14 Motorcycles That Are Great for Passengers / Two-Up Riding

2020 BMW F750 GS

Motorcycling, for the most part, is a solo hobby. You may be part of a group that rides together, or maybe even have other members of the family that ride. However, there are times when it may be necessary to ride two-up with a pillion passenger, either for a long journey or a quick trip around town.

In a bit of a departure from the norm here on BestBeginnerMotorcycles, we’re not going to stick exclusively to beginner-friendly bikes. While many beginner bikes can definitely handle having a passenger, there are some bikes that require a skilled hand and an experienced rider to be able to ride safely for long distances with a passenger.

Also, and we must stress this in the strongest possible sense, we do not recommend that you ride with a passenger except in emergency situations for at least one (1) full riding season of experience. This is so that you, the new rider, can learn how your bike reacts to your weight, your lean angles, your riding style. Putting an extra person on the bike changes the dynamics significantly, and there are also certain things that the passenger must do with you to minimize the impact of them being on the bike.

As well, make sure your passenger wears full protective gear. All the gear, all the time (ATGATT), even for a passenger. With that being emphasized, here are 14 of our two-up favorites

Honda Gold Wing

2020 Honda Goldwing Tour

Recommended skill: Advanced

From the very first iteration of the Gold Wing, Honda had a multi-day, long-distance tourer in mind. From a simple bagger at the low end, all the way to the Gold Wing Tour with fog lights, passenger backrest, and more storage than pretty much any other bike on the road, it is the ultimate in refinement.

Other standard features on the top of the line Tour model are heated seats, heated grips, GPS, ABS, and electronic cruise control.

BMW R1250 RT

2020 BMW R 1250 RT

Recommended skill: Advanced

If you’re more for the sporting side of touring, the BMW R1250 RT has you covered. Unlike the quiet torque monsters that most luxury tourers have, the R1250 RT has a 1254 cc boxer twin that they have refined over decades into the smooth power unit it is today.

The rear suspension is also adjustable on the fly to allow for a pillion to ride in comfort without getting shaken to bits, as well as the pillion seat being extra plush over the rider’s seat being low and tight to the tank. One of the best sport tourers on the market, it can also make the mountain roads on the way to your campsite fun for both rider and passenger.

BMW F750 GS

2020 BMW F750 GS

Recommended skill: Beginner to Intermediate

The Gold Wing is too plush for you, and the R1250 RT is too much bike to handle. Never fret, BMW again has you covered with their F750 GS.

Positioned right in between the luxury and sport-tourer markets, the BMW has the sporty standard seating position for the rider with a nice tail rest that is also quite soft and comfortable. The pillion gets BMW’s classic comfort with a nice cushion, easily access foot pegs, and easy to find grip handles if they want to sit back a bit to stretch out during a long ride.

Of course, being a BMW, the bike is packed with electronic riding aids and passenger comfort items. Dynamic stability control across all weather conditions apart from snow, LED running lights, an optional windscreen, and lots of (optional) cargo space are just the tip of the iceberg on this mile muncher.

Yamaha MT-07

2020 Yamaha MT-07

Recommended skill: Intermediate to Advanced

Moving away from the multi-day tourers, there are many bikes that can carry pillions that are great for  in-city levels of fun. Yamaha has a definite winner with their MT-07, a great intermediate naked that has enough power and torque to get two people moving without much effort.

The pillion cushion may not look all that comfortable, yet it is twice as thick as many sport bikes have for their passenger seats. Then again, many sport bike passenger seats are barely thicker than two pieces of cardboard stacked, so while it may be comfortable for an hour or two, long-distance comfort would require many a stretch-and-hydration stop.

Honda CBR650R

2020 Honda CBR650R

Recommended skill: Beginner

If your preferred ride is a sport bike, then Honda again gets a nod for passenger comfort. While any sport or supersport bike will have a fairly stiff seat, the CBR650R takes a somewhat relaxed view of things. The pillion seat is moderately padded, and should do for rides up to a couple of hours long, and the pillion pegs are placed perfectly so that a pillion’s knees are out wide enough that they shouldn’t impede the rider’s control of the bike.

We don’t recommend the CBR300R however, as the engine on that model is perfectly fine for one rider, but adding a pillion can cause it to be anemic in response. The 650 engine has the power to pull through, however, and ensure that freeway cruising or sporty mountain roads are enjoyable.

Ural Gear-Up

2020 Ural Gear Up

Recommended skill: Beginner (with some time learning how to drive a sidecar)

And it’s at this point we come to the first oddball on the list. The Ural Gear-Up, and the many derivative models of it, is not a traditional 1+1 ride. It’s a great, albeit very Russian, throwback to the days of sidecars. However, the Russians have had some great inventions in the past that have taken a beating and still run, and the Ural is retro-modern iteration on that.

While it will happily cruise around on the roads, the purpose of the Ural is to be an unkillable workhorse on rougher roads or short distance blitzes. With a maximum weight allowance of over 1,300 lbs, it can also haul pretty much any size, shape, or type of person or even animal in the sidecar.

And best of all, if you as a rider have a four-legged friend, it’s been well known that dogs love riding in the sidecar. Just get them some doggles, dog friendly ear protection, and a sherpa harness to clip to the tire rack for safety.

Check out Jim’s review of the Ural.

Suzuki Burgman 400 ABS

2020 Suzuki Burgman 400

Recommended skill: Beginner

Since we’re wandering off the beaten track a little, why not step into scooter territory? The Suzuki Burgman 400 ABS is one of the most successful maxi-scooters for the past decade, with ample power, loads of storage under the seat, and a sporty, albeit restrained, handling profile, as demonstrated in the above picture taken directly from Suzuki’s website.

It’s also designed for two-up riding from the get-go, with a stepped seat that is incredibly plush for the pillion, and stiff but forgiving for the rider. Depending on the ride, the pegs are placed so that the pillion can be up tight against the rider, or use the grab handles and sit back some to prevent helmets clashing together.

Suzuki V-Strom 650

2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650

Recommended skill: Beginner to Intermediate

Continuing the idea of going off the beaten path, how about abandoning the path altogether? The Suzuki V-Strom 650 is like the leatherman tool of bikes: it can do anything and everything. Road riding? Yes. Dirt trail? Yes. Bombing across a place trails washed out by streams? See for yourself.

This is the bike you’d want to use if you and your passenger wanted to travel across remote trails to find a campsite far from civilization, to enjoy a night under the clear sky. Despite being a workhorse, the V-Strom 650 is not an ultimate off-roader, but it gets the job done the most comfortably, as its seat is made to soak up bumps and shocks for both rider and pillion.

Triumph Bonneville T120

 

2020 Triumph Bonneville T120 Recommended skill: Intermediate

Okay, we understand, enough with the beaten path jokes. Back on the road, the Triumph Bonneville T120 is the kind of motorcycle that embraces the divide between a retro look with modern conveniences. It has more than enough power and torque from its 1200cc parallel-twin, while also giving a great ride due to highly tuned suspension.

On top of it all, it’s immediately apparent just from the entire look of the bike that a passenger is almost a necessity, just so that stitched leather and plush padding can be put to use. And, for a few of us here, the fully retro, behind the back grab bar is just the cherry on top of the styling.

Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic

2020 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic

Recommended skill: Intermediate

The retro-style cruiser has been making a comeback in recent years, and Kawasaki have jumped feet first into the deep end with the Vulcan 900 Classic. A low, thick seat for the rider and cruiser-style forward controls leave ample room over the rear tail for a thick pillion seat.

And much like the classic cruisers, this bike requires you to be well known to your pillion, as they will have to be hugged right up to your back with their arms around you. There is a slightly more plush version known as the Classic Light Tourer (or LT for short), but the cleaner lines and bad-boy v-twin blacked out except for the fins just give the 900 Classic the right attitude.

Harley-Davidson Sport Glide

 

2020 Harley Davidson Sport GlideRecommended Skill: Intermediate (with cruiser background)

Of all the Harley’s out there, of all the arguments about which model is better, of all the custom choppers, baggers, bobbers, and all that, there is one thing that any Harley-Davidson fan can agree on: The Harley-Davidson Sport Glide is the one that any of them could own without thinking about it.

Using a thundering 1753cc v-twin engine with enough torque to spin the world backwards on its axis, the Sport Glide combines a sports cruiser with a bagger and a long-distance tourer to bring forth a beast that is at home anywhere from Route 66 to City Hall. Add to that Harley’s always comfortable seats for rider and pillion, and price it aggressively against the Japanese bikes that are encroaching on the all-around cruiser market, and you have a Harley that will take a passenger without a second thought.

Honda Rebel 500

2021 Honda Rebel 500

Recommended Skill: Beginner

If there ever was a sport cruiser that was designed from the outset to get the beginner rider comfortable in all aspects of its use, it’s the Honda Rebel 500. You will have to shell out the extra $140 USD to get the passenger seat addition to the subframe, but otherwise it’s still the most affordable, most comfortable, most lenient sport cruiser out there.

While the passenger seat isn’t the thickest or, frankly, the most comfortable, what it does do quite well is force the passenger close to the rider, which is important for keeping their legs tight in, and their arms around the rider. It also means that the center of gravity is not upset too much, giving the beginner rider with one season of experience under their belt a great feel for how the extra weight can affect the bike. It’s also great for rider-to-passenger communication, so that the rider can teach the passenger how to lean with them, how to hold on correctly, and get them comfortable.

Kawasaki Ninja 650

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650

Recommended skill: Beginner

Unlike the more sport-focused Honda CBR650R listed before, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 is much more of a sport-tourer than anything. While it still has the get-up-and-go to haul around a track in fine style, the raised clip-ons, the less aggressive seating position, and the slightly taller tail to raise the pillion’s head higher for better visibility show that this motorcycle is a street bike first and foremost, that is capable of being a sport bike.

As well, Kawasaki seats, somehow, are generally quite comfortable no matter what bike of theirs you sit on, and the Ninja 650 is no different. In fact, it is so plush for both rider and pillion that we think an all day trip on this bike, such as between states or cities, is not out of the realm of possibility. We just recommend stretching and hydration breaks along the way.

Learn more about the awesome Ninja 650.

Yamaha XSR700

2021 Yamaha XSR700

Recommended Skill: Beginner to Intermediate

The Yamaha XSR700 is a superb two-up bike. Like many retro-themed motorcycles, it has a long, wide, and comfortable bench-style seat, with a dedicated pillion “hump” between rider and passenger. Additionally, it has a low-slung exhaust, important for when you have a passenger as some of the more adventure-style bikes have high-placed exhausts that could get quite warm under a passengers’ leg.

The XSR700 also has a strong enough motor to be able to reach highway and/or freeway speeds with two people on board, something important to consider if long-distance or inter-city travel is to be done. Finally, Yamaha has done some engineering magic with the rear suspension, mounting it nearly horizontally directly at the center of gravity, so that the extra weight of a passenger acts more to keep the wheels planted into the road, instead of moving the center of gravity more to the rear. When it comes to two-up riding, Japanese engineering sometimes just cannot be beat.