This is a first for Helmet or Heels. I would like to share with you, Profile of a Female Pillionist Meet Sa! If you have followed this blog you know I have many profiles of a female motorcyclist from around the world. I had hopes of opening up this community to women who choose to ride pillion. They have a story filled with experience and adventure to share too. My wish has come true!
I am so happy that I began following Sa or @Honest_Opillion on Instagram. She hails from across the pond from me here in the United States. There was something really special about her Instagram posts and photos that reached out and asked if she would like to be featured on the blog. To my delight Sa agreed to share from the pillion point of view. Enjoy!
Profile of a Female Pillionist Meet Sa
How long have you been riding pillion?
I rode pillion back in the 1980s, had a gap, and have returned to it in later life.
Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?
Yes. But not since the 1980s.
What was your first bike?
It was a 49cc moped. I loved it. It took me everywhere I needed to go. Then, when I was travelling in Asia, I was loaned an off-road/scrambler 250cc Suzuki.
I was shown how to kickstart it, change gears, use the throttle, brake … and off I went, generally in a shalwar chemise and flip flops. Unthinkable now, but that’s how it was in the 1980s in Asia. Riding a bike and riding pillion there was an unbelievable experience.
Why did you stop riding?
That’s a question I ask myself a lot. The main reason was undoubtedly financial – I couldn’t afford my own bike. But I still got a good ‘fix’ of bikes – my husband and I were (are) passionate about motorsport, so if there was a set of moving wheels in the area, we were probably there watching.
Do you see yourself riding again?
Never say never, of course. I do look at bikes A LOT. But right now, I’m very happy sitting pillion.
I’d really hate people to think that being a pillionist is somehow inferior to riding. It’s different, for sure. But honestly, it’s no less fun. And I do think that riders should give pillion a go now and again – just so they can be a better pilot for their pillionist.
Which was/is your favorite bike for riding pillion and why?
Definitely our current bike: a Triumph Tiger 900cc Rally Pro. It has a very, very comfortable pillion seat. Previously, we had a Yamaha Tracer 7, which was extremely nimble and fun, but just a little bit squashed for the two of us.
So this year we decided to ‘upgrade’. Since my time in Asia, though, I’ve had a romantic hankering for a Royal Enfield – of any kind. I must be the only person who never rode an Enfield in India! So I’m checking out those pillions too.
What makes being a pillionist different from being a rider?
I think the main difference is relinquishing control. You are literally a passenger. And if you’re not happy with that, then I don’t think you’re going to have a great experience.
The second main difference is that you’ve relinquished control!!!! That does come with benefits; it means you can take in the views and enjoy the ride. Of course, I still watch out for traffic, comment on what I can see, and hopefully be useful in those terms.
But mainly, it’s a much more relaxed experience for me. My husband and I rode a tandem for years. So I was used to sitting behind him and have always had complete trust in him. The tandem was great experience – although I did have to work a bit harder than I do on a motorcycle.
What advice do you have for women (or anyone) new to pillion?
Make sure you have the right gear before you step up to that seat. When I returned to pillion, I borrowed some gear from a biker friend. It was intended as a long-term loan, but I knew as soon as I got back on a bike that I’d be visiting our local bike store the next day for my own kit.
Also, check out the riding credentials of your pilot. What’s their experience? How do they ride? Are they respectful of other road users, and are they respectful to you? Do they listen well? Will they take their responsibility for having a passenger seriously?
If you’re 100% confident that you’re 100% confident (if you see what I mean), go to a quiet place and practice, practice, practice – go round in circles, do figures of eight, ride round cones just to get the feel of things. Learn how to sit still.
What you do on the back feeds through to the rider. So let them know in advance if you need to move for any reason. Most of all, develop a language between you that’s consistent, and never be afraid to discuss the parts of a ride you don’t enjoy.
As a biking couple, you quickly build a picture of what works for both of you together. And that’s when the magic happens.
What do you do when you’re not on a bike?
I still work – I’m a journalist – so that takes up some time. I adore photography, and belong to a local camera club. I don’t have a fancy camera – I use my iPhone. I hesitate to use the words ‘just’ or ‘only’ – like with pillion riding. There are skills to iPhone photography, just as there are skills to being a pillionist. They’re not the same as having a whole load of camera equipment, or as riding a bike, but they are skills nonetheless.
And I love walking. I don’t remotely feel my biological age. I’m always surprised when I look at the numbers. But I don’t miss the pace of life and work I used to have. As the Eagles suggested way back when, finally, I’m taking it easy! And I’m valuing every moment.
There you have it! The first Profile of a Female Pillionist Meet Sa! Wow. Thank you Sa for allowing us to see a pillion point of view. As my mechanic says, “Two wheels, is two wheels” so if you are sitting in the front or as passenger we all share a passion for motorcycling.
Ladies, whether you are looking to start riding solo, a casual motorcyclist, a seasoned rider, or enjoying riding pillion you are all welcome to join in the Helmet or Heels community. I would love to share your story of motorcycling no matter where you are on the journey. It will inspire other women along the way.