You don't know what you don't know

Rod Mitchell and Honda VFR

The old saying, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is applicable to many things in life but it is especially applicable to advanced motorcycle training.

When you prepare to sit your basic motorcycle test, your motorcycle trainer will teach you what you need to do in order to tick all the relevant boxes and get that coveted pass. Bizarrely, in my opinion, and dependent on age, that then allows you to ride whatever bike you like on the roads whether that be a Suzuki Hayabusa or a Ducati V4 Panigale.

However, what you may not realise is that you have been trained to pass your test and not trained on how to properly ride your bike. I passed my test 10 years ago and have been riding bikes on the roads ever since, mainly for leisure as opposed to commuting. The first thing I noticed after passing my test was that my driving also improved significantly because I became much more aware of what was going on around me and not just what was happening inside my enclosed metal box. When you’re out on your motorcycle, you are so much more aware of your vulnerability. You can’t afford to lose concentration for a second. Insurers have recognised for a long time that car drivers who are also motorcyclists tend to have less incidents and are deemed to be lower risk. It is primarily down to the fact that they are more aware of other road users and will constantly be looking out for them in their mirrors and at junctions, roundabouts etc.

It’s actually strange that so few motorcyclists feel the need to improve their riding. Perhaps, that’s because they don’t know what they don’t know. If you take up any new sport or hobby, you rely on others who will have spent a considerable amount of their time developing their skills to teach you the basics so that you can participate. In order to get better, you will need to practise but you will continually learn new things from others who are more experienced than you. In fact, it is likely that you will continue to learn and improve, but it will take time and effort on your part. Some of us will inevitably be more skillful than others but we should all be able to improve from a similar starting point. So, why is it then that once we have passed our motorcycle test, we think we don’t need any more training. The fact is we probably do and we certainly aren’t as good as we think we are. We need help. We need advice and support from others.

That’s where advanced rider training comes in. There are a number of different options available. You have IAM RoadSmart and access to various IAM groups dotted across Scotland, you have RoSPA groups and then there are some specialised advanced motorcycle trainers who offer their services.

The process with IAM is very simple and it's the route I went down. Make contact with your local group, go out for a free assessed ride with a local observer and he/she will advise on the standard of your riding. You are under no obligation to sign up for an advanced riding course but if there are things you can learn to improve your riding and make you safer out there on the roads, then you should sign up. It currently costs £149 but sometimes there are discounts available like there was recently at the Scottish Motorcycle Show where you could sign up for £99.

If you proceed with IAM Roadsmart as I did, you will learn the Police Roadcraft system of IPSGA (Information, Positioning, Speed, Gears, Acceleration) which is at the core of advanced riding. Its purpose is to promote safety and prevent collisions by encouraging riders to adopt a systematic approach to any hazard i.e. anything which contains an element of actual or potential danger.

At Motorcycle Law Scotland, we have always advocated that motorcyclists should consider advanced motorcycle training as it’s a potential life saver. The best motorcyclists out there agree that you can never stop learning. They are right!

Rod Mitchell Signature

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