Preparing Yourself, Your Passenger, and Your Bike for Safety
Taking a child on a motorcycle as a passenger is not as simple as just hopping on and hitting the road.
The decision to allow a child to ride on a motorcycle is one that should be made by a responsible adult, preferably the child’s parent or guardian. Beyond following all motorcycle safety guidelines and Colorado motorcycle laws, the adult must ensure that any potential motorcycle passenger is:
- Mature enough to handle the responsibilities of riding a motorcycle.
- Tall enough to reach the motorcycle’s footrests with flat feet.
- Large enough to wear a properly fitted motorcycle helmet and other protective safety gear.
- Prepared to hold on to you or the passenger handholds while riding.
The majority of states, including Colorado, do not have minimum age restrictions for motorcycle passengers, with these exceptions:
- Texas (5, unless in a sidecar)
- Hawaii (7)
- Washington (5)
- Louisiana (5)
- Arkansas (8)
Most states, however, have laws regarding motorcycle passengers. In Colorado, the law requires that passengers must use footrests and ride either behind or to the side of the driver in a sidecar, but never in front. Some form of approved eye protection, such as a visor, helmet, goggles, or eyeglasses with lenses made of safety glass or plastic, is legally required for all riders, drivers, and motorcycle passengers. A windshield is not considered to be adequate eye protection. Motorcycle riders and passengers in Colorado must wear a DOT-approved helmet if they are under the age of 18.
Preparing Your Motorcycle for a Child Passenger
If you plan to carry a child on your motorcycle, you will need to make the necessary preparations to ensure that your bike is suitable for the child to ride on. Some of these preparations might include:
- Making sure the motorcycle is designed to carry a passenger.
- Reviewing the owner’s manual, looking for manufacturer’s tips regarding setup and other recommendations.
- Adjusting the bike’s suspension and tire pressure as necessary.
- Ensuring that the manufacturer’s weight limitations will not be exceeded.
- Briefing the child regarding safety procedures that must be taken when riding on a motorcycle.
How to Keep Child Passengers Safe on a Motorcycle
Passengers on a motorcycle, including young passengers, should always be considered to be active second riders since their presence will affect the handling characteristics of the bike because of the extra weight and independent motion they provide.
Some other things riders need to be aware of when carrying a child on a motorcycle:
- Child passengers often lean or slide forward during quick stops and may bump your helmet with theirs, so braking sooner or with greater pressure may be necessary.
- Cornering clearances may also be affected due to extra weight, so extra caution when taking corners may be required.
- More time and space may also be required when passing, as the effects of the wind, particularly side wind, may be more evident.
- Emphasize to child passengers that hands and feet should always be kept away from hot or moving parts.
- Give young passengers time to adjust to the sensation of speed and leaning.
- Avoid extreme speeds and dramatic lean angles.
Motorcyclists who plan to regularly carry passengers with them on their bike should complete an annual Basic RiderCourse 2 – Skills Practice with a passenger, and if a child will be a frequent motorcycle passenger, have them complete a Basic RiderCourse so that they will have a greater understanding of the responsibilities of riding a motorcycle.