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Can you really judge a book by its cover? As an author, I’m inclined to say yes. (My book has a great cover.)

Can you really judge a rider by his passenger? As a rider, I’m inclined to say yes.

Let’s look at the typical pairing, where the man is the rider and the woman is the passenger. (Sure, there are exceptions to this norm.)

So what does the (female) passenger say about the (male) rider?

Well, when the female passenger is ornamental and scantily clad, I’m inclined to think that the rider is predominantly concerned with his image. He’s focused on the world watching him and noticing (and admiring) his prized treasures: nice bike, nice leathers, nice babe. All that, of course, is his┬áprerogative. It’s nice to have the world notice your purchasing power and your sexual prowess.

So I’ll redirect the main message about this fellow to his passenger: My dear bikini girl, while you might think you’re a prized treasure, the sad truth is that you probably rank well below the rider, below his bike, below his tattoo and below his really cool vest in terms of priorities. Think about it my dear. When the bike takes a spill, all of that will likely survive. And that will be the last time your beautiful skin sees the light of day. So hop off his bike and set about getting your own. Take a course and learn how to do it right. And ride on. It really is a blast!

On the other hand, if the passenger is properly attired, I’m inclined to think that the rider is conscientious and cares about his passenger. He probably also keeps the bike in good repair, and he rides in a way that takes the passenger into consideration (braking much earlier than normal, and accelerating significantly more slowly).

Back in the day when I was a chief instructor, I would impart the following suggestions to my students:

  • First, you must be confident with your own skills before taking on passengers. I personally did not take passengers for the first five years. My best excuse: I had no second helmet.
  • Second, you must insist that your passenger follow the same gearing-up guidelines as you. This, of course, assumes that you care enough about yourself to dress safely and responsibly. I’ll discuss this more below.
  • And finally, if you don’t like the person, don’t let them be your passenger. It’s really that simple.

So what are the bottom-line gearing-up guidelines that both you and your passengers should live by? Well, first let me give you a visual. In your hand you hold an electric sander with the coarsest sandpaper on it. Now, turn that sander on and, without hesitating, push it firmly against your leg, your ankle, your wrist.

This, my friends, is a simple (and minuscule) example of what road rash can do. What do you want between you/your passenger and the sander? Ripped jeans? Or even worse, bare legs? Running shoes? Or even worse, sandals? Tank top? Or even worse, bikini top?

It’s a risky business being on a motorcycle. Accidents can happen to anyone, and that includes me and you. And there are ways to minimize your risk. From top to bottom, this is what you should wear for optimum safety:

  • Full-face helmet (uh oh, I feel another column coming on)
  • Eye protection, so that you can have your visor open on those slow speed zones
  • Motorcycle jacket (leather, Kevlar, armoured) done up to the neck (ever had a bee in your jacket?)
  • Leather/biking gloves, with gauntlets (same bee, different point of entry)
  • Thick denim jeans, preferably with chaps.
  • Low-heel boots that cover your ankles; no leather soles.

Dress as if you respect yourself. And if you really like your passenger, insist they do the same. If you really don’t like them, don’t even bother giving them a ride.

And passengers, choose your rider wisely. For that person really does hold your life in their hands. It’s more than a fun little ride at the fair.

– Britt Santowski

Britt Santowski is a former chief instructor with the Vancouver Island Safety Council, where she trained instructors and taught riders for almost a decade. Santowski is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, speaker, consultant and author.


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