Motorcycle Safety 101 for The Passenger

Before I ever write a word on most topics I hit the WWW and see what people are saying on the topic if anything.  I found that there is not a lot of discussion on this topic.  The little that there is are from men who carry a passenger, but have never BEEN a passenger, with one exception from all that I read.  He made a comment, He said to a group, “If you have never been a passenger how do you know what is going through a passengers mind?”  Well good point.

I took my first ride more than 20 years ago.  Over the years I have learned some lessons, but for the most part, I was taught right to begin with.  Each rider is going to be different.  He may have rules or he may not.  What he tells you about the ride, especially for a first time or novice rider, says a lot about whether he cares about your safety or not.  If he just hands you a helmet and says get on…. Well I would have some reservations.

So here are some things that you need to know when getting on the back of a bike.

Make sure that the helmet you are wearing fits properly.  Take your favorite baseball cap.  If a helmet is to big, throw on the cap backwards and then the helmet over it.  There is nothing that will be more irritating that a bucket that is too big for your little head.

HD Street Glide Minus the Quick Release Back Rest

Big Rule Number 1

Wait for the rider to be on his bike and be ready for you to get onto the bike. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GET ON THE BIKE UNTIL YOU ARE TOLD IT IS OK! If you try to get on the bike and he is not ready you there could be a loss of balance and the bike could fall over. For me there are no words. By the time I am getting on the bike my iPod is on.  When it looks like he is all ready, gloves on, helmet strapped, etc… I tap him on the shoulder, if he is ready, he will nod.  From the left side of the bike, place your left foot on the peg or foot board and your left hand on his shoulder.  Gracefully please, lift yourself onto the bike.

Sitting on the Bike

Now you’re on the bike engine’s rumbling and off you go!  Just sit there.  Sit straight forward on the seat.  The rider has control of his machine.  Do not lean into curves, the rider and the bike will do the work. Leaning can cause the rider to lose control.  Don’t fidget or make sudden movements.  In time when you learn how your rider handles his bike and drives and he gets the feel of you and your riding habits, it will be like a dance. Smooth and easy.

Splitting Lanes

Here in California we split lanes, otherwise known as lane sharing.  It is widely practiced and legal under most conditions.  Most riders when taking a lady out for the first time will ask her if she minds if he splits lanes. Personally, I am fine with it if the conditions permit.  For me, this is a time when I am fully engaged and paying complete attention to everything and signaling for the rider.  This is a skill.  This is something that is learned over time.  I know by the flow of traffic and the direction he looks when and where he will make his lane change. I often make eye contact with other divers that are close by when I signal, so I know that they see us. The decision to split lanes will be up to you. A rider would be foolish to split lanes while riding someone who was fearful.  A sudden jump in movement by the passenger could be catastrophic.

The Road Ahead

I know almost every rut and pothole on every back road and freeway for a hundred miles in any given direction.  Watching the road ahead is going to make it a better ride for you.  When you see ruts or bad spots in the highway hold on.  Riders do what they can to avoid them, but sometimes they just can’t. There will almost always be a bump from the transition of a highway to a bridge, then the bridge back onto the highway.  Watch for them, some are doozies.  I grasp onto the back rest and gently pull up with my arms securing my bottom to the seat. Also, this would be a time when you would push your heels down locking them to the peg.  If there are foot boards, I usually ride with my heel off the back of the board which secures it.  Some seats have a bar between the rider and passenger that you can hold onto. If you are riding on a custom or special construction bike with no back rest hang on to your rider at all times.  I do not lean into my rider.   Helmets can bump together or when stopping suddenly you can really push him forward, so I give him his space.  Again on a chopper, this is not the case, you are sitting much lower and are very close.


Special Construction With Small Back Rest

A Little Stretch

So you have been on the road now for a few hours and your legs are getting a little cramped. You can move them off the pegs or boards to stretch them out, but make sure your rider knows that you are going to do this. Move them directly in front push out the heel, then point the toes and rotate the ankles.  If you have come to a stop you can move you legs around a bit,  Just let the rider know,  and watch the light and make sure your feet are in place when the light turns green.


On a bike it is imperative that you are in charge of all of your faculties at all times.  A rider can not ride with a drunk girl on the back of his bike, any more than you would want a drunk rider driving you home. If you must drink do it responsibly, just as if say you had to drive.  One drink, that’s it. Pay attention to your rider.  If he is drinking, find another ride home.  It’s just as simple as that.  Having a beer with dinner is one thing, slamming shooters with his buddies is another… Use common sense.  ALL OF IT.  Getting on a bike is a calculated risk every time in the best of conditions on the best days.  Don’t throw in the added risk of alcohol.


There are some things that can only be learned over time.  Riding with the same partner, you will learn each others habits and styles and riding will be second nature.  These are just some of the things that help me along the way.  My riding habits are as natural to me as breathing.

Spend sometime with your rider and talk about it. What are his riding rules? What are you going to do on your bike date?  Group ride or solo?  Ask him how old he was when he got his first bike.  Knowing this will give you a better idea without asking out right how long he has been riding.  If you get asked out by a brand new rider…  first bike midlife crisis bike.  Personally I would pass.  You do not want him using you to learn how to ride with a passenger.

So you said yes… Relax, be prepared and enjoy the ride!



5 responses to “Motorcycle Safety 101 for The Passenger

  1. Hi, I need an advice. My husband is new rider, just finishing learning how to ride in school. For few days we will buy a motorcycle. I have never ride on a bike before. If you have some tips please say.


    • Biljana,

      Thank you for visiting. I know that you both must be so very excited about this new adventure. I know my advice may not come as something that you want to hear, but I am going to tell you anyway.

      I absolutely would not get on the bike for at least 6 months, at the very minimum. Learning how to ride was the easy part, but now he has to learn to ride in the “real world” In the real world where people do not pay attention,talk on the phone, run red lights. In the real world he has to really get to know his machine, how it handles, and stops and takes corners. He is best to do this on his own.

      His next learning curve will be winding and small two lane roads. Again I would give him a year of learning these roads before going on these kind of rides with him. [He should not attempt these roads for at least 6 months]

      In 6 months you can begin taking short rides with him. Take the time each week to do a short run somewhere start out on your local streets, This will give you an opportunity to become comfortable and let him learn to handle the bike with you on it. The first few times, head to a local empty parking lot. Here you can safely practice being on the bike, starts and stops and turns, right and left and u-turns. Take your time do not be in a hurry. He should also be practicing constantly emergency stops and avoidance maneuvers.

      Being in a hurry to get on the back or to ride in conditions or on roads before one is truly prepared could be the difference between many years of happy roads and safe travels or an accident and fear of the road.


  2. Pingback: 3 Things to Never Say or Do to a Biker. | stories lies & biker dives

  3. I like the comparison to dancing. Smooth dancing does not just happen. The partners have to learn how each other singles steps and moves. Then lots or practice. You can not have two leaders either. Trust is imperative. Don’t dance drunk.



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