Riding Pillion on a Superbike for the First Time


By Jaichandran Jayapalan


Superbikes are the epitome of motorcycle engineering. They are astonishingly powerful, wickedly fast, jaw-droppingly beautiful, and heart-achingly desirable. It is a dream for most bikers to own, or at least ride a superbike at some point of their lives. 


MV Agusta F4 312


Now, to get the record straight, what is a superbike? Superbikes can be generalized as bikes that displace in excess of 600cc, and are designed and built to offer the best possible performance, be it in a straight line, or around a corner.


So, what makes superbikes so desirable? We think it is a combination of the looks, the acceleration, and the sound they make that makes people go ‘WOW!’ when they come across one standing silently in a parking lot, or zipping past on the highway.


If you think riding a superbike would be as easy as riding a 150cc bike, you are gravely mistaken. Superbikes are so fast, that it redefines your perception of speed altogether. They demand your undivided attention. You will need to see further, concentrate harder, and be able to react to any change in situation instantly. Even sitting on the pillion seat is difficult.



Yes, you read that right. Riding a superbike is one thing, but sitting on the pillion seat is a different experience altogether. Most superbike pillion seats are so small they are practically useless, but if you happen to sit on one, you will have a time that you won't forget in a hurry. Let me explain what it feels like exactly, to ride pillion on a superbike for the first time.


My first superbike pillion ride was on a friend’s Ducati 848 EVO, a 141 bhp V-Twin Italian rocket-on-two-wheels. It is by far one of the most beautiful bikes ever made, and the noise it makes is pure mechanical symphony. Being the focussed sport bike that it is, the 848 EVO was designed to attack corners at racing speed, not ride down to the shops with a pillion, so the rear seat on it was designed only as an afterthought.


Ducati 848 EVO Side View


Clambering on to the pillion seat isn’t easy. The foot pegs are set very high, so you need to place one foot on the foot peg, and vault over the seat. If you can’t imagine exactly how comfortable it is to sit on the pillion seat of a superbike, try this: Squat down on the floor, with your knees just below shoulder level. Place an object about three feet in front of you. Now, reach for the object. Stay in that position for as long as you can. Comfy, isn’t it?


If you replied in the positive, then you must be an Olympic gymnast. Since the distance between the seat and the foot pegs isn’t much, you squat on the seat rather than sit on it. Trust me, it is not the most comfortable of postures to be stuck in for hours on the end. A superbike pillion seat is best for short rides only.


Superbike Pillion Ride Experience 1

That doesn't look comfortable, does it? (Image Credit: Tom Reynolds @ Flickr.com)


Once I (somehow) managed to sit on the rear seat, my thighs started to cramp up, but under no circumstances was I going to quit. I’m glad that I didn’t, for what happened in the next ten minutes is something I'll definitely not forget for the rest of my life.


We left the parking lot gingerly, and on to the main road. After hunting down a decent straight, my friend gunned the throttle. Holy Mother of God!


The force with which the bike pulled away was very scary and unsettling. The Ducati has no pillion grab rail, so you have to hold on to the rider when accelerating. Otherwise you will be thrown off the bike, literally! You just cannot get used to the ferocity at which these machines build speed. Every time my friend twisted the throttle, I had to hold on tight for dear life!


Superbike Pillion Ride Experience 2

(Image Credits: Australian Superbikers @ Flickr.com)


Then there are the brakes. While the majority of the sub-400cc motorcycles that most of us are used to come with a single disc brake at the front, superbikes come with two. They are absolutely necessary - considering the speeds superbikes are capable of, it is vital that they are able to slow just as rapidly as they accelerate. When we had to stop for a fast-approaching traffic signal, all that my friend did was squeeze the front brake lever slightly. That was enough to bring the 848 to a standstill from around 60 kmph in the blink of an eyelid! You have to brace against the fuel tank with your hands, to make sure you aren't violently thrown forward on to the rider!


Superbike Front Brakes

Superbike brakes are not to be messed with!


During the course of the ride, we came across a long, empty flyover. That was where I experienced the true terror of sitting pillion on a superbike. My friend peered front, crouched down, and asked me to hold on tight. Then he whacked open the throttle. Holy Mother of God, Part 2.


It was a sensory overload. The phenomenal acceleration, the torrential windblast, the heat from the underseat exhaust, and above all, the fantastic V-Twin screaming the song of its people at full volume, phew, it was exhilarating! The adrenaline rush got my heart pumping so fast that I reckon it could only be measured with a tachometer.


Superbike Pillion Ride Experience 3

(Image Credits: Australian Superbikers @ Flickr.com)


 At the end of it, all that excitement left me giggling like a kid. The moment I got off the bike, I realised that if you were to ride a superbike, be it as a rider or a pillion, you need to be physically fit. Ten minutes on the bike, and my body was aching top-to-bottom, and I was left with a cramped leg muscle.


Riding a superbike pillion is a thrill unlike any other. It isn’t for the faint-hearted, but once you experience it, you will be left wanting for more. If this doesn't excite you, you should probably try BASE-jumping, or swimming in shark-infested waters.


(The track images are not from the actual experience, and are used for illustralional purposes only. Images Source - Flickr.com, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)


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