First two-up

How's a Ninja 250 handle 350 lbs of man?
Published May 20, 2009

After more than a year of riding, before today I hadn’t yet taken a passenger. My girlfriend and I talked about taking the bike into the city for a movie but never got around to doing practice laps in the garage to build confidence. Remember that I mentioned I have a girlfriend, it makes the next part better.

So a scooter-riding coworker had to bring his bike into the local moto shop this morning to fix a disintegrating muffler and asked me to give him a lift to work. He meant he wanted me to drive my car, but I try to avoid driving when possible so I showed up on my bike, to his great dismay.

We saddled the bike with 350 lbs. of man

I was actually kind of eager to try out two-up riding on the little Ninja and this was a good excuse. Last night I prepared by swapping out the rear cowl for the back seat and cranked up the preload on the rear shock (those last two settings are a pain to get to). Despite the fully stiffened rear shock, there was a surprising amount of sag as coworker Colin plopped his pot-bellied self on the back. We each weigh roughly the same, and together we saddled the bike with around 350 lbs. of man.

Before taking off, I had Colin use one arm to hold onto me and his other to support his weight against the back of the gas tank–it’s a trick I learned from one of my Seattle amigos that prevents the passenger from leaning into the rider under braking. Unfortunately I didn’t tell Colin to ignore the ants in his pants when we were moving slowly. At parking lot speed, the bike feels very top heavy and for a two-up virgin such as me it makes the slow stuff a bit nervous and wobbly.

But once up to speed, I was pleased with how normal the bike feels. We didn’t hit the freeway, but the bike had no problem getting us up to the 55 mph or so limited by the route I normally ride. It’s slower to accelerate when burdened with as much weight, but it’s better than I expected and certainly quick enough to still outpace most traffic.

Not that I was in a hurry. I kept it slow and left loads of room for stopping. I really can’t comment on the stopping distances with the added passenger because I was purposely over-compensating for what I knew would be increased braking time and didn’t get anywhere near the limit of the binders.

Back to Colin’s antsy pants: Every time we got near to a dead stop, he sat up and released his hold around me. I think he felt a bit self-conscious gripping another man in the open public, but his moving around made the slow going much more difficult than it had to be. So if you plan on taking a passenger for their first two-up experience, tell them to be an adult and hold still below 10 mph. And as a final tip for the rider, tip your head forward a bit as you shift. The brief shock of the shift is enough to tug your passenger’s head forward a bit and cause a light collision of helmets, but a forward nod on your part can prevent it.