So, you know that passenger “seat” on motorcycles? No, not a side car, the one behind the driver. That seat has a name. An honest-to-God name, and that name is a “pillion.” When you ride on the back seat of a motorcycle, you are “riding pillion.”
I just learned this this weekend.
Because, for the very first time in my life, I got to ride pillion.
We’ve had the motorcycle since December.
Oh yeah. Check out all it’s majesty!
Well, I hadn’t ever ridden it until this weekend, for reasons including but not limited to the fact that I don’t know how to drive it. Andrew does, but he only just learned in November, and hadn’t really been comfortable with the idea of having a passenger when he was still getting the hang of being the driver.
Sensible, but frustrating.
But we made plans, collected my gear, and I read articles on being a motorcycle passenger. Because it’s not at all like it is in books and movies. Not at all. You don’t leap onto the back of the bike and wrap your arms around the rock-hard abdomen of your hunky and mysterious love-interest who always smells like sandalwood and musk. You don’t just throw on a helmet and zip off into the accident-free sunset.
One does not simply ride pillion on a motorcycle.
You see what I did there?
First, of course, you need all the same gear that the driver needs, and for all the same reasons. An appropriate helmet, an armored jacket, armored gloves, hefty boots. They aren’t just expensive fashion statements, they all serve a purpose. And that purpose is not dying.
Once you’re suited up, you need to ride with a driver that you absolutely trust. And then, you can’t just sit on the back and watch the scenery whiz by. You have to pay attention to traffic and terrain and turns and stop lights so you know how to hold yourself. You have to lean forward during acceleration so the front wheel doesn’t pick up off the ground, but not so far that your weight is on the driver. You have to brace yourself during breaking and gear shifts so you don’t jerk forward and knock into the driver. They tell me that you can do this by holding on to the motorcycle version of the “oh Jesus” handle which is directly behind your backside. Seems kinda tricky to me, so I went with putting my hands on the gas tank (not nearly as awkward as it sounds).
And then there’s the turning. You have to lean into the turns. If you’ve never been on a motorcycle before, this is completely counter-intuitive. I’m assuming that ever since humans sorted out walking upright we’ve preferred our horizon line be solidly horizontal. You know, in your rational portions of your brain, that you’re supposed to lean to the right during a right turn, but the strong instinct is to panic and stay upright. Even the gentlest of turns is a supreme exercise in self-control.
It’s also hard to see around the helmet of the driver. I spent most of my rides with my head tilted to one side or the other. It doesn’t sound like that much of a deal, but helmets aren’t exactly light, and holding your head to the side for half and hour gets a lot harder when it weighs twice as much.
So it was actually mentally taxing, physically exhausting, and not a little bit scary.
It was totally awesome.