What is Pillion?


Wife, mom, grandmother, motorcyclist, and blogger.

Maybe you are like me and hadn’t heard the term “pillion” before beginning to ride. What is pillion? The official definition according to online dictionaries for the word pillion is that it is referring to a seat or pad used by a passenger on a horse, bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle. Riding pillion means being the passenger. 


What is Pillion Like for the First-time?

Here’s my take. I was a freshman in college when my sociology professor challenged our class to do something that scares us and report back on what we did and how we felt afterward. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I would ask my friend, Neal if he would take me for a ride on the back of his motorcycle. He was certainly surprised at my request since Neal knew how afraid I was to ride. 

In a borrowed helmet and leather jacket I mounted the motorcycle behind Neal. Before we took off he gave me some pointers on being a pillion and off we went. My head was planted on his back and my arms were tight around his waist. A couple of blocks down Neal stops takes off his helmet and lets me know he couldn’t breathe. That made two of us – I was holding my breath! Apparently, I was clutching a bit too tight. Not to mention my helmet would knock into his with every deceleration. Another no-no for riding pillion. 

We practiced riding in a residential area going around 25-30 mph. I became a bit more relaxed and began to enjoy the ride! We took some left and right turns, accelerated, slow down at various speeds, all in an effort to get me comfortable before heading to the highway. And then it happened Neal turned towards the freeway. We went from a standstill to 55 mph in a flash. 

What a thrill I experienced! What fear?! I went from saying I would never do something like that to when can we ride again! I look back and don’t know what caused my fear of riding pillion on a motorcycle. In my youth, I was generally a risk taker so it still baffles me why I avoided motorcycles. Seriously, it was awesome and thankfully I had a good biker that taught me how to ride pillion safely. 

Now that you know what is pillion here are 5 Pointers for first-time pillion riders

Point #1: Take the time to get to know the biker and their riding style before going too far or fast! Ask yourself if you trust the biker before jumping on the back of their motorcycle. While riding, do they take risks or ride erratically? All things to consider before throwing a leg over the back of their bike. 

Helmet or Heels - 5 Pointers for First-Time Pillion Riders

Point #2: If you are not familiar with motorcycles ask the owner to show you around their bike. What can or cannot be touched, like hot pipes! Get on the bike with the rider how does it feel? How is your balance? Where are the foot-pegs? Mount and unmount the cycle a few times to get a feel for it. Be confident before taking off down the road. 

Point #3: It is smart to develop a nonverbal communication system so you both know what to do or how to react to a situation. A pat on the arm meant I was to hold on he was accelerating. A double pat on the arm I was to brace myself because he was slowing down or stopping. Sometimes the biker creeps forward while riding so a pat on the knee means we need to slide back. These are a few suggestions but you need to have a system in place if you are going to ride pillion.

Point #4: Watch your helmet distance! It is very easy to clunk into the biker’s helmet when you decelerate or if you are looking around. The driver needs to focus on so many things you don’t need to create issues. Pay attention and do not be a distraction to the biker.

Point #5: Wear the gear. Enough said. Gear protects you from more than road rash! It protects you from bugs (June bugs are the worse), road debris, and weather to name a few things. Wear a good fitting helmet, jacket, gloves, pants, and boots. Commit to ATGATT – All the gear all the time.

I hope you have learned something from this post, What is Pillion & 5 Pointers for First-timers!

Ride safe friends.

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