Top 10 tips for pillion success

Never taken a pillion? Read this before taking the plunge

SO YOU'VE recently passed your test, you've become familiar with your machine and now you want to take a pillion aboard but not sure of the pitfalls. What next?

Taking a passenger on the back of a motorcycle is a massive responsibility. As the rider, you're expected to look after your passenger's safety and well-being. Many potential pillions may have never sat astride a motorcycle before in their life, so be prepared to explain what they should expect while onboard your machine. A few minutes spent explaining the 'Dos and Don'ts' can save a lot of hassle in the long run.


Explain to your passenger about what to expect on their first ride: Brisk acceleration and braking;
leaning when going around corners; expect some wind noise and changeable weather conditions. Some will think you are able to talk while on the move, so ask them to save the chit-chat for when you've
reached your destination.

Reassure them. Tell them they're in good hands and that you're going to take it steady - which of course you are!

Ask them to tap on your shoulder if they want you to pull over for any reason.

Provide proper kit

Provide proper kit


You might well be decked out like Valentino Rossi but what's your pillion going to wear? A helmet is the
only safety gear required by law but go the extra mile by decking out your passenger in decent motorcycle gear - even if you have to borrow it from a mate for the day.

A strong jacket, trousers, boots gloves and a correct-fitting helmet. You know the score.

Ask before getting on (and off)

A successful mount (though we're not sure about the trainers)


MANY bikes (including one of mine) have toppled over thanks to an eager passenger clambering aboard without asking if it's ok to get on, resulting in the unsuspecting rider dropping the bike on the floor.

Many machines are extremely top heavy, especially when fully fuelled, so ask your passenger to get the all clear before climbing on and off your machine. It'll save some serious embarrassment should you go base over apex.

Hold on

Grab on and hold on


Ask your pillion to hold on at all times to either you or the bike's grabrail, if it has one. This will give your passenger a feeling of added security and help prevent them for sliding backwards and forwards each time you accelerate or brake.

If your bike doesn't have a grabrail or you're not comfortable with being held onto then consider a Pillion Pal safety belt, which clips around the rider's waist and has moulded plastic handles to which the passenger can hold on.

Feet up

Feet up at all times


Your pillion may think they also need to put their feet on the floor at the same time as you when the bike comes to a halt, so ask them to keep their feet on the pegs at all times.

This will potentially prevent their feet being caught in the rear wheels, getting run over by other motorists or upsetting the bike's balance.

If your bike doesn't have pillion footpegs then you cannot take a passenger.

Lean - but not too far

Keep the radical cornering for solo riding


One of the most unnerving experiences for any new passenger is cornering. Many won't believe how much a bike can lean over around a corner. Avoid drastic angles of lean as this will probably scare them witless.

Ask them to lean with the bike and to relax as much as possible. Take it easy, remember your machine will handle differently with two people on board, especially if the passenger is nervous and reluctant to lean with the bike at first.

Sit still

At least she's sitting still


A fidgeting passenger can easily upset a bike's balance, especially at low speeds, so ask your  pillion to sit still throughout the ride. It's worth telling them to keep their arms in and avoid any hand signals, as this could upset the bike's balance and confuse other road users.


Does this need more air?


Your machine may need to be adjusted to compensate for the extra weight of a pillion. Rear suspension, tyre pressure and drivechain (if it has one) may need adjusting. Also consider altering your bike's headlight to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic.

Check your machine's handbook for the best advice.

More weight = less performance

Braking power reduced by extra weight


With two people aboard, you're vehicle's now heavier and will take longer to stop, so allow greater braking distances at all times, especially in the wet or poor visibility. It will also take longer to  get up to speed, so bear this in mind when overtaking, as your bike's performance won't be quite as brisk.

Take your time to get used to the extra weight, especially when cornering, braking and accelerating.

Be a smoothy

You don't have to be flash to impress


Like we said at the start, your pillion's safety is in your hands, so ride as smoothly as possible.

Temptation to show off your new-found skill may result in your riding beyond your capabilities, so stick to the basics, get used to the way your bike handles with a pillion and be as smooth as you can.

Make the experience a pleasurable one, rather than scaring your passenger by trying to show off. Look after them, impress them with your smoothness and skill, especially if you're trying to woo a passenger of the opposite sex. Leave them feeling exhilarated rather than petrified and they'll probably want to come back for more.