How to Be a Good Motorcycle Passenger | The Speckled Goat: How to Be a Good Motorcycle Passenger


How to Be a Good Motorcycle Passenger

I like to ride motorcycles. 

It took me a while to feel... comfortable? with the term, but after several thousand miles on the bike, I think I can say it- I am, at times, a biker chick.

I love the motorcycle so much that we used it as our "get away" vehicle after the wedding.

I don't drive a motorcycle, myself. With my extreme lack of coordination and my fear of machinery and going fast, it wouldn't work for me.

I haven't always been a motorcycle fan. In fact, I'm kinda a big chicken. I like plans, expectations, itineraries... I'm not usually much of a "wind-through-my-hair" kind of gal.

Which is why, when Trevor and I were planning our first (super-long, like 8 hours) motorcycle trip, I frantically searched online for anything about being a passenger on a bike.

There wasn't much, really. A lot of awesome blogs about motorcycle trips, lots of tips for women riders, stuff about mechanics... but not much about being a passenger.

So, now, six (seven?) years later, I want to share my experience- in hopes that it will give some other anxious girl the confidence to get on the back of that bike and learn to love the open road.

Tips for Being a Good Motorcycle Passenger

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Never ride with someone you're not comfortable with.

The person in control of the bike is in control of your life while you're on it. That's serious stuff.

I've never ridden a motorcycle with anyone but Trevor. The first time I rode with him, I was super-nervous, and he definitely had to reassure me a lot.  Trevor had been riding for three years already, had never had an accident, and had gone on lots of long trips before.

The general rule of thumb is that you shouldn't get on a bike if the rider has been riding for less than a year, if they've been in a wreck (especially recently), and you should NEVER get on a bike with someone who does not have a motorcycle license. (EVER.)

The driver should also tell you everything you need to know.

He (or she) should explain how and when to get on and off (which depends on the preference of the driver). You should also have a way to communicate. Most of the time while riding, it'll be hard to hear each other, and being able to "talk" is still really necessary.

Don't touch the exhaust pipes.

If you're not sure where the pipes on the bike are, ask the driver. Pipes are hot. They will burn you or melt your shoes (I might know this from personal experience). Try to always get on the bike on the side opposite the pipes.

Lean the way the bike leans.

This is one of the most common mistakes new passengers make, and it can be pretty dangerous if you're not leaning correctly.

When going around a curve or turning a corner, lean into it. Your body should be angled the same way the bike is, not opposite.

If you get nervous (and sometimes you might- curves can get really sharp), never, NEVER jerk your body towards the outside of the curve. That can throw off the balance of the bike, and the driver may lose control. If you get nervous, hold on a little tighter.

You will hopefully not be turning this sharply. But this is the right way to do it!
I always look over the "turning shoulder." Whatever way we're turning, that's which of Trevor's shoulders I look over. If we're turning left, I look over his left shoulder. It automatically puts me in the right position.

Sit Still. 

Most of the time, an experienced rider will not have a problem keeping the bike balanced with a passenger. That doesn't mean that you should bop around on your seat, though. Jerky movements from the passenger can shift the bike and cause problems.

Feet Up.

Don't put your feet down on the ground until you are ready to get off the bike.

When at a stop, your rider should be able to keep the bike upright him- or herself (if they can't, they're probably not very experienced and you should get off and walk home). You should keep your feet on your foot pegs when you're stopped.

Pay attention.

As tempting as it is to totally zone out and just enjoy the scenery and your own peaceful thoughts, it's important to keep your eyes on the road. Two pairs of eyes are better than one, especially in areas with lots of deer (or antelope, or buffalo, or any other wandering, road-crossing, accident-causing critters), in very busy traffic areas, and at night.

Paying attention will also save your bum.


Railroad tracks may be rough in a car, but they're much worse on a bike. Unless you don't mind bouncing around on your tailbone, watch for bumps and brace yourself for 'em.

Speaking of your bum...

it's probably gonna hurt. And your legs. And maybe your back. It's important to communicate with your rider about when you need to get off and stretch (I'm way more of a wimp with this than Trevor is). I like to take an ibuprofen before a long trip, just to ward off some of those aches in advance.

If you're going on a longer trip, pack some vaseline. Sounds gross, but your butt will most likely end up at least a little chapped after a four-hour trip.

Note: If the seat is uncomfortable after half an hour, it's gonna be killing you after two hours. There are larger, more comfortable after-market seats- ask your rider to getcha one! Sheepskin works pretty well, too. Trevor got one for his bike a while back, and I love it.


Be comfortable with your bike.

Before a long trip, you'll want to spend some quality time on the bike, getting comfortable and recognizing what makes you uncomfortable, too.

I personally like riding with a backrest (or a 'sissy bar') behind me, especially for longer trips. All passenger-legal motorcycles will also have foot pegs for the passenger, but you may find some after-market foot pegs that are more comfortable then what the bike came with.
You should not get on a bike that doesn't have foot pegs for a passenger. That is illegal.
You'll want something to hold on to... which is usually the driver! If you're not gonna hold on to the driver, you may not be comfortable enough with him or her to ride with him or her.

Get a Helmet

This can really come down to personal preference. Some people refuse to ride without a helmet, even for short trips, and some are okay with it. You have to decide what's right for you.

Of course, you should also know the legal requirements of whatever state you're riding in (some require helmets, some don't).

If you're wearing a helmet, it should be DOT certified, and should fit you well. Most motorcycle shops and dealerships also sell motorcycle helmets, and they'll help you find the right fit.

If you're ever in an accident or if you drop your helmet, you need to get a new one. It's not cheap- most helmets run about $90- but riding with a helmet that won't protect you is like riding without one at all.


Look into Leather.

It's more than just looking the part. . If you ever (God forbid) get into an accident or fall off the motorcycle, the leather will help protect you from the road.

Leather is more protective than denim, and some riders choose to wear leather chaps rather than just jeans. (Because leather chaps are hot and usually pretty pricey, a lot of riders don't wear them.)

Personally, I have a leather jacket and leather gloves, and on longer rides, I always wear thick jeans.

Layers, lots of layers.

If the temperature outside is below 70 degrees F, and you're anything like me, you will definitely need a jacket or sweatshirt while riding. That wind gets colder than you'd think.

You don't want to be flapping around while riding, either, so wear tighter clothes. Anything a little stretchy is good. It's best to wear long pants. It's safer, and bugs splattering against bare legs never feels nice.

Wear that hair back.

 As cute and sassy as your haircut is, riding motorcycle for an hour or two will tangle your flowing locks and make you miserable as all your hair whips around in your eyes.

(Don't get a haircut before a long bike trip- you'll want to get one afterward to get rid of the split-ends caused by the wind.)

If you're wearing a helmet, try putting long hair into a bun on the nape of your neck, or in a braid. I usually wear my hair in a low bun, and push it up into my helmet.

 f you're not wearing a helmet (I won't judge, but be safe), a ponytail works for shorter hair, braids or a bun for longer hair, and you'll definitely want a bandanna to keep it out of your eyes.

Eye Protection.

If you're not wearing a helmet, or if the helmet doesn't have a visor, you're also gonna want sunglasses to protect your eyes from the wind.

I learned that the hard way during my first motorcycle ride, after my eyes were watering so badly that all my mascara ran down my face. Lovely.

Rain Gear.

So, sometimes it rains. In all likelihood, if you're on a bike for more than two weeks, rain is somewhere in the forecast.

Riding through rain can be beautiful and adventurous, or it can be miserable. In my experience, riding through rain without rain gear is always miserable.

You'll want to get both a rain jacket and rain pants, unless you find a full waterproof suit to wear. Make sure that it fits well. I like the ones with elastic around the wrists and ankles- it keeps more water out and flaps around less.

You will want to consider, however, that when it's raining, it's usually pretty darn cold outside, too. My rain gear easily fits over my leather coat and pair of jeans.

Keep your rain gear in the saddle bags or another easily accessible location, cuz when you need it, you'll need it quick.


The biker wave.

Most motorcyclists are really friendly, and the biker-types have a fun kind of camaraderie. There's a definite kind of bond that forms between biker chicks while ringing out soaking socks in the bathroom of a gas station after riding through a downpour. True story. Bikers wave at each other while riding, too.

Now, most people wave like the biker on the left, but it's really a matter of personal style. A head nod is also pretty typical on the road. No matter how you choose to greet each other, though, riding is a bit of a brotherhood (or sisterhood), and bein' friendly is always good. You never know when you may need some help on the road.

What about Purses?

I have a big purse. I like carrying my big purse. It's got everything I need in it. The only problem is, the purse doesn't really fit well onto the motorcycle. It's a little excessive.

During short trips, I don't really mind, but a week or two without a purse? Here's how I do it....

I pack the essentials into a small dry bag, (or in a pinch, a zip-lock bag) which keeps them dry just in case any water gets into the saddle bags.

Now, remember, 'essentials' does not refer to the three different lip gloss shades you usually carry, nor does it include wet wipes, finger puppets, or crackers. (Now you know just a few of the strange things I carry in my purse....)

Here's what you really need:

            -Photo ID (driver's license)
            -Debit/Credit card
            -Some cash.
            -Extra hair ties (they always break, and then you have hair in your eyes again)

When we go into gas stations or whatever, I can pull my bag out and carry it into the store with me. Not very fashionable, but it works.

Luggage for Long Trips

If you're camping from the bike or packing everything on the motorcycle for your trip, there will hopefully be some space for your other stuff (like clothes and hair toiletry products).

Adding an aftermarket rack will help, as will large saddle bags. Of course, your best bet is to pack very, very light. (My Favorite Motorcycle Gear)

Here are some of the long-trip luggage configurations we've done... we've improved our packing technique, I think...
Motorcycle Trip One: (One week)  Clothes, leather jackets
Motorcycle Trip Two: (Ten Days) Two sleeping bags and pillows, a tent, clothes, leather jackets

A tip? Get a bungee net. I seriously love those things.

Enjoy it!

Being on a motorcycle is a little bit of freedom, a little bit of peace.

I feel close to God while I ride. The simple fact that I'm not in control really makes me feel God's presence.

I don't know how to explain it, really, but when I'm on the back of that motorcycle, it's like I'm free to find myself again. All those troubles don't matter, no one else's opinion can define me because it's just me and my husband and the road and the trees, the cornfields, the mountains.

Let go of the worries you may have (like if all the bags are gonna fall off the back) and just let yourself find the perfect balance between peace and excitement.

The adventure awaits you!

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  1. We are waiting on our kids to get older then we are getting. I'm kind of nervous lol

  2. I've been riding my own since 2002 and blogging about riding since 2004. This is the BEST piece of writing about enjoying the ride as a passenger, and being a good/safe passenger, that I have ever found. Thanks for a great piece... I'll be sharing it! Wishing you many happy/safe miles!

    1. Oh, you honor me, Janet!

      I totally respect you ladies out there riding your own-- way to go, girlfriend! I didn't find a lot about passenger riding, so I figured I'd write something! Thank you for sharing!

  3. A big salute for you ladies.This is really make me proud .I m really glad after see all photos and article too .A big clap for all of you.I am eagerly waiting for your another article.

  4. This post couldn't have been better.I have been ridding since 2007 but never longer than a night and day
    me and my husband have decided to take a week trip! Destination unkown..

  5. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this. Ive neber ridden and my husband and I are exploring a motocycle this summer.