What makes a F1rst Class Pass?

Blog post posted on 29/07/21 |
Members Submission

Two members who recently ‘passed’ their tests
took the time to speak to RichardRH and Bike Hewitt,  Chairman of IAM RoadSmart's Worcester & Hereford  Advanced Motorcyclists, about
their F1rst qualification. One member didn’t feel they had quite achieved a F1rst; and
the other not understanding why he’d
received the accolade.

Richard has kindly shared his thoughts on
the subject in this blog.

This got me to thinking that maybe there was a need to explain further, something I’ve done in my column, in our monthly newsletter. So here goes.

Firstly, a standard test pass is a superb achievement. Do not just take my word for it,
I was speaking with Marcus McCormick one
of our examiners and he holds the same opinion. He does not give out standard passes unless you are ‘right on the money’ and so what do you need to do to get a F1rst?

Before I try and answer that question there are three real-world caveats that I would like to offer and for you as a reader to consider:

  1. Not everyone can or will ever get a F1rst – on the face of it, a negative thing to say, yet true. In the same way as I cannot ride a motorcycle on a track as Marc Marquez can, we cannot all be top dog on the road and frankly we just need to accept that so long as we have put the effort in, the results will be what they will be. Mental Stamina plays a large part in your F1rst pass potential. Age does not. Your Observer can tell how long you can hold attention for. Your Examiner can too. If your mind wanders off, as you’re either tired or thinking about more mundane topics, your riding will translate into below F1rst standards. You can hone this element of your approach and I find when I am tired, talking it through, with a verbal commentary of what I am doing, and why, can get me back in the game.


  2. ‘Type’ of machine – I will be careful here and not say a Sports bike is not as good as an equivalent cc or Adventure Bike. However, if you feel uncomfortable on a machine and cannot make comfortable observations without performing some sort of on-bike gymnastics, for example to turn your head around, you will be at a disadvantage to start with. Only a small point and certainly not to prompt you all to go out and buy a GS (heaven forbid). We’ve three quick members who have all moved from Sport-tourers to Adventure bikes in the last twelve months and they will all tell you they are faster, safer, and more comfortable cross-country than before.


  3. Lady luck – she must be on your side in terms of weather and traffic conditions. If it is precipitating down and it’s roadwork central your ability to shine will be depressed. Some might cry foul here, yet it is the same for the Police rider tests and adhoc assessments and so we must not bleat about things we cannot control. Remember, a standard pass is superb and will set you as way more experienced than 99% of your motorcycling chums.

The things you can control.

● Vehicle condition – do turn up with a pristine, clean, well-maintained bike. Examiners can cancel tests if an Associates machine falls foul of the inspection your Examiner will covertly perform. But if you want a F1rst why turn up with tyres that have seen their best? Why turn up with an out-of-adjustment chain that is dry potentially prompting jerky progress? Any mechanical issues that might affect either your ability to complete a smooth ride or lowers your confidence puts you at a disadvantage.

● Human factors – get a good night’s sleep and be fully rested. In all seriousness I would suggest two-nights great sleep on the nights preceding the test are a must. You need to bring your A-game, with full concentration; and you will not have this if you are tired. Similarly, if you’ve got a cold, are worried, hungry, thirsty, need a wee, this will all affect your performance, and they are all things you can control. Examiners usually go out of their way to calm your nerves; but how do you deal with nerves?

● Nerves – accept you will be nervous. It is natural; we were all bricking ourselves when we tested and those that are not, at least in my experience, fail!

The big question, how do we lesson the effect of nervous tension? I have two further thoughts to suggest and share:

The ride there – make it a long one. Take a mixed route to your test, do not just hurry there on the motorway/A-road. Practice with confidence the things you have assimilated in your Group (WHAM in this case) mentoring and arrive with ten minutes to spare, already into your riding mindset, and ready to navigate to the dastardly place the examiner will already be parked up in. Do not arrive before they do; they like to see you slow ride and park up safely and this is a 100% free-n’-easy way to get them in a good position to consider you as test pass ready.

It is not a race – you are not on a Police pursuit exam. For the standard test, the examiner is there to see you ride a smooth progressive ride up to the speed limit. They are there to enjoy seeing you make good timely observations and demonstrate an ability to form a riding plan. They are not there to see how well you can high tail it from point A to B. Better to be smooth and safe than rough yet quick.

Advanced Riding is a process. Your training and test pass is just the start of a journey. Whether or not you want to become a WHAM Observer, or become a ‘blood biker’, your test is just the start. Every committee member and Observer at WHAM commits to a test of some sort at least once every two-years. So how do you move on in this process?

Sunday rides are the answer– during our last committee meeting we were ruminating, remembering our individual first WHAM Sunday ride. Me personally, I was dry mouthed and for the best part of the ride wanted to be elsewhere. I was in a group of ‘riding Gods’ who are now seemingly my peers, yet it was obvious that where I thought I could see stuff and react to it, they were two or three seconds ahead of me in terms of observation skills and modifying riding plans. This is normal. If you feel like this on your introduction to the Group rides, you are feeling just like everyone else before you. Keep at it. Seek feedback, ask to be put in a group with an Observer and if you ask them, they will give you little pointers that will, very soon, get you feeling comfortable and able to make progress.

My experience was that over the course of my first year attending Sunday rides my confidence built and after paying my £35 retest fee I easily got a F1rst. After nearly thirty-five years of two-wheeled fun I am still learning stuff from WHAM that helps me improve. So, give yourself a break, be calm, be patient, and above all keep your mind open to feedback and asking questions.