Carrying a passenger on a motorcycle affects the vehicle’s handling and balance, increases braking distance, and decreases accelerating power. The way you handle your motorcycle is different, especially at low speeds or in curves. You must therefore adapt your driving when you are carrying a passenger.
The laws of physics
Certain principles of physics affect driving all types of vehicles, and especially motorcycles, as the driver is subjected to forces that affect his or her balance, motorcycle control and safety. You must always take these principles into account when driving, especially when performing certain manoeuvres.
Gravity is the law of physics that explains the force of attraction the Earth exerts on all physical bodies. When driving a motorcycle, gravity has a particular impact on maintaining balance. For example, placing an extra load (a passenger or baggage) on a motorcycle can affect what is known as its centre of gravity. The height of the centre of gravity affects the force required to keep the motorcycle upright when it is unbalanced, due to the effect of inertia. This is why it is harder to control a heavy motorcycle with a high centre of gravity when it stops. The height of the centre of gravity also affects the lifting and dipping of the front wheel when braking and accelerating.
Before heading out with a passenger
Make sure that you do not exceed the motorcycle’s maximum weight capacity, including passengers, equipment and baggage.
Consult the motorcycle owner’s manual to learn more about the load authorized by the manufacturer.
Check and adjust tire pressure as needed.
Adjust the rear suspension to compensate for dipping due to compression.
Adjust the rear shock absorber as needed.
Adjust the height of the headlight to compensate for a change in inclination.
Practise driving in a place with no traffic before heading out on the road with a passenger.
Wait until you have acquired enough experience before letting a passenger ride with you.
Holders of a learner’s licence are prohibited from carrying passengers.
Ensuring your passenger’s safety and comfort
Make sure your passenger wears a protective helmet that is properly adjusted and complies with current standards.
Make sure your passenger wears adequate protective clothing.
Wait until your passenger is properly seated before starting the motorcycle.
Take your first turns gently to let your passenger experience the feelings of the gyroscopic effect, traction, and balance.
Ride more slowly, especially on curves and steep surfaces.
Slow down earlier than usual when approaching intersections.
Brake slowly, so your passenger is not thrown against you. The rear brake will have more force due to the increased weight.
Increase the safety margins between your motorcycle and other vehicles.
Avoid abrupt movements.
Adapt your driving. Do not drive the same way as when you are alone.
Safety rules for passengers
Make sure that the driver has the skills and abilities required to carry a passenger.
Before getting on or off the motorcycle, wait for the driver to give you the signal and make sure to centre your weight on the motorcycle, without pulling or pushing it.
To avoid hindering the driver or unbalancing the motorcycle, you must pay close attention to traffic conditions and anticipate upcoming manoeuvres.
You must hold on to the driver’s waist rather than his or her shoulders, or to the handles designed for passengers, if available. These handles are not always designed to let passengers hold on properly. A backrest is better suited to this purpose.
Follow the motorcycle’s movements. The simplest way is to remain straight, in the motorcycle’s axis. If the motorcycle leans over to one side, lean over with it, but no more. To do so, always look over the driver’s shoulder, towards the inside of the curve. In a left turn, position your head over the driver’s left shoulder, and do the opposite during right turns.
If you must move, try to make slow and fluid movements. If you need to turn your head or turn around, make sure to move only your upper body, without changing the way your feet are resting. If you shift around, you risk temporarily increasing the weight on one of the footrests, which will destabilize the motorcycle.
Make sure to move only during a neutral phase, that is, when the motorcycle is travelling at more than 30 km/h in a straight line. Do not move when the motorcycle is leaning sideways or stopped, or during a manoeuvre done at low speed.
Once the motorcycle has reached a certain speed, i.e. more than 10 km/h, it can no longer fall over by itself. However, be vigilant when it is stopped or travelling at a low speed. You must indicate to the driver that you want to get on or off.
Establishing a method of communication with the passenger
Before you head out, give appropriate instructions to the passenger and agree on how both of you will communicate during the trip.
Because they are less active, passengers experience fatigue, cold and stiffness more quickly than drivers. They must be able to ask to stop using a simple signal that has been determined in advance (a tap on the shoulder, for example).
There is no minimum age to be a passenger on a motorcycle. However, to ride a motorcycle, passengers must be tall enough to have their feet on the footrests and be able to hold on properly.
With a child, you must adapt the length of your trip (no more than 50 km for a first outing) and remember to take breaks even more frequently.
Transporting an animal by motorcycle is allowed as long as the animal is wearing a transportation harness designed for that purpose. The animal must never be placed in such as way as to obstruct the driver's view or interfere with the proper handling of the vehicle.
When riding a motorcycle, good communication is essential. Whether riding with a passenger or in a group, you need to be able to exchange information without jeopardizing your safety. Given the special conditions motorcyclists face (wind, noise, distance, wearing a helmet, etc.), some motorcyclists prefer an intercom-type communication system.
Use of this technology may impair your concentration. Conversations, radio, music and GPS instructions can be very distracting, making you less alert and preventing you from reacting correctly to changing road conditions.