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The Inherent Dangers of Backrests.

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  • The Inherent Dangers of Backrests.

    Whenever I read about riders looking to add backrests to their bikes, it concerns me. Perhaps you wonder why that is, after all, manufacturers have offered them on their bikes for years. Certainly they wouldn't put something on their bikes that would be dangerous. Well, they do, and they do it to sell bikes, and, obviously because no one has yet to sue over loss of life or limb because of them. Once that happens, they'll disappear quicker than 3 wheeled ATV's

    Lets start with the driver's backrest. What could be the harm in that? You have a bad back, it enables you to ride farther, right? Well, yes, and everything's fine until the unfortunate time comes when you need to unload from the bike. Most people are aware the best thing to do in a low slide is to get away from the bike as best you can. It's not affording you any protection, and, if anything, is gonna beat the shit out of you as the two of you slide down the road together. That driver's back rest make it virtually impossible to get away from the bike. You are pretty much locked in there for the duration. Your back may feel better but that will be no consolation if your left leg gets trapped under the bike in a low slide. I had a low slide at 50 mph, and I walked away with some road rash on my ass, but that was it. No backrest.

    Let's move on to the passenger backrest. When I was taught to be a passenger, the main thing I was taught was to hold onto the rider and move as they moved. Keep all the weight going the same direction at all times, otherwise the bike can become very unstable. Now, if your passenger is leaning back against a backrest, chances are they can't even reach you. If you have to make a quick maneuver at hiway speed, naturally you are gonna go with the bike. But inertia is gonna sling your passenger the opposite direction, making what is already a bad situation that much worse. You could even possibly sling them right off the back of the bike. Even if you have, like , a Goldwing with all the armrests and shit, they are still gonna be flopping around back there in the wrong direction at the totally wrong time. They won't fall off with all that crap holding them in, but they won't be able to escape the bike either should the situation digress further.

    It's best not to think about it when riding, but motorcycles are dangerous. More so, taking a passenger doubles the danger. Not only are you literally taking their life in your hands, but you are markedly decreasing the stability and maneuvering performance of your bike. Even the lightest couple will come close to or exceed the weight maximum for most bikes. Those maximums are posted on the bike for a reason, to ensure safe operation of the vehicle. Well, in reality, they don't insure shit, rather, they only suggest it. But it's a suggestion you may want to pay heed to considering the stakes.

    We have a lot of tumbleweeds in the Southwest. For you Yankees and Northerners, yes , they are for real, not just in the cowboy movies, and some of them get pretty damn big. I have had to dodge those bastards twice at 65-75 mph or so. I don't know what happens if you hit one and I damn sure don't wanna find out either. Each time I was flying solo and was glad of it. It's hard enough to re-correct at that speed to keep yourself from running off the road, I could just imagine if I had someone on the back flopping around in the wrong direction.

    I won't pack anyone anymore because of my deteriorating health. But I see it everywhere I go. Except for a very few people, it's not if you are gonna go down, it's when you are gonna go down. You can't be too ready.

  • #2
    Well, thanks, FPB... you just made MY day! No, I agree with ya... I've thought about the same, and I don't ride two-up much in any case, but only because my wife is not an avid rider, like I am. When she's on there, I know it's a very different experience, and I ride differently. The worst case, which we've all experienced, is that thing where you have to get pretty hard on the brakes, and you feel those forces against your back, where she's going to push you (strain you) through the handlebars and lights! That's not a confidence building experience at all!!! What ever happens if you hit one of those things that stops the bike... real quick, with the both of you on it?!?!?


    • MikeyC
      MikeyC commented
      Editing a comment
      You make a really good airbag to protect your wife

  • #3
    Just what I wanted to read the day after I ordered my drivers backrest for my Indian. LOL
    You make some very good points, and ones that most people never think of. Unfortunately there are many risks when it comes to riding motorcycles. There are many areas where we can do things to minimize that risk. We all have to decide what chances we are willing to take in which areas.
    I have ridden with many people on all different brands of bikes, and everyone is willing to assume different levels of risk. Some would be willing to ride in shorts and tennis shoes, no helmet, completely wasted, with a passenger, in a reckless manor on a bike that barely safe enough to make it out of the front yard. While others Ride solo, wear a helmet, took a safety course and obey the laws.... I have yet to run into the guy, (although I know they are out there) that rides with a full face, riding jacket with a neon vest, armored pants, gloves, boots, modulating headlight, on a brightly colored motorcycle, with maybe a flashing light on top of his head.
    I love your insight to the way that you think about motorcycling. I can tell that you have had a passion for this sport for a long time and that is has meant a lot to you.
    Your post has given me something new to ponder over. I have never given much thought to rider backrests, Even though I seem to only use them on long trips.
    FPB: I hope you and your wife have a wonderful day!
    owning a motorcycle is not a matter of life or death, it is much more important than that


    • #4
      ....I ain't skeered of no tumbleweed.....
      "I'm Ricky Bobby. If you don't chew Big Red.....then Fuck You"


      • Father Pobasturd
        Father Pobasturd commented
        Editing a comment
        Most of 'em ain't that big, like beach ball sized, but sometimes they bunch together, creating a snowball-like effect, just on a bigger scale. One of those would take you down for sure. Hitting a single one, you could probably stay up, though in no way am I willing to test that theory.

    • #5
      Originally posted by Lug Nut View Post
      ....I ain't skeered of no tumbleweed.....

      You will be if you ever meet one up close and personal. In the mid-west we have deer, i've hit a few in a car and would never want to meet one on my bike!
      2012 Road Star Silverado S


      • Brad_G
        Brad_G commented
        Editing a comment
        Been there done that, almost 40 years ago. Never saw that bastard until he was right in front of me. I hope to not repeat that again.

    • #6
      ......I am skeered shit less of deeer....had some close calls in vehicles and motorcycles.
      "I'm Ricky Bobby. If you don't chew Big Red.....then Fuck You"


      • #7
        What about the guys that use a belt to wrap around their young kids while riding on a bike? I've seen this a couple times....large strap or belt around the rider and 10 year old girl/boy while on passenger seat (no backrest) . Saw the strap break at a stoplight (fortunately stopped)....I was nervous forn that little one......
        "I'm Ricky Bobby. If you don't chew Big Red.....then Fuck You"


        • #8
          Click image for larger version

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          Originally posted by cike View Post
          .... with maybe a flashing light on top of his head.

          That struck me funny!

          Attached Files


          • #9
            I think FPB makes a valid point here in the sense that our chosen hobby/passion does carry some significant risks. Being aware of those risks makes me especially careful in everything I do in terms of maintenance, mental attitude and preparation before I ride anywhere. You can mitigate a lot of those risks but you can never eliminate all of them once you leave the house. One of my buddies is an ex State Trooper who is also a lifelong rider and who has seen more than his fair share of motorcycle fatalities and he never climbs on a bike unless he's fully armored from head to toe. You don't have to spend five minutes talking to that guy before you realize how important it is to be properly attired.

            With regards to backrests themselves I've never had one until recently and my perception is that I have more control over the bike with one then without. On anything more than a 20 mile jaunt I can feel the fatigue start to set in on my lower back which I find painful, annoying and ultimately distracting. I'd rather be paying attention to the road ahead than my aching back and for that reason alone I think I'll keep mine. As far as I'm concerned you can ride naked if you want to, but if and when something happens the results of your decision to do so rest on you and you alone.


            • #10
              i go for comfort my age if i go down it'll break every bone in my body anyway...could buy one of those race suits that have fully inflatable bags that allow you to bounce down the road until you hit an immovable object or oncoming traffic but they're $3-$4,000...that being said if i buy a bike that has backrests i leave it/them on, if it doesn't i don't go out and buy them...zing rolling the dice...

     make a valid point...zp...


              • #11
                Once you go with backrest it's hardto go without them but I did realize that it weakens your abdominal muscles . before that you use your abdominal muscles to sit up straight. And I don't believe in that going down theory either . That is a defeatists p perspective. You just have to learn how to manage traffico but that's easy for me to say I don't live in a big city.. what central Florida is getting more and more pack ed


                • #12
                  I recently heard a report... FL is the most dangerous state in which to ride a bike... I wonder why?!?!? Friends of mine lost a son to motorcycle accident in FL.


                  • #13
                    Interesting (and I think accurate) take FP. I do have a drivers backrest on my girl, and I do enjoy riding with it, but you have given me pause to be a bit more selective on when I use it. Thanks.

                    Also, Ive always thought a lot of riders on these forums are far too casual on when they go 2 up. I am a bigger guy, my wife is on the small side of average. Together, with a fully wet bike we creep close to the upper load rating of the bike, with no extra gear. I am conscious of it. I see a number of guys here talk about how over engineered these bikes are. While they may be right, there are also legal (meaning civil) liability issues to consider should something go wrong. A typical Roadie is rated for about 430-435 lbs when full of fuel. A little less for the touring (AT) models, it probably varies by model year too. Point is, if youre a 250 lb guy with a gal thats got saddle bags of her own, then toss on another 50 lbs of gear for your weekend adventure you may have a hard time not only controlling the bike when something unexpected pops up, but also arguing your case in front of a judge during a civil suit. We havent even gotten into the civil ramifications of modifying the suspension with something like a roadwing.

                    Just something else to consider.

                    2000 Road Star 1600a


                    • #14
                      Most Dangerous to ride bicycle or to be pedestrian no state tax and low property taxes means very few sidewalks they paint some stripes on the side of the road for cyclists. a no helmet law makes it more deadly for motor bikers


                      • #15
                        Lots of good points Father, a good passenger that moves witnh you is key on two-up riding. Food for thought regardless of rest/no rest...Ace


                        • #16
                          As always, a good and reasoned argument from Father. Having learned on dirt bikes very early, one of the things I was taught was how to "dismount" on a low side crash and I had a chance to practice it many times in my youth. Now that I'm an Old Fart, I tend to lean towards comfort. I added a back rest to my bike after several years without and can say that it's made my riding more enjoyable, especially long distance rides. I'm an ATGATT guy and depend on that and my skills to keep me safe on a notoriously dangerous mode of transit. I'll reconsider my position on backrests after this post. My new-to-me RS has on and a passenger seat with one. The passenger seat is definitely coming off, as I only ride solo, but we'll have to see about the driver backrest.


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