A Word About Passengers

Traveling with a passenger is a task best left to the experienced motorcycle operator because it affects many different aspects of your bike's operation. Carrying a person on the back of your bike is quite different than transporting a heavy suitcase or other cargo.

If you want to carry passengers on your motorcycle, a safety course such as the one offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation is highly recommended. You should also spend some time practicing your skills in a low-traffic area before carrying passengers on a busy street.

Legal Issues

A motorcycle instruction permit generally doesn't allow you to carry passengers. In most states, you must have a full motorcycle license to demonstrate that you are ready for the added responsibility of transporting another person.

Of course, you should always follow your state's DMV regulations for carrying a passenger on your motorcycle. You can learn about these laws in the motorcycle operator manual or contact your nearest driver license office with questions.

Preparing Your Bike for Passengers

Not all motorcycles are equipped to carry passengers. If you want to invite a guest on your trip, you'll need a seat that's big enough to carry two people and extra foot pegs for your passenger. Of course, an extra helmet is also a necessity!

Your owner's manual can also provide valuable information about weight limitations, operational recommendations, and equipment setup. In addition, it will tell you whether your suspension and tire pressure should be adjusted.

Many states have specific equipment guidelines that your motorcycle must meet if you wish to carry passengers. For example, it's common for the DMV to require your motorcycle to have passenger footrests and a separate seating area for the passenger. Do not carry passengers on your bike until you're certain you can comply with these requirements.

Safety Tips for Passengers

Before you carry passengers on your motorcycle, give them a quick safety lesson. Don't assume that your passenger understands what he must do.

The following tips will help keep your passenger safe:

  • He must be tall enough to reach the footrests.
  • He must keep his feet on the footrests at all times.
  • He should keep his legs away from the mufflers, since they can get very hot.
  • She must wear a helmet and other protective gear.
  • She must not turn or make sudden moves that could affect your ability to safely control the motorcycle.
  • She must hold onto your waist or the bike's passenger handholds.
  • If your passenger is heavy, he must brace with his hands against the tank when braking to keep from pushing you over the bars.

When you carry passengers on your motorcycle, they should consider themselves to be second operators. Don't allow someone on your bike who doesn't obey your safety instructions.

Children should not be carried on a motorcycle without the permission of a parent or legal guardian. Even if the child is wearing the appropriate protective gear and follows all safety recommendations, riding a motorcycle still poses a safety risk. In addition, some states have legal requirements for the minimum age of a passenger on a motorcycle.

If you plan to have someone frequently travel with you on your motorcycle, ask him to complete a basic safety course. Even if he never learns to operate a motorcycle, this course will provide a better understanding of the procedures necessary to avoid accidents while you are riding together.

Riding Safely While Carrying Passengers

When you're carrying passengers on your motorcycle, you'll need to make some adjustments your riding. A passenger's extra weight will substantially affect your bike's handling characteristics. To help compensate for this difference, remember the following tips:

  • Allow more time and space for passing.
  • Be cautious when turning corners, since clearance may be affected.
  • You'll need to brake sooner than normal when carrying passengers.
  • The extra weight of your passenger will increase the stopping power of your rear brake.
  • You'll need greater clutch finesse and more throttle when starting from a stop.
  • If your passenger is heavy, it will take longer to turn, slow down, or speed up on your motorcycle.
  • Avoid traveling at extreme speeds.
  • Be prepared to counter the effects of wind when appropriate.

When traveling with a guest, remember to start your motorcycle before your passenger mounts the bike. The stand should be raised and the motorcycle should be securely braced before the passenger mounts.

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