One way to avoid riding with wobblers and idiots is to ride by yourself. Sitting in a pub talking to yourself about how good the ride has been so far is not as advisable. There is a solution to this dilemma: Carry a pillion-passenger.
Some riders tend to react rather strangely at the concept of carrying a passenger. It is as though carrying someone means they are no longer allowed to enjoy the experience of riding. If you truly ride like an idiot, with not an ounce of self-preservation, then maybe you should feel this way. Most riders are not as fast or as dangerous as they may like to think.
For me, carrying a passenger serves another purpose. I like to introduce people to motorcycling. I do not do this with an expectation of “converting” first time pillion passengers into becoming motorcyclists themselves. (Although this has been known to happen!) It is more an opportunity to help people understand why I ride. Hopefully, this helps remove the look of fear and abject horror some people get when they discover you ride a motorbike. It seems everyone knows someone, who knows someone else, who had a “bad” motorcycle accident. Is there such a thing as a “good” accident?
If you have never carried a pillion before, where do you start?
Hopefully, you will be a competent and confident rider before you consider carrying a passenger. Remember that a pillion passenger can influence the direction the bike is travelling in. If you can, find an experienced pillion passenger to take first. They may be able to offer tips as to what you should be doing or asking your passengers to do.
Trust is an important part of carrying passengers and if you can help set your passenger’s mind at ease before taking them, then that is going to be a good thing. Three things I recommend for helping achieve this are:
Have the proper riding gear for your pillion. I am of the school of ATGATT. Essentially, dress your passenger to the level that you are wearing. If they see you in full Dainese racing suit and you offer them a barely-legal helmet without gloves or jacket, then they may get a little fearful.
Give them some comforting words. An instruction such as “If you want me to slow down or stop, pat me on the back”. They should feel as though they have an element of control in the riding experience.
Give them some simple instructions on what to do. This can be a gradual thing. First time pillion passengers will be overwhelmed if you rattle off an instruction list that takes five minutes to get through! So, the solution here is to start simple and build upon the steps.
The first time someone goes pillion passenger, limit the instructions to something like:
“Ask me before you get on and off the bike”. This gives you a chance to brace yourself for the weight change the motorcycle will undergo once the pillion passenger climbs onboard. (Make sure both your feet have good grip on the ground, you are holding on with both hands and you have applied the front brakes to hold the motorcycle still.) If the pillion is heavier than I am, I normally spell out to them to not get on, as they would when mounting a horse. In other words, leave the first foot on the ground and swing the other leg over, rather than climb on the foot-peg and then swing their leg over. The “horse” method puts their entire bodyweight onto one side of the bike, which when combined with the weight of the bike can be a good way to topple over.
“Act like a sack of potatoes”. Explain to them that if the bike leans, then they should lean with it. –not more than the bike does and not less. This can later be refined to looking over the “inside shoulder” of the rider in a corner, but at the moment, we are trying to keep things as simple as possible for them.
Work out “slow down” signals and also a signal you give them if you want them to hang on.
Smoothness of riding is the last piece of advice to give. Gentle acceleration and braking and gear changes makes for a more enjoyable riding experience. It also helps the passenger to relax and trust the rider.
With practise and familiarity, a competent rider and pillion passenger will be capable of riding at a decent pace. Then, you won’t have to be mumbling to yourself in the pub at lunchtime.