Riding with a Pillion: Tips on Having a Passenger

  • Riding with a pillion is great way to share the wonderful world of motorcycling.

  • Done right, your passenger will love motorcycles and riding.

  • It’s best to brief your passenger if he/she is a newbie.

Riding with a pillion is inescapable, especially if you commute by motorcycle. Whether it’s your other half or office buddy, it helps to understand a few tips about carrying a pillion.

Done right, they will enjoy the experience. Done wrong, they’d most likely to think of motorcycles as torture racks, or you’ll see the prospect of your romantic goal disappear. Or worse, touch wood, end up in a heap on the ground.

It helps to ask your passenger if he/she had ever ridden on bike. You could then brief him/her on what needs to be done or need not do. Convince them that you’ll take it easy and keep your word.

Right, let’s ride.

Gear up

We’re sure you’re always geared up when riding. However, do ask your would be pillion in advance if they have any proper riding gear and bring your spare jacket, helmet and gloves if they don’t. Their safety is your responsibility as soon as he/she climbs on.

Getting on

If your pillion is a newbie, take a few minutes to demonstrate how to get on. No, you don’t have to completely climb on, but a few physical pointers will be enough.

Let he/she know to climb on from the left side (away from the traffic), then stand straight up before swinging the right leg over the seat. He/she should then settle down onto the seat as gently as possible, otherwise the abrupt slam-down may cause you to lose balance.

Picture from amcn.com.au

This is especially important if you ride a tall adventure- or sport-touring bike, as they could be top heavy from a full tank of liquid gold, in addition to panniers and top case laden down with durian. Do remember to brief your pillion about the panniers. You should also remember to compensate for some rocking around at the rear while the pillion finds a sure footing.

Do remember to let your passenger know to alight the bike only when you say so.

Picture from pinterest.com

Hold on

Request that your pillion hold on at all times, rather than allowing them to place their hands on their thighs. Your passenger may find it more comfortable to hold on to the grab bar, if he/she doesn’t want physical contact. That’s fine.

Picture by motorcyclenews.com

However, if your passenger doesn’t mind it, request that he/she hangs on to your waist or tug on your pants’ belt loops. The best way to ride is for the pillion to place his/her palms on the fuel tank. That way, both your masses become one for more stability instead of being displaced. He/she will feel more secure too, without the sensation of being thrown off the bike.

Picture by totalmotorcycle.com

We found a great solution while browsing through Hodaka Motoworld. This Komine Tandem Riding Belt AK-322 attaches to the rider’s waist, while the pillion holds onto the handles. For just RM 180 before 6% GST, it’s a worthy investment.

Let them know to tap you on the shoulder should they need help or to pull over. If he/she holds on to your neck, it means that you’re riding too fast.

Keep both feet up

Do let your pillion know that he/she should keep both feet up unless it’s time to get off. He/she may mistakenly think it’s their job to help keep the bike up at traffic lights and cause a loss of balance.

By the way, you know that you can’t carry a passenger if your bike doesn’t have passenger footpegs right…?

Corners! Charge!

Wait! No, hang on. It may be exciting for the rider, but corners are usually scary stuff for the passenger, experienced or otherwise. Suck it up and take it easy, you still have the opportunity to ride from BHP Gombak to Karak in less than 12 parsecs next time.

Brief your passenger from early on to stay relaxed, especially in the waist and torso, and lean with the bike. He/she doesn’t have to assist by leaning in more, and definitely not by leaning the other way.

However, that also depends on your riding to a greater degree. Take it easy with your corner entry and mid-corner speeds to allow him/her to stay relaxed.

Don’t fidget

Your passenger should be relaxed but not as so relaxed to start squiggling around at the back to take selfies while filtering through the weekend traffic jam at Bentong. Or when riding offroad. Or applying makeup.

Picture from pinterest.com

Adjust your bike

Increase the rear tyre pressure and shock preload to compensate for the extra weight. Too low a tyre pressure will cause the rear to wobble. Too little preload will cause the rear to squat, taking weight off the front.

Also, you should adjust the headlamp should it shoot into space.

Change of performance

Keep in mind that the pillion’s extra weight will also cause a difference in performance, when attempting an overtake and the extra distance required to brake. Additionally, turning and avoiding hazards would also be more sluggish.

Be sensible and smooth

There’s no point in trying to show off your skills to your pillion. Unless of course, you’ve just met an adrenaline junkie.


Don’t blast off or chop the throttle abruptly. Fight the temptation to charge through a corner after being inspired by Marquez. Take it easy and the ride will be a breeze.

Let them feel that riding is actually exhilarating and that you’re a cool guy, if you’re trying to woo the opposite sex.

Picture by 1reason.com
Previous articleMotorcycle Battery: How it Works (Part 1)
Next articleUpgrading from kapcai to sports bike / naked bike
Wahid's lust for motorcycles was spurred on by his late-Dad's love for his Lambretta on which he courted, married his mother, and took baby Wahid riding on it. He has since worked in the motorcycle and automotive industry for many years, before taking up riding courses and testing many, many motorcycles since becoming a motojournalist. Wahid likes to see things differently. What can you say about a guy who sees a road safety message in AC/DC's "Highway to Hell."


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here