I attended the Warwickshire Police run Bikesafe course this weekend, the last of the ‘three amigos’ bike group at work to do so.
Bikesafe serves as an introduction to advanced riding and offers bikers of all levels of experience the chance to have their riding assessed by Police motorcyclists, motorcyclists of the RoSPA, or the Institute of Advanced Motorists. I went with an idea of where I needed to improve my riding and a hope that I would get some good advice on how to improve on problem areas I knew about and some pointers as to where I’m going wrong with my riding technique.
The course took place from the Heritage Motor Centre, in Gaydon, South Warwickshire. The place happened to be a little busy this weekend, as it was Land Rover’s 60th anniversary and so there was a big bash taking place, attended by thousands of people by all accounts.
Yesterday morning comprised a classroom session, where we watched some videos and were given some basic advanced riding pointers. The session was pretty open and questions were encouraged.
In the afternoon, we were divided up with instructors, and I was called out first to meet my instructor, Gordon, who’s an RoSPA observer and Bikesafe trainer. Some people were put in groups of two, but I was on my own, which had its good and its bad side. On the one hand, it meant I had constant, one-on-one training; the flip-side of that is, as I discovered during my LGV training, that it’s sometimes good to observe someone else being trained, because it takes the pressure off you for a while and gives you a chance to see how you’d perhaps do things differently from the other trainee.
We set off after lunch for a ride around, so that Gordon could make observations on my riding. It became pretty evident to him reasonably quickly where my areas for improvement were and he made stops at appropriate times to point these out to me.
My fundamental problem since starting riding six years ago is that I haven’t been looking far enough up the road to what is known as the ‘vanishing point’ and planning my road positioning accordingly – instead, I have been planning my road positioning according to the next bend in the road and keeping my eyes fixed to near to the front of the bike. Gordon spotted this pretty quickly and pointed it out. At the end of the day, I came home feeling a little concerned as to how I was going to unlearn the habits of six years’ riding of about 10,000 miles per year.
This morning, we met up at the Heritage Motor Centre for a 9 o’clock start and headed straight off out. We had a trainee instructor in tow who followed up behind and was there to observe Gordon with a view to becoming an instructor himself and to learn the best way to give advice to trainees.
Towards the end of the morning session, I was still struggling to keep my head up and look far enough ahead, but as the afternoon progressed, Gordon became more and more complimentary and when I stopped to fill up for fuel as we headed back to the Heritage Motor Centre, he gave me a big slap on the back and with a wide grin said “Did you enjoy that? That was excellent.”, referring to the last couple of hours, where things had really started to come together for me.
We all met up briefly to grab a goody bag and our certificates and then went our separate ways. I came back home using minor, twisty roads, and tried to put into practice the things that I’ve learnt over the weekend. I may see if I can get a pass out tomorrow to see if I can practice some more!
I’d strongly recommend the Bikesafe course to any biker, regardless of their level of experience, and, as the instructors said, “the day we stop learning is the day we stop riding.”
Looks like I’ll be needing to investigate joining the RoSPA or IAM in the near future. The RoSPA offer ongoing training and tests every three years to assess your standard of riding. They have the highest-rated civilian award for motorbike skills. The IAM on the other hand offer training and a one-off test which is valid for life once you’ve done it. I’ve just got to decide which is better…