With his love of motorbikes starting at the age of 10, after his dad passed his IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider course in 2013, Niall caught the bug for all things two-wheels. Being surrounded by motorbikes since a young age, Niall was keen to waste no time getting started. So at the age of 10, he was riding a Honda CRF 125 small-wheel bike. He was flying around a marshalled off-road facility near Rochdale.
Before long, Niall was moving onto trial bikes with his dad, Liam, and younger brother. This was to help their balance, control, and slow-speed manoeuvres. Over the years, Liam’s hobby of riding bikes evolved, and he found a love for taking them apart and learning how to rebuild them.
When Niall reached 16 years old, Liam bought him a Yamaha FS1E, named Fizzy, since it seemed an ideal bike to get Niall ready for his CBT. After picking up Fizzy from the seller in Leicester, on closer inspection, Liam noticed that it needed a significant amount of work, including a new wiring loom, tyres, and carburettor rebuild. Once Liam finished the work, it was ready to go.
With all the right riding gear, Niall was suited and booted ready for the road. Totally different from his off-road experience! On his 16th birthday, Niall passed his CBT and went on to have a few nervous runs alongside his dad to gain some basic road sense, of which he admits he had none whatsoever.
Some of the runs out on Fizzy were quite impressive, sometimes doing 150 miles in a day. The freedom and independence bug had bitten Niall and there was no stopping him, rain or shine. The only time he was stopped was when he blew the top end which then needed a full engine rebuild. Including crank bearings. Between his 16th and 17th birthdays, Niall clocked up over 5,000 miles and soon moved on to a 21-plate Honda 125 R café racer type, bought from an older rider who had just passed his test.
Starting his advanced training in June 2022 with Observer Joe Leech from SLAM (South Lancs Advanced Motorcyclists), Niall attended all the course 3 classes, including ‘Cones Day’ where he demonstrated excellent slow machine control.
Niall really enjoyed the whole Advanced training process and worked diligently through each competency. He practised in between each observation session and took on feedback in a very positive and responsive way. He studied the IAM Advanced Rider course handbook along with the Highway Code, showing his ever-increasing knowledge and confidence in answering questions set within his ride report. All this led to him achieving a 1 in the knowledge section of the test.
Progressing well through the training, Niall was declared test ready in November but after a few technical issues with his bike and freezing weather conditions, Niall’s test was postponed until 20th December.
At the age of 17 (and 8 months), Niall went on to pass his Advanced rider course making him the youngest rider to not only take the course at SLAM but also pass it with flying colours.
“I was quite nervous about doing the Advanced training at first, having only past my Mod 1 and 2 tests a few weeks earlier, but all the people I met at SLAM were very helpful and encouraging.
“Doing an unmarked check ride with my Observer was a good start and made me feel at ease. We then went through each competence and repeated some to make sure the learnings were well in place. I particularly enjoyed the various classroom sessions, my favourite being ‘Meet the Examiner’.
“Ian Marginson really helped to demystify the Advanced test, and this was a great step forward, giving me confidence and helping to put everything into perspective. My hope is that by me passing the Advanced test will help encourage other young riders to do additional training to become more confident and most importantly safer riders. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those who helped me in the process.”
“Every parent allowing their kids to go out on a bike should consider encouraging them to develop further skills and look at courses like IAM RoadSmart offer. It would be great if additional training could be done at the earliest age possible, even before they have passed the Mod 1 and 2 tests. It can only benefit their own and other road users’ safety.
“In my opinion, the system used for IAM RoadSmart’s Advanced Rider training should be used in parallel with any challenges the young people today face in this ever-changing new world we live in. It helps make sense of and simplify complex situations and provides structured solutions to dealing with them.”
Since finishing his Advanced Rider course, Niall has gone on to pass his RosPA Advanced training. This has only sparked more interest in his passion for safety and has led Niall to complete his National Observer training.
Niall said: “This has been a massive eyeopener and shows me that there are so much more to learn. I had a lot of encouragement and help from some high standard riders which was a great experience and confidence booster.
“My National Observer assessment was on the 2nd November 2023 and the Examiner was Neil Rowley, who put me at ease, and it was another great learning experience. I passed and became qualified as a National Observer at 18 years old.
“What next? Well, I’m looking forward to doing my DVSA Mod 1 & 2 test again when I’m 19 so that I can move up to an A2 licence and ride a bigger capacity bike. I’m also going to work towards my IAM RoadSmart Masters so I can expand my knowledge and most of all be a safer rider.
“In the longer term I’d love to make a career as a motorbike trainer, doing everything from CBT’s through to Mod 1 & 2 tests to Advanced Rider training, National Observer Assessor, Masters Mentor and if possible, maybe even an Examiner.”
Together, Niall and Liam continue their shared love of motorbikes and everything it has to offer.
For SLAM this is just the start of their efforts to promote young rider training. Liam’s point made about getting riders at the earliest possible opportunity chimes with SLAM's past Chairman, Doug Nowell, who wants to see the group getting involved with riders at the beginning of the biking experience, before they have passed any DVSA test.
If other IAM RoadSmart Groups would like to do something similar, SLAM are offering to support in whatever way they can.
For more information contact Joe Leech at Joe.email@example.com