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Adding A Passenger
After 6 months of experience you are still NOT ready

By: James R. Davis

Passengers and new riders are a NO NO. But you know that, I'm sure. So let's talk about the real issues.

When you move from a smaller bike to a larger bike the learning curve essentially starts all over again. You will need to practice starts, stops, turns almost as if you had never ridden a bike before. However, moving from a larger bike to a smaller one takes about 1 minute of familiarity and you will have complete control of it (unless you make a radical move from a cruiser to a sport bike, for example.) But what I was reaching for here was the effect of added weight.

It is NOT true that adding weight to a bike increases stopping distance and time - it merely makes it more difficult to achieve the same stopping distance and time but because traction is increased proportionate to the added weight, you have the traction to handle more braking - so all you have to do is squeeze the brakes harder to get the same distance and time.

That is, adding a passenger changes the dynamics of the bike and a new rider barely has control of the dynamics that existed before adding that passenger.

So, I recommend at least SIX MONTHS of experience riding your bike before you allow a passenger to get onto it. But at that time you will still NOT BE READY to handle the added weight!!!! You will need to practice with that added weight before you go out and test other limits.

Further, that FIRST passenger should NOT be your significant other or a child!!!!! It should be an experienced rider. An experienced rider will completely understand ragged starts, less than smooth stops and some insecurity leaning the bike. He/she will NOT add problems by being distracting or other unsafe behavior behind you. Your significant other, on the other hand, will expect you to be in CONTROL of the bike and when you demonstrate sloppy starts/stops and leans you will undermine that confidence.

With a passenger you want to PRACTICE, practice, practice - just like when you graduate to a new/larger bike. I cannot remember an inexperienced passenger who would have tolerated such practice sessions. So get a friend and help each other out with that practice before you subject an uninformed person to your learning curve.

Finally, if your significant other is going to be a regular passenger, even if she never intends to drive a motorcycle, have her take the MSF class. Honest! A passenger is NOT totally dependent upon the rider for his/her safety. Should you need help (heart attack, for example) your passenger can take control of the bike from the pillion and get it off the road safely from the pillion!!! (If trained.)

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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