By Craig Shaw
Craig Shaw recently passed his IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider test. Having enjoyed his experience, he put together a few words about his training journey and the positive experience and skills it gave him. He hopes this article makes riders of all ages consider the Advanced Rider course and the real benefits it has on safety and the enjoyment of motorcycling.
My course training manual arrived in the post, and like the good student I wanted to be I immediately started reading it cover to cover, cup of tea in hand. Two hours later it was job done and I was ready for my test. Well, maybe not quite. The training manual is a great reference guide, but the best way to learn is with your bum on the seat and practicing the theory you have read, or techniques explained and demonstrated by your observer. A copy of the Highway Code is worthwhile so you can refresh on all the things you forgot from your DVSA test (guilty as charged on this one!).
Your first session will be an assessment ride, and despite being told to ride normally, you inevitably put all your effort into giving it your best knowing you are being watched! Before you set off the observer will help run you through a thorough pre-ride check using the POWDERY acronym (I will leave you to find out what this means) to ensure you understand your machine and it is well prepared for the journey. I enjoyed the first ride and once you remove the nerves surrounding someone closely watching you, the time soon passes by. It was soon debrief time and the feedback was positive but also backed up with areas for improvement and the specific subjects to read in the training manual ready for the next session. It was time to swot up and get ready for the next session.
Throughout the subsequent sessions there will be things you do well, and things that need improvement. We are all human and therefore all make mistakes, and I had my fair share of them. If you leave each session with an understanding that mistakes are really opportunities to improve, and recognise in the end you will leave the IAM RoadSmart journey being a safer, more knowledgeable rider who has achieved something difficult, that is the key motivator and reason you are here.
As my training continued my learning and personal enjoyment level increased at a good rate. This really is all about the theory and practice of ‘the system’ coming to fruition piece by piece. You will start to understand what it feels like to be in full and proper control and hopefully any ‘unexpected’ hazards encountered become less of a panic as your skill level increases and you deal with them in a controlled and systematic way each and every time. My recommendation is to not just rely on the training sessions but also go out and in your own time put the learning into practice. Plan what you want to master before setting off so that you have a reference point to see if you improved or still more work is required. My observer was always a message away to ask questions outside of training to help clarify anything that was niggling me. I also found that when riding with my friends there were many more comments of how smooth my riding was looking as the weeks progressed.
Throughout the training a key takeaway for me was around progression. Motorcyclists inevitably like speed and we all see, and maybe admit to doing ourselves, overtakes that have nothing to do with skill and planning and everything is about power and excessive speeds. With the training and using the system my ability to overtake (within the speed limits) by using early observation, good planning, and the acceleration a motorcycle provides, was a real eye-opener and part of the reason an IAM RoadSmart motorcyclist is able to make good progress on the road. Again, I was still riding with friends in between training and it was interesting to talk about the training and demonstrate safe, legal and necessary overtakes that do not leave a bad image of motorcyclists to other road users. I am pleased to say that three of my friends have now embarked on their IAM RoadSmart journey too. They could see my weekly improvement in smoothness and the calm controlled progress that Advanced Riders can achieve and wanted a slice of the learning for themselves.
There has always been a perception about IAM RoadSmart drivers and riders as older and more traditional, but that just does not need to be true. As young riders we have many years ahead of us to enjoy our motorcycling. So, if you want to be the safe, smooth and progressive rider that has the skill and knowledge to really enjoy your riding there is nothing better than signing up to the IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider course and putting yourself in full control.
Finally, I would like to put a big thanks to Del who was my observer. The whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable and the quality of the tuition, both theory and practical, was second to none. Now imparted on me are skills that will be with me for the rest of my motorcycling life, and for that I am truly grateful.