Author Topic: Pillioning Tips - Just a few little things to maybe avoid a Big Problem  (Read 8657 times)

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Offline VinceS

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Because I am about to start carrying another fabulous pillion around by Ducati I went to print this article and realised what I actually submitted for publication was a somewhat embellished version of the original article, so here is a copy of the text I sent in - mainly with a couple of intro paras to the original, the main content was unchanged. If you check it against the final copy as published in Australian Road Rider magazine # 59 (May/June 2010) pages 58-61 you will see the changes are pretty subtle to non-existent, but they added some nice pics! Say in case anyone's wondering, ARR is a publication you get "guts 'n glory" nothing else, except the warm glow of hopefully helping your fellow human being out with info / amusement value. Here 'tis:

So you have seen what fun other couples have out together on bikes for a while now? You’ve had this thing welling up inside you to share the joy of motorcycling with your much loved one / friend etc and have finally blurted it out in a way that got an OK? Brilliant, you are about to add a major dimension to your life that will bring you much satisfaction and fulfilment. Or maybe you’ve confronted the feelings and chickened out, there are lots of reasons this happens – this story may help you have another go. Or perhaps you are an old hand at it that never quite figured how this stuff really should happen at first, and you will get a laugh out of the memories some of these tips will bring back!

When we first contemplate pillioning mostly we are “a bloke” with either “a chick”, “a mate” or “a kid” we want to take somewhere. We could be riding pretty well any damn thing, as long as it has a spare seat and foot-pegs we are away! Our experience could be all over the spectrum, it is irrelevant as our enthusiasm knows no bounds! And, if we don’t fit the stereotype, we can easily see how it applies to us. So, being a bloke, the first time I doubled a chick long ago I remember the initial issues about will she come, what to wear, will she like it etc being dealt with pretty simply and we were off – into the learning zone!

After many years of doubling people around Oz a friend who was about to do it for the first time asked me a few questions. Mostly about the (very important) feelings of the intrepid rider, who was reasonably experienced but naturally worried mostly about how they themselves would go at this new activity. Well all the memories came flooding back.

As many more experienced pillioners know it is not all about us, we will be fine. It is the pillion and the bike that will be the source of all the problems! However, mostly we had to figure this out the hard way - so here are some tips for people who are contemplating this for the first time and would like to cut out some of the more serious potential stuff-ups at the outset:

The first thing is the rather significant but almost universally overlooked topic of the bike. By putting a pillion on, depending on the size of the pillion and the bike, you are increasing the mass the bike has to hold up by 20-50%, and that is pretty important! Plus add a bit more for luggage, and who stays within the “manufacturer’s recommendations”? So there’s a pretty big area for easily avoided stuff-ups right there, which only need a small amount of effort to fix. Sure you can get away with short distance pillioning and doing nothing but it soon becomes a problem as the tyres overheat and can be easily damaged – particularly the inner sidewalls leaving you prone to punctures or blow-outs. In any case the way the bike behaves if you have done nothing is noticeably worse than if you have set it up properly and "simply" have to deal with the extra mass.

On my relatively heavy (220kg) Ducati ST4S I increase front tyre pressure from 32 to 35 psi and rear from 34 to 41 psi when I carry an adult, this is in the owner's manual. Also I can easily increase the rear spring preload so I move it from 60% to 100% at the same time. Any bikes with dual rear shockies will have a rotating ramp system at the bottom of the spring, usually you would change this from notch 3 to notch 5 and it needs a c spanner, usually in the bike's tool kit. You could vary the damping rates if these are adjustable (I prefer hard compression when solo, softer when doubling and little to no rebound for either), but there is no need to fiddle with this and I don’t usually bother.

The next thing is it is a good idea to select an experienced rider to double around first to build your confidence and knowledge. Especially helpful if they have pillioning experience as they will KNOW what you need - and also probably see if you're stuffing up before you do. If you can't get an experienced pillion then try for a sensibly behaved small one, the lower mass helps make the job easier - but watch out as they can still bite.

It is critical to talk to an inexperienced pillion before taking off with them. This is a big adventure for them so it is worth taking a couple of minutes and rarely there is a problem with this - but it is important for you too as this is the only time you get to say NO, the next one is after there has been a big problem and you will find it much harder to drop them off / bring them back etc, so you need to be OK with their attitude (some of which you can fix up by adjusting your riding style).

Just to labour the point, when you experience a mid corner move by a pillion because "the road was a bit close", or "I couldn't see properly out of that side" or "I was a bit scared and couldn't help it" you will know a moment of terror - hopefully with no further consequences. What it feels like is someone has bodily picked up your rear wheel and put it down about half a metre away from where it was. You will have a big panic twitch yourself and are bound to move some distance off line - and then hopefully pull it all together. Whatever you think, stop right then and explain this problem to the pillion or they will do it again - they have no idea what is normal and will be thinking whatever just happened was YOUR mistake! And the other mistake of staying dead set vertical "to help with the balance", the sensation is a lot like your back wheel is being held up in the air and sort of on ice but you don't actually slip, not very nice at all...!

The key things you need to say to them are:

1) It is critical you stay still while we are going round corners, if you fidget it can bring us both down. Stay in the same place for corners and be at about the same angle as I am - if you stay vertical it is a big problem for me!

2) Getting on or off is a very important activity - only do it when you know I am ready. Mufflers are hot and can easily burn you, and please try not to kick the side covers on your way (sorry there isn't a pillion made that can manage this all the time, but you may as well ask and the scuff marks polish off easily enough!)

3) It is OK if you are worried about anything to poke me in the ribs (etc) as I know how easy it is to get scared for first timers.

4) You NEED to hold on to something at all times - it is easiest if that is me, and I won't think you're (gay / do / don't love me depending on who it is!) - but you can use the grab rails as you want and it is a good idea if you change around a bit anyway on longer trips.

5) If I tap you, hold on extra well - when accelerating hard I do not want to see your ankles whizzing through my peripheral vision!

6) When braking it is helpful if you try and move your head slightly to one side - it is hard to avoid helmet clunk, but with any luck we can minimise it.

7) If we need to talk that can only be done at a fairly low speed with visors open, it is OK to signal me to stop if you need to talk about something urgently.

8 ) (optional) If we start going a bit quick round corners please try and keep the front of your feet on the pegs so I don't grind your toes off, also if we're in a straight line don't go waving to anyone we might pass - I don't need the sudden air brake turn and you don't need to lose an arm!

The next most important thing is for you to learn how to do an emergency stop. It needs to be second nature that you automatically brace your arms straight, hunch your shoulders and grip the tank with your knees (to keep things straight), preferably tipping your head forwards a bit to minimise the helmet clunk. What is about to happen is you are going to get slammed with 70+kg of floppy stuff and nobody can do anything about that - it is rather handy if your elbows don't buckle at the same time as the bike will just fall over like a bit of rice paper in the wind, this is not a good look when you are already trying to deal with a big problem! So, practice a few very quick stops in open road (tell the pillion first!) It is the same squeeze, pull technique as normal braking and can be done almost as fast as you get good at it.

The next thing is maybe to state the obvious but you need to work the first time pillion up to it. The first few hundred metres they are likely to be quite panicked and wondering what they have got themselves in to - don't underestimate the surprise factor of this to them! So gentle moves, lot's of space, engine braking only and after a few km they will start to get the feel for it. This is NOT the time to try and impress them with how well a bike can accelerate, even the most macho first timer can initially have quite a problem with this sensation!

If you are pillioning in the rain it is actually easier. While the consequences of any slips on diesel etc will be harder to deal with what really happens normally is the extra weight squeezes the water out from under the tyres much better and the bike is actually more stable and easier to ride than solo in the wet - completely the opposite of what most people think!

Apart from braking, probably the most important skill to learn is that low speed manoeuvring is MUCH more tricky. The bike will tend to wobble and swoop at the ground in ways you wouldn't have thought possible if you say try and make a u turn in the street / at the bowser etc. This is something you need to work up to over a loooong time, and constrain yourself to starting and stopping in a straight line for now. The irritation of having the pillion walk across the road or whatever is soon forgotten when you are both lying in the middle of it laughing as 200+ kilos of Bologna's finest maxes you out for embarrassment and inflicts some minor injuries to boot!

Once you have got a good handle on the overall experience of pillioning people it is a really useful grounding experience to spend some time on the back yourself. When you get a look at what goes on from the pillion’s perspective you will add to / embellish how you do it “up front” yourself. But, until you have spent some time doubling a pillion, these lessons won’t sink in so easily. It particularly gives you a sight of how much trust is involved, which you need to be aware of and respect. It is sobering to realize how genuinely scary relatively simple things can appear when you are, as is so aptly described by the term, “perched on the back”. From a rider’s perspective things seem a lot more stable than from a pillion’s perspective. Fortunately, the rider has got it right!

After the above issues there is a lot of small stuff that you will just discover along the way, and I would have trouble remembering and writing down anyway. An example to deal with is the whole topic of luggage on tour. I’m not going to tell you how to pack, enough people do that already! But I would particularly suggest having a plan for what to do with surplus jackets etc when the weather hots up. Trinkets you buy along the way you can post home, but you won’t do that with jackets. For want of a couple of well thought out strapping options, “sit and sweat” is not a particularly appealing option when you have to stare it down in the flesh!

Hopefully I haven't forgotten anything important in the above info, after some 50,000km or so pillioning it gets a bit like that! But I can now confess to having made pretty well every blunder listed over the years, in amongst some really excellent pillion experiences. Please also
be aware that the only true effect that a pillion has on a well set up bike and rider is approx 20% increased tyre wear rates and a greater tendency to micro-wheel stand out of corners when riding quickly!

I hope this gives you the confidence to get out there and have a real go at pillioning, the rewards of having the company along can certainly make the little bit of extra trouble very worthwhile, and it just adds another great dimension to the whole motorcycling experience. Enjoy.
Vince Sunter  ( I'm ready, how about you? ); Check out these Riding Tips: http://tinyurl.com/4x3fk43 ;   Pillioning Tips: http://tinyurl.com/3r5dbz4

Offline TopDOG

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soooo who can double a topdog with one arm :'(, my left arm is bunged, the  righty is fine though, keeps me typing ;D
Ducati is number 1, all others are number 2 or lower

Offline VinceS

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  • Posts: 1,051
  • Gotta enjoy the ups in life, let's go for a ride!
    • Hunter Ducati Owners Group Inc
Edit: This article was published in Australian Road Rider magazine # 59 (May/June 2010)

I recently got involved in a discussion on pillioning as a consequence of somebody who was about to do it for the first time. The discussion was mostly about the (very important) feelings of the intrepid rider, who may be reasonably experienced but naturally are mostly worried about how they themselves will go at this new activity. Well, as many of we more experienced pillioners know it is not all about us, we will be fine - it is the pillion and the bike that will be the source of the problems! However, mostly we had to figure this out the hard way - so here are some tips for people who are contemplating this for the first time and would like to cut out some of the more serious potential stuff-ups at the outset:

The first thing is the rather significant topic of the bike. By putting a pillion on, depending on the size of the pillion and the bike, you are increasing the mass the bike has to hold up by 20-50%, and that is pretty important! Sure you can get away with short distance pillioning and doing nothing but it soon becomes a problem as the tyres can overheat and also be easily damaged - and in any case the way the bike behaves if you have done nothing is noticeably worse than if you have set it up properly and "simply" have to deal with the extra mass.

On my relatively heavy (220kg) Ducati ST4S I increase front tyre pressure from 32 to 35 psi and rear from 34 to 41 psi when I carry an adult, this is in the owner's manual. Also I can easily increase the rear spring preload so I move it from 60% to 100% at the same time. Any bikes with dual rear shockies will have a rotating ramp system at the bottom of the spring, usually you would change this from notch 3 to notch 5 and it needs a c spanner, usually in the bike's tool kit.

The next thing is it is a good idea to select an experienced rider to double around first to build your confidence and knowledge. Especially helpful if they have pillioning experience as they will KNOW what you need - and also probably see if you're stuffing up before you do. If you can't get an experienced pillion then try for a sensibly behaved small one, the lower mass helps make the job easier - but watch out as they can still bite.

It is critical to talk to an inexperienced pillion before taking off with them. This is a big adventure for them so it is worth taking a couple of minutes and rarely there is a problem with this - but it is important for you too as this is the only time you get to say NO, the next one is after there has been a big problem and you will find it much harder to drop them off / bring them back etc, so you need to be OK with their attitude (some of which you can fix up by adjusting your riding style).

Just to labour the point, when you experience a mid corner move by a pillion because "the road was a bit close", or "I couldn't see properly out of that side" or "I was a bit scared and couldn't help it" you will know a moment of terror - hopefully with no further consequences. What it feels like is someone has bodily picked up your rear wheel and put it down about half a metre away from where it was. You will have a big panic twitch yourself and are bound to move some distance off line - and then hopefully pull it all together. Whatever you think, stop right then and explain this problem to the pillion or they will do it again - they have no idea what is normal and will be thinking whatever just happened was YOUR mistake! And the other mistake of staying dead set vertical "to help with the balance", the sensation is a lot like your back wheel is being held up in the air and sort of on ice but you don't actually slip, not very nice at all...!

The key things you need to say to them are:

1) It is critical you stay still while we are going round corners, if you fidget it can bring us both down. Stay in the same place for corners and be at about the same angle as I am - if you stay vertical it is a big problem for me!

2) Getting on or off is a very important activity - only do it when you know I am ready. Mufflers are hot and can easily burn you, and please try not to kick the side covers on your way (sorry there isn't a pillion made that can manage this all the time, but you may as well ask and the scuff marks polish off easily enough!)

3) It is OK if you are worried about anything to poke me in the ribs (etc) as I know how easy it is to get scared for first timers.

4) You NEED to hold on to something at all times - it is easiest if that is me, and I won't think you're (gay / do / don't love me depending on who it is!) - but you can use the grab rails as you want and it is a good idea if you change around a bit anyway on longer trips.

5) If I tap you, hold on extra good - when accelerating hard I do not want to see your ankles whizzing through my peripheral vision!

6) When braking it is helpful if you try and move your head slightly to one side - it is hard to avoid helmet clunk, but with any luck we can minimise it.

7) If we need to talk that can only be done at slow speed with visors open, it is OK to signal me to stop if you need to talk about something urgently.

8 ) (optional) If we start going a bit quick round corners please try and keep the front of your feet on the pegs so I don't grind your toes off, also if we're in a straight line don't go waving to anyone we might pass - I don't need the sudden air brake turn and you don't need to lose an arm!

The next most important thing is for you to learn how to do an emergency stop. It needs to be second nature that you automatically brace your arms straight, hunch your shoulders and grip the tank with your knees (to keep things straight), preferably tipping your head forwards a bit to minimise the helmet clunk. What is about to happen is you are going to get slammed with 70+kg of floppy stuff and nobody can do anything about that - it is rather handy if your elbows don't buckle at the same time as the bike will just fall over like a bit of rice paper in the wind, this is not a good look when you are already trying to deal with a big problem! So, practice a few very quick stops in open road (tell the pillion first!) It is the same squeeze, pull technique as normal braking and can be done almost as fast as you get good at it.

The next thing is maybe to state the obvious but you need to work the first time pillion up to it. The first few hundred metres they are likely to be quite panicked and wondering what they have got themselves in to - don't underestimate the surprise factor of this to them! So gentle moves, lot's of space, engine braking only and after a few km they will start to get the feel for it. This is NOT the time to try and impress them with how well a bike can accelerate, even the most macho first timer can initially have quite a problem with this sensation!

If you are pillioning in the rain it is actually easier. While the consequences of any slips on diesel etc will be harder to deal with what really happens normally is the extra weight squeezes the water out from under the tyres much better and the bike is actually more stable and easier to ride than solo in the wet - completely the opposite of what most people think!

Apart from braking, probably the most important skill to learn is that low speed maneuvering is MUCH more tricky. The bike will tend to wobble and swoop at the ground in ways you wouldn't have thought possible if you say try and chuck a ueie in the street / at the bowser etc. This is something you need to work up to over a loooong time, and constrain yourself to starting and stopping in a straight line for now. The irritation of having the pillion walk across the road or whatever is soon forgotten when you are both lying in the middle of it laughing as 200 kilos of Bologna's finest maxes you out for embarrassment and inflicts some minor injuries to boot!

After the above issues there is a lot of small stuff that you will just discover along the way, and I would have trouble remembering and writing down anyway. Hopefully I haven't forgotten anything important in the above info, after some 50,000km or so pillioning it gets a bit like that! But I can now confess to having made pretty well every blunder listed over the years, in amongst some really excellent pillion experiences. Please also be aware that the only true effect that a pillion has on a well set up bike and rider is approx 20% increased tyre wear rates and a greater tendency to wheel stand out of corners when riding quickly!

I hope this gives you the confidence to get out there and have a real go at pillioning, the rewards of having the company along can certainly make the little bit of extra trouble very worthwhile, and it just adds another great dimension to the whole motorcycling experience. Enjoy.

Kindest regards, Vince Sunter
« Last Edit: 29 Dec 2012, 11:13 AM by VinceS »
Vince Sunter  ( I'm ready, how about you? ); Check out these Riding Tips: http://tinyurl.com/4x3fk43 ;   Pillioning Tips: http://tinyurl.com/3r5dbz4

 

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