Motorcycle passengers (riding pillion)
A certain level of skill and ability is required to carry a
passenger, or riding pillion, on a motorbike safely. Learner
riders are not allowed to carry pillion passengers, and riders
should consider advanced or refresher training before carrying a
passenger for the first time.
A rider should ensure that they are sufficiently skilled and
experienced before taking on the responsibility of carrying a
Assessment schemes such as BikeSafe, allow pillions to attend
and advanced motorcycle instructors are often happy to provide
lessons on the techniques needed.
- A pillion can move forward under heavy braking, and their
helmet can clash with that of the rider, so they should be prepared
- The extra weight, particularly on a smaller motorcycle, will
require more throttle and clutch control, and earlier and harder
- More weight over the rear tyre may improve the stopping power
of the rear brake, especially in emergency situations. A rider
should practice low speed clutch and throttle control, as well
as normal and emergency braking in a safe place to experience
the handling changes.
- Riding downhill and in the wet also requires an increase in
braking distance. More care is required in cornering, because of
the increased weight and cornering clearances may be affected.
- Riders should allow more time and space for overtaking, because
the extra weight will affect speed and how the bike
- The effects of wind may be more noticeable, so riders should be
aware of gaps in hedges and spaces between houses where side winds
could cause problems.
Allow time for a passenger to get used to the sense of speed and
the sensation of leaning. Speeds should be kept low until the
pillion passenger gets used to the proper riding techniques.
The decision about if a child can be a pillion passenger has to
be made by their parent or guardian. They can enjoy the experience,
but need extra stops to go to the toilet and eat regularly, so
allow for breaks in the journey.
In warm weather, make sure they have plenty of fluids as
protective clothing can be hot, causing dehydration. Being a
pillion passenger is more tiring than being a passenger in a car.
If considering carrying a child as a pillion, make sure they:
- can physically cope with the length of the journey
- are mature enough to handle the responsibility
- are tall enough to comfortably reach the footrests
- wear a properly fitted helmet and other protective
- hold onto the rider, the pillion hand-holds or the sissy
The motorcycle must be designed to carry a pillion. The owner’s
manual and manufacturers guidance have information on how the
machine should be set up for this.
The suspension and tyre pressures are likely to require
adjustment. If these adjustments are not made, the pillion will
have an uncomfortable ride and the bike’s handling will be affected
more. It could also cause damage to the bike. The weight limits
specified in the owner’s manual should not be exceeded.
Passengers must be tall enough to comfortably reach the
footrests and deal with the length of the journey planned. A
pillion must be dressed for the weather, as well as wearing
clothing which will offer protection in a collision.
Pillions are legally required to wear a properly fitted helmet
and should wear protective clothing such as gloves, boots, jackets
and trousers in a suitable material, like leather.
The British Motorcyclists Federation has a facility for buying
and selling children’s protective clothing, as they outgrow them so
Pillions should be given a briefing by the rider on what signals
they both will use, what should be expected and how they should
behave. They both share responsibility for their own safety.
- mount the bike after the stand is raised and the rider has it
- hold on to the rider, the pillion hand-holds or the sissy
- keep feet on footrests at all times, including while
- keep hands and feet away from hot or moving parts
- avoid turning around or making sudden movements that might
affect the balance of the bike
- when crossing an obstacle, stand on the pegs with their knees
bent to allow the legs to absorb the shock of the impact.