Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Educate your Passenger

by Rocky Marks

Many people love to get on their motorcycles, head off into the sunset and just ride& alone. It's great therapy for clearing one's mind. Even though I enjoy taking the long way home by myself to blow off steam from work before I walk in the door to see my wife and kids, I prefer to ride with a passenger.
When my wife is available to ride, we are on the road and loving every minute of it. When she can't ride, then one of the Motor Clothes associates will ride with me. (Tough job, but someone has to do it.) I'm not sure why my preference is to ride with a passenger, but it works for me and that's what's important.
Although it's great to have someone along for the ride, adding a passenger brings with it some challenges. The two main challenges are mechanical and physical. The mechanical challenges deal with the way the bike handles with the added weight and the physical challenges are the way in which you, the rider need to compensate for having someone on the back seat.
With a passenger, the weight distribution on the bike is changed. The weight is not only placed very high up on the bike but it is placed at the back of the bike too. This changes the handling dynamics. The bike will turn differently with a passenger on board. You may not be able to maneuver around parking lots and tight spaces as well as you would by yourself.
You most certainly will need more distance to stop. Don't follow too closely behind the vehicle in front of you. Remember the two-second rule? You will have to increase it to the three-second rule when riding with a passenger.
The feel of the bike will be different as well. You can compensate by adjusting your suspension as most bikes have a preload adjustment on the rear shocks. You can adjust the shocks to a firmer setting for carrying a passenger.
You will also want to check the tire pressure. Remember, you are adding 120-160 pounds of extra weight to a 700 pound vehicle. That's a 23% increase. Make sure the tires are properly inflated, because after all, two square inches of rubber are the only thing that separates you and your passenger from the asphalt below.
It may not be a bad idea to go over some of the rules of the road with your passenger. Some of the things that may seem like no-brainers to you may not be as obvious to your passenger. Here is a brief list of things to mention to your passenger:
" They shouldn't get on the bike until you've taken off of the kick stand and are in a secure upright position.
" The passenger should wear the same protective clothing as yourself. Although I encourage the use of helmets, the choice is yours. If you choose not to wear a helmet, but your passenger does, be prepared for a head-but during a sudden stop or even shifting through the gears.
" Holding onto your waist is the best place for your passenger's hands. Even though some bikes have grab rails or back rests to hold on to, you are the best thing your passenger can hold on to. This helps especially when it comes to fighting gravity in the turns.
" The passenger should keep their feet away from all hot parts, especially exhaust pipes and keep them on the foot rests at all times, even when the bike is stopped.
Remember, they may not be as seasoned as you when it comes to riding a motorcycle and this may seem very obvious to you, but it's really important they know what to expect from their riding partner.
Which brings me to another point: Don't try to impress your passenger with your riding ability. I know it's hard not to show off, but you don't want to scare your passenger away. You want them to ride with you again.
If you missed any of this week's show, you can download the podcast on 1250 ESPN or go to www.hotmetalharley.com to listen to an archived on-demand show with On The Road with Rocky.

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