Riding tips: Carrying a pillion



Being a passenger on a bike can either be the most exhilarating experience of someone’s life or the most terrifying. It’s all down to you – the rider.


First off, make sure they have the right clothing. At the very least a proper helmet in good nick, some decent, protective gloves and an armoured jacket.

Make sure you are on the bike with both feet firmly on the floor before they get on and once they are on, check that they are okay, before you put it into gear and set off. The best way for them to hang on is either arms around your waist or to grab the bike’s pillion handles with their palms facing away from their body. Doing this makes it easier to brace themselves when you brake.

Time to release the clutch. You’ll notice two things straight away. Firstly the bike is a lot more sluggish when accelerating and secondly it feels like there’s a sack of spuds on the back, making the front of the bike feel light and a little twitchy.


You can compensate for this by increasing the preload on the rear suspension. This is normally a graduated ring around the top or bottom of the spring, adjusted with a C-spanner in your bike’s tool kit.

The secret to good two-up riding is smoothness with the throttle, gear changes and brakes.

Opening the throttle too fast will have your passenger sliding off the back. Closing it too rapidly for a gear change will have them banging helmets with you and braking too hard will leave you wearing your increasingly agitated passenger.


So, smooth throttle control makes all the difference, only shutting the throttle a fraction when changing gear, helps smooth out the changes and braking early and gently gives the passenger time to react and brace themselves.

All you have to do now is get round the first corner. Which is easy once you’ve explained how. Most first time passengers lean the opposite way to the bike in a corner. What you want them to do is the opposite. Ask them to keep in line with your body, keep close to you and follow the bike as it leans into the turn. Give them a few corners to get the hang of it and you’ll be laughing.

When you get where you’re going, make sure you have both feet on solid ground before they get off.



  • Remember to check your insurance – you need to make your insurance company aware if you’re taking pillions.
  • Be reassuring – we want to get more people into motorcycling so scaring them on the back of the bike isn’t the best idea. Tell them what to expect and agree a signal for them to tell you that they want you to stop.
  • Discuss different ways to hold on – some people prefer to hold the grabrail of the bike, others like to put their arms around – work out a way that suits you both.
  • Relax!