Giving bike riders confidence and skills

Blog post posted on 28/02/23 |
Neil is a retired police officer whose forces career included 16 years as a police motorcyclist, plus training other officers how to safely patrol motorways. He’s the new Area Service Delivery Manager for the North West at IAM RoadSmart, alongside being a Bike Safe and Safe Drive, Stay Alive volunteer. His journey with IAM RoadSmart started as an Examiner so we caught up with him to find out more.

It all started about six years ago when Neil was looking to add an extra string to his bow while considering what he might do once he retired from the force.


He was already involved in Bike Safe – the national, police-run motorcycle initiative, and Safe Drive, Stay Alive, a road safety partnership aimed at young people, when a neighbour let him know that IAM RoadSmart was looking for examiners.

“IAM RoadSmart’s teaching methods are based on the police riding and driving Roadcraft handbook, so I applied, did some assessment rides and was signed up,” he says.

In his role with Bike Safe Neil tends to see people for a one-day Bike Safe training course before they sign up with IAM RoadSmart. Neil adds that at this point they’ve only passed their standard DVSA licence.

“When we first see them at Bike Safe they are at the most basic level. When they come to IAM RoadSmart, and then to me to take their Advanced test, I can see the difference from one level through to the next. The work the observers and local groups do getting people from that base level to an advanced standard is absolutely outstanding.”

Neil says it is generally older bikers who join the Advanced Rider course who have come back to bikes later in life and want to increase their skills on the road. Simply because so much has changed. However, the local group in South Lancashire where he tests has recently set up a young rider scheme and when we spoke to him, he was due to take his first young rider through his Advanced Riding test.

Young rider and driver safety is also the key theme of Safe Drive, Stay Alive. The presentation is delivered throughout the country, and in the North West it is a collaboration between North West Ambulance, Lancashire Fire and Rescue and the Police. Adds Neil: “Most importantly, families of the deceased also come along to talk about how poor driving has affected their lives and my presentation is on my role as a family liaison officer, so I talk about knocking on the door to give families the worst possible news. All this together has a massive impact on teenagers.”

In terms of typical issues Neil sees in riders on Bike Safe days, before they’ve driven with IAM RoadSmart Observers, is lack of confidence and riders not using the IPSGA protocol – Information, Position, Speed, Gear and Acceleration.

“We see people in the wrong position for bends and a lot of under confidence in their abilities because they've not been taught how to ride their bikes, only the basic standard to get them through their test.”

The result, says Neil, is a lot of riders travelling too slowly because they don’t have the confidence to ride through bends properly because they’re in the wrong position, the wrong gear and braking at the wrong time.

“They also lack the observation skills that IAM RoadSmart teaches and for me, that is probably the most significant thing that the IAM RoadSmart course delivers - how to observe and how to look where you want to go. This is an advanced course so we expect people to drive at a speed consistent with that and to show the examiner that they understand how to put their bike in the right position at the right time, in the right speed and gear to do it all smoothly. Smoothness is key,” says Neil.

To date he has taken more than 100 people through their IAM RoadSmart Advanced test. Not everyone passes, he stresses, but most go on to pass on their second attempt, while for others simply having completed the Advanced course gives them the confidence they need to feel safer on the roads.

Meanwhile, not all riders that Neil sees are going through IAM RoadSmart’s Advanced course purely for their own benefit. He also sees a lot of Blood Bikers.

Blood Bikers make up of a national network of biking volunteers that move blood supplies to wherever they are needed. “Once they’ve got their advanced level motorcycling, they're able to use the liveried bikes…until then, if they're not an IAM RoadSmart or RoSPA-certified rider they must ride their own bikes.

Neil whole-heartedly recommends IAM RoadSmart’s Advanced Rider (and Driver) courses. “They can only make you a better rider or driver and people usually tell me they wish they’d done it sooner because they can see the difference it has made to their confidence and skills, making riding and driving a pleasure and safer experience,” he concludes.

Find out more about IAM RoadSmart’s Advanced Rider Course.