In 1984, I, as a 30-something callow young man bought a “hot hatch.” I thought I was a brilliant driver, and wanted an IAM RoadSmart red motorist’s badge on the grill, to prove it.
Joining my local car group, I was assigned to an observer called James. Fortunately for me he was a genius. He gently but firmly explained I was not as good as I thought, but with training and a degree of hard work, I could have a red badge on my beautiful hot hatch.
After a relatively short but intense period of training I passed the advanced car test and eventually went on to become an observer myself, helping others to achieve their dream.
Fast forward a quarter of a century, and by now in my 60s, I was having a mature life crisis. After almost 40 years of driving I decided to return to my first love, motorcycling.
My wife was concerned about my safety, as she knew I was an adrenaline junky so I promised her I would do everything possible to stay safe.
Bumping into Colin, my original IAM examiner, who I had stayed in touch with, I announced my intention. “You have got to do Bike Safe,” he told me.
So, having bought a bike I arrived at the Bike Safe session in Devizes. After an incredible day of enthusiasm and fun from the Police and Wiltshire road safety people, I met the local Wilts and Bath Advanced Motorcyclists (WaBAM) recruiting team.
After 20 odd years of smooth, safe, systematic, and accident free advanced car driving, it was a no-brainer to go for a green badge. I became an associate again.
My WaBAM observer was inspirational, if a tad eccentric. A serving Army Major, but not your archetypal sort, our observed runs were a combination of progressive rides across the beautiful Wessex countryside, and technical talks over earl grey tea and large slices of freshly baked cake.
Many miles of practice were quickly racked up, using my bike to travel between work places across Wales and the west country. Look, I know It’s tough but someone had to do it.
My test date arrived, but due to illness the usual examiner was unavailable, so a trip to an unknown area was called for. Riding completely “blind” on new roads, I was successful. With a combination of exhilaration and relief, I now had my IAM RoadSmart green motorcyclists badge.
At the ripe “old” age of 65 I was now an advanced motorcyclist. What next…observer?
I embarked on training to be a local observer. It is without doubt one of the best things I have ever done. The step up was relatively easy, and although meeting the first associate was scary, it came and went successfully. The icing on the IAM RoadSmart cake has been that my first two associates each achieved a F1RST.
Advanced motoring has totally changed my life. The only way to go now must be national observer. Watch this space.
William Smith, Wilts and Bath Advanced Motorcyclists (WaBAM) advanced rider.