One reason people enjoy motorcycles is because the responsive handling makes them feel more in touch with the road. Unfortunately, that handling can get easily thrown off, especially if you are riding with a passenger when you normally ride alone.

VIDEO: Were You a Passenger in a Wreck?

Before you invite someone to go for a ride on the back of your bike, read through this list thoroughly to make sure you AND your passenger are prepared.

  1. Get some riding experience FIRST. Don’t expect to be able to take your friend or significant other on the back of your motorcycle until you are fully confident on riding solo. And don’t be surprised if THEY are not comfortable riding with you until you get more experience, either. When they get on the back of your motorcycle, they are putting their life in your hands. We recommend completing a motorcycle safety course and getting at least three months of riding experience under your belt before taking passengers.
  2. Make sure you CAN take a passenger. Not all bikes are built to carry passengers, and if your motorcycle is not, then it is not only unsafe, but also illegal to do so.
  3. Get some practice with a passenger. Your first trip with a passenger should NOT be a long road trip. First practice in a parking lot or on private property where there are no other vehicles, then you can begin testing out short trips.
  4. You may need to adjust your suspension and tire pressure. While this won’t be necessary on short trips, for long trips make sure to check your owner’s manual to learn how to adjust your suspension and tire pressure to accommodate the additional weight of another person on your bike.
  5. Make sure you have an extra helmet. You should also advise your passenger to dress appropriately. That means wearing clothing made from a sturdy material that fully covers their arms and legs, as well as closed-toed shoes that cover the ankles, and gloves. This will protect them from road rash if they fall or you are involved in a crash.
  6. Set up some signals beforehand. You may be able to speak to each other at low speeds, but it will likely be hard to hear over the sound of the wind and traffic, which is why you should determine some other ways you can communicate once you are in motion. For example, one tap on the shoulder could mean “slow down” while two taps could mean “pull over.”
  7. Make sure your passenger knows what to do. This means waiting for your signal before getting on and off the bike, not making any sudden movements (such as stretching), keeping their feet on the pegs even when the bike is stopped, and how to lean in a turn.
  8. Acknowledge you’re going to bump into each other. The further apart your passenger is sitting from you, the less balanced your bike is going to be and the harder it will be to steer. Their hands should be around your waist. Let them know that if they bump into you or knock helmets with you when you are decelerating, that’s normal and they didn’t do anything wrong.
  9. Account for how the handling will be affected. When you are carrying a passenger, you will need to apply more force to break than usual, and you’ll need longer to come to a complete stop. You will also accelerate slower—the front end will be more likely to pop up if you jerk the throttle, and you may pull a wheelie and send your passenger flying off the back! Your bike won’t be as nimble, and it will be more difficult to balance when stopped at a sign or light. The goal is as smooth a ride as possible. Pretend you are driving in very wet conditions!
  10. Have a backup plan. Decide ahead of time how long the ride should be, and have a stop planned midpoint to discuss how it’s going and if there is anything you or your passenger can or should be doing differently to make the experience smoother. If you determine you need more practice and either you or your passenger are uncomfortable with completing the return journey, have a backup plan—either a friend or rideshare vehicle to come pick up your passenger.

Related Reading: Is it Safer to Ride a Motorcycle on City Streets or the Highway?

What the Law Says

In both Georgia and Alabama, all riders, including passengers, must wear Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved motorcycle helmets. Approved helmets will usually have a DOT sticker or symbol on the back. Additionally, Georgia requires riders to have some form of approved eye protection—either motorcycle goggles or a visor on the helmet—while Alabama requires helmets to have chin straps.

On top of that, both states require any motorcycle carrying a passenger to have a dedicated seat and footrests for passengers. While dedicated handholds or straps for passengers are not legally required, they are strongly suggested.

Neither state has age restrictions on who can ride on a motorcycle as a passenger, but passengers ARE required to sit behind the operator, so if you plan to bring your child on your motorcycle, they cannot sit in front of you.

Call Gary Bruce If You’ve Been Injured in a Motorcycle Wreck

At Gary Bruce, we know how commonly motorcycle riders are discriminated against by insurance companies and police who assume they are at fault for their own crashes. We also know how serious injuries after a motorcycle wreck can be, and how much motorcycle riders and their passengers need compensation. That is why we don’t let insurance companies get away with passing the blame when our clients are not at fault.

Contact our Georgia and Alabama motorcycle injury firm today to learn how we can help. There’s no cost to speak to a lawyer.