What Does Riding Two Up Mean? (Tips You Can Actually Use)


what does riding two up mean

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Whether your taking your first passenger or you’ve been at it awhile, there are a few things you need to know to ride safe. If you haven’t taken a passenger yet its only a matter of time. So what does riding two up and mean and how do you do safely?

Every rider knows motorcycles are great. They’re a special way to experience the freedom of the road, and many riders have already or will want to share this experience with someone special.

But don’t forget;

There are a few things you need to remember and a few things you need to tell your first-time passenger before you have them jump on the back of your motorcycle and ride. If you follow this simple guide, you’ll be able to make a first-time rider a regular passenger and create awesome road trip memories.

That is of course, what’s it’s all about.

What Does Riding Two Up Mean?

Riding two-up is riding on a motorcycle while carrying a passenger, or riding pillion. The second seat for motorcycle passengers is known as the pillion seat.

How should a passenger mount a motorcycle? 

So, you found someone who wants to ride with you? Great! So how do you get them on the motorcycle to ride two-up with you?

Before you can take to the road it’s important that you and your passenger know some important basic rules, especially if they’ve never driven a motorcycle or ridden as a passenger. Chances are, they have zero experience, so it’s really up to you to bring’em up to speed – so to speak.

First, you and your passenger need to figure out the most comfortable way to mount the bike in order to ride two-up.

There are a few different ways for your passenger to mount the motorcycle. The strategy you end up deciding on is going to be what you and your passenger find the most comfortable. It also could depend on the make, model and seat configuration of your bike.

Mounting the Motorcycle With a Passenger

It comes down to using one of two common sense methods;

  • Let the passenger on first
  • You get on first

Option 1- Let Your Passenger On First

You may find it’s more comfortable if your passenger mounts the bike while the bike leans on its kickstand. In this case, you can help them up. Newer passengers might be more comfortable mounting this way because they know the bike ain’t going anywhere.

What method do I use?

When my wife and I ride, I have her get on the motorcycle first while I assist her. She’s always worried that the motorcycle will tip over (and of course it won’t).

I keep the bike ‘stable’ which is largely for her peace of mind. Passengers will be unsure of themselves as they get on your motorcycle and standing by and assisting them is good peace of mind for your passenger.

We’ve ridden hundreds of times and my wife is still paranoid the bike will tip over!

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Option 2- You Get On First

Another strategy would be for the rider to mount first. The passenger can mount either while the kickstand is still down, or while the kickstand is up, and the rider is holding the front brake with both feet on the ground.

If the rider has mounted first, then I recommend you keep the kickstand down and firmly plant both feet on the ground while the passenger mounts.

The bike will be very stable in this position, and if it’s a newer passenger the bike will not tip over even if they need to wiggle around to get comfortable.

If your passenger is mounting after you let them know where they can grab you or the bike to pull themselves up if they need to.

Remember that mounting from the kickstand side is usually a better technique as well.

Make sure the foot pegs or the passenger floorboards are folded out before they get onto the bike, so that they can fully and comfortably rest their weight on the bike once they’re on.

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Basics of the Motorcycle

Remember this-

You know a lot about your motorcycle, but your potential passenger will not. It’s really your responsibility  to provide your riding buddy with a basic safety briefing.

Here’s a few things you should tell your passenger before your ride

  • NEVER put your feet on the ground at stops

Your rider shouldn’t be putting his or her feet down at stops, and need to know that should all be left to you. This is a potentially serious safety issue. The last thing you want is to injure someone’s ankle when you take off from a stopped position.

  • NEVER hold onto the arms or shoulders of the rider during the ride

It’s very dangerous for the passenger to hold onto your arms or shoulders, it will effect your steering, and your ability to come to a sudden stop safely.

Imagine this;

Your passenger becomes scared, and starts to bear hug you. Big adrenaline pump = Big Strength. Now you can’t control the bike and the likelihood of a crash increases.

Tell your passenger where to hold on. Some bikes come with grab rails or handles for the passenger and some don’t. If your bike doesn’t have something built in for the passenger to hold on, then they should be grabbing you around the waist.

  • Tell your passenger what gets hot and where on the bike

Tell them about which parts are hot and could burn them or melt the plastic on their boots. Do them (and yourself) a favor when you park the motorcycle in hot weather to park in the shade. A basic tip that a lot of noobs forget.

Remember: new passengers aren’t going to know what you know so it’s YOUR responsibility to educate them.

How to Ride on the Back of a Motorbike With a Passenger

Riding with a second person is going to change your ride in one simple way;

Added weight.

It’s important to know that riding with someone else will change the experience of your motorcycle ride, and hopefully for the better!

There are a few things you should look out for if you aren’t experienced with two-up riding as a driver.

You may need to adjust your bike’s rear suspension for the passenger’s extra weight, consult your owner’s manual.

I can’t stress enough that the bike will handle differently with two people. So, if you’re new to two-up riding, take it slower than you usually would to familiarize yourself and the passenger with how it feels.

It’s also nice to take it slow for your passenger’s comfort, and after a few trips you’ll both be more comfortable driving at regular speeds with the extra weight.

Another person means more weight, it’s that simple, and if you’re taking longer rides then that means less space to put more stuff.

Going into turns

A new passenger who has never been on a motorcycle will likely be pretty nervous about turns and cornering.

Bikes lean a lot, so you need to educate your passenger on how to properly move during turns because no one wants to die on the road.

Tell your passenger about staying neutral and relaxing on turns. If he or she shifts their weight away from the turn it’ll make handling the bike harder for you, and it’s a potentially very dangerous situation.

Instruct them to corner the turn with you and follow your movements. When you’re first starting out make sure to motion to your passenger and let them know a turn is coming up, so they expect it and don’t freak out.

riding a goldwing gl1800

They don’t have to try and steer with you, but if he or she puts their head towards your inside shoulder (that’s the shoulder facing the turn, so if it’s a left turn then towards the left shoulder) then it’ll be easier to steer the bike.

If your passenger has trouble staying neutral and keeps moving around on turns (despite being told not to—hey, they’re only human), then tell your passenger to lean forward into you on a turn. This puts the center of gravity into the middle of the bike and makes handling easier.

Pro Tip: Just have them lean forward.

My wife and I tried different methods over the years to make her more comfortable when if came to turns. If your passenger isn’t comfortable and they’re jumpy, it can affect the handling of your bike when your deep into a turn.

Since using the lean forward method she’s more comfortable and it really helps me in the twisties.

Motorcycles are designed for a center of gravity in the middle and having an extra person’s weight on the back can throw that off, so this is a great and reliable trick for dealing with that difference.

Being a smooth operator will go a long way in operating your motorcycle.

Ways to make the ride better for your passenger

When people are new to riding two-up there’s a few helpful things they can do to make the ride better for their passenger.

Pro Tip For Guys: Trying to get your wife or lady friend to ride more? Make it comfortable and fun!

It sounds simple, but there are a lot guys out there that act like D-bags when their wife or lady is riding with them and the wonder why they never want to ride.

Communicate With Your Motorcycle Passenger

Agree on how to communicate. Some helmet’s have com systems, and that’s really handy if you’ve got a frequent riding buddy. Chances are though if you’re a beginner at riding two-up you won’t have that. So, hand signals are going to go a long way.

It’s important to decide on signals for simple requests like speed up, slow down, pull over, or turn ahead. A new passenger may want you to drive slower until he or she is more comfortable riding passenger on a motorcycle with you.

Respect what your passenger wants so you have a return customer, eventually you’ll be back to cruising around at top speed.

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Get your passenger involved. Your riding buddy is going to want to ride more if they enjoy it, and you can help them enjoy it!

If you have a passenger backrest, also called a sissy bar, then your passenger won’t have to hold onto you all the time which can make the ride a little more comfortable. It also frees up their hands to do cool things like take pictures.

Longer rides means you can both plan places to stop, so you both have destinations you’re looking forward too. Letting your passenger help you plan the trip is a great way to make sure you’re both happier.

These are things that can make both short rides and long rides way better for both of you which means more rides. And who doesn’t want more rides?

Get‘em geared up

Gear. Gear. Gear. Your passenger needs to be wearing the right kind of gear.

Whether you decide to buy motorcycle or gear first, one things clear; No matter what you do, just make sure that you’re passenger has the appropriate gear to keep them as safe as possible.

Don’t be stupid, always wear a helmet. Your passenger needs one too, so make sure you have a helmet that’s a good fit for them and stays on even when yanked.

Riding boots, and proper pants are important too. For the first ride you’ll probably get away with a good pair of denim jeans, hell they’re really comfortable. But if you’ve got yourself a long-term riding buddy invest in the proper gear for them or give them a list so they can start equipping themselves.

It’s ok if that old jacket you have lying around doesn’t fit them just right on the first few rides. But with a regular passenger you’ll want to consider a proper fitting jacket.

For information about properly fitting jackets you can check out our article on getting a properly fitted jacket (coming soon).

You’d want protection if you fell off your bike which means your passenger is going to want it too.

Prepare for bad weather

Remember this;

It’s not if you hit bad weather, but when.

Another thing newer passengers might not take into account is the weather. The wind on a motorcycle can be pretty chilling, so let them know about layering up to protect from the elements.

Remember as the experienced motorcycle rider you need to coach your potential passenger to prepare for inclement weather.  Inclement weather doesn’t have to be wind and rain, it can also be severe heat.  For some it’s never too hot to ride a motorcycle – you just have to be prepared for the heat.

How to dismount a motorcycle as a passenger

Before you can park your bike and sit back after a nice ride you need to have your passenger dismount. Try practicing both mounting and dismounting before you go on the actual ride.

When you’re done riding, turn the bike off, disengage the clutch, turn the front to full left lock, kick out the stand, and let your passenger get off first.

It’s pretty simple, but a first-time passenger might have some trouble even figuring the basics out, so let them try it a few times. After all, if you had a perfect ride with your passenger, it’d be terrible to end it accidentally tipping your bike over.

There’s always more to learn about riding and riding two-up. These tips are a nice place to start at, and you’ll find yourself coming up with your own after a while.

If you do it right, you’ll have a regular riding buddy. And your significant other can learn to really appreciate one of your favorite hobbies.

We all have more to learn, and we can always make the ride better.

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