Avoid the pillion pitfalls

One of the many questions we’ve been asked recently by young riders is, ‘can I carry a passenger on my motorbike, scooter or moped?

Like with a lot of things around motorcycling law, it’s a little complicated, but basically, bikers can carry passengers as long as they hold a full motorbike licence.

If we’ve got a licence, we can ride with a pillion…

However, if we’re riding on L plates and CBT, no matter the bike, we can’t carry passengers, unless we’ve also got a full driver’s licence from before February 1, 2001.

We said it was a bit complicated!

So we’ve got a full motorbike licence, so can we passengers?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily should. First, every rider should ask themselves, ‘am I experienced enough to carry a passenger?’  Passengers create new challenges for the rider, and it’s better to clock up plenty of miles on the road before taking the extra step of carrying a pillion.


Golden rules for carrying pillion passengers…

First, check the bike insurance allows the carriage of pillion passengers.

Second, check the bike’s maximum weight isn’t exceeded with two people on board. You’ll find out what that is in the manual. It’s a good idea to add 3-4 psi of air in the rear tyre, to compensate for the extra weight.

Next, gear. The pillion must wear a helmet - to BS standards – and be kitted out the same as a rider. That means as a minimum, leather gloves, heavyweight riding jeans, sturdy boots with ankle support and a leather jacket.

Give the pillion a briefing before the journey starts. Explain how the bike responds to braking and acceleration, and the forces they can expect to feel. Pillions need to stay relaxed and sit centrally on the saddle, and lean gently into corners. Arrange a safety signal so they can get your attention if they are struggling in any way. If possible, set up a Bluetooth comms link.


What do I hold on to?

That’s a question the pillion is bound to ask. If the bike has a rear grab handle, both hands on is good, as is holding on with one hand while allowing the other to come around the rider’s waist. Around the waist with both hands works too.


Tips for the rider

Go easy on the acceleration and braking. Sharp acceleration when the pillion isn’t expecting it could cause them to lose their balance, while harsh braking will result in you getting a head butt in your back.

Try to keep the gear changes and turns even smoother than normal. Remember, the pillion won’t be able to anticipate what we are going to do and shift their weight accordingly. Many of the bike’s movements will come as a surprise, and they’ll respond jerkily, particularly to begin with.

That’s why riding with a pillion demands a smoother riding style than ever before. We need as much space between us and other road users as possible, to give us room for manoeuvre, and to keep observation sharp.

Arrived safe and happy? Good. One last point: let the pillion off first! The rider needs to shift his or her weight over to the opposite side the pillion is disembarking to, to counter balance as they leave the bike.

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