How to be a good pillion

by MotoGusto Editor

There are countless handbooks, YouTube videos and advanced training options on how to be a good motorbike rider, in fact, you even have to take a test before you are allowed to venture out onto the open road. Yet, as Iñigo from Riding Time suggests, there is no such thing for a pillion.

Virtually anyone can put a helmet on and sit on the back of a bike with no guidance, experience or training. The result can often be havoc and cause great problems for the rider. You may have read my post on how to prepare your bike and yourself for a pillion, but today I will be writing on how to be a good pillion passenger – this post might even safe a few relationships!

Trust the rider

I would argue that the key thing about going pillion is trust. You have to want to be a pillion you have to trust your rider will get you there and back safely. If there is little trust you could find yourself gripping on like there is no tomorrow, scream down the Bluetooth to stop and consequently anger or make the rider anxious; a recipe for disaster. You don’t want to be second guessing your rider’s decisions and you certainly don’t want any of your concerns or worries to reflect their riding. If you can’t trust them, dismount and catch the bus. It’s that simple.


The position of the pillion on a motorcycle is essential to ensure that the ride is safe and comfortable for both parties. Naturally, the position of the pillion will depend on the motorcycle. A sports bike will force the pillion to adapt and crouch forwards into the bike, so that both bodies will move as if they are one; most commonly with the pillion fitting their hands around the waist of the rider. A style found with a touring motorcycle will allow the pillion to sit more upright and hold onto the rear handles of the bike. Essentially, regardless of the bike, the pillion wants to be relaxed, facing forwards and void of gripping for dear life. This will allow the rider to continue their journey as if there is no-one behind them, yet allow the pillion to enjoy a smooth ride.

Looking ahead will allow the pillion to be aware of possible unforeseen events or bends in the road

Look where you are going

A pillion should always be looking forwards and where the bike is going. The passenger should try and position their head a little laterally, allowing them to see part of the road ahead and the landscape. In doing so, they prevent their helmet from creating a series of turbulences in the air that will arrive directly at the rider’s helmet and it ensures that constant blows between pillion and rider helmets don’t occur in braking and acceleration. Additionally, this position will allow the pillion to be aware of possible unforeseen events or bends in the road. A ride will always be smoother if the pillion knows what is happening or going to happen ahead.

Go with the bike

For unexperienced pillions, the inclination of a motorcycle around bends can be daunting at first; many will stay sitting straight out of fear or lean the opposite way. Go with the bike! Now that the pillion is looking where they are going, they can prepare for a bend and hence tilt with the rider’s intention and the bike; you are trying to be one object preventing weight from turning or maintaining a straight line. Do watch out that the pillion does not ‘over’ lean, inclining more than the rider or bike itself. If you are struggling with the concept of going with the flow, try to keep your shoulders in line with the rider’s or hold on to their waist rather than handles to force yourself to move with them.

No sharp movements

It is important for the pillion to make calm and sensible movements. Not only are sharp and brisk movements distracting for the rider, but they can hinder the control of the bike. This is particularly important during slow riding or in corners. In both these scenarios, a quick and unexpected shift in weight to one side can disturb the balance of the bike. When weight distribution is affected in slow riding and bends, it can be hard to recover.

Don’t give hand signals to other drivers or bikers

This actually a theory test question for potential bikers. Other than the obligatory hello signal to fellow bikers, the pillion should not be giving any further signals to road users. The rider may not be aware that you are signalling to travel which could lead to miscommunication and possibly invite an incident.

Wear the right gear

Although a helmet is the only legally necessary item when being pillion, I highly recommend that a pillion at least wears motorcycle gloves, jacket and shoes. I cringe when I see flip-flop-wearing girls on the back of bikes baring half their stomach on the M25. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Can you think of anything else? Let us know in the comments section!

This article was kindly supplied by the guys at Riding Time.

#howto #ridepillion #ridingtime #motogusto

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