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Florida Motorcycle Handbook: Carrying Passengers and Cargo

The Florida Motorcycle Driver Handbook contains all of the information that you need to familiarize yourself with the concepts on the license exam!

Florida Motorcycle Handbook: Carrying Passengers and Cargo

Table of Contents

5. Ride within your Abilities

Only experienced riders should carry passengers or large loads. The extra weight changes the way the motorcycle handles, balances, speeds up and slows down. Before taking a passenger or a heavy load on the street, practice away from traffic.

5.21.1 - EQUIPMENT

To carry passengers safely:

  • Equip and adjust your motorcycle to carry passengers.
  • Instruct the passenger before you start.
  • Adjust your riding technique for the added weight.

Equipment should include:

  • A proper seat - large enough to hold both of you without crowding. You should not sit any farther forward than you usually do.
  • Footpegs - for the passenger. Firm footing prevents your passenger from falling off and pulling you off, too.
  • Protective equipment - the same protective gear recommended for operators.

Adjust the suspension to handle the additional weight. You will probably need to add a few pounds of pressure to the tires if you carry a passenger. (Check your owner's manual for appropriate settings.) While your passenger sits on the seat with you, adjust the mirror and headlight according to the change in the motorcycle's angle.


Even if your passenger is a motorcycle rider, provide complete instructions before you start. Tell your passenger to:

  • Get on the motorcycle only after you have started the engine.
  • Sit as far forward as possible without crowding you.
  • Hold firmly to your waist, hips or belt.
  • Keep both feet on the pegs, even when stopped.
  • Keep legs away from the muffler(s), chains or moving parts.
  • Stay directly behind you, leaning as you lean.
  • Avoid unnecessary talk or motion.

Also, tell your passenger to tighten his or her hold when you:

  • Approach surface problems.
  • Are about to start from a stop.
  • Warn that you will make a sudden move.


Your motorcycle will respond more slowly with a passenger on board. The heavier your passenger, the longer it will take to slow down and speed up - especially on a light motorcycle.

  • Ride a little slower, especially when taking curves, corners or bumps.
  • Start slowing earlier as you approach a stop.
  • Open up a larger cushion of space ahead and to the sides.
  • Wait for larger gaps to cross, enter or merge in traffic. Warn your passenger of special conditions - when you will pull out, stop quickly, turn sharply or ride over a bump. Turn your head slightly to make yourself understood, but keep your eyes on the road ahead.


Most motorcycles are not designed to carry much cargo. Small loads can be carried safely if positioned and fastened properly.

  • Keep the Load Low - Fasten loads securely, or put them in saddle bags. Piling loads against a sissybar or frame on the back of the seat raises the motorcycle's center of gravity and disturbs its balance.
  • Keep the Load Forward - Place the load over, or in front of, the rear axle. Tankbags keep loads forward, but use caution when loading hard or sharp objects. Make sure the tankbag does not interfere with handlebars or controls. Mounting loads behind the rear axle can affect how the motorcycle turns and brakes. It can also cause a wobble.
  • Distribute the Load Evenly - Load saddlebags with about the same weight. An uneven load can cause the motorcycle to drift to one side.
  • Secure the Load - Fasten the load securely with elastic cords (bungee cords or nets). Elastic cords with more than one attachment point per side are more secure. A tight load won't catch in the wheel or chain, causing it to lock up and skid. Rope tends to stretch and knots come loose, permitting the load to shift or fall.
  • Check the Load - Stop and check the load every so often to make sure it has not worked loose or moved.

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