If you’re relatively new to riding, you might not have done so yet with a passenger. You love the freedom, the acceleration, the sound of your bike and the wind in your face. You want to share that with people who don’t know.
Everyone from your kid to your significant other wants you to take them for a spin around the block, and you’re eager to show off your Harley® and your riding skills. How can you make sure your very first time riding with a passenger results in a good experience, not an embarrassing flop or even worse, an injury?
Be Realistic About Your Riding Skills
Riding with a passenger isn’t something to try as soon as you come home from your motorcycle safety course. It’s like when you first learned to drive a car – a few lessons just scratched the surface. There’s a lot only experience can teach you.
A Harley® has different aerodynamics and requires more attention and balance. How your bike responds is something you’ll learn with time and hours in the saddle.
Know What to Expect
Don’t plan a long trip to begin with, give yourself time to get used to how your bike handles with two people. More weight means your motor has to work harder, so acceleration won’t be as fast. How your passenger shifts their weight affects how you turn.
More weight also means you need greater distance to come to a stop. Be aware if you have to brake suddenly, your bike might not respond like it normally does. It’s better to take it slow and give yourself plenty of time to stop.
Get Your Harley® Ready
You’ll need a pillion or two-up seat. A sissy bar or backrest also makes the ride more comfortable for your passenger.
If you’re just going around the block, you can probably just add or fold down the footpegs. If your passenger isn’t tall enough to reach them, wait until they’re a little older before you take them for a ride. For a longer journey, adjust tire pressure and suspension according to the recommendations in your motorcycle manual.
Talk to Your Passenger
Communicate before you get started. Even if they’ve been a passenger before, they don’t necessarily know what’s important to you.
The most important thing for them to understand is counterbalancing. You’ve learned to lean in to a turn at just the right amount. Their impulse may be to lean out, and that will screw you up. It could also be catastrophic if they lean in too much, especially if they weigh more than you do.
Help them know what to do by explaining they should try to keep their head and shoulders even with yours. That way they don’t have to think which direction they should be leaning, you’ll just move in sync.
Also, let them know what to do when getting on and off the bike now, instead of trying to yell through your full face helmet and over the motor. Tell them you’ll let them know when you’re ready for them to mount, and that they shouldn’t try and get off the bike at stops until you signal it’s okay.
Work out hand signals so both of you can communicate. If, for example your passenger feels like you’re going too fast, he or she might squeeze your shoulder. If they need a break, work out a signal for that too.
Now isn’t the time for helmet debates. If you’re taking your very first passenger for a ride, the risk is higher than it will be down the road when you have more experience. And you’re not just talking about your own health and well-being, this is someone you care about.
Buy or borrow a helmet that fits your passenger. Also, let them know what type of clothing they’ll need to wear. First-time passengers sometimes underestimate the force of the wind, particularly in cold weather. If it’s hot out, don’t let them even think about riding in shorts and a tank top.
Make sure you’re setting a good example by wearing protective clothing and a helmet. If something happens, you’re both at risk. You and your passenger should wear heavy pants or chaps, long sleeves, gloves and a jacket that offers abrasion-resistance.
Steps to Harley Riding With a Passenger
If you park in a garage, the ground might be slick and your exit uneven. Back into the driveway before your passenger gets on.
Hold the brake lever, raise the stand, start your bike and plant your feet firmly on both sides. If your pipes are hot, make sure you warn your passenger. Have them hold onto your shoulders and mount from the left side.
From there, think of riding on wet pavement. Every move should be smooth, steady and gradual.
More Tips for Harley Riding With a Passenger
Make sure your passenger knows to keep their feet on the footpegs when you stop. As you already know, you’re more vulnerable at slow speeds and stoplights than you are cruising at a steady rate.
Encourage your passenger to hold on tight. Some people feel uncomfortable with the idea, but if you talk to them before your ride, it helps minimize that discomfort.
Talk ahead of time about what to do if you need to make a sudden stop. Your passenger’s weight will slam into you, pushing you toward the handlebars. If they can reach the tank, encourage them to use it to push their weight back.
Experienced riders are a great resource when it comes to trying new things with your Harley. Dallas Harley-Davidson events allow you to connect with a range of personality types, age groups and experience levels. If you know the rider you’re talking to has experience riding two-up, ask them for input.
It also helps to make your first ride in a parking lot. You both can experience the difference in handling, and if something goes wrong you’re less likely to damage your passenger and your bike.
Headsets make communication easier. If you stop by Dallas Harley-Davidson in Garland, we can help you pick the right Bluetooth helmet dual headsets, helmets, riding jackets, riding boots and all the other riding essentials you’ll need to make your first time riding with a passenger a success.