Riding a Motorcycle with a Passenger

July 25, 2018

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

If you’re used to driving alone, there are a few things you should know before you climb on your ride with a partner. From understanding the rules of weight capacity, to knowing the laws, it’s important to know how riding with two is different than riding alone.

Motorcycle Weight Limit

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 more tricky to figure out than you might expect. Why? Well, as the name implies, the GAWR indicates how much weight 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 in the cases if you’re riding with a partner.


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 may require 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 off the non-muffler side of the bike.

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