The grace of a gazelle and other pillion skills…
I’ve lost count of how many riders have said to me, “I could never be a pillion,” with a look of fear-crazy in their eyes.
My first pillion ride with Alan around Mount Coot-Tha, Queensland, is a thrill seared into my memory… a few minutes of nervousness followed by confidence that I could actually do this thing.
By the time we reached the top of the mountain, a mighty six kilometres, I was hooked. The cool night sky, the wind on my face and the feeling of closeness as I wrapped my arms around Alan was romantic and incredibly freeing.
“Let’s do it again!” I shouted to the back of Alan’s helmet. Alan chuckled and duly complied.
From that point on, riding together was central to our relationship. Almost every weekend, we explored south-east Queensland and across the border to northern New South Wales, finding new places and new roads, finding each other… and ourselves.
It’s a passion that continues to this day.
It took me the longest time to stop thinking of myself as just a pillion.
Yet for so long, I didn’t feel like a real rider. When we’d chat with other riders, I’d ask them about their adventures and their riding, partly because I love listening to people’s stories but truthfully it was also to hide how little I knew about motorbikes. A scrambler; what on earth is that?
My respect for pillion riding grew as I realised the intensity of the skills required.
- Gifting my control freak to Alan and placing my life in his hands; not an easy task.
The technical skills of being as one:
- An awareness of the road ahead with limited vision around Alan’s helmet.
- My body naturally leans in sync with Alan, without a thought, so he barely feels I’m there.
- Using core strength to keep my torso in position through acceleration and braking, so I don’t get left behind or clunk my helmet into the back of his, though smooth gear changes are a big part of that also.
- Shifting my seat position with the grace of a gazelle.
Courage when conditions get tough:
- Staying calm and having faith in the rider in risky conditions, like icy roads, emergency braking, or being surrounded by unpredictable drivers. Trucks, tractors and donkey-led carts pushing their noses onto Moroccan roundabouts were a total breeze compared with the madness of Italian drivers who lean on their horns when you’re not lane filtering.
- Having the grit to stay hunkered down in atrocious weather.
- Staying awake after a satisfying lunch on a warm day. Admittedly I usually fail at this, but I continue to try.
I’ve realised these are all important skills and sitting behind Alan, my role is just as consequential. I feel right at home on the back of Beauty, our 2008 BMW GS 1200.
In addition to the above skill set, you’ll find me with a GoPro in my left hand, another camera in my right, capturing our rides with photos and videos, to transform for our exclusive membership blogs.
I still get the question, “Do you ride?”
My answer is emphatically, “Yes, I love riding pillion!”
Check out some of our favourite Australian motorcycle rides in our guidebook.
By Bridget Hallam
You can find more of Bridget and Alan, of Throw Your Leg Over in their socials: