Double riding is as related to Amsterdam as canals and coffee shops.
Perfect for conversations while cruising at a leisurely pace, the side-saddle is by the far the most popular method for two people riding together on one bike. The only way to experience life as a local is to weave through narrow streets on two wheels with your partner’s legs dangling from the back rack.
My infatuation with this style of riding borders on being a fetish. I’ve never been the passenger, as I find it more pleasurable being the chauffeur. But even while observing others riding side-saddle, I can’t help to think that when it comes to transportation, there simply is no more of an endearing way to travel together. Perhaps I’m being a tad over-sentimental, but I honestly feel that if some overreaching law ever prohibits double riding in Amsterdam, a part of humanity will die.
The survey to riding side-saddle
I covered some statistics when it came to double riding in an earlier post. But it was by accident that had me really sink my teeth into riding side-saddle.
My wife and I were on our way with our year-old daughter to an appointment when she suffered a flat. We locked the bike on the spot and she plunked onto my back rack while my daughter was in the front child seat in which would be our first unsanctioned family ride.
She exclaimed that “something doesn’t feel right.”
I replied, “you’re facing the wrong way.”
What is the right way when riding side-saddle as a passenger? I would think it comes down to personal preference, with either facing left or right. I recall in the past that she would always face left. From my observations, I would estimate that most people face left.
I’ve read one assumption that people will face the direction of the sun, shops or towards an inclination for the best view. But I think the decision on which way to sit depends on which side feels more comfortable, based on whether one is left or right-handed.
Riding on your dominant side
According to statistics, about 10% of the population is left-handed while the vast majority is right-handed. To see if there is any correlation to riding side-saddle, I counted 1500 bicyclists over a course of several months.
My findings revealed that 84% of passengers riding this method faced left while 16% faced right. That is nearly on par for the proportion of right-handed people to left-handed. There is also no deviation between whether the passenger is male or female. But if the majority of people are right-handed then why are they facing left?
I can only speculate that having things appear from the direction of their dominant side is somehow more comforting. It could also be that on some subconscious level, having more space for their legs dangling off to the side is more preferable when facing left while in the bike lane. Typically people double riding are on the slow end of moving traffic and thus on the right side of the bike lane. Facing right runs the risk of being close to obstructions like parked cars, bikes and pedestrians. Though the risks do change while going down narrow side streets with oncoming vehicles.
Whatever the reasons, it fulfilled my curiosity in the art of riding side-saddle.