Riding Two-Up With a Child | Child’s Play

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Jim Moy

Riding two-up with a child is controversial. Doubt this? Put a 10-year-old on the back for your next ride and count the dirty looks and unsolicited comments—often from other motorcyclists—about how “dangerous” riding is for kids. But for many parents, it’s pure pleasure. It’s an opportunity to spend time with your child and include him/her in an activity you are passionate about. And it’s still the best way to introduce new riders to the sport.

Motorcycling can be dangerous regardless of age, but if proper precautions are taken, riding with kids can be rich and rewarding for all involved. As our former editor and long-time motorcycle safety advocate Art Friedman once wrote, “If motorcycling is safe enough for parents, it’s safe enough for kids, provided you accommodate their unique needs.”

Here’s what you need to know before taking your child for a ride:

Begin with an honest conversation between yourself and the other parent about whether both parties—you and the child—are ready to ride. My daughters got their first sidecar rides around age 4, but it was almost four more years before I decided they were ready for the passenger seat. Kids must be big enough to reach the footpegs and strong enough to hold on. More importantly, they need the mental awareness to be a good passenger—to pay attention, stay calm and follow the rider’s lead. Never force an unwilling child to ride—fear can literally be paralyzing. The operator must be mature as well. This is no time to show off. It doesn’t take much to thrill a 10-year-old. He or she will be plenty impressed by a smooth, gentle ride.

Step two is gathering good gear. There are plenty of Snell- and DOT-approved children’s helmets on the market, and many adult models are available in XS and XXS sizes that fit kids. Do not put them in an oversized adult helmet that might fly off in a crash, and help them properly fasten the chinstrap, too.

Child-sized off-road gear is abundant, but unless you find used examples of now-discontinued Harley-Davidson MotorClothes or Held children’s apparel, street gear is virtually non-existent. Be creative: My 11-year-old daughter Kiva wears an XS women’s Icon textile jacket with sleeve adjusters snug enough to keep the armor properly positioned, paired with jeans and leather boots that cover her ankles. And don’t forget gloves: I’ve found XXS women’s street gloves small enough to fit 7-year-old Ruby. Failing that, kid’s MX gloves work, too.

Now it’s time to ride. Begin with a pre-ride briefing, reminding your child to hold on, sit still, avoid the hot exhaust and always keep his/her feet on the pegs. Never place a child in front of you. Like all passengers, children belong on back, raising a separate set of worries about falling off. A passenger harness can prevent this worst-case scenario. By far the best is the Moto-Grip ($179.95, plus $79.95 for the optional child strap; (www.hatchventures.com). Exceptionally well made, the Moto-Grip creates two secure, convenient handholds on the operator’s back and chest. An optional security strap keeps the child from falling off, and acts as an early-warning system if he/she slumps, slides or otherwise shifts position.

I’m still not ready to ride cross-country with a kid—especially not moto-narcoleptic Ruby—but with good gear and the added security of the Moto-Grip, we all love shorter trips. “I feel like a rock star,” Kiva remarked after a recent GSX-R jaunt. “Everyone’s looking at me!” What father wouldn’t feel good hearing that? I just hope everyone is thinking about how safe and well-protected she looks up there, and doesn’t miss her ear-to-ear grin.

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