Just a Passenger

I cringe when I hear “I’m just a passenger.” With more women owning and operating their own motorcycles, there’s a misperception that being a passenger is a diminished role. While no one is a greater advocate of the empowering characteristics of operating your own motorcycle than I am, I also maintain it’s not for everyone.

Freedom, independence and power are only experienced if whatever you’re doing is something you genuinely want to do. Riding a motorcycle is not an automatic ticket to empowerment. (See 5 Myths about Personal Power).

The “just a passenger” vocabulary is propagated in print and conversations amongst riders. In this recent Herald News article, a woman is described as “becoming an operator, not just a passenger, of a motorcycle.”  In Motorcycle Sports and Buying a Good Motorcycle the author says “always wear protective gear, even if you are just a passenger. Here it’s actually in the title,  “Women and Motorcycles – Not Just a Passenger Anymore.”  I could build an extensive list but you get the point. I’m sure these authors are well intentioned but the use of “just” to describe a passenger demeans the importance of that role and the person that fills it.


Most passengers are women and the reasons they choose to be there are varied:

  • Enjoyment. She loves being a passenger and enjoying the sensations of riding without having to make the operating decisions
  • Financial . The household can’t afford a second motorcycle.
  • Time. Her schedule is full with career, family responsibilities or other interests. She can’t justify committing resources to her own motorcycle.
  • Desire. She has no interest in learning to ride.

Passengers are riders too! Co-riders sharing an experience with their partner can still be fully engaged in the ride. That includes being involved in planning the route, daily distances and time traveled between rest tops. It also means knowing how and when to:

  • Mount and dismount.
  • Reposition while riding.
  • Communicate with the operator.
  • React in corners and emergency situations.

Passengers are just as vulnerable as operators if anything goes wrong so the ATGATT principle – All The Gear, All The Time — applies equally. Pavement doesn’t differentiate between the skin of rider or co-rider if you’re sliding along it.

Let’s get this lingo out of our lexicon. No one is ever “just” anyone!

Here are 2 interesting articles, from the perspective of a passenger and an operator.

A Novice’s Guide to Being a Good Motorcycle Passenger and Enjoying Yourself Along the Way shares interesting and practical insights for neophytes.

This article from Riders Plus Insurance offers good advice from the operator perspective. Motorcycle Passenger Etiquette.





Healer, author, and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.

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