Riding a Motorcycle with a Passenger

A motorcycle is one of the best ways to see the country, and the experience is only made better when you can share it with company. If everyone has their own motorcycle and riding gear, you can ride separately, but for couples, family members, or close friends, riding in a two-up arrangement is efficient and fun.

If you're used to riding solo, or you're new to motorcycle riding altogether, there are a few things you should know before you climb on your bike with a partner. From understanding the rules of weight capacity, to knowing the laws and learning how to ride with all that extra weight, it's important to consider how riding with two is different than riding alone. 

Motorcycle Weight Capacity

Motorcycles have strict weight limits on their carrying capacity. The weight capacity is listed as the gross axle weight rating (GAWR) and can be found on the bike's vehicle identification number (VIN) plate. Unfortunately, this measure can be somewhat more difficult to figure out than you might expect. Why? Well, as the name implies, the GAWR dictates how much each wheel is approved to carry. This figure only applies to specific wheels, tires, and tire pressures. Even if you have stock wheels and tires at the right air pressure, figuring out the weight load can be challenging. One might be tempted to simply double the GAWR to find the total weight limit. But the weight won't necessarily be evenly distributed between the axles. The rear axle will often bear substantially more weight, especially if you're riding with a partner

Legal Considerations

Some states have specific regulations dictating how two person bikes have to be built. For example, some states require footpegs, backrests, or other specific features. Many states require that the passenger wears a helmet as well. Before you head out, make sure you know the rules of the state you're riding and any state you might be passing.


Mounting your bike can be a little bit awkward at best and hazardous at worst. Make sure the driver is on first and is ready for the passenger to mount up. With the passenger footrests flipped into place, the passenger should mount from the left side, the side on the opposite side from the muffler. The bike should be upright, with the kickstand folded back and both of the rider's feet planted firmly before the passenger mounts. This will make it easier to take off so you don't have to straighten the bike with one leg or risk overcompensating the weight shift and dumping the bike on the opposite side.

Two-Up Riding

Riding with essentially double the normal amount of cargo weight requires a little bit of practice. Make sure your passenger holds on tight. This will make it easier to control the bike and will prevent them from slamming into you if you have to stop suddenly. When it comes to turning, make sure they hold their torso as straight as possible, as opposed to leaning against the turn. If they look slightly over the driver's turn-side shoulder, the small amount of weight redistribution will help keep the turn tight.

During stops, the passenger should keep their feet on the pegs. If they put a foot down, it's easy to dump the bike on that side. When you stop and are ready to get off the bike, have the passenger repeat the boarding process, but in reverse. The passenger should wait till the driver is ready, then disembark carefully off the non-muffler side of the bike.

Riding with a passenger can make your next motorcycle trip much better, but make sure to follow these tips.