Not having your Class M driver’s license endorsement or not having a motorcycle does not necessarily prevent you from being able to enjoy the open road on a bike. You can enjoy all the aspects of riding by being a passenger. For those who have never been on a motorcycle before it may seem a bit scary at first. You may be unsure of how exactly to act or what is expected of you. Even for those who have on the back of a motorcycle on several occasions, you may not be aware of all the ways you can make the ride more pleasant – and safer – for you and the driver. When you are a passenger on the back of a bike, make sure you follow these guidelines.
Proper Motorcycle Attire
Safety and comfort are the keys when determining what to wear for a ride. You want to be sure you are well protected in case of an accident. But, an often overlooked aspect of proper attire for a motorcycle passenger is the possibility of distracting the driver. In addition, there may even be some legal requirements depending on the area in which you live. Make sure you are aware of any helmet requirements or other laws that may affect your position as co-pilot for a motorcycle ride. There are certainly some basics you may want to consider:
- A properly fitting motorcycle helmet – Even for areas where helmets are not required, it is a good idea to wear one for your safety and protection.
- Face shield or goggles – Wind, sun and the elements can wreak havoc to your skin while riding a motorcycle. You can minimize the effects of this by wearing a helmet face shield or goggles to shield your eyes. Don’t forget the sunblock when you are riding also!
- Do-rag – For some this is an optional accessory, for others it is a necessity. Anyone who has longer hair and most women will want a do rag as well the possible addition of hair accessories. Even on short rides you will have your hair whipped around by the wind making it an uncomfortable, and often unsightly, mess of tangles. Securing your hair will keep you focused on the road and not your hair and it will prevent discomfort.
- Comfortable shirt appropriate to the weather – Consider the weather you may experience while on the ride and dress for comfort. In warm weather make sure you are dressed to stay cool. For colder weather dress in layers for maximum warmth.
- Motorcycle riding jacket – There are riding jackets appropriate for all types of weather. A well ventilated jacket will keep you cool in summer and a lined jacket will keep you warm and dry in winter. Plus, you will have sufficient padding in case of accident which is the primary reason for opting to wear a riding jacket.
- Gloves – Gloves are a necessary accessory during the winter to stay warm but not always necessary as a passenger during the summer. However, if riding co-pilot on a sport bike you may want to have some available to protect your hands from debris, like gravel, coming up from the road.
- Long pants, especially those with protective padding – Anyone who has ever dropped a bike while wearing shorts will tell you how much wearing long pants is worth it. Wear well fitting pants that allow you some flexibility. For those who plan to ride on the back of a motorcycle often, you may even want to invest in some leather pants, riding pants or chaps.
- Boots or riding shoes – Having proper traction and foot protection while on a bike is both safer and more comfortable.
Before You Get on the Bike
Now that you are all dressed up and ready to go, it’s time to prepare to get on the bike. But, don’t just hop on. First, your driver may have some instructions and preferences for you. Listen and do it! The person who is manning the bike has these preferences based on experience and what works best for them. To be as safe as possible, don’t buck their system. If you have never been on a bike before or if you have very little experience riding co-pilot, make sure your driver is aware of this. This is not the time for false bravado or overstating your experience. Honesty will help keep you safe. Now it’s time to mount the bike.
Mounting the Bike
The driver should mount the bike first. Do not get on the motorcycle until the driver gives you the go ahead. The operator will secure the bike and be ready for you to get on. A nod, “go ahead” or “ready” from the operator is sufficient notice that it is all clear for you to get on. Before getting on, make note of the position of the exhaust(s). You don’t want to accidentally touch that with your leg. Mount from the left of the bike using the foot pedals and swing your leg over the back and on to the other foot pedal. Do this in a smooth motion and minimize any sway in the bike. Once you are on, get situated, making any necessary adjustments then give the operator the go ahead that you are secure and ready to go. “I’m ready”, or “OK, I’m on”, or even a simple pat to the shoulder will indicate all is well.
Keep your feet firmly planted on the foot pegs and don’t move them unless you are given the okay to do so to dismount. Now, relax and enjoy the ride. This is easier said than done sometimes, especially for those who may be a little apprehensive about their ride. But, there are a few tips to help keep you and the operator safe:
- Hold on – you may have handles or a seat to hold on to or you may simply want to steady yourself by gripping the rider. Holding on properly will also help keep you positioned properly.
- Don’t cling – Holding on for dear life by wrapping your arms around the driver is unsafe and uncomfortable because it is distracting. It can be painful, it can restrict movement or it can cause your helmets to collide. It can also make the operator try to compensate by shifting to an unnatural position making it more difficult to operate the vehicle.
- Trust the driver – Your first corner may be an exhilarating yet scary experience. Self preservation may make you want to lean the opposite direction, grip too tightly or shift. Or, you may think you should lean into the turn. The operator of the motorcycle must compensate for these unexpected movements when you do so, making it unsafe – the last thing they want mid-turn. Instead, follow the line of the person who is driving and look through turns just as they should be. When you follow the driver’s cues, compensation and adjustment is not needed and you will soon be taking corners like a pro with little anxiety.
- Be still – lots of movement while on the bike can be distracting and dangerous. If you are continually moving about at best the operator may not be completely focused on the road. At worst the driver may have to continually compensate for your movements making the ride much less enjoyable. Keep in mind that it is possible to get hit by debris or even a bug while riding. If this happens and you need to stop, calmly tell the operator so they may safely stop the bike. This is the time to practice your tough face until you are safely stopped and off the bike.
- Help out – When you are on the back of the bike you can also help. Don’t just be the unobservant passenger. Instead be a true co-pilot. Look for dangers, and alert the operator (calmly) if you see something. Avoid yelling or making loud sounds that may startle and distract your driver.
Being a passenger on a motorcycle can be a lot of fun. You will get to experience the joys of riding even if you aren’t the one operating the bike. Making sure you are a good passenger or co-pilot when riding will make the trip much more pleasant for both you and the driver. While enjoyment and comfort is certainly a good reason to be a good passenger, the primary reason is to remain safe. Not adding to the distractions the driver already has to deal with by just operating the motorcycle will help minimize any possibility of an accident.