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Section Eight - Passengers, Cargo and Group Riding

Only skilled, experienced riders should carry passengers or heavy loads or ride in groups. If you choose to carry passengers or heavy loads or ride in a group, you will need to know some important information.

Carrying Passengers and Cargo

Before carrying a passenger or heavy loads, know how both could affect motorcycle operation. The extra weight of a passenger or cargo will affect the way your motorcycle handles, requiring extra practice, preparation and caution. For this reason, only experienced riders should attempt to carry passengers or large loads. Before taking a passenger or heavy load on the street, adjust the air pressure of both tires and suspension settings to compensate for the additional weight. Refer to the owner’s manual for more information.

When carrying a passenger, your motorcycle must have:
  • Permanent seat(s) to carry both the operator and the passenger. No passenger, regardless of age, should be seated in front of you.
  • Footrests for the passenger.
When riding with passengers:
  • Ensure solid handholds for the passenger are available. The passenger can also hold on to your waist, hips or belt.
  • Ride a little slower, especially when taking curves, corners or bumps.
  • Start slowing earlier; you may need to use more pressure on the brakes.
  • Wait for larger gaps to cross, enter or merge in traffic.
  • Incorporate a larger cushion of space when stopping or slowing the motorcycle.
Only skilled, experienced riders should carry passengers or heavy loads or ride in groups.

Instructing Passengers

Your passenger should wear the same protective gear as you. As a routine practice, instruct your passenger on motorcycling basics prior to starting their trip. Even if your passenger is a motorcycle rider, provide complete instructions before you start.

Tell your passenger to:
  • Keep both feet firmly planted on the motorcycle’s footrests, even when stopped.
  • Keep legs away from the muffler(s), chains or moving parts.
  • Hold firmly onto your waist, hips or passenger handgrips.
  • Sit as far forward, without crowding, directly behind you.
  • Look over your shoulder in the direction of the turn or curve to help you lean in the direction of the turn or curve.
  • Avoid unnecessary conversation and movement when the motorcycle is in operation.
Tell your passenger to tighten their hold when you:
  • Approach surface problems.
  • Are about to start from a stop.
  • Are about to stop or make a sharp turn.

Carrying Loads

  • Keep the Load Low – Secure loads as low as possible. Fasten loads securely, or put them in saddlebags or side cases. Piling heavy loads on the back of the seat changes the motorcycle’s center of gravity and may disturb its balance.
  • Keep the Load Forward – Place the load over, or in front of, the rear axle. Tank bags keep loads forward, but use caution when loading hard or
  • sharp objects. Make sure the tank bag does not interfere with handlebars or controls. Mounting loads behind the rear axle can affect how the motorcycle turns and brakes. It can also cause a wobble.
  • Distribute the Load Evenly – Load saddlebags or side cases with about the same weight on each side. An uneven load can cause the motorcycle to pull to one side. Overloading may also cause the bags to catch in the wheel or chain, locking the rear wheel and prompting the motorcycle to skid.
  • Secure the Load – Fasten the load securely with elastic cords (bungee cords or nets). Elastic cords with more than one attachment point per side are more secure. A tight load won’t catch in the wheel or chain. Rope tends to stretch and knots can come loose causing the load to shift or fall.
  • Check the Load – Stop and check the load every so often to make sure it has not worked loose or moved.

Group Riding

Riding with others is one of the many great experiences of motorcycling. Riding with other motorcyclists can help to increase rider visibility and safety. Responsible riders do so in a manner that neither endangers nor interferes with the free flow of traffic. Concentration and communication are essential to group riding. You should gain some
 riding experience before riding in a group. Riders with differing skill sets can lead to a less skilled rider getting in over their head and riding beyond their ability. To enhance safety and reduce the risk of injury when riding in groups you should:
  • Communicate your route before riding.
  • Keep the group small (3-5 riders) to avoid losing riders at the end.
  • Keep your distance.
  • Ride in staggered formation.
  • Keep newer riders up front, right behind the leader.
  • Move into single-file formation when riding curves, turns, or entering or leaving a highway.
  • Establish hand signals for communication during the ride.

Staggered Formation

Don’t pair up. The safest way to ride in groups is in staggered formation. The leader rides in the front on the left, while the second rider stays at least two to four seconds behind to the right. A third rider will ride in the left position two to four seconds behind the first rider. The fourth rider will keep a two to four second distance behind the second rider. This formation keeps the group close and allows each rider a safe distance within the group. If your group is riding at higher speeds, heavy traffic, bad weather, passing vehicles or riding single file around a curve, maintain at least four seconds following distance.

For speeds greater than 30 mph, a safe following distance should be four seconds or more to allow time to make a decision and take action.

Passing in a Group

  • Riders in a staggered formation should pass one at a time.
  • First, the lead rider should pull out and pass when it is safe. After passing, the leader should return to correct formation position – the left portion of the lane, and ride at passing speed to open up space for rider number two.
  • After the first rider passes safely, the second rider should move from the right position to the left (lead) position and complete their pass, pulling into staggered formation behind the lead.
  • The rest of the group follows this routine. Pass from the left position and return to the proper formation.
  • The lead rider returns to cruising speed when the last rider has completed the pass.
  • If being passed while riding in a group, maintain your lane position.


Test Your Knowledge

1. Extra weight of a passenger or cargo will:
    A. Improve the way your motorcycle handles improving the handling characteristics.
    B. Affect the way your motorcycle handles, requiring extra practice, preparation and caution.
    C. Have no additional impact on the motorcycle’s maneuvering abilities.
2. When you tell your passenger you are about to start from a stop, they should:
    A. Tighten their hold.
    B. Lean to the right side.
    C. Move back in the seat.