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How to be a safe motorcycle passenger

Not much focus is given to motorcycle passengers. Passengers perch on small seats behind the rider, lightly grasping the driver around the chest or hips. Never by the shoulders, as this puts the passenger in control of steering the bike, and that's always a bad idea.

But just as there are both responsible and irresponsible motorcyclists, there are savvy bike passengers and clueless ones. Learn how you can become one of the former and steer clear of the latter label.

Dress the part

This doesn't mean you have to dress like a Hell's Angels, but it does mean that you should be fitted head to toe in protective gear. You never know when a debris-strewn road or an inattentive car driver will send a motorcycle and its rider and passenger tumbling down the highway. Make sure that you're wearing the following essentials:

  • Regulation helmet. Helmets should be worn every time you climb on a bike, even for a slow roll around the parking lot.
  • Leather jacket or other sturdy coat. As the weather heats up, you may be tempted to forego this piece of essential gear. Don't. Riders can be permanently disfigured from road rash, so protect your skin and all it covers.
  • Long, sturdy pants. You don't have to rush out and spend hundreds of dollars on leathers for a weekend ride, but pick up a pair of 14 oz. denim jeans that are 100 percent cotton. Lycra and Spandex won't cut it here.
  • Hiking or riding boots. These should cover vulnerable ankles.
  • Leather gloves. Imagine life with missing fingers. It could happen, so do all you can to protect your digits.

Learn how to turn

Motorcycles don't steer like cars. Rather, they bank like airplanes. This means that you must learn how to lean into turns naturally to avoid upsetting the balance. The easiest way to do this is to align your body with the rider's and look over the rider's shoulder in the turning direction -- left shoulder for left turns, right shoulder for right turns.

Mount and dismount from the left

Wait until the rider is on and balanced, then swing your right leg up and over the seat. Reverse the process when dismounting, and make sure no parts of your body make contact with searing hot exhaust pipes.

Brake safely

Watch the road ahead so you can anticipate braking patterns. If the rider has to suddenly brake, it will thrust you forward quickly and could interfere with the rider's ability to control the bike.

The best way to avoid forward weight transfers is to firmly press your feet into the footpegs while simultaneously gripping the seat with your thigh muscles.

Learn motorcycle shorthand

Conversations between motorcycle riders and passengers is difficult at best. Before starting out, determine some key shorthand signals between the two of you to communicate basic information nonverbally.

As you enjoy the freedom of the open road on the back of bike this year, stay safe and have fun.

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