Tips for Riding with a Pillion

Riding with a pillion? Whether it’s once in a blue moon or every day, the key principles of riding with a passenger are the same. Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s head of riding and driving standards, shares eight ways to ensure the safety of your pillion. If you have friends and family who are unaware of advanced driving techniques, please share these tips with them to help them stay safe on the road.

  • Is your passenger holding on tight? If they’re a newbie pillion or a nervous passenger, ask them to wrap their arms around you. As well as making them feel secure, it gives you peace of mind that they are holding on correctly.
  • When taking a corner, it is common for your passenger to lean in the opposite direction of the corner. Before you set off, remind your pillion to be relaxed and comfortable and to lean with the bike. If they try to stay upright when taking a corner it will make it difficult for you to turn.
  • An obvious one but easily done if you’re more of a solo rider - don’t forget that you have a passenger on board. And remember to ride smoothly to prevent any sudden movements from your passenger, especially when accelerating and braking.
  • Encourage your pillion to keep their feet still and warn them of the dangers around them. Their legs and feet will be close to the chain drive and hot exhaust pipe, at the very least it could damage their shoes, and at worst their feet. It may even leave a mark on your exhaust which is a nightmare to clean off. If your passenger does not have any motorcycle footwear, make sure they are wearing boots to protect their ankles.
  • It’s crucial that your pillion is wearing just as much protective wear as you. Get your pillion dressed in a protective jacket, trousers and gloves. You wouldn’t get on your bike wearing just a jumper and shorts, so why should they?
  • A passenger’s crash helmet should be as good as yours. Instead of passing on your old helmet which could cause more damage than good, make sure your pillion has their own helmet which is fitted correctly and is comfortable.
  • Have you thought about the impact a pillion has on your suspension? Most bikes have settings to enable you to change the stiffness of the suspension for when you have extra weight on your bike. If your motorcycle does not have electronic suspension settings, seek out advice from an expert so they can adjust this manually.
  • How confident is your passenger? If you have a nervous pillion carrying a heavy backpack on the back of your bike, this could cause a few issues when accelerating and braking as they may be a bit wobbly. To make them feel more comfortable on the bike (which will result in an easier ride for you), secure any luggage to your motorcycle. A correctly fitted top box will provide a back rest for them and a comfort blanket for you.

Richard says: “As the weather gets better, we are itching to get out on our bikes and often our partners want to find out what all the fuss is about. A pleasant ride in the country can be spoiled if your better half is terrified and balanced inappropriately on the back. With a bit of briefing and proper preparation, a ride as a pillion can be great fun. It will also challenge your riding skills to be smooth. If your other half likes it, he or she may just realise how important the new bike purchase is.”

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