Being a good passenger begins before you ever step up to the motorcycle.
Although riding a motorcycle is more pleasant than driving a car, it is
also inherantly more dangerous and requires greater concentration for
safe operations. That means as a passenger you can help out by minimizing
stress and distractions to your front seater. Start out by wearing appropriate
protective gear and dress for the weather conditions - the light jacket
that suffices for sitting on the patio won't keep you warm in a 60 mph
wind. Your front seater shouldn't be worrying about you sitting back there
with your teeth chattering, or what will happen if the two of you go down
while you're only dressed for the beach.
Whether you mount the motorcycle before or after the operator will depend
a great deal upon the configuration of the bike. Regardless of whether
you get on first or second, make sure the foot pegs are down and your
front seater is ready for you to mount. It's customary to mount from the
left, and when swinging your leg over make sure you know the location
of the exhaust and keep your foot and leg clear of it. Stay low and smooth
in your motions to minimize your effect on the center of gravity because
those few seconds while you are mounting up is the the most difficult
time for the front seater to keep the the motorcycle upright. Once seated,
keep your feet on the pegs until the operator indicates it's time to get
Once you're mounted up and underway, keep your body in line with the
person in front of you. When cornering, don't try to control the motorcycle
by leaning into the curve when you think you should, or worse trying to
keep your body upright so you don't fall over. Just sit there and follow
the driver's lead. The motorcycle will lean into the corner based upon
the handle bar postion, counter-steering, and a bunch of other stuff beyond
the scope of this writing. If you are keeping in line, then little correction
needs to be made for your presense by the driver. If you decide to do
your own thing, then the operator has to make adjustments to overcome
your unexpected input (not a good thing on a corner). Turning your head
to face the direction of the turn will normally keep you in position.
It's obviously a good idea to hold on to something. It can keep you on
the bike, but it also helps to keep you in the correct position to balance
the motorcycle. Holding on, however, doesn't mean a death grip around
the chest of your front seater. Such a grip limits vision and freedom
of movement, and forces his or her body to bend forward in a manner that
makes operating the controls more difficult. It can also force your helmets
to bump into each other which eventually becomes painful for the operator,
and forces his or her head down making it difficult to see. Keep your
hands on the hips of the one in front of you and you'll be welcomed back
for another ride.
Sit still. Lean over suddenly at a stop sign, and before you know it
you may find yourself under a very heavy motorcycle. In areas where traffic
is heavy, there's generally an oil spot at the stop sign and the operators
boots can easily slip. If you lean over unexpectly when running down the
highway, your front seater may not have time to shift the balance of the
motorcycle in time to compensate for your weight shift. You both may find
yourselves heading for the ditch or into oncoming traffic if that happens.
If you're hit by a bug, suck up the pain and stay as still as possible
for the seconds it's takes to make a safe stop.
You're the copilot. Watch for danger; cars, dogs, deer, etc., and alert
your pilot when you spot something. The extra half second you've provided
may save your lives. Watch the road signs to help navigate. If you're
on a group ride, pass the hand signals to the rider behind you so your
pilot can keep his or her hands on the controls. Riding together is a
team thing - you get the idea.
Lastly, towards the end of the day you will probably get uncomfortable.
Some bikes have a pretty cushy back seat, but most don't and the front
seater is probably far more comfortable than you. Your butt will hurt
sooner, and if the motorcycle has it's rear foot pegs mounted on the swing
arm, the arches of your feet will be hammered by the tire bouncing upon
the road. Say something about it before you're ready to cry from the pain.
It's not fun for either party if you're hurting.
Oh, and one more thing... Glad you're back there. It's an adventure worth
sharing and I wouldn't have invited you if I didn't want your company.