Some think of motorbikes as a passion to experience strictly on your own. That’s a respectable position, of course, just as all other ones are. But for most of us, sharing is one of the very best things about motorbikes. There’s clearly a reason that nearly all models on the market have had dual saddles for as far back as anyone can remember. I’ve been riding motorbikes for ages. Almost all of my trips have been in company, by which I mean two people on one bike. But I’ve noticed that many of those ‘accompanied’ neglect something important, educating the passenger.
There are lots of things to say to the passenger before setting off, like how to dress and how much to wear, how to fasten a helmet, how to get on, how to sit, where to hold on, how much to move and how to get down. If you don’t have an interphone, you also need to say how loud you can speak. They might not know that you can hear perfectly well at 80 an hour by opening the visor on a full-face helmet for a moment. And a tap on the shoulder is all it takes if you need to slow down.
How to get on and off calls for a separate chapter, because not all passengers are athletic enough to keep one foot on the ground and swing the other one over the saddle complete with leg. If the saddle is high, if there are bags or if there’s a top box, your passenger will be forced to adopt a different approach, putting their left foot on the left footpeg (or right foot on right footpeg) then lift themselves up, unbalancing the bike. That’s no great problem if they don’t weigh over 220 pounds. You just need to know beforehand, to not be surprised: to be on the same page, basically.
All this will of course be second nature after a few days sharing a saddle, but early on it’s better to be lavish with advice. But if I think about my travels to the sea, about certain steep dirt roads in Corsica or Sardinia with a big bike, about maneuvers that I sometimes had to make essentially on the spot and in very small spaces, ending up fishing around for non-existent support and falling like a chump, here’s some advice in particular. I’ll give it to you together with the whole speech for your partner in crime.
“If you see that we’re falling on the spot – it can happen, don’t make that face; let me talk. Right. If you see that we’re falling on the spot, don’t fight it. Let yourself fall on the side that’s leaning, far from the bike if possible.”
Because falling on the spot can happen to the best of us, and bent handlebars, broken fairings and dented tanks can all be looked at philosophically. But there’s no excuse for wounding, or still worse breaking, a passenger’s leg. Ankles and shins are unfortunately very exposed in this kind of accident, if they stay under the bike.
We’re talking about riders with the proper equipment and clothing, who don’t go without protection even on holiday. Falling isn’t a problem in itself, at low speeds, but passengers mustn’t leave their legs under the bike. It’s not as easy as it seems. Shouting out something at the last minute, when the bike is already leaning over and can’t be pulled back, is a waste of time. ‘Get your leg out of the way!’ Yeah, good luck with that. When it’s gotten that bad, it’s too late. We’ve gone past alarm and into panic. So my advice is: prevention. Educate passengers before setting off. And go into detail.