Motorcycles are great fun when you ride them alone. After all, they were mostly designed for use by one person. However, every once in a while a motorcycle owner needs to bring someone else along for the ride, or perhaps they simply want to. Whatever the reason is, the fact remains that sometimes there are two people riding on a motorcycle, and if you aren’t careful about it this situation can be extremely dangerous. Statistically motorcycles are already more dangerous than cars, so two people just makes the chances worse. Thankfully, as long as you know what you are doing you can mitigate that risk fairly easily, and this is how.
Helmet Collision and why it Happens
If you’ve ridden with a pillion before, chances are you’ve probably accidentally bumped helmets with them at least once. Obviously they aren’t doing this on purpose, so the cause is more likely sudden and drastic shifts in speed, most likely when you the driver are shifting gears. When you don’t shift gears flawlessly the transition between speeds results in that helmet collision, which can be uncomfortable or distracting while riding. In order to avoid that, you need to learn how to shift gears flawlessly, which usually means shifting gears quickly. Rapid gear shifting will help prevent drastic speed changes, though you should of course remember that your pillion adds weight to the motorcycle and will affect its employment of the clutch.
Acceleration and Deceleration
As the driver, you probably know how extreme acceleration and deceleration works and feels. But your pillion may not be used to it, and the experience is different for them anyway. If you brake too hard or too late, your pillion is going to be pressed into you with uncomfortable force. On the other hand, if you take off from a red light your pillion will likely feel as though they are going to fly off the back of the bike, and if their grip isn’t tight enough, they may actually do just that. For these reasons, it is important to brake and accelerate calmly and in moderation. Brake as little as possible, and when you do need to brake you should do it as early as possibly so you can gently coast to a stop rather than jolt. The same is true for acceleration. Gain speed gradually rather than all at once, and your pillion will experience a lot less discomfort and undue risk. Of course, the best way to employ both of these tactics is to look far ahead on the road so you can tell when acceleration or deceleration will be necessary.
Centre of Mass
Of course, while it is the driver’s responsibility to make things as safe and smooth as possible in some regard, the pillion is not without obligation either. There are many things the pillion can do to make a ride smoother and more pleasant, such as keeping their weight on the bike as centred as possible. The farther back a pillion is on a bike, the more their weight disturbs the movement of the bike, making it harder to control for the driver. The pillion should try to stay as close to the driver as possible so the weight distribution is as even as possible.
Many pillions aren’t sure how exactly they should react when the bike takes a corner simply because they don’t know enough about how the bike works, though it is all physics. When taking a corner, many inexperienced pillions try to lean away from the turn itself, usually because it is a little nerve wracking for those that aren’t used to it. The problem with this is that such movements affect the turn of the bike and can throw off the driver, who is expecting the motorcycle to move a certain way. Pillions should lean into the turn just as the rider does. That said, it is also dangerous to lean too far into the turn. Doing that also affects the bike’s movement and may surprise the driver, which is dangerous. As a pillion, you should try to follow the movements of the driver themselves. Try to lean only as far as they do at any turn so the bike still moves as the driver expects it too.
Slower Speed Control
When the bike is moving at a slower speed, such as during lane splitting, it is much easier for the movements of the riders to affect the bike itself. Needless to say this can be very dangerous, which is why the pillion needs to make sure they do not make any sudden moves during these times. Being still is an important part of making sure the driver can control the bike during these times and that risk is minimised.
When it comes down to it, the main job of the pillion is to ensure that their presence doesn’t make it harder for the driver to control the vehicle, regardless of the speed at which you are moving. This includes stopping at red lights and such when the bike is not moving at all. In this situation, the pillion should keep their feet on the pegs rather than anywhere else. This keeps your weight centred and makes it much easier for the driver to maintain control of the bike.
In the end, a lot more responsibility falls on the pillion than people think when they ride together. That said, there is still responsibility for the rider to tell their pillion what they should or shouldn’t do before they actually ride with them. It comes down to both individuals knowing the ropes and knowing what kinds of things affect the rider’s ability to control the bike. The tips above will help both rider and pillion alike know what is important when it comes to riding together. Just keep them in mind and you can both have a pleasant and safe bike riding experience.
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