By Paul Oxborough, Founder of Mental Health Motorbike
In the last 24 hours I started my IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider Course and it’s surprising to me just how much I’ve been reflecting in that time. Yesterday I was very lucky as I had two hours in the morning with Peter Serhatlic, IAM RoadSmart’s Regional Service Delivery Manager, and then in the afternoon I went out on another ride.
I’m surprised at how much of that learning I put into practice in the afternoon, I was thinking about my speed, processing my positions, and questioning if I was in the right gear. IAM RoadSmart’s Advanced Rider Course uses the IPSGA module, which I found helpful. I took a ride out to Grindleford, which is a 40-minute journey from my house, so I finished my session and headed back down for lunch then went on to my Mental Health Motorbike meeting; it was such a nice escape on the bike.
Some of the twists in the Peak District really allowed me to think of position and whether I really did need to take that overtake, and what are the implication of doing that. Am I going to get a clearer road away from the cars or are they going to be sat behind me? I can’t believe how much I’m thinking about it in just 24 hours after starting the training.
So, my thoughts 24 hours on… this is already starting to impact me and my riding, even though I’ve ridden a bike for over 30 years. The first time I ever got on a bike was in 1983 when I was 13, and that was learning the bad way – zipping up the fields with no protective clothing on, not even a helmet.
When I turned 17, I passed my driving test and soon went on to pass my motorbike test too, and since then I’ve always had bikes in my lives. I’ve learnt so much already from just an observation session and a 2-hour observed ride with Peter, and I’m unpicking so many years of bad practice.
One thing I’m noticing is how much I’m sticking to the speed limit. How many of us travel at 33-34 in a 30 zone, and how many of us push that boundary at the national speed limit. I think for the sake of this training, I’m really trying to break that habit in myself, and more than anything it’s made me more in control of the bike. I’ve realised travelling at 30mph when in full control of the bike I can sit and really enjoy what’s going on around me, when previously that extra 4-6mph is getting me through quicker but increasing my risks considerably. I’m really enjoying that aspect of it.
I did find myself doing something silly… I was travelling down the three-lane motorway, I was riding in the outside lane and noticed a lorry in the inside lane, and as I pulled in halfway down the lorry, I could see a van behind me. On reflection I realised that if I’d stayed in the outside lane a little longer and pulled in front of the lorry, instead of the side of it, I would be so much more visible in the eyes of the lorry driver. Things like that have made me realise how important it is to process that information whilst I’m riding and thinking about those manoeuvres.
Another area we covered on the first training session was position, and just watching how an advanced rider positions themselves on bends. One thing I was doing when out in the afternoon was using that information Peter has taught me and positioning myself better on bends and really lining them up.
Gears was also something we touched upon, and this is something I’ve always thought I get right. Things such as the ‘quick shift’, when using the quick shift on the BMW it doesn’t trigger the brake lights to come on, so if you’re travelling at the national speed limit into a 30mph, you can use the quick shift to bring your speed down but the cars behind don’t know you’re slowing down. Peter gave me some good advice to always hit that brake so drivers around you can see you are braking.
Acceleration is another thing we touched upon, and I noticed how Peter accelerates away at traffic lights to distance himself from other cars and how that gives him a sort of protective bubble around him to make it a lot safer. I’m going to put that into practice a little bit more, just by getting away quickly and building that speed up so you’re at the speed limit to create that bubble and visibility for those around me.
As you can tell I’m processing so much information and I’m really enjoying the experience - and I would seriously recommend the course. If you’ve been considering taking an IAM RoadSmart course, find an instructor and ask to meet with them for a ride, and just build that relationship. They are highly skilled at what they do – just in the three hours I’ve had with them so far (one hour observation and two-hour training), I’m learning so much.
It’s something at Mental Health Motorbike that I’ll continue to promote!
Catch up soon,