between 300 and 700 pounds, which means that any sudden movement on a passenger's part can be disastrous.

As you're riding, don't wiggle or shift in your seat, and remember that such movements always come as a surprise to the rider. Jerking or twisting movements may cause the rider to lose their balance and control of the bike, leading to serious injuries. To reduce the need for on-the-bike movement, find a comfortable position when you first climb on.

Be Prepared for Stops and Turns

Unlike those who ride in cars and trucks, motorcycle passengers must be mindful of their bodily movements during turns and stops. It's tempting to lean into the rider's back during a sudden stop, but it's dangerous and may cause them to lose their balance.

Instead of leaning in, lean back a bit. On bikes without back rests, use the passenger foot pegs to stabilize your body without knocking the rider off balance. Maintain a neutral position in turns, which will make it easier to keep control of the bike.

Use the Foot Pegs

Before getting onto the bike, check to see if the passenger foot pegs are down. On most bikes, they fold up, and it's easy for a busy rider to forget to put them down. If you're not sure where they are, ask the rider to show you.

Mount and Dismount Properly

It's customary to mount and dismount a bike on the left side, after waiting for the rider's indication that it's okay to do so. Climbing on or off unexpectedly can throw the bike off balance, which will create all sorts of problems for rider and passenger.

Watch Out for the Pipes

As you're getting off the bike, be mindful of the exhaust pipes and don't let any body parts touch them. Exhaust pipes are extremely hot, and they can give severe burns even when you're wearing the right protective gear.

Be Proactive

Because passenger behaviors affect a rider's ability to control a motorcycle, they'll need to ensure that they're not making it harder for the rider to keep their balance and control. Another way to be a proactive passenger is to find a way to communicate with the rider while on the road.

While it can be hard to talk with all that road noise, many riders and passengers use hand signals to communicate basic information, such as 'slow down', 'go faster', and 'I need to stop'. Alternatively, in-helmet Bluetooth headsets can be used.

Another way passengers can help is to look out for danger. Riders process a great deal of information, all at the same time, and it's always helpful to have another set of eyes on the situation. Before getting on the bike, ask the rider how you can help—so you're sure to do the right thing at the right time.

Enjoy the Ride

Although these tips are essential for a safe ride, we've saved one of the most important points for last. Riding a motorcycle, even as a passenger, provides a feeling of freedom that's unlike any other. Passengers get to share those experiences with riders, and it's important to have fun while doing so. By following these passenger safety and etiquette tips, you'll have a safe and fun 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

Back To News