Ten Questions to Ask a Motorcyclist Before Becoming a Passenger

Jul 27, 2018 View Comments by

Touring Tip

Many of us were first introduced to motorcycling as a passenger. In the world of street riding, there is a broad range of skill levels and safe riding practices. Before putting your life in the hands of a motorcycle rider, it’s wise to first understand his or her competence. Here are 10 questions to ask and, if you’re a rider taking a first-time passenger, you should volunteer the answers even if the questions are not asked by the prospective passenger.

1. How long have you been riding and what rider-training courses have you taken? It’s critical for a rider to have had formal training and to have continued periodic training courses to keep skills sharp. It’s also important that he or she has several years of street riding experience under their belt.

2. How frequently have you taken passengers on your motorcycle, especially those experiencing their first ride? A motorcycle handles differently and takes longer to stop with the added weight of a passenger. Because first-time passengers require a rider to be particularly sensitive to their potential apprehensions with speed, traffic, and cornering, previous experience ferrying passengers is an important attribute.

3. What protective gear will be provided? Never mount a motorcycle without appropriate protective gear: helmet, jacket, long pants, over-the-ankle footwear, and gloves. When the passenger is provided that gear, but the rider doesn’t use it, that’s an indication that he or she doesn’t take safe riding seriously and may not be the right person to entrust with your life.

4. How is riding on a motorcycle different from riding in a car? Motorcycles, like all two-wheeled vehicles, must lean over to go around corners. That’s why their tires are oval-shaped and have tread on the sides. Also, motorcycles do not offer a climate-controlled environment. If the weather is hot or cold, riders and passengers need to dress accordingly, but without sacrificing safety.

5. What are my responsibilities as a passenger? Passengers need to complement the natural rhythms of a motorcycle in motion. Lean into curves, but not excessively. Don’t grab the rider’s shoulders. Do not make sudden jerking movements that may upset the bike’s balance. It’s best to act like a sack of flour.

6. How long will the ride last? Passengers need to agree with the rider on the intended length of the ride, frequency of breaks, etc. A passenger’s first ride shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours.

7. Where and what type of riding will we be doing? Traveling in heavy traffic, inclement weather, or in mountainous terrain, with tight curves and steep elevation changes, is not advisable for a passenger’s first ride. A lazy cruise in a lightly trafficked pastoral setting would be ideal.

8. How can I communicate with you once we are in motion? Having a helmet-to-helmet communication device, allowing the rider and passenger to talk back and forth, is best. In the absence of that, however, there should be a few basic, agreed-upon hand signals for the passenger to tell the rider to slow down, stop, or take time for a break.

9. Will we be riding with others? A first passenger ride should be either solo or with just one or two other riders. That way there will be no temptation to ride at the pace of others in the group or any hesitancy to stop when the passenger needs to, for whatever reason.

10. What if I become uncomfortable and don’t want to continue? Occasionally a first-time passenger may become so uncomfortable they want to stop and not continue, especially if the rider is not attentive to the passenger’s verbal and non-verbal feedback. Arrangements should be made in advance for someone to be on-call to pick up the passenger if necessary. A passenger should never be made to continue riding if they want to stop.

Sometimes a rider may try to impress his or her passenger with aggressive speed and deep leaning in corners. This type of riding behavior may well ensure that the passenger never gets on a motorcycle again, and it might even terminate a friendship. It also goes without saying that taking a first-time passenger on a multi-day motorcycle tour probably won’t end well. Riders should always behave responsibly, especially when carrying a passenger, and never be coercive when a prospective passenger is reluctant to mount up. After all, it’s their life!

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