I’ve been riding doubles since I was a child: perched on the back of my dad’s motorbike as we sped down the rural roads located just minutes from our home. I can feel the wind twisting beneath my leather jacket and smell the aroma of the new-mown hay.
While I now have my own motorcycle (an old Yamaha that once belonged to my mother – the last model they built with a kick start), I still enjoy outings with my father. One hand gripping the sissy bar like a bull-rider and the other wrapped tightly around his waist, holding onto his pocket as though it might save me in the event of a wreck.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to take a STAR Course (Skills Training Advantage for Riders). It was pointed out that riding doubles is inherently dangerous. The second rider makes the bike less stable and control becomes a challenge. For this reason, I thought I’d take this week to share a few tips that I’ve learned over the years which help to, at the very least, reduce the risk:
1. Stay with the bike. It’s the rider’s job to lean, not the passengers. With this in mind, the best way to prevent one’s self from doing the leaning is to always look in the opposite direction of the turn.
2. Stay close to the rider. Sudden acceleration or obstacle avoidance can throw a passenger off the back of a bike. For this reason, I usually press my body closer to Dad’s when I know he’s about to hit the gas. Bracing myself against his back guarantees that I won’t be left behind.
3. Keep your eyes on the road. More than once, I’ve caught my mind wandering. While this isn’t a major problem, it can lead to a collision between my helmet and my dad’s when we hit a bump. So I always try to keep my attention focused enough to allow me to see potential hazards. Then I brace and rise up on the footrests just as I would if I were in control.
4. Dress to drive. A bug smacking you in the hand or face hurts just as much when you’re a passenger as it does when you’re the rider. A sudden movement in response to the discomfort can throw off the driver’s balance. So take the time to dress like you’ll be the one driving.
5. Watch the tail pipes. I’ve always been safety conscious. My instructor’s wife always wore a full-faced helmet. I got to see what it looked like after she creamed out going 35 mph. I’d hate to have seen her face had she not been wearing that headgear. “What’s on your head, reflects what’s in your head.” That said, what’s on your legs may reflect whether you have them or not! Tail pipes get hot and as a passenger, you run a high risk of getting burned. While you may not wear leather as the rider, I definitely recommend it if you’re on the pillion!
6. Enjoy the ride. Doubles requires confidence and faith – confidence that the person in charge of the bike has the skills to keep you safe and faith that they love you enough to want to! That said, if you’re going to ride on that second seat, make sure you’re doing it with someone you trust. Riding isn’t worth it if you’re more worried on the back of the bike than you were standing in your driveway!