I passed my motorcycle test back in 1993 and purchased my first road bike - a brand-new Kawasaki KR1S 2 stroke race replica. Looking back now I consider myself to be:
a) lucky to still be here to write this
b) extremely grateful I don’t need a full-time knee/back surgeon
But the little Kawasaki ignited a spark that 26 years on still glows strong! I fully immersed myself into motorcycling in all forms, including track days, off road trials and enduro riding and more recently, European touring trips.
I consider myself to be an average rider in that I was never the first to arrive at Devil’s Bridge, probably because I think I have a good sense of my limits, and have never been prepared to ride out of what I consider to be safe on the road.
That’s not to say, like everyone else, I don’t enjoy getting a move on when conditions and roads allow.
In 2011, I started my career with Ducati Manchester and all my planets aligned.
I started a Wednesday evening ride-out from Ducati Manchester which involved escorting customers up to Devil’s Bridge and Matlock Bath. It opened my eyes to the massive difference in riders’ ability which, when coupled with a large group, meant I had to become very diplomatic in my suggestions on how my fellow riders could become safer riders.
In 2018 I met David Raymonde, who over time became not only a Ducati customer but also a friend. David invited me along to Bury and Rochdale Advanced Motorists for a taster session. As I’m always busy (three teenage boys, a busy life and even busier job) naturally I ignored him. Luckily for me, David persisted over a period of months and I finally agreed.
So, the commitment was made and on a cold Sunday morning in April I went along to Bury Fire Station for my assessment ride.
Harry Sharples, chief bike observer of BRAM explained all about the IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider Course; what to expect, the rules and the dos and don’ts. We did a pre-ride check on my brand new 22 miles Ducati Multistrada 950 and off we went.
I rode as I would normally. Half an hour in and Harry signalled me to pull in and we had a brief chat about my riding.
He asked me if I was riding any differently to my normal style, I explained that I was riding as if he wasn’t there and was enjoying myself – I got a brilliant remark from Harry when he stated: “Actually Martin, you’re pretty good and it won’t take much to get you to test standard.”
Now considering I’ve not had any training in my previous 26 years of riding, this was a huge thing for me, and I will never forget Harry’s chat that day. Thank you Harry, you sir, are a legend! We had a debrief over a brew and Harry signed me up for the full course.
It was difficult for me to commit to every Sunday due to my boy’s motocross events and other things I’d committed to. The BRAM branch was fantastic in that they understood this, so I commenced Sunday morning rides as and when I could fit them in.
I had some fabulous rides with some great people. It amazes me that these genuine people give so much voluntarily with their time and commitment and I will be forever grateful to them – thanks guys!
Getting ready for my first observed ride
After five rides my standard was considered to be good enough to be put forward for the test. I will be honest and admit that I didn’t tell anyone of the test date in case I failed.
So, test day came, and I met my examiner in Hyde for a brew and an insight into what to expect. We did our pre-ride checks and off we went. I rode over some great roads including the Snake Pass over Holme Moss.
I rode exactly as I had been instructed, following every little tip and advice given.
I will admit to being extremely nervous when we arrived back, but my examiner told me right away I had passed! Not only had I passed, but he explained I had passed with a distinction (a F1RST). I’ve never passed any exam with a distinction before, so you can imagine I was extremely happy and pleased with myself.
Not only a pass, but a F1RST
So, what could I do now, I asked myself? With the help of BRAM and the Manchester500 Group we ran a taster session at Ducati Manchester and had 10 instructors take 10 Ducati riders out for an assessment.
This resulted in four Ducati riders signing up for the course to date and I’m proud to tell you we now have IAM RoadSmart signs, banners and leaflets in store at Ducati Manchester. We inform customers of the free taster sessions which IAM RoadSmart holds and offer courses with purchases of Ducati motorcycles.
First course sold at Ducati
What’s next for me? I have been asked to consider training as an observer, and I’m also considering going on to train and take a Master’s qualification. This is the highest possible level that can be achieved at IAM RoadSmart, but time will tell if I can follow either, or both of these options.
Hopefully my positive experience will encourage more people to try the IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider Course. I loved it; became more aware, safer and met some brilliant people and became an advocate for IAM RoadSmart.
Martin with a special offer in store
Can I please thank David, Harry, Steve and Alan along with all the other volunteers at BRAM and Manchester500 – you are all superstars. Grazie Mille!
By Martin Bridgehouse, IAM RoadSmart advanced rider and member of Bury and Rochdale Advanced Motorcyclists