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Old 26 Jan 2005
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Some reassuring words please...

Hi there,

Ive been reading this website nearly every day for the last few months, soaking it all in, asking questions, reading peoples adventures, and its been great. My partner and I are embarking on a 4/5 month trip from Vancouver to hopefully Costa Rica on his 750 Tenere. My parter as the driver, myself as the passenger.
Now this is all very exciting for us both, the thought of going where we want to, miles of beaches etc etc, but one thought is still in my mind. Im really scared *?#*less of being on the back of a motorcycle on highway speeds, on middle of nowhere pot holed dirt roads, and sharing roads with maybe crazy drivers, and for long distances! Ive never been on the back of anything more powerful than a 125cc scooter on little island roads in Europe. And to make things worse, the first time I will be getting on this bike is only 3 weeks before we leave for the trip because right now its in another country. Which doesnt leave me much time to get aqquainted with the machine.
I have complete faith in my partner for keeping our safety as number one, and i trust his riding skills, but every so often I hear a story of someone losing a limb in a motorcycle accident, or a life, and the thoughts of the white sand beaches dont seem so exciting anymore...
If anyone can lend me some words of encouragement and advice, or fill me in on some of the dangers that I should really be aware of when riding a motorcycle, or some tips for first time passenger, I would be greatly thankful.
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Old 26 Jan 2005
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Whats with the glum face?

You will have a hoot and get sunburned to boot! Whats more you can get drunk as often as you like.

My wife had only been 60kms on a bike twice before her first 10 hour day from Almaty, Kazakstan to Karakol, Kyrgystan, sore arse aside, she had a fantastic time.

Although I swore blind I would never do it..her renditions of Wham songs and the sound of music can be too much to bear...I think an Intercom would have been nice....then again those songs...

have a pina colada for us presently sedentary types.


Close to Antarctica and a long way from reality
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Old 26 Jan 2005
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one of the best things about travelling by motorcycle is that you rarely arrive somewhere that's a shock to the system. It's pretty much the same as food. If you were to fly into a completely foreign place and eat local food you may end up with a stomach problem. But travel over land and the food changes slowly, so your body has time to adapt to new things. It's the same with riding, you just get used to it. The changes in traffic attitude happen fairly slowly, so you'll find you adapt without realising.

Accidents away from home have the same causes as those at home. Over-confidence, poor concentration and frustration. The best thing you can do as pillion is to keep an eye out for rash moves (which we all do at times) and keep everyone cool, calm and collected. Recognise when it's time to take a break, as the rider in front may not.
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Old 26 Jan 2005
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I haven’t done a lot of pillion riding myself but my wife has on the back of my bike. I would suggest some things to think about.

Firstly is kit. You will be far more comfortable if your kit is right, once you are comfortable then you will be less anxious. I suggest you go for textile kit as you will be changing height a lot and temperature. Get some gear that you can get stuff underneath for warmth but also fits well if baggy. Reminder you can wear stuff over your kit (waterproofs fleeces etc.) Get a strong pair of boots. I like enduro high boots but others recommend lower ones try and see which you prefer.

Train: The Next thing is fitness and strength. If you on the back of a bike for long periods it pays to be fit and have some strength to help load it pick it up when it falls over, and hang on when it gets rough. If you are fit you will tire less and long days will become less stressful.

Read : Read up about the route and the bike you are sharing. Read the maint manual, and the user book. It helps to understand the problems without having to ask dumb questions when every one in stressed. 3 times during breakdowns on our last trip my wife solved the problem before i had stopped my initial bout of swearing and despair.

Languages : If you are off to places that have a different language go to the library and get a language course. Learn before you go and take it with you if you can. You have lots of time on the back to learn and listen to music. It really helps when you get lost or need to sort out a hotel if the pillion can jump off and ask directions or sort the room out as they are better at the language.

Some Ideas

When it gets scary its far easier if you are prepared.

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Old 26 Jan 2005
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Sorry I forgot a First Aid course is also a really good idea and provides lots of reassurance that you can deal with the problems when they occur.

Travel light is an other thing if 2 are sharing a bike. I lay out what I think I need then halve it. I always take to much still.

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Old 27 Jan 2005
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Welcome to the wonderful world of M/C travell. Trust me, once you start, it's like a bad drug...you can't stop. In my current situation, i'm un-employed for the next month, so i'll borrow money to take adv. of this time off...kinda crazy, huh? Thirty days through California, Thirty dollars a day and a gas-card
One of the biggest problems i have is stopping for photo's or video. I hate stopping all the time, especially after passing all the slow-poke tourists in their motor homes and gaining good position, only to loose it again. Fortunately you won't have this problem. Smell the air, feel the elements that make you relize how exposed you are, and take the best damn picturs only a pillion could!
While on the back of the bike, you move even less than you would driving. You guys may want to consider heated gear if your starting in N.
Good lick!
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Old 27 Jan 2005
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Have you looked at this post for a view from a new pillion? http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/ubb...ML/000038.html

It would be better for you if you could get your riding gear ASAP and have at least a few shake-down rides before you go, even day rides will tell you if your not comfortable with the set up of your "kit". Also if you are not used to travelling light, this may be a bit of a shock - think hiking. The amount of gear most backpackers (not hikers) carry will probably be too much two-up on a bike, so you will have to be disciplined.

My wife has only started being a pillion in a serious way in the last 6 months, I've been riding for 25 years. A few months ago she said to me she didn't like riding the freeway/highway. I said yes its boring, thats why I avoid it when I can. She replied, yes it was boring, but she didn't like it because it was really scary! This had not occured to me. She is getting more used to it now, just takes a little time on the saddle.

While it would be best to sort out lots of kit issues and saddle time before you go, if any of this were to discourage you from going, then I and most others here would say most definately "JUST GO". You will be fine, sort out any issues as you go. After all you have an experienced rider to guide you right?


[This message has been edited by SKILLO (edited 27 January 2005).]
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Old 27 Jan 2005
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When I'm getting ready for a trip I try to get into an adventure frame of mind which requires taking each day as it comes and trying not to spend much time comparing the familiar with the unfamiliar. This last is very important to making friends.
Do your homework, get to know your gear, loosely plan your route and times, and launch.
I know how subjective this sounds, but americans are really big-hearted people, as a rule, and love travellers.
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Old 28 Jan 2005
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<font face="" size="2">"Im really scared *?#*less of being on the back of a motorcycle on highway speeds, on middle of nowhere pot holed dirt roads, and sharing roads with maybe crazy drivers, and for long distances!</font>
Here's my favorite quote on this topic:

"Humans don't judge risks very well - there is always a bias against risks that we are not familiar with, even though those risks may be far smaller than the familiar ones we willingly and regularly take. (I know people who smoke, but are scared of eating beef for fear of CJD!).

If you don't go to the 'dangerous' countries, then the landmine's won't get you, and the soldiers won't shoot you, and the bandits won't murder you, and the malaria won't kill you. But instead you WILL suffocate on a chicken bone, get hit by a bus, die of a stroke, or, dammit, die of old age. Adventurers we be." Michael, UK, posted on the HUBB
I've been riding on the back of the same motorcycle since 1987, and although it's not always been fun, I've never felt deprived by not being the rider. I am the navigator, often the translator, have learned to be a back seat photographer, chief cook and bottle washer, etc.

I feel compelled to point out that Kevin and Julia Sanders broke the previous RTW motorcycle speed record handily, and it was BECAUSE of Julia's role that they did it faster than any solo rider had done it.

As a passenger, you have a different experience than the rider. Although your view isn't perfect (depending on the bike and your height in relation to the rider), you literally do get to relax, take pictures, read a book, even sleep on the back (all of which I have done), while the poor rider is working.

Accept the fact that you aren't in control, and no movement by yourself will improve the situation if there's a problem. Don't try to steer or influence the bike from behind. If you like to be in control, this is one of the hardest things to let go of, but you must have confidence in your partner's riding skills.

There have only been a few times in all the years of travel (40+ countries, 100,000+ km) when I was really worried that we were going to fall over, and they were all at really slow speeds (soft sand, mud). In fact the even fewer times we actually did fall over were at really slow speeds, and never an injury.

Try to take a shake down trip, including camping, even if it's only for 4-5 days. You can test out your gear and make sure everything works okay before the real thing.

Start out slowly, avoid the freeways and driving in big city traffic (we prefer to park the bike in a safe hotel compound in the outskirts of town and take taxis if we want to sightsee in cities like Mexico City or Cairo). Plan to cover no more than 200-300 miles per day, unless you have some specific reason to be somewhere on a deadline. Try to avoid deadlines ;-) Don't try to travel 7 days a week, you need 1-2 days off regularly even if it's to catch up on laundry and essential bike maintenance. When you find a wonderful place, stay longer. Cover less ground rather than travel faster, you'll enjoy the experience a lot more. Both of you have to be having fun or neither of you will, so be honest about what you like and dislike. Don't feel every waking moment has to be spent together, you'll have more togetherness in 4/5 months than many married couples get in decades together. So if your relationship survives the trip, you'll be together for life!

My list of essential items:

Protective gear, we used to wear custom leathers, but now wear high-tech gear - Rukka and BMW and others make waterproof inner liners with ventilated outer layers which are a pleasure to ride in, and flexible when temperatures can vary. We still wear leather boots, but carry comfortable walking shoes for when we're off the bike.

Electric vests are essential. I know no one who tries them who will ever give them up.

Intercom for communication - okay to do hand signals for a one week trip, but not for months at a time. Not only needed for navigation but also for feeling connected and sharing the experience if you see something memorable. Can be turned down if either of you feels like solitude or singing.

Hope this helps.

Susan Johnson

'One world, two wheels'
Susan Johnson

Inspiring, Informing and Connecting travellers since 1997
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Old 28 Jan 2005
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Thank you everyone for your words of advice and encouragement. I never really thought of myself as being 'useful' just sitting on the back of the bike, but picturing myself navigating, trying to translate, and hopefully being able to help when things go wrong seems all good to me!! And I never thought I could take photos as a passenger, thats a huge bonus for me!
Now ive got a lot more to think about to prepare which should keep me occupied until i sit myself on that bike for the first time.

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Old 1 Apr 2005
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Hi!, do not be afraid, every things going to be fine.I know exactly how you feel. At home i ride a motorbike, and have also been a pillion. They are two very different feelings.
I think it's really important to put your trust in the person thats riding. If your partner is a good, experienced above all calm rider theres no reason anything should go wrong. As a motorbike rider i'm highly observant and always think ahead for any possibilities, and this is exactly what your partner should be/is like.
At the moment we are two weeks into a trip in India. We flew into Delhi and bought an Enfield bullet, at first the traffic was a shock, and when riding pillion you feel a little out of control, but i soon realised there is a system to their 'style' of riding, and you get into the groove of the traffic in the same way as your partner rider does. Once you understand how the traffic works you will feel more comfortable!
there are also bonuses to potholes, it means all the traffic goes slow! here in India, our top speed on national highways is 45mph. Plenty of time to think ahead and prevent any problems.
Enjoy!, i've spent the best part of two weeks with a cheesy grin on my face!
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Old 17 Sep 2005
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Hi folks, OP here

Well im back from my first pillion trip (cut short due to funds) and had an amazing time!! Most of my fears left as soon as the excitment of hitting the road on the back of a bike took over.
It was just a gradual thing to get used to, we upped the speed by about 5km a day or whatever i felt comfortable, and by the end I wasnt giving my partner the 'slow down squeeze' as much as the start!
We did have a slight accident on the our first day on mainland Mexico, someone drove stragiht into us sideways (no injuries, just cosmetics to the bike), but unfortunately this set the fear factor all over again. I found it hard to enjoy rides around dense traffic, knowing that signaling and even looking was a rare trait in some Mexican drivers!
But my partner impressed me to no end with his driving skills, and I thank him for getting me there and home safely. We somewhat enjoyed being joined at the hip for 3 months on a bike, but next time, im going to have my own!!
So all in all, it was an am amazing experience, travelling on a motorcycle opens your eyes to the real country, the real people and opened up a little bit more of a real me.
Thanks for all your advice, keep it rubber side down ( a bit of motor lingo i learned on the way!)
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Old 23 Sep 2005
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hey you will love it,

but take it slow, stop early in the day, enjoy.

riding as a pillon ? my girlfriend enjoyed it, even my bike was a single cylinder 600. but after we had broken nearly everything on this bike two-up (frame, shock, rim etc.) I decided that we had to get a bike for her.

so we bought a bike in Buenos Aires Argentina and she learned how to ride this bike in the one way streets of Bs As.

she rode the bike 20.000km thru South America until Bogota.

later on she shiped her bike from Europe down to South Africa. By than she a proper driving license and a registered bike.

we travelled 35.000km thru Africa and we both enjoyed it so much more than just beeing two-up on a too small bike.

the xtz750 is big enough for two up :-)

enjoy and relax


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