Various cars have followed over the years but apart, from delighting in driving a Honda S2000, my enthusiasm for four wheels had waned rather. On busy roads I found the task of driving had become rather mundane; the purpose of getting from A to B was the dominant thought in my mind.
I have had a full motorcycle licence for even longer but until the turn of the millennium my ownership of a motorcycle was rather more sporadic. In 2000 I bought a new Honda CBR 600 and, at the time, Honda had a marvellous scheme in place (the Honda MAC course) that gave me 2 days of tuition with an ex-Police rider.
As I rode to meet my instructor I reflected that, in 30 years, I had never had one moment of training on a motorcycle before. Those two days were transformative, I learned skills and developed my thinking under his watchful eye. This was the beginning of my advanced riding…and there has always been at least one motorcycle in my garage ever since. My skills continue to develop as I see every ride as a learning opportunity and have enjoyed the benefit of riding with some of the best road bikers around who have willingly helped me.
Comparing my enjoyment between driving and riding I realised that whilst I didn’t actively dislike driving, I wasn’t smiling as I picked up the car keys but I was grinning with the motorcycle key in my hand. Then I took part in an IAM RoadSmart trial with a tracker fitted in my car. The effect of this device was to make my driving more focused again. I was much smoother on the controls: very much lighter on the brakes and seldom accelerating hard. Did this alter my journey times? No, I arrived in very similar times to my previous ‘best efforts’. I also found myself enjoying this new challenge to my driving habits.
Advanced riding had been transformative to my motorcycling, so why not try advanced driving as well? An indicator of the focus that this level of driving took was that I switched off the car entertainment system…I didn’t want the radio, music or podcasts interfering with my concentration…but this all heightened the pleasure that my driving was giving me. I now look forward to driving again and I see every drive as an opportunity to practise my skill development.
After passing my Advanced driving test I decided to push myself further to see if I could gain the Masters driving qualification. This was where the learning gradient really steepened. My mentor was a very highly experienced, retired Police trainer and, rather like the Honda MAC course, the instruction opened my eyes to the extraordinary skill level of driving that can be achieved on normal roads and within the bounds of the law.
If you’re a motorcycling member of IAM RoadSmart then I would simply suggest that you consider the car qualification as well. My experience is that it really enhances the delight of both driving and riding…and you’ll grin whichever set of keys you pick up.
By Peter Herridge, IAM RoadSmart, Examiner