After 21 years and approximately 175,000 miles of motorcycling, I finally sat and passed my Institute of Advanced Motorcyclist (IAM) Advanced motorcycling test!
This all came about because I work within the Motorcycle Law Scotland legal team - a team of motorcyclists who represent fellow motorcyclists when they are unfortunately injured in road traffic collisions or suffer a loss through no fault of their own.
I was previously trained to drive a motor car to an advanced standard by Strathclyde Police, so I naturally thought that after being a motorcyclist for so long, I would have nothing new to learn. I entered into the IAM training programme with an open mind, however somewhere in the darkest corners of my mind, I thought that sitting and passing my test would be a skoosh.
My training was organised by the Borders Group of Advanced Motorcyclists (BGAM), and it was delivered to me by Alistair Finlay. On my first run with Alistair as my IAM Observer, he immediately picked up on two points where I needed to do some work. Alistair said that he could see from my actions that I was observing my rear-view mirrors, but he needed me to look in them more often. He also made the point that brakes were for braking, and while my engine braking was acceptable, I should also touch my foot brake or handbrake to indicate to others what I was doing.
This latter learning point fell in line with Motorcycle Roadcraft, a book where ‘TUG’ is taught in respect of approaching hazards. TUG means ‘Taking in information’, ‘Using information’ and ‘Giving information out’, so by touching the brakes when slowing, I would be giving information out to other road users behind me. One lesson, and all of a sudden I was refreshing my memory and learning.
On a second observed ride with Ali, he made me think about ‘The Limit Point.’ This is where both sides of a road meet in the distance and although I knew what it was and how to use it, I was not consciously using it on each and every occasion. Ali demonstrated with me following him, and from then, by travelling at the correct speed for the hazard (corner), by being in the correct gear, and by using the limit point each time, I was sailing through the bends more confidently and smoothly than I had done before. If you practise slight acceleration as the limit point moves away, and winding back when the limit point gets closer, you will immediately achieve a more controlled navigation on every bend.
My test was now looming, and the mantra seemed to be,‘We are not here to fail you!’ A mock test with Jimmy Wright, Secretary of BGAM, and then on to a full test with George Traynor, a recently retired motorcycle Police Officer and IAM Examiner, and I was, after all this time, an Advanced Rider.
How did I feel? Elated and proud.
Am I now wearing my red pants outside my trousers? Far from it, but I am almost certainly more observant and better placed to react to hazards, either real or perceived.
To round up, I would like to thank Brenda Mitchell, MLS Senior Partner, for giving me this challenge and supporting it. I would also like to thank the Trainers, Observers and Examiners from IAM, who volunteer their time, display tremendous enthusiasm, and exercise patience to make motorcyclists safer on the road.
Finally, if you haven’t done an IAM course, you have nothing to lose. I can guarantee you will enjoy it immensely and you may just find it to be the most worthwhile £149 you will have ever spent.