Carrying a passenger or load on a motorcycle
As a motorcyclist, there may come a time when your journeys involve more than just you and your machine. As a learner rider, you are not allowed to carry a passenger but you can carry a load. But to really experience the thrill of riding, a tour abroad is the icing on the cake.
So, whether you’re going touring with your friends or taking someone out for a ride, accommodating an additional passenger or load requires a deeper understanding of your motorcycle’s dynamics and a few necessary adjustments.
This article is designed to equip you with carrying a passenger or load on a motorcycle. With knowledge and skills you can make your trip safer, more comfortable and enjoyable – no matter who or what you’re carrying. But remember there are some fundamental differences that you must be aware of and know.
The addition of a passenger or load significantly affects your motorcycle’s handling. You must make some crucial adjustments to accommodate this extra weight.
This might involve altering tyre pressures to meet the manufacturer’s recommendations. Some motorcycles require extra air in the tyre for the extra load, whereas some do not need to be altered at all. It is better to research your own motorcycle specifications before you depart.
Adjusting the suspension settings for better comfort and control is a good adjustment to make. However, if you don’t know what you are doing, you may make the bike’s handling worse. We believe you should seek professional advice from a qualified mechanic instead of tinkering yourself.
Your mirror may need adjusting if the passenger restricts the view behind. The extra weight doesn’t really alter the view in the mirrors, so if you are carrying a passenger or load on a motorcycle, the mirrors can be left as they are.
You can alter your headlight aim if carrying a passenger or load. If the motorcycle does not have the capability to adjust them via an electronic button or switch, our advice is not to alter them. If you do not have the capability of knowing where it is aiming you should not adjust them yourself.
And finally the footpegs must go down if you are carrying a passenger. This is for their comfort, they should sit on the bike with their feet on the pegs. When you stop they should not try and put their feet down but keep them on the pegs at all times (unless getting off).
Knowing your machine’s limits is crucial. It’s important to never exceed the maximum weight limit specified in your motorcycle’s manual. This can cause balance problems and also damage the motorcycle, especially putting extra load on the sub frame.
Passenger Safety, Ability and Comfort
When carrying a pillion passenger, you are responsible for their safety as well as your own. If you are wearing the proper clothing you should also ensure that your passenger is equipped with suitable safety gear as well. This includes a good motorcycle helmet, a proper motorcycle jacket, gloves, and boots.
It is more common now for riders and pillion passengers to wear alternative motorcycle clothing. This clothing is not as good as leather garments but gives some protection in the event of falling off but is also acceptable as fashionable for when not on the bike.
GET Regular RIDING TIPS
Sign up to get Riding Tips and advice directly to your inbox
Always give Clear Instructions
Additionally, you should give clear instructions on how to sit, where to hold on, and how to lean during turns. The passenger should feel safe and not be frightened by your riding style. A good safety brief for new passengers will give them comfort and some pre-ride knowledge that will be valuable for them if they are new to riding on the back.
The passenger’s overall comfort is also essential, so regular breaks on long journeys can help prevent fatigue. It can be boring for a passenger, especially if you are not in radio contact and cannot talk to each other.
Balance and Machine Handling
When carrying a passenger or load on a motorcycle, your bike’s centre of gravity shifts, affecting its balance and handling. You will need to compensate by adjusting your riding style, especially during braking, cornering, and accelerating.
If you draw a triangular line between the centre of the two wheels and the rider’s head. Any extra weight you carry will be more stable inside this imaginary triangle.
If you put weight on the outside of this triangle, the bike handling skills become affected. The further out of the triangle, the more effect the weight has. Make sure any extra weight that you carry as luggage, you store the heavier items as low as possible to aid stability.
Practising in a safe environment can help you get used to the changed dynamics before riding on the open road. A good example is to practise in a car park prior to riding on the road. This will give you an idea of how the extra weight is going to affect the motorcycle.
Load and Luggage Stowage
If you’re planning a longer trip that requires taking luggage, you must understand how to properly stow it and consideration of the weight distribution is critical.
Improperly secured luggage can shift around while riding, especially when riding on uneven ground or riding at higher speeds. This can cause a potential problem and if not rectified may create a loss of control.
It’s essential to distribute weight evenly across the bike (as stated above) and keep the load as low as possible. Secure all items tightly to prevent movement, a good way to do this is by the use of ratchet straps or bungee cords.
Legal and Insurance Implications
Before carrying a passenger or load on a motorcycle, you must consider the legal and insurance implications. If you overload your motorcycle it could render your insurance invalid, so always check the owners handbook and specifications for extra load.
Your insurance policy should also cover a pillion passenger if you want to carry one. Any modifications you make to carry a load must meet legal requirements.
Knowing and adhering to these regulations can save you a lot of hassle down the line. Especially if the insurance company refuses to pay up because of your negligence. It is always better to seek advice beforehand if you don’t know.
Your Motorcycle, More than Just a Solo Ride
Carrying a passenger or load on a motorcycle is an entirely different riding experience that requires a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics involved.
It’s more than just making a few adjustments. It’s about being fully aware of how it will affect you and being in control of your motorcycle under different conditions at all times.
With the right knowledge and skills, you can ensure every journey, no matter how arduous, goes smoothly and safely.