How pillions can help riders

The "pillion in a million"

Sometimes we pillions feel guilty that we are getting a free ride. But there are things we can do to “pay our way”!

I love being a pillion. It’s liberating, a bit tough, very cool, and I like being the centre of attention when we arrive in a small country town.

When people ask me what I ride, my response is that I don’t usually know, but I do sit on the back and make the bike look better.

And I don’t have the stress of having to ride and make decisions to save our lives.

However, when we are on long motorcycle trips, I have a raft of jobs to perform.

imageWhen we get to our accommodation for the night, my first job is to charge all of the electronic gadgets. The helmet bluetooth system on MBW’s helmet needs to be charged on the helmet but mine comes off for charging. They take a few hours to fully charge so they have to be plugged in first.

The camera battery also needs to be charged and the memory card taken out and the photos from the day downloaded on to the iPad.

Then I charge the phones if there are any spare electrical sockets. When we go to sleep, the two iPads are charged overnight.

Mrs MBW (in the rearview mirror) taking photos

I also take the photos from the back of the bike. I need to think about what MBW will be writing about that evening and what photos he may need to illustrate his many stories.

I also research facts for his stories about places we have travelled and sometimes do metric conversions for his articles, although I still don’t know what pound foot of torque means.

Another important job when we are travelling is to research and find accommodation for the night. That is usually a job I do about lunchtime or mid afternoon when we have a fair idea of where we will be at the end of the day’s ride. We do like to fly by the seat of our pants, rather than planning too far ahead.

Great B&B in Hanmer Springs - pillion
Great B&B accommodation


Riding on the back of a bike isn’t totally a spectator sport. I have to be aware and alert and there are little things I can do to make sure the rider does his job as best he can.

I’m lookout for stray animals, cops and warning signs such as one-lane bridges; the sort of stuff MBW might not see because he’s going too fast!

While it is important to warn of these hazards, it’s also important that a pillion knows when to shut up! You have to make sure you are not distracting in tricky parts of the road or when you are negotiating heavy traffic.

If you are assisting with navigation directions you need to relay simple and accurate instructions because there is often little time for correction as MBW has usually gone too fast and missed the turn-off.

One problem I admit to is mixing up my left and my right. I don’t know how many times I’ve told MBW to turn left, and when he does I say, “No! I meant the other left!”

Mrs MBW cleans the windscreen - pillion
Mrs MBW cleans the windscreen

Mounting and dismounting of the bike is also important. You need to be smooth and purposeful in your movements. I always check with MBW before I get on the bike as the bike can be heavy and hard to hold particularly if you have pulled up on the side of the road in slippery gravel.

At fuel stops, I let MBW fill the tank and check the bike over, while I do the windscreen and go inside to pay. It all helps to make pit stops as quick as in an F1 race.

And one last thing I do is turn the fridge off in the motel room before we go to sleep coz MBW is a light sleeper and it keeps him awake.


  1. I would add not falling asleep on the back of the bike to this comprehensive list. Especially not on rutted dirt roads in some developing nation.

      1. My wife has a bit of a habit of getting dozy on occasion. The worse the road, in terms of rocking her about, the easier it occurs. On the occasion alluded to we were riding down a rutted dirt road in Tajikistan and I began to feel this weight moving from side to side as I manoeuvred the bike around. A gentle elbow in the ribs along with me yelling ‘Wake Up!’ solved that particular problem. All very funny. This was far from the only time.

  2. Well oiled machine, and I am not talking about the Harley 🙂
    Appreciate this article with details about how you guys do things on the road. Any chance of including some stats like How much you spent on accommodation/ food each day etc., which might help with the planning for some that think of following in your tire tracks.
    Thanks again Mrs MBW

    1. Prices for accommodation and food in NZ are about the same as in Australia. We were expecting cheaper prices, but they are almost on parity with the Oz dollar now. However unleaded fuel was from $166.9 (Wanganui) to $226.9 (Franz Josef).

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