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On Being a Pillion
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Motorbike Pillion Passenger - Being a Good Pillion Rider

Being a pillion on a motorcycle ride is a great experience and an exciting way to enjoy the open road. It gives you the chance to sit back and enjoy the views, without having to worry about traffic, stopping for petrol or getting lost!

However, being a pillion is not without its responsibilities, and those on the back of a bike must also remain alert and in-tune with the road and machine. Unfortunately, they also suffer from the same numb bums!

We have brought together the best advices and top tips for being a good pillion while enjoying some of the country’s best motorcycle routes. Staying safe and having fun as a pillion is not quite as easy as it may look, but with a bit of careful thought and planning, you will set yourself up for an enjoyable, comfortable and exciting motorcycle ride.

Getting On and Off Safely

It sounds obvious, but unless you can get on the bike properly you will be going nowhere fast!

Let the rider get on first and make sure he is in position before you approach the back of the bike. Have him give you the nod when he’s comfortable and has both feet on the floor so you don’t take him by surprise.

If you can swing your leg straight over without having to step up on to the foot peg first that will help maintain balance and ensure you don’t send the bike, rider and yourself toppling over. If you need to step up on to the peg, make sure the rider knows you will be doing this so he is prepared for the extra weight on one side.

Similar rules apply for getting off; wait until the bike is completely stopped and the rider signals that it is time to dismount. This is much easier but does still require some caution - do not jump off quickly but slide yourself down slowly to get your first foot firmly on the floor, then swing your other leg over.

It’s worth practicing getting on and off before you hit the road, as this will avoid any embarrassing mounting or alighting incidents when you make a rest stop. There is nothing worse than pulling up to a café full of bikers and then ending up on your bum as you try to get off the back! It’s a bit like female celebs getting out of a limo with their legs together - one limb in a slightly wrong position and it’s point and laugh time!

Getting Comfortable

Once on the bike, take a moment to get comfortable. Do not sit too close to the rider, but avoid hanging off the back as well! Neither position will help weight distribution and you will end up very sore after an uncomfortable ride.

Sit firmly on the seat and position yourself so you can hold on round the rider’s waist or to the grab rails without stretching.

You will need to change position as you go along, particularly on long country rides or bumpy city routes, but never move suddenly or adjust yourself while braking or accelerating as this can throw the rider off balance.

Basically, don’t do anything clever and just sit there like a bag of spuds ready to follow the flow! Act like you’re on a fairground ride - stay seated and keep hands inside the vehicle at all times!


First Pillion Ride

If you are heading out on your first pillion motorcycle ride be sure the rider is aware so he can take it easy and give you plenty of breaks.

Work out a simple signal, such as a tap on the shoulder, if you need to stop or have a problem (Note from the TwistyRide team: opening up the rider's visor is not a good signaling system).

Your first pillion experience should be quite short so you can get used to how the bike moves and feels underneath you and work out how best to hold on and adjust your position when necessary.

And don’t forget to take into account things such as your motorcycle clothing and any accessories you wear, such as a backpack or money belt, and how they will affect your sitting position.

Go with the Flow

Sheep on bikeWhile moving, it is vital to go with the lean of the bike and rider. Don’t be tempted to make a physical effort to lean over; the bike will do that for you, just go with the flow and remain fluid, not stiff.

When stopping or accelerating, try to remain more upright and still and keep your feet on the pegs at all times.

Be aware of the road ahead and prepare for upcoming situations. You should be able read the rider’s body language and get used to what position he gets in for braking, accelerating and cornering, and see enough without moving around.

Always keep one hand around the rider, whether braking or accelerating. You may want to put your palm flat against the tank while slowing down so you don’t go crashing into the rider, or brace yourself using the grab rail. Be ready for moving away so you have a good grip and don’t end up on the tarmac if the rider suddenly opens the revs!

Staying Safe

Exhausts get hot! Don’t put anything on or near them while riding or standing near the bike. Be especially careful with your feet and legs, using the foot pegs at all times, and don’t be tempted to lean anything against the pipes. If you smell roasted pig that’s a good sign to check that nothing is resting on the exhaust!

Headbanging is not an acceptable occurrence while on a bike, so take care not to clash helmets with the rider. Not only does it hurt and affect concentration, the last thing you want is to damage that beloved several hundred-pound helmet with custom paint job. The rider will be impressed if you can hold yourself so you do not go crashing into him - it’s just a case of keeping an arm round him and bracing yourself for braking and accelerating.

Don’t be afraid to ask for breaks. The rider may be used to going for hours, but being at the back is tiring, especially for new pillions. He won’t think you are weak and will probably be glad of the chance to pull over and show you off!

Packing and Clothing

Always dress for riding a bike, whatever the weather. Shorts and flip flops are not suitable riding gear! Invest in textile trousers and jacket if you can’t stand wearing leather in summer, and always consider the protection your motorbike clothing offers.

Pack carefully for your journey. Be sensible about what you will need and don’t go overboard. It’s a good idea to always have a bottle of water and snack with you, and spare socks and thermal gloves in the colder months.

Don’t keep your purse or bag between yourself and the rider. This will affect weight distribution by forcing you further back and will also make the ride more uncomfortable for you both. Ideally, it should be in a secure pocket or use a money belt or small backpack.

A carrier bag or waterproofs over the seat is great for keeping it dry while you have a break, but don’t be tempted to sit on them while riding as you could find yourself sliding off the back of the bike under acceleration! Needless to say, this is not good!

by Gemma Rathbone