Sharing your motorcycling experience with a friend is a great way to spend some time together…for a while at least. Then you’re both going to be either enjoying the comfort of a motorcycle designed to carry a passenger, or your pillion-mounted pal may start to silently resent you as their tushie goes numb and their knees throb with pain. Riding a motorcycle that’s only fun for the rider results in you mostly riding alone (which, in all candor, may not be a bad thing).
Here’s a list of motorcycles we think are ideal for passengers.
Suzuki‘s V-Strom – in 650 or 1000cc size – is a great value. The 650 is one of our all-time favorites – light, affordable, comfortable and great handling. The 1000 is as good as the 650, but with gobs more torque and not too much extra weight. They’re also great for passengers, with wide, cushy seats and long, roomy reach to the pegs.
If you have to take a friend to work with you, this is our choice. It’s got great fuel economy, roomy enough accommodations and wind protection. Available luggage will store your riding gear when you get where you’re going. What really makes the Honda NC750X a good choice is the available clutchless DCT transmission. That means a smooth ride – no helmet bumping!
If your friend wants to sit behind you all the way around the world, the BMW R1200GS has been the the obvious choice for years. Not only does it offer a smooth, powerful motor that can plod along at walking speeds offroad or blast you along the Autobahn at 130 mph, the chassis is just as capable on fire roads as it is on a paved racetrack. Available accessories can make that broad, nicely padded seat as comfy as you like.
Some of us like to go fast – really fast – but want to be comfortable for all day travel. Kawi‘s newest supercharged sport-tourer could be passenger nirvana. With a 200-horsepower motor from the uber speedy H2 sportbike and a beefed-up subframe to handle a passenger and luggage, the H2 SX could be the best way to bend the laws of physics two-up without breaking a sweat.
It’s the simple things in life that make us happy, and a sunny day aboard a classic Vespa is one of motorcycling’s great simple pleasures. A twist-n-go CVT transmission makes riding a snap, especially around town, and the long, sturdy monocoque steel chassis offers good open-road handling. The Vespa’s seat is surprisingly roomy, there’s room underneath it for helmets and purses and all that, and it’s a smooth, easy ride. Just don’t be in too big a hurry.
Cruisers look comfortable to the non-rider, with big, soft, squishy seats and low, laid-back styling. But a lot of the style is just for…style, and the high footpegs and teensy pillion pads can make long rides painful and tedious. Look for a “bagger,” a cruiser meant for long rides, with windscreens, saddlebags, and wide, comfortable passenger seats with low footpegs so your S.O. can stretch out and enjoy the ride.
It’s the classic all-American open-road machine, and it may be the ultimate passenger experience. Your companion will be coddled by a deep bucket seat, a high back rest and a sound system lifted from Studio 54, while you’ll be entertained by a surprisingly good-handling machine with low-down passing power from that classic 107 cubic-inch engine making 111 ft.-lbs. of torque.
Motorcycling may be at its best when you get back to basics. Honda’s classic CB1100 gives you the look and feel of vintage riding with modern reliability and performance. It’s sized right for grown-up riders and passengers, with that old-timey ironing-board seat and low passenger pegs promising a comfy day in the saddle.
Some of us think the utility, storage and practicality of a scooter make it a natural choice for carrying passengers, and if you want the ultimate scooter, the 650 Burgman may be it. Not only does it offer roomy passenger accommodations (with a built-in backrest) and a powerful 650cc V-Twin powerplant with an easy-to-use twist-and-go CVT tranny, it offers great handling with its low center of gravity, good cornering clearance and plus-size wheels.
For decades and decades, Honda’s Goldwing has set a high bar for the factory-built touring bike, and it’s now been updated for 2018. It’s lighter, faster and restyled, but what a passenger needs to know is the top-o-the-line Tour model has a huge, soft heated seat, backrest, sound system and massive luggage capacity.
Now that you know what motorcycles are ideal for carrying a passenger, what should you, the passenger, know about sitting back there? The first order of business is getting on the motorcycle in the first place. Make sure the pilot is ready for you to hop on, because instantly adding 100-plus pounds of weight to the back of the bike is sure to upset it. If the pilot isn’t ready yet, all three of you (rider, passenger, and motorcycle) are headed for the ground.
Once you’re on the motorcycle, get comfortable. Find a comfortable position for your legs and feet, and if the bike has a backrest, use it. If not, communicate with the pilot how you feel placing your hands rearward towards the hand rests or forward towards the fuel tank (or around the pilot’s waist). You’ll inevitably switch back and forth if the ride is long enough.
When it’s time to get moving, just relax. Tensing up will make you tire quicker. If you’re on a motorcycle like a Gold Wing or other tourer, the back and arm rests will have you traveling in the lap of luxury. However, if your motorcycle doesn’t have back and/or arm rests, you’ll likely be leaning forward. Use your core and your lower body to secure yourself on the seat. Use your arms to help support your weight either forward (under braking) or backward (acceleration).
Inevitably you’re going to have to navigate a turn. If the motorcycle is already traveling at speed, simply moving your head to the direction of the turn and looking through it should be enough. There’s no need to hang off like a racer. If the motorcycle is moving slowly (say, in a parking lot or while making a U-Turn), you can move your head to the direction of the turn if you like, or you can simply sit still. In either case, whatever you do, don’t make any sudden movements or jerk around. Doing so can seriously upset the balance of the motorcycle and anger the person in front trying to control it.