Holding You Close: Some Advice on Two-up Riding

    What makes a good two-up rider? First is a sense of caution and respect for
your companion. You need to assess your passenger. For some people, a ride
on the back is very exhilarating. They enjoy the speed factor. For others, it
can be very scary. It’s your job to gauge this before getting under way, by asking
your rider about their experiences and preferences.
    One of your most important responsibilities is to keep your ego in check.
Never try to impress your passenger or condition them to your accustomed
speed. Not only is this dangerous, but they may never want to ride with you
again (or with anyone else, for that matter). Being a responsible two-up rider
also means accounting for the added weight and its effects on turning and
stopping. Since the total package has more mass, you’ll need to apply the
brakes harder and allow more stopping distance. You’ll also need to educate
your passenger about the various methods of holding on. If you’re carrying an
unfamiliar passenger, make sure you get used to their movements and effects
on the bike. Fatigue is another issue to be aware of because two-up riding can
really wear you out due to the added weight, so moderate distance and saddle
time accordingly.
    You should get the bike off the side stand or center stand and be comfortably
seated with both feet down and the front brake on before allowing anyone to
get aboard. Settle in and give the word OK to board. A tall passenger may be
able to swing the right leg over the bike and put both feet on the passenger
pegs simultaneously. A shorter rider will need to stand on the left peg and
swing his or her right leg over, and for this you need to be well braced with
the left foot down and the bike straight upright. The passenger should put a
hand on your back or shoulder for balance while climbing on. Both of you
should give a thumbs up or verbal OK when ready to get underway.
    On the track or for sport riding, pillion riders should:
Reach around and place the hands on the tank.  This way passengers can support themselves under any braking conditions rather than forcing you to support them
with your arms. If they cannot comfortably reach around to the tank, they should
push on the small of your back during hard braking. Gigi also squeezes with her
knees to hold her back under braking. Don’t have them push on your upper body,
which requires that you support them with your arms and affects your use of the
    Squeeze with the elbows, squeeze with the knees.   Those passengers who are
able to place their hands on the tank should squeeze the operator’s torso with
their elbows under acceleration. This will help keep them planted in the middle
of the saddle under hard acceleration. Those riders who can’t reach around to
the tank should simply grasp the operator’s waist under acceleration.
    Use proper foot position.  Passengers should keep the toes up (not pointed
down) and the balls of the feet on the pegs. This ensures that their boots
don’t touch the ground in corners (for aggressive sport riding), and provides
a good foundation for weight shifts and moving around in the saddle. (Riders
aboard cruisers or big touring bikes with footboards needn’t pay attention to
    Look through the corner.  Passengers should keep their eyes level with the
roadway, turn their heads, and look through the corner–just as the operator
does. This is critically important, as it directly influences body position,
ensuring that the operator and passenger move in unison. It all starts with
the eyes and head! Work together.
     Don’t be a wet sack. Being a passenger at a sporting pace isn’t a passive
role. No daydreaming, please. The passenger needs to be an active part of the
rider/machine combo, and not daydream.  Many passengers on Honda Gold
Wings and other large touring bikes might contest that last point. In fact, some
pillion riders see nothing wrong with taking a nap back there in that big old
armchair. In my opinion this is a dangerous practice. Snoozing riders on the
back will negatively affect handling–especially at a sporting pace. They may
also endanger  themselves in the event of a quick stop or evasive maneuver.
This doesn’t mean they can’t relax and enjoy the scenery. But at all times,
passengers have a responsibility to be an integral part of the package. This
also includes traffic and road awareness.
    Passengers should also take care not to distract the pilot with a constant
refrain of “Look at that!” This type of distraction could cause an accident.
    As we Spring forward in 2016, I hope these tips help to encourage pilots and
passengers to enjoy the ride together. Ride safe, think fast.

2 thoughts on “Holding You Close: Some Advice on Two-up Riding

  1. Well written Rego. Here’s another thing to consider. Nothing makes a better two up driver than having been a passenger before. Having ridden behind you has helped me to keep us safe and secure over the years. Here in France 95% of my riding is two up on tight twisty roads, often with luggage and at a sporting pace. (Sometimes we’re just hauling groceries though as the bike is our primary means of transport.) Thank goodness Carol is both and experienced driver and passenger. She knows just what to do to be part of the program, rather than just an observer on the back.

    Amusing story from yesterday. We were riding in the mountains (still some snow on the ground, even in Provence) when we entered a small village. Many of the villages here have streets so narrow that there are traffic lights controlling the direction of traffic flow. One direction for a few minutes, then the light changes and drivers proceed from the opposite direction. Anyway, we come into this village and there are four 4-axel dump trucks ahead of us waiting for the light to change. As I was making my way to the front of the line (common and expected practice in Europe), so as not to have to follow the trucks, the light changed, so I tucked in behind the first two trucks with the other two behind me (who got stuck at the light). I’ll just nip the first two when the road straightens out a bit…

    I’ll be darned if the road never straightened and I had a very hard time keeping those two trucks in sight! Those guys were flying, and never once did they put a wheel wrong. Always stayed in their lane and they must have been working their gear boxes because I rarely if ever saw brake lights. (Carol suggested they’d been to school with you and had disconnected their lights…) At any rate, I didn’t catch them until they came upon two motorhomes moving slowly ahead of them. It wasn’t safe for them to pass so they held back. I was able to pick them off one or two at a time though over the course of a few kilometers.

    Take care, stay safe, say bonjour to everyone we know.

    Stacy and Carol
    Carces, France

  2. Good to hear from you Stacy. Your story reminds us of a road in Norway. We got in front of the trucks off the ferry but had a pretty serious ride keeping distance between us. At one point Gigi wanted to stop and take some pictures. I could hear the cattle truck lumbering through the twisties on its way to catch us. I said to Gigi “hurry up, let’s go”, and was able to keep them about one turn behind until we ran into some road construction, which stopped them and allowed us to escape. Those drivers certainly know their vehicles and the roads! Sounds like you’re enjoying your new life in France. Hi to Carol. Cheers, Reg

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