Basic Skills: How to take a pillion for the first time

Published: 13 November 2009

If you are a new rider about to take a pillion for the first time, the chances are that your passenger is a novice too, so take some time to brief them on the dos and don'ts of happy two-up riding before you fire the bike up. That way they will be confident and more relaxed and you shouldn¹t notice they are there after a few miles.

You also need to set up your bike¹s suspension to cope with the extra weight on the rear, adding some preload to the rear shock and if it has damping adjustment, easing off the rebound and upping the compression by 25%, otherwise the steering could feel unsettlingly light.

When it comes to briefing your passenger, it starts with the very basics of how to get onto the saddle. If they decide to use a footpeg to climb aboard instead of swinging their leg over, that sudden weight on your left side could be enough to tip the pair of you off before you even start!

To keep them relaxed don¹t tell them to lean with the bike or they could think they¹ve got to move around behind you hanging their knee out, and that will really unsettle the machine. Instead get them to sit upright on the saddle and keep their feet on the pegs, even when you come to a stop at traffic lights and junctions, as any unexpected movement, especially at low speeds can be unnerving for both of you.

Ride slowly at first and be smooth on the clutch and brakes all the time.
Your passenger hasn¹t got a set of bars to hang onto, and they often don¹t have a decent view ahead either, so they can't anticipate your actions and they are more prone to slide around on the saddle.

The last thing you want is a head butt in the back of the helmet because you¹ve slammed the brakes on unnecessarily.

Talking of brakes, a pillion's weight over the rear wheel will mean the rear brake is more effective as there's less weight transfer forwards and you want to keep the bike more level to avoid those head butts, so use more rear brake, maybe 60/40, or even 50/50 front to rear instead of the more usual 75/25 front to rear for solo riding.

Build up the pace slowly and you'll have a confident pillion that you'll hardly know is there, if they are frightened or nervous that will transmit itself through the bike and could make it misbehave. Be smooth and you'll inspire confidence in your passenger that will feed back to you with some great rides together.

Further reading:
Basic skills

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