Tips To Enhance The Comfort And Safety Of Your Pillion Rider
Riding a two-wheeler solo is a big responsibility in itself. Two-wheelers do not self-balance, so it takes some skill and effort to keep the vehicle moving safely and swiftly. Bring a pillion into the equation, and things can get even more complex. It takes a higher degree of skill and physical ability to deal with the added weight of the pillion and the shift in vehicle dynamics. It is, therefore, important while riding with a pillion that you understand your vehicle well enough, have the requisite skill to deal with the additional weight and have your pillion rider’s support when you decide to go two-up on your machine. Let’s take a look at how one can ensure a safer and more comfortable riding experience with a pillion.
Is your two-wheeler pillion friendly?
Some two-wheelers are inherently more suited to be ridden two-up. Motorcycles such as cruisers with a low centre of gravity and a plush co-rider’s seat allow for easier, more comfortable accommodation for a pillion rider. Scooters with their long seats and low seat height can accommodate a pillion rider without much fuss. Some other motorcycles, on the other hand, with shorter rear seats, are a pillion rider’s nightmare. One should, therefore, assess the suitability of their two-wheeler for the safety and comfort of the pillion rider and decide the distance or route to go two-up accordingly. The pillion rider’s comfort and safety should take precedence over the rider’s convenience to ensure a smooth, hassle-free ride.
Know your pillion’s capability to travel
Another essential thing to assess while riding with a pillion is their physical capacity to travel as a co-rider. Some people are used to riding as a pillion and can sit on the backseat for longer durations than others, who tend to get fatigued rather quickly. The rider should ensure that the pillion is comfortable enough and travel the required distance without much physical stress. If the pillion experiences fatigue, the rider should take a break rather than continue the journey.
Know your two-wheeler’s capacity to handle the weight
The extra weight of a pillion puts tremendous stress on the mechanicals of a small two-wheeler. With the throttle whacked wide open, the fuel efficiency is adversely affected, and the engine is also subjected to tremendous load. With their chassis, suspension and other components subjected to stress they were not designed for, smaller vehicles might also be unsafe to be ridden with an additional rider. It is, therefore, vital that you ensure that your vehicle can handle the extra load of a pillion before setting out for a two-up journey.
Invest in the pillion’s safety
Wearing proper riding gear is the most crucial step to ensuring one’s safety on a two-wheeler. However, the concept of the pillion wearing even a helmet is quite alien to us Indians. However, one shouldn’t go by what other ignorant road users do and set the right example for everyone to follow. ATGATT should be the mantra, and both rider and pillion should wear “All The Gear, All The Time” when riding a motorcycle. Always ensure your pillion rider is wearing full riding gear, for when one takes a fall from a motorcycle, it’s equally damaging for both the rider and the pillion.
Gain the pillion’s trust
Riding a two-wheeler can get dangerous when the pillion doesn’t have faith in you. Nervous pillion riders often constantly fidget with their position on the two-wheeler, which may disbalance the vehicle and cause an accident. The rider should assure the pillion about their own riding skill and convince them that their safety and comfort are paramount. This will ensure the rider can focus more on the road instead of worrying about the pillion’s sudden movements.
Get a good seating position
An optimum seating position, both for the rider and pillion, is vital for a comfortable journey. The rider should sit in a way such that there is enough space for the pillion behind. The pillion should be aware of the footpegs and plant their feet firmly on them. If a suitable grab rail is unavailable, the pillion should rest their hands on the rider’s shoulder or waist, whichever is more comfortable. During faster journeys, the pillion should brace their torso firmly using their arms so that there is no sudden forward or backward movement of the head if the two-wheeler experiences sudden braking or acceleration. The rider, on his part, should ensure that such instances of sudden acceleration and braking are as few as possible. Apart from keeping the motorcycle well-balanced, this also helps prevent helmet collision, which is common when untrained riders and pillions travel together. Also, the position of the pillion’s lower half of the body should be in line with the rider’s lower body. This translates into the pillions legs not jutting out too much and becoming a safety hazard. In effect, both rider and pillion should act as one unit where their longitudinal and lateral movements on the two-wheeler are more or less in sync to allow for a well-balanced and safe, dynamic behaviour of the vehicle.
Ensure that the pillion has the correct body posture
Since the pillion’s body is subject to varied dynamic forces while riding, their body posture plays a vital role in keeping the motorcycle balanced. How you sit on a two-wheeler is often dependent on variables such as the kind of vehicle you are riding, the road surface, the length of journey, and the road's curvature. Based on these variables, the pillion should maintain a body posture that is comfortable and suitable for the rider as well. Constant communication and expression of what works best should allow the rider-pillion duo to quickly achieve a harmonious seating position.
Go easy on the throttle
A smooth ride ensures that the rider and the pillion don’t feel any fatigue after the ride. Ensuring a smooth pick up from standstill and gently applying the throttle would lead to lesser jerks and reduce sudden unsettling movements. Violent jerks, harsh braking and constant speeding could be a huge safety concern for the pillion since they would struggle to adapt to the continuous movements.
Take a smoother route
Indian roads have a new surprise at every corner. Potholes, speed breakers, undisciplined road users and huge puddles are just some of the obstacles Indian riders face every day in their life. Bad roads, however, take a toll on the pillion rider’s body much more than the rider’s. Remember, the rider can always anticipate what lies ahead on the road and prepare accordingly for body stiffness and position. On the other hand, the pillion cannot often judge what’s ahead due to being seated behind and not being in control of throttle and braking. Hence, avoid bad patches of the road as much as possible and ride considerately, keeping your co-riders comfort in mind at all times. Take a longer route, even if that translates into a smoother ride for your pillion.
Be gentle on the curves
Cornering becomes much more challenging when a pillion is added to the equation. With the added weight, the rider needs to be much more careful when leaning into the corners. The rider should therefore corner slowly and smoothly when accompanied by a pillion. Additionally, the pillion should also understand the dynamics of cornering. The pillion should gently lean in with the rider on a corner. Not leaning in or leaning opposite to the corner will greatly upset the balance of the two-wheeler, which could lead to an accident.
Dropping the anchors
According to a simple rule of physics, momentum equals the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity. This means that a two-wheeler with a pillion rider carries a lot more momentum than a motorcycle that’s being ridden solo. The braking distance of the two-wheeler, thus, is increased by a wide margin due to the added acceleration for any given speed. The rider should take this into consideration and brake much earlier than usual. One should also brake gently, use both brakes and avoid sudden jerks, which could cause the pillion to lose balance.
Communication is the key
As with every situation, communication goes a long way in enhancing your two-up riding experience. The rider should get feedback from the pillion now and then to adapt to a riding style that is more comfortable for the pillion. The pillion should also be vocal about their comfort and give feedback to the rider accordingly.