On being a pillion passenger . . . .

Scotland, May 2013
Scotland, May 2013

A shout out to my fellow pillion/potential pillion passengers!  Obviously, being pillion is a lot different to being the rider of the motorbike . . . . all the fun with none of the responsibility!

I have been asked before by some riders to persuade their other half that going on the bike is a good idea.  Whilst definitely not wanting to get in the middle of any marital “discussions”, the following are my thoughts on being a pillion (based purely on my not very extensive experience of 4 years . . . .).

I have to say that it is hard to explain why you want to do it – a bit like “why do you want a child?” (I just did), “why do you want that third slice of Black Forest Gateau, Husband?” (clearly, you did just did) or “why do you want to win the Lottery?” (obviously, no actual explanation for that one needed . . . .).

I am not a particularly fearless individual – I don’t like theme park rides and have a hearty dislike of heights, so it’s not an adrenaline junkie thing.  We have a daughter and do not take our responsibilities towards her lightly.  AND, I am a rather excellent Worrier.  I think what I am trying to say is that if someone with these hang-ups/considerations is happy to ride pillion, it can’t be that big a deal.

What we did:

Before I even got on the bike, we made sure that I had proper safety kit – helmet, clothing, boots, etc.  And then just desperately hoped that I liked it and hadn’t wasted my money!

Husband did the Advanced Motorcyclists’ Test before I went out with him, which gave us both confidence.

We got a “Pillion Pal” (aka Love Handles) – a kind of belt that the rider wears with 2 handles for the pillion to hold.  Really helps to just feel that bit more secure.  We used them for about the first 6 months, but I was then happy to go out without it (okay, to tell the honest truth, we were all ready to go, sat on the bike and realised we’d forgotten it.  Couldn’t be bothered to get off, take gloves off and go back in the house for it!  After that first time without it, I was fine.).

We kind of worked out a “system” of signals between us in case of needing to stop, but it was much better when we got an intercom.

One thing I did worry about was “moving” with the bike – only thing I can say is that it really is as simple as saying relax and go with it . . . . .

Unfortunately, you will have to watch out for the Doom and Gloomers.  As soon as ever anyone hears you go out on a motorbike they just have to tell you that their uncle’s best friend’s brother-in-law had an accident on a motorcycle in 1965 and was Really Badly Hurt.  Whilst wondering exactly what the motivation to tell you this is, the fact is that motorcycling can be dangerous, but so can driving a car and at least on the bike you are covered from head to foot in protective gear!  Ignore the Doom and Gloomers!!

All in all, being a pillion is The Best Fun and the only time in my life that I have been vaguely cool.

And, just some notes for the motorcycle rider.  Trust me, these are not things your pillion wants to hear through the intercom:

“Just going to adjust the suspension” (as you are getting on . . . . thanks very much).
“Oops” (at ANY time).
You, burping.  Oddly, not hilarious.


Author: drdrsteve

9 thoughts on “On being a pillion passenger . . . .

  1. Wow, it’s great that you are enjoying it !
    When I purchased my first ‘New’ motorcycle (A Honda CBR600), I was thinking sporting pretensions and pillion comfort for my wife Wendy . She said “I don’t like it much on the back !”. ……….WHAT !
    I replied ” Get your own then “. So she did !!
    Instruction taken ,test passed , motorcycle purchased.
    ( She has been riding at least 15 years now) .
    Been all round Europe ,and I still can’t lose her !!
    It was a leaf of faith ,so all credit to her . C’mon then girls……..
    ‘Granny -on -a -bike ‘. Has a certain ring to it don’t you think .
    Ps . Don’t tell her I said that ………..
    Pps. You next ?? Cheers. John

  2. It is a lot harder being a pillion than the rider. I went two miles with Henk on his GSA to Marlborough when my R65 ran out of petrol and I arrived with new respect for pillion riders how on earth does Catherine do it – I definitely get the easy ride so to speak. An excellent post which might encourage some more fearless pillions! Steve

  3. Nice write up and well done for sharing…I’ve done all the things you say the rider shouldn’t and a few more also, screams from the pillion just as you are about to overtake or finish an overtake can be a bit alarming! One thing I would like to add is that Lillian and I ride as a team. Lillian is not a passenger in this role she is a pillion and this includes:
    1. Helping to push the bike up slopes in car parks etc.
    2. Joining the queue and paying for the petrol
    3. Being another pair of eyes when looking for a road or destination
    4. Giving advice on which route to take and helping to see at junctions etc.
    5. Words of encouragement and the occasional “nice corner..” and girly laughter…
    6. Insisting on a loo and coffee break every hour!!

  4. Thanks for such a wonderful description of the joys of being a pillion! I am also a habitual worrier, but have been enjoying the ride for around 30 years. All I wish is that I had time to go out on the bike more often.

  5. Great to finally have input from’ those at the back’..
    Well written and bringing the importance of the pillion to the forefront.
    My lovely wife Tracy has been riding bikes for many years be they Kawasaki, Harley or BMW but now health issues have eased her into the pillion seat.
    She has ridden for some time on the back of whatever bike I had and in her own words is quite happy to take a back seat and enjoy the ride.
    An excellent pillion who now with our newly acquired intercom has also become my second in command as Brian G has eloquently detailed.
    When we get our
    GS back from BMW hospital we will be resuming two up touring real soon.

  6. Well you did it and it is great. You’ll have to make it a regular feature.

    Hope the bike gets well soon


  7. I’d second Bob on the regular feature thing perhaps something like “view from the back seat”?

  8. I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I particularly liked, “And then just desperately hoped that I liked it and hadn’t wasted my money!” That made me laugh. I have had the same thought many times.
    I would be interested to know your daughter’s age at some stage. Our children are 10 and 12, and they are still my biggest concern when it comes to both of us riding on the bike together.
    We haven’t done a great deal of riding together, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that after a while a hardly notice the fact that my wife is on the back, and with the added bonus of having somebody to talk to.

    1. Thank you all for such lovely comments! I had felt a bit shy about posting, so your encouragement has really helped.

      Just to say that our daughter would have been around 13 years old when we first started going out on the bike together. I think our feeling about it has always just been to make sure that we are as safe as possible with wearing all the kit, etc, and then to just go for it!

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