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Let's talk about ... Two Up

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

It's a great Australian game but that's not what we are talking about.

What are the pros and cons about being a pillion? Is this something you would choose, either as rider or passenger, to do? What is it like being a pillion? Does it make a difference to the rider if there is a pillion on board?

The other day I had a short ride on the back of my husbands bike as mine was in getting a service. My story starts before I even hopped on the bike! I see other ladies just stand on the peg and pop onto the bike, with no hassles. I think we needed a video of my attempt. As I started to put my weight on the peg the bike, naturally, started to lean. As my husband had not yet ridden with a pillion he was not expecting such a large shift on the bike. No, the bike didn't drop, but we won't try that again. So, I tried to just swing my leg over. With a bit of a dodgy hip, this was also nearly a disaster. Sheesh, we hadn't even started the ride! So I did a bit of a shuffle and, eventually, got seated on the back.

When I did finally get on the back, it seems I didn't really like being a pillion. I put this down to riding my own bike and being in control. I was not a horrible pillion, actually I barely moved at all, but it is not something I would choose as a way to enjoy motorcycles.

But we have a few pillions in RAC who get out with their friends and partners most weekends to enjoy the ride. I decided to find out from them what the appeal is:

Rachel: I have always had a love of motorbikes, and have ridden trail bikes & quads on & off over the years. Being a pillion though gives me all the joys of riding a bike without the ''responsibility''. Just sit back and enjoy the view. In saying that, there is quite a bit a pillion needs to be aware of. As Sandy said a pillion makes a difference to the rider. How we behave on the bike effects them! Do not be one of those people with ''ants in their pants''. I have found that on windy days I'm affected a lot more than the rider and that can sometimes make it hard to be still. I try to keep my upper body as still as possible, while keeping my hips relaxed to move with the bike. Different pillion seats, and also the type of pants you wear can also impact on how much you slip about on the seat (something to think about when purchasing gear). If you do have to adjust your position - always do it on the straight bits of road. Getting on and off the bike can be a challenge, which ever way you manage it, always make sure the rider knows you're about to hop on. I do this by putting my hand on their shoulder. I suppose you could say, you and the rider have to work as a team. You have to trust in their riding skills, and they have to trust that you'll be a nice still pillion. Both of you can then just get on the road and enjoy the ride!!

Jo: I have the privilege of being a pillion with my partner Jimmy. There are some definite benefits of riding on the bike together. The primary intent is being able to do something together that you both enjoy, there are similarities in travelling via other types of transport however the bike experience holds an edge of excitement as you have the freedom of being on the bike with the wind blowing in your face while embracing all the senses around you. I am often asked if I want to ride my own bike however, I can honestly say I love being on the back of the bike with Jimmy.

On a side note, being the pillion is not for the faint hearted as you have no control over what is happening at the front. Trusting the rider and knowing that you are safe with them from the start is the key. I find it's important to be alert and to be aware of what is going on around you. If you do get a sudden fright or a surprise your body reaction can have an impact on the rider.

Having a second pair of eyes on the road can be an advantage. Riders are always aware of the traffic however bikes are not always seen on the road. Sometimes the pillion can alert the rider if they notice something.

As a pillion I also enjoy the responsibility of the video camera and recording some of our adventures. The recordings capture some great sights while on the road as well as close up shots of other riders on the road and lifetime memories to look back on.

I have ridden with my husband on the back quite often (before he eventually decided to buy his own bike) and it most definitely makes a difference to the rider. Cornering is affected, as is simply stopping at an intersection. Rick is a perfect pillion, but I do prefer to ride on my own. In saying that I have also had my 10 year old granddaughter on the back and, after a few initial learning curves, she is a fantastic pillion. I enjoy seeing a younger generation form a love for motorbikes. She has no interest in buying a bike and it seems she will be one who chooses to be a pillion rider.

So no matter what you ride, as rider or pillion, the joy of bikes is what you make it.

Riders and pillions both, all are welcome on RAC rides, just follow the #1 rule: Don't be a dick.

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