By Richard Meredith
At the age of 16 I had a Honda MT05 50cc moped, during the 10 months of ownership I clocked up 10,000 miles, quite some going, all at a maximum of 30mph. I used it for pleasure and to travel to and from work, sometimes during the working day I was sent on errands to fetch parts. In those days our fleet of coaches were predominantly Fords, so the local parts supplier was Don Everalls in Wolverhampton, quite a trip from Kidderminster - I did say no to collecting rear suspension springs, but I do remember fetching a coach radiator once.
On 26th March 1984 I turned 17, so the moped was retired. I started driving lessons for a car and I passed my test on the 27th April 1984, and the following year I started my lessons to drive a coach (PSV). Due to work commitments and college, I didn’t get to take my test until end of July 1985 – I failed for not showing confidence and progress, I remember it as I had followed a milk float along the road when instead, I should have overtaken. Not being deterred I put in for my test again and this time I drove how I like to drive, I passed, and my licence was soon put to good use when I was driving coaches within the area (18- to 21-year-olds had a restricted licence back then). Three years later at the age of 21, I was now allowed to drive anywhere in a PSV and I also took and passed the Class 1, articulated heavy goods vehicle test.
The years that followed were taken up with work, getting married and starting a family. All the time I was always aware that I had the motorcycle licence missing from my driver’s licence.
In June 2015, I decided that the time was right for me to get my motorcycle licence, so I did a direct access course over a few weeks and passed my test. I asked my Instructor what I should do next, he advised to get a motorcycle and ride it for a while and then investigate doing advanced riding. The afternoon after my test I test rode and bought a 1-year-old Suzuki VStrom 1000cc.
A year later I was riding past the Motorcycle Mart in Kidderminster where Kidderminster Advanced Bikers were offering free assessment rides. I signed up to a ride and Derek Baker, Chief Observer and Group Secretary of Kidderminster Advanced Bikers, followed me on a ride out to Clows Top and back, my riding style was far from advanced level. Road positioning, speed, overtakes, overtaking with road junction near, mirror use etc – all of these were not good, so I paid my money and started my training.
Kevin Mitchell was appointed my observer and we had many enjoyable rides (and still do socially), I wasn’t there to pass a test but to be shown how to ride a motorbike, I took every advantage of learning these skills. I took my test 24th February 2017 and passed being awarded a F1RST.
I enjoyed meeting on Sundays and free riding with the members. A couple of years later I put my name down to be trained as an observer, Mac Tattersall was my mentor and I soon passed as a local observer on 20th July 2019
After a couple of associates were being appointed to me, I was soon to realise that many riders coming for Advanced Training had many years of experience, something I did not have. I decided to train for and take my master’s test, and a lot of riders consider this as bragging rights, but I wanted to show any associates appointed to me, that I was committed to advanced riding. Although I could not speed up my experience I could be trained and tested to the highest level.
Derek Baker had recently taken his Master’s test and was appointed as my mentor, seems only fitting that he saw me at my worst and now at my best. This resulted in me taking and passing my Master’s test on 19th August 2021.
What’s next? Well, I’m sure that something will come my way but till then I shall continue practising, being self-critical and chasing that elusive ‘perfect ride’.