Advanced road riding is something I’ve been interested in for a while as the vast majority of riding I do is on the road and, since passing my test in 2002, I’ve had absolutely zero further training. So I’m sure that my road-craft could do with some honing, especially as I’m naturally very confident but also quite oblivious to a lot of stuff so I doubt my observational skills are particularly amazing.
I signed up for a free IAM assessment ride online and was contacted via email a week later offering me a couple of times on a Sunday in April. I opted for the 10am session, not realising that my nearest meeting point was the Surrey/Kent border so I had to get up super early to squeeze in a breakfast bagel before leaving. (Because, you know, what’s a Sunday morning without bacon and sausages?!) I took the shortest route there which involved 15 mins on the M25 (during which my hands froze in my summer gloves… note to self: get a warmer pair!) and when I arrived, 2 guys were already waiting, one on an 899 Panigale and one on a Crossrunner.
The instructors arrived a few minutes later and we spent 15 mins chatting about our riding style and experience before being split into two groups. I was paired with the main instructor who had looked at all our tyres and determined that I was probably the fastest of the 3 and the other 2 guys went off together. We set off, me in front, with instructions just to ride normally, keep to posted limits, and watch in my mirrors for his indicators to let me know when to turn.
I didn’t really know what to expect, and am not used to having to keep a really close eye on my speed, so was conscious about sticking rigidly to limits and trying to look at everything so I didn’t miss a sign or anything. I’d been told to go for overtakes when available so just rode around the Kent countryside for about 40 mins. We went along a varied series of roads with a mixture of tight bends, poor surfaces, and all sorts of other traffic ranging from maniac Porsche drivers to crazy-eyed horses and suicidal cyclists. When the instructor indicated that we should stop, we pulled up into the car park of a church for a chat.
My positive feedback was that my bike control is perfect (not my phrase J) and am clearly very comfortable on a sportsbike. I lean confidently, have great slow-speed skills, and a lovely style. My negative (“constructive”) feedback was that I need to look and plan further ahead as I tend to adjust my line to avoid a manhole cover or something at the last minute by swerving rather than gently gliding past it having corrected my line 50m earlier. Oh, and I treated a stop sign as a give-way once so… yeah. Observation.
From a safety perspective, I can apparently be a bit too optimistic and rarely take into account the worst possible case scenario when I go for overtakes; for instance, I’d overtaken a car going into a bend knowing I had plenty of time given the distance I could see to be clear but the instructor explained that to pass the assessment, I’d need to ride more defensively and anticipate the potential for danger (e.g. someone coming towards me speeding and running wide).
We then set off again, riding for another 40 minutes (during which time I got to follow the instructor for a while and appreciate how smooth he was) and finally pulled into Pooh Corner, a quaint Winnie the Pooh-themed country tea-house for a coffee and another debrief where we were met by the other group. The instructors ate lunch but I zoomed off after a coffee as I had another arrangement for the afternoon.
All in all, I found it a really useful session; it was good to get some constructive feedback on what I need to improve and the feedback I received was pretty much exactly what I expected, so no surprises there! It was good to hear that I only have a couple of areas to work on before reaching the necessary standard to achieve the qualification as they usually say 3-6 months to achieve it.
I definitely plan to join the IAM and work towards my advanced rider certification. The instructors are all trained volunteers, giving up their time to ride around with you and help you become a safer rider.
The cost is £149 to join the IAM which includes all membership and assessment costs. though you may also be asked to contribute a small amount to your instructor’s fuel costs each time you go out on an assessment ride.