Like many motorcyclists, some of my most frightening two-wheeled experiences have been witnessed from the pillion seat. That’s not to say I’m a reluctant passenger, quite the opposite — I actually really enjoy taking a backseat view behind a good rider. But there are three stand-out pillion rides that have struck the fear of god into me.
The first came when TT winner Milky Quayle wore me like a rucksack as he ‘showed me round’ the Mountain Course on a GSX-R1000 one freezing February morning. It was as we passed the dot-matrix ice warning signs on the approach to the Mountain that I resigned myself to my impending death and relaxed a little... Of course we survived, and in hindsight the experience remains one of the most exhilarating I’ve ever had on a bike, but it was proper hairy at the time.
It was a similar sensation when Ron Haslam took me for a few pillion laps of Donington Park’s GP circuit. “Just tap me if it gets too much,” he’d said before wheelying out of the pits. I was loving every second so didn’t feel the need to tap-out, but I think Haslam took offence and upped the ante for the last lap. With my eyes closed, I couldn’t tell where the distant squealing I could hear was coming from, but it was actually emanating from my own wide-open pie-hole…
Which brings me to the third and most terrifying experience, but this time there were no high speeds or racetracks involved, it was just me, MCN tester (also my long-suffering partner) Bruce Dunn, and the Ducati XDiavel. Yes, the Italian super-cruiser is a two-seater, it says so in black and white in the owners’ manual, but you’d never know to look at it.
The pillion perch is a wedge of suede-like material about the size of a round of bread, and there’s zero space between it and the rider’s seat meaning that as a pillion your chest is firmly pressed right against the rider’s back. All nice and cosy pottering along at 15mph, but go any faster or apply any sort of acceleration and you find yourself hanging on for grim death for fear of toppling off the back and into the exposed rear wheel.
The XDiavel comes with a sissy bar for extra security (although our test bike didn’t), but it needs to be fitted by a dealer in advance of your two-up trip. No one, not even the bravest, nuttiest, or smallest pillion alive, will enjoy life on the back seat of an XDiavel, despite what Ducati’s glamorous, black and white promotional images would have you believe.