Heading out in twos.
March 18, 2008 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Tips for motorcycle passengers?

What do you tell first-time motorcycle passengers? With the arrival of riding season, I want to take friends out riding and I'm looking for good tips to help passengers feel more comfortable and safe when we go two-up. Ideally, such tips should be easy for non-cyclists to understand, ie: "Look over my outside shoulder when we bank in a turn, not the inside one" instead of "Don't lean."
posted by 1f2frfbf to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total)
There's not much to tell, in my opinion. When I told someone not to lean, she would try to stay vertical while I leaned into corners, basically fighting me. It was better when I simply told them nothing, and they naturally went with the motions of the bike.

For their own safety, let them know that the exhaust pipes will get really hot and to watch where they place their feet and legs. After that, hold on and enjoy the ride.

Googling "motorcycle passenger" turns up some practical tips.
posted by knave at 9:40 AM on March 18, 2008

from knave's link:
looking naturally over the rider's inside shoulder will automatically put your weight right where it belongs in a turn

To me this is in direct contradiction to 1f2frfbf's suggestion -- but I don't know much about motorcycles, perhaps it isn't. So if I happen to be a passenger on a motorcycle, which shoulder should I look over?
posted by yohko at 9:51 AM on March 18, 2008

Yes, I'm just commenting to say that the passenger should look over the inside shoulder.

Also, hold onto the grab rail, not the rider. That way, the pilot doesn't have to load up the bars with the passenger's weight when stopping.

Both pilot and passenger should wear

posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:55 AM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: Here's the thing. The real issue is you want the driver to be in control of the bike. On a motorcycle, either rider has the ability to initiate a turn simply by leaning, quite different from a car! The goal with the "don't lean" advice is to tell the passenger, "let me steer the bike, don't try to steer it for me." An overzealous passenger might otherwise be inclined to lean into turns when the driver isn't expecting it. In this case, the advice "look over my outside shoulder" might be intended to tell the passenger not to try to steer the bike.

On the other hand, you might have a passenger who freaks out at the idea of the bike leaning over, and fights it by trying to stay upright. In this case, "look over my inside shoulder" is a way of saying not to fight it when the bike starts leaning.

I think extremely specific advice like that is misleading, and it doesn't have to be so complicated. The vast majority of people will simply do the right thing without being told anything. And if someone is fearful, I'd hesitate to bring them onto my bike.
posted by knave at 9:59 AM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've only been on a bike once, as a passenger. I was totally freaked out by how much the bike leaned over, and basically tried to stay upright as much as possible.

I think that being told something along the lines of "lean the same way I do" would have been helpful. Not knowing that the bike was actually doing the right thing kinda worried me. Had I know that it was the right (safer) thing to do, I'd have leaned over.
posted by Solomon at 10:13 AM on March 18, 2008

What kind of bike? My dad has a Honda Goldwing which is a bigger bike and he told me not to lean at all and don't try and stand up when going over bumps so you don't feel the shock, those were the two big things.
posted by lilkeith07 at 10:24 AM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: I was once told "if you feel the urge to lean, lean forward" which I found useful because I totally had the urge to lean. Generally, the passenger just wants to be told "You'll be safe. I'm in control of the bike. You just need to stay relaxed and let me do the work."
posted by judith at 10:30 AM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: Be like a sack of potatoes and grab hold of those love handles. For the life of me I'll never understand why folks on the back think they have more control over their balance by grabbing the hand rail behind them and kinda leaning backwards. They actually have less control because they've moved away from the centre of gravity and more likely to flop about. Which no one wants, natch.

Most of all, relax.
posted by squeak at 10:35 AM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: Also, hold onto the grab rail, not the rider.

I much prefer it when a passenger holds my waist, rather than the grab rail. But that's probably a matter of personal preference more than anything. If they are holding my waist (one hand on each hip, not locked around the middle giving me the Heimlich maneuver), I can feel if they are comfortable or nervous, and they are pretty much guaranteed to move with me instead of doing their own thing back there.

As to advice, I always tell passengers to hold on, lean with me (looking over the inside shoulder helps but is not mandatory), keep their feet on the pegs even when stopped, and to please not bang their helmet into the back of mine. I always warn people about the hot exhaust pipes, but mostly people have to get singed to remember that, for some reason.

I've found that some people make ideal passengers, naturally fitting into the role, and others are just terrible, wiggling around in turns, banging my helmet, and worse. Carrying a passenger is a real test of how smooth you can be as a rider, too -- those missed shifts and yanks on the brakes are no big deal on your own, but are really uncomfortable and unsettling for a passenger.

As an aside, I feel strongly that the passenger should be wearing gear of the same or better quality than the rider. Too often you see the reverse -- a rider in full leathers, with a passenger wearing flip-flops and shorts. Even if you are casual about your own safety gear, don't take passengers without giving them gloves, full-face helmet, etc -- they may not understand the risks in the same way that you do. Also, do the minimum to make your bike ok for passengers -- adjust shock preload, tire pressure, etc, to keep things safe and under control. Check to make sure your passenger isn't wearing clothing (long skirt, dangling belt or laces, etc) that will get caught in the rear wheel.
posted by Forktine at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2008

Response by poster: Woah, that will teach me to ask a question and then go to lunch. To prevent a further derail, knave has the technically right advice above, my advice above (look over outside shoulder) is based off of the fact that some riders will try to lean in advance (very unsettling) or try to fight the lean (even worse) so I found by telling them to look over my outside shoulder, I could be sure they'd lean with me and not try to lean in advance of me. Your riders may be more advanced than mine, but I found this advice quickly grasped and carried out by inexperienced riders, so I stuck with it, even though it may not make sense to more aggressive riders.

Thanks for all the other advice, though.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:11 AM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: My standard new passenger speech after 29 years of riding: Keep your feet on the pegs. Stay centered over the seat. Pick a sholder to look over and stick with it while we're moving. Hold on to me. My left hand is the clutch, so if you see me grab with it expect some jolt from the shift. My right hand is the throttle and brake. If I twist the throttle back twards you we're going to go faster. If I twist it foreward we're going to slow down. If I grab the right side lever we're going to slow down quickly. Relax, in about 15 minutes it will all be second nature.
posted by cmdnc0 at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: I have had the most luck telling passengers to "be a package". If I tell them not to lean, then they usually they lean the opposite way. Then I test them by rocking the bike back and forth while standing still.
posted by flickroad at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: For sportbikes: hang on tight with one arm, pressing you up against their back, the other hand resting on the tank, such that you can keep yourself from moving forward. The body arm keeps you from falling off the back, and the gastank arm keeps you from giving the rider _too_ much weight to hold back while he's honkin' on the binders (also helps for male package crushing against the tank). From there, just become an extension of his back, no slack between the two of you at all, keep pressed together. Do all this, (almost no one does) and they'll be more than happy to put you on the back any time.
posted by imaswinger at 12:45 PM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: You might want to have some pre-arranged signal, like a tap on the shoulder, if they want you to slow down...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:25 PM on March 18, 2008

my stock speech, which takes into account the fact that I am smaller than 99% of my passengers and that it is the first time on motorized two wheeled anything for many of them:
1. lean when I lean, and lean with me not against me
2. don't put your feet down.
3. don't grab my arms if we crash

the unavoidable danger of the situation encourages folks to listen to the first two rules more.
posted by modernpoverty at 5:30 PM on March 18, 2008

When I was new to being a passenger, I found the "don't lean" lesson much easier when it was explained as "Simply try to keep your helmet in line with mine".
posted by pompomtom at 5:38 PM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: Easiest thing is to tell them "be dead weight", hold onto me or the grabrail and I'll do the rest.

other than that, it's really up to you to provide all the skill and courtesy of having a passenger.
That includes being responsible for their safety, make sure they wear ALL the proper gear.

A few rules I give are:

I will tell you when it's ok to get on and get off the bike, wait till I say it's safe. (some passengers will start to try to get off while you are putting the stand down and it could take you over)

Pat my shoulder or outside leg if you need to communicate (lol unless you have chatterboxes with voice activation or PTT) - that lets me decide when it's safe to do so.

I'll pat you if I can if we are coming up on a bump (railroad tracks, etc) so you know it's coming.

but above all, a passenger's job is to sit there and enjoy the ride and most of all - make sure they wave at all the other riders we encounter! And kids in vehicles!
posted by clanger at 7:18 PM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: Folks... leaning doesn't make a motorcycle turn...no matter what you believe....


given that, most of the advice above is good... tell them to relax, not to try and "correct" when they feel the bike lean in a corner...

and, take it easy for a while, until they get used to it...
posted by HuronBob at 8:09 PM on March 18, 2008

Response by poster: If anyone finds this on a Google search, here's one more link I got a lot out of:

posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:40 PM on September 2, 2008

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