I started motorcycling when I was 14, back in the ‘60s! Not on the road, but on our private farm lane and in the fields. With a group of friends I bought and sold British bikes for £5-£15 … those same bikes would be worth thousands today!
We learnt to ride by falling off, mostly on soft landings. We also learnt how to repair and keep them going on a shoestring budget, which included full engine rebuilds, two and four strokes.
I was on the road in ‘66 with my ‘64 Triumph Tiger Cub motorbike; this was the start of over 50 years of motorcycling on the roads. I have owned many bikes from many manufacturers as you can imagine. I have also survived a few collisions. The only broken bone I received was my collar bone, at 0 mph in a garage! The side stand did not lock in position and over I went; very embarrassing and painful.
I never considered any advanced training until 2007. I owned a 1250 Bandit and attended a local BikeSafe session. I enjoyed the day and learnt some useful hints and tips which I worked on to improve mainly my road positioning. Since then I attended two Performance Plus days at Cadwell Park, another BikeSafe course and three track evenings at Cadwell.
In 2015 I joined the Lincolnshire Advanced Motorcyclists (LAM) and took the Skills for Life course which I passed in June that year. I was inspired so much with the thought of potentially helping others, I signed up for the local observer programme which I passed in 2016. Since then I have taken seven associates through the advanced course with six passes to date and one awaiting a check ride.
I had been thinking about helping to bring on new observers also when our group chairman asked me if I would consider becoming and national observer (NO); of course I said yes!
Recently I had my NO assessment and passed. I am now applying for Local observer (LO) assessor which will enable me to assist in the training and development of LOs.
In 2016 I took the advanced course in my car and gained a F1RST. I reckon there are a lot of transferable skills from a bike to car, try it!
The whole experience since that first BikeSafe day has been immensely fulfilling and satisfying; my only regret is that I wish I had started sooner. Helping others to become better and safer riders is now a passion of mine. What can be better than an associate thanking you for helping them to be a safer rider? I have made seven new friends for life.
If you are thinking of becoming an observer - go for it, I guarantee you won’t regret a single moment.
At 66 working with IAM Roadsmart, keeping my motorcycling skills to a high level, working with people and always seeking to improve keeps my brain sharp, that can’t be bad!
Roland Johns, observer at Lincolnshire Advanced Motorcyclists