Riding with a ‘Ride’ Journalist

Blog post posted on 24/05/21 |

When Area Service Delivery Manager, Pete Doherty asked me, as Chief Observer with CaDAM, if I was interested in meeting motorcycle journalist Jon Urry, I said, ‘Yes’! Jon was to write an article for ‘Ride’ magazine about training with IAM RoadSmart, but I must admit to being a little apprehensive! This guy rides motorcycles for a living; he test rides them, puts them through their paces, throws them around tracks, gets his knee down (the only time I do, is when I’m checking the oil) and performs wheelies with the same ease that I brush my hair, surely he’s already a good rider?

I met Jon at the main services near Peterborough, on a chilly but bright morning in April. I needn’t have worried. He was a friendly, outgoing chap with no sign of a ‘riding superstar’ ego.

He admitted to knowing very little of IAM RoadSmart or what we could offer to an interested outsider. If anything, he had thought Advanced Riding a rather ‘old fashioned’ organisation for ‘older’ members, more the ‘Women’s Institute’ of drivers and bike riders! We discussed the type of ‘membership’ that we attract and how in addition, we would like to appeal to more younger riders and female riders. ‘Road safety’ might be perceived to be very dull, but learning to ride your bike safely, understanding how to handle your machine and staying out of trouble, most certainly is not. In fact, it’s true to say that a good IAM RoadSmart rider actually gets more out of their machine; is smoother, safer, and therefore quicker (legally of course!) in many places! I highlighted the social rides, the trips away and the camaraderie that is found by many in groups all over the UK, all of which he was blissfully unaware. We discussed the membership route that individuals might take and how their training often encourages them to become Observers themselves once their initial training is complete.

‘Free Taster Rides’ were an introduction that he was not aware of. A short ride for a non-member with an Observer that might just give a few welcome pointers on how to ride more safely and would hopefully inspire an individual to join the programme.

Jon undertakes many of his journalistic test rides in the area around Peterborough and Rutland (his local playground) and assured me that he knew a great route that would take us on a variety of roads and through some very picturesque scenery. Great! All I had to do was follow and try and keep up!

The roads didn’t disappoint and took in a variety as promised; everything from dual carriageways to roller coaster twisty and with a mixture of great grip, mud, and subsidence, at the edge of some carriageways, like small cliff faces! We rode for a good 30 minutes before stopping for our first debrief. Subjects that were discussed included, the ‘Safety Bubble’, how we keep a safe distance from other road users (in all directions), the three phases of an overtake and altering our position for better view, always without compromising our safety of course! There was even the ‘popular’ discussion about watching ‘our speed’ and where the speed limit/zone actually begins. We set off for the second part of the ride and it embodied the quintessential reasons that many of us ride bikes; the freedom and the fun. Jon had listened to advice well, he still perhaps needed to reign it in a bit here and there, but wow, does this guy know how to ride!

Following a brief stop for refreshments we met up with photographer Jason, a guy as handy fixing bikes as he is with his camera it seems. As a fellow photo geek, we chatted cameras and RAW files before heading off to find some great photographic opportunities, Jason knew just where to go. The first few shots were taken to illustrate ‘the safety bubble’ before we moved down to a great series of bends to illustrate positioning. I took Jason as pillion so that he could get some over-the-shoulder shots, Observer’s eye-view of Associate Jon in front, before dropping him off on one of the corners. That left Jon and I to ride the series of curves time and time again, in both directions. It was a great opportunity to practice U-turns too, we must have done a dozen. I dabbed a foot on one turn, much to Jon’s delight. He hadn’t scored a single ‘foot fault’ at this point. We argued in good humor that I hadn’t realised that we were in competition and had I known, would have been sure not to dab! Later on, after picking up photographer Jason from his vantage at the side of the road, I performed a U-turn, with Jason still as pillion and without a foot fault, a move that Jon announced trumped his one up score! We posed for a few more photos, discussing items from the ‘good book’ whist Jason snapped away.

We finished our fun day, mid afternoon. Throughout the debriefs Jon was courteous, engaging and listened well, admitting that he had learned a thing or two. The article will feature in ‘Ride’ magazine and is due out sometime in in late May/early June I think, I only hope that Jason got my good side! More importantly, I hope that Jon’s article inspires other riders, regardless of the level they are at, join us at IAM RoadSmart and learn how to get even more out of their motorcycles with like-minded people.

Mark Anstey Chief Observer Chelmsford & District Advanced Motorcyclists (CaDAM)