Thanks to my stupid error in judgment (not to mention my finances), I have come to the realization that I will most likely always be a pillion warmer. My riding friends have assured me that this makes me no less a biker, and who knows? I could come into some disposable income that just screams, “Get a trike!” and who am I to argue with that?
So, for those of you who have never been a pillion warmer or have been but can’t understand why your friend looks like something stinky just crossed his or her path when it’s time to saddle up, here are a couple of helpful hints to bring the smile back.
Figure out the fastest and easiest way to mount up and use just that one method. I used to ride horses, so I find it most comfortable to get on from the left, using the rear foot peg as my “stirrup.” The left is the most customary side from which to mount a bike, and there are several ways bikers and their passengers get on. Always ask the rider or wait for the okay to mount up. Doing so without the rider’s attention can cause a loss of balance and even pull the bike over. Once on, keep your feet on the foot pegs and avoid the pipes, as they get very hot. I lost a good pair of shoes because I leaned my heels down onto the pipes, melting them away.
Do not strangle your rider. I saw a woman on the back of a bike who had her hands around her rider’s throat, near his shoulders. When they were stopping at a red light, her hands slid up around his neck! It was obvious she was scared, but he should have directed her hands down to his hips. This brings me to…
Holding on. Depending on the bike and the seats, holding on is not a necessity. I don’t do it. I prefer to sit back, and usually I am carrying my camera, so my hands are occupied. If you truly feel the need to hang on, keep your hands low on the waist of your partner, close to the hips. Never dig your nails in, do a bear hug or any other distractive hanging on. If there is no true second seat, don’t get on because…
You both have to ride as one, but this does not mean that you should be glued chest to back with each other. Just as what your rider does affects you, everything you do affects your rider. Lean into turns and look in the direction of the turn; do not fight the feeling. If you are unsure of how much to lean, follow your partner, keeping in perfect tandem from the waist up. Every biker rides differently; one friend leans deep and his head very slightly follows. Another friend leans a little less deeply but his head is perfectly vertical. It might take a turn or two to get the proper alignment, but it’s not difficult. Fighting the lean makes the rider have to work harder to keep a comfortable balance.
Be a partner and not just a passenger. Four eyes are better than two; help your rider look for potential hazards and learn to react to sudden changes. If there has to be emergency braking, keep yourself from sliding forward into your rider by using your legs to control your position on the seat. By keeping yourself back, you keep weight on the rear wheel, which helps its traction.
The single most important thing needed to have a great ride is trust. You have to trust in your partner’s skills as a rider, and your partner has to trust you as well. Trepidations, nervous fidgeting and panic moves will do nothing to enhance the experience and might work to make your partner hesitant to ever take you along again. Don’t feel you have to ride just because you were asked to. If you feel the rider is too inexperienced or the bike might not be right, saying “No thanks” won’t hurt anyone.
By Louise Reeves