I must now have a fair few thousand pillion miles under my belt. And it is true to say that whilst I really enjoy being a pillion, there is no doubt that my enjoyment is affected by the bike itself!
I started young and mainly rode with my dad, initially on his CBR600, but then for many years on the back of various Blackbirds. My Dad never could quite believe that whilst the Blackbird is an undoubtedly amazingly comfy pillion ride, my Mum (who put in many miles as pillion as they toured around the Lakes and Scotland) and I preferred the CBR6, as we got a forward view of something other than the middle of my Dad’s shoulder blades, or, as I got older, the serial number on the back of his helmet!
So the things I require a motorcycle to have in order to make a good pillion ride? I like to be able to look over the rider’s shoulder, but not be sat so tall that I get buffeted around. I’m not averse to putting in a fair few miles on the back of a bike, and I have quite long legs, so I don’t like having to sit “like a frog”. As I’m not usually riding on the back of somebody I am intimately close to I like to be able to sit well back from the rider- and as I also don’t think that hanging on to the rider is a brilliantly clever plan, intimately close or not (I’m a die-hard romantic aren’t I?!) I like a good grab rail, one where I don’t have to worry about dulling paintwork and upsetting the motorcycle’s loving owner, and where I can actually get my hand underneath. Alternatively, a top box, the pillion’s answer to an arm chair, in which case I am a terror for not holding on at all.
A good proportion of my pillion miles have been put in on the back of Andrew’s old BMW GS, in all weathers from hacking rain and standing water on the M20 to beautiful sunshine on the Isle of Wight, with a cheeky drink (soft of course) on the Marina whilst waiting for the ferry (people ask me what it is I like about my job!) But as has been well documented on the blog, last year Andrew changed his BMW for the Ducati Multistrada.
There is no doubt that Andrew is in love with the Ducati, but despite having accompanied Andrew to a number of meetings since he’s bought it, we’ve only been by bike once, which for me speaks volumes . When Andrew had the Beemer it went out in anything short of snow and ice. The Ducati goes out in rain but I think it speaks volumes that Andrew does 4,000 miles a year less on the Ducati than he did on the Beemer. He really didn’t care about the Beemer at all. He treated it like his works van, but now he has been known to clean the Ducati. And leave it at home rather than get it dirty. That is incredibly out of character for him as all his previous bikes have been permanently filthy.
Andrew is now tempted by the Honda Crosstourer or the Triumph Tiger. Yesterday we rode in to London on the Honda. This being my second time as a pillion on one of Andrew’s test rides, I’m not going to pretend that my opinion on the pillion ride will influence Andrew’s purchasing decision, but he asked me what I thought of the Honda, and yet again, the suggestion that I am a Honda girl through and through is affirmed.
I truly hated the test ride on the Ducati. We were visiting a client in Stoke, and the bike had no boxes on it, so I was sat with a rather heavy rucksack, it had a bad sitting position, I couldn’t hold on, the short screen made Andrew’s head weave around so I was in turn unable to get a position behind him which stopped me being pushed around by the wind at motorway speeds, in cold wind and rain! To make matters even worse, given my strange balancing act and the fact I was holding on to the bike with my little finger, as Andrew was used to the BMW tractor, he was a little snatchy on the throttle that day – how I am not left on the road somewhere between Aylesbury and Stoke is a mystery to me. Despite all of those gripes… he still bought the Ducati! To be fair, with top box and panniers and a sunny day, my ride on Andrew’s own Multistrada was rather more enjoyable.
The Honda was also tested on a windy, rainy, miserable day. But I didn’t have any major issues with the ride. The thing is, what makes a bike predictable and non-exotic for a rider makes for a very comfortable pillion ride- and the pillion interests are never going to come first! What I like about my Hornet is its predictable and even acceleration, which it appears the Crosstourer shares. On the back of the Crosstourer there is no being thrown around or lurch on acceleration (which the Ducati still has even though Andrew is now practised at how the throttle works!).
There was at least a foot between helmets, so even on rapid braking in London traffic there were no helmet clashes. I could see over Andrew’s shoulder rather than having to choose to sit sideways or watch a helmet for the whole journey, so there was no crick in the neck. There was some slight buffeting, but then Andrew told me how fast we’d been going, so on reflection I can forgive that!
There was a top box armchair, and good grab rails, and the footpegs were sensibly positioned. Despite a cold and wet journey, (for which I’d had to wear leathers as the office cleaner has helpfully moved my waterproofs), I got back to the office feeling quite refreshed, without that cold forehead buzz or being ridiculously tired (after the M6 Multistrada debacle I was so cold and soaked through I went straight to bed and wasn’t seen until the next day!). From this I can deduce that I have the best of both worlds on the back of the Honda- shelter behind the rider and being able to see!
As a pillion, the only downside I can really point at is a rather slopey seat – it really doesn’t look like a really slopey seat, but at every opportunity I had to move myself back up the seat as I kept sliding down it, creating a rather awkward sitting position!
Before Andrew even bought the Multistrada I was against it, not only because it was flipping horrible to sit on the back of that day, but also because I don’t think it does the job Andrew wants it to do. (though what do I know!) I have counselled for some time that the Honda would tick more boxes. For an Assistant solicitor speaking on behalf of White Dalton Trainees everywhere… the Honda wins as a pillion ride!