Courses in advance riding are sold as a safety feature to your motorcycle riding. Rarely for scooter riding. Scooters tend not to peak the interest of advanced riders – it appears. Institutions boast that you will pay less insurance, be able to adapt and hone new advanced skills of vehicle control as well as forward planning. The cherry on top is that following a test you are denoted with a given merit. Gold, silver, high, low, ‘needs improvement’, ‘would not let him near a bike again’ whichever the outcome maybe come test day.
Motorcycling is inherently a risky undertaking, especially if you are undertaking and therefore as a concept the training cannot be faulted. Being aware of your surroundings and the actions or anticipating the actions of others on public roads is essential. Being aware of your own health, emotions and ability to ride is also something that can get overlooked as well as a safety check of your vehicle before each ride. Appropriate vehicle and self-control are paramount on public roads. It is a skill to harness the benefits of your machine to stay safe and not to impress or go faster. You do not need to know how to trail break on the A417 but to come to an efficient controlled stopped. Being able to get around a corner carrying momentum while planning ahead opposed to getting your knee down.
However, during my training, I was being pushed to develop skills beyond that of safe road riding. Somehow going 5, 10, 15 mph over the speed limit are justified as you are ‘making progress’ or having a ‘spirited ride’. These words are delusions and related to taking more risk. My concern is that inflated confidence can lead to disastrous consequences. But of course you will not get un-tied at any point. You have the reassurance that you are an ‘advanced rider’.
My experience was teaching of a strict point-to-point process to deal with changing and developing hazards with unlimited flexibility. Reinforce this with specific rules and contradiction does not even begin to describe. For example; ‘take left hand bends closer to the centre of the road and take right hand bends closer to the hedgerow. On blind dips motor along on the far left of the hedgerow’. These are described as accepted practices however have accompanying rules that goes against the initial advice with an over reaching different rule. I will give you an example of a conversation I had at the side of the road with my instructor.
Instructor: ‘You are meant to motor along on the left hand side of the lane over humped bridge’. There is a risk (anticipation here) that a car is waiting to turn right just over the hump. So if you are far over on the left then there is more of a chance you will miss the car, if it is there’.
Me: ‘OK, well there could also be pedestrians walking towards you or a cyclist just over the crest that dip that I could plow into if I was so far over on the left’.
So the rule develops.
Instructor: ‘Well you should always be able to stop in the distance you can see clearly’.
Me: ‘But this is a national speed limit road (60 mph) so slowing to 5 mph is also a risk. But you also said to travel along on the far left side. Well I will not need to do that if I am travelling at a speed suitable that I can stop in the distance that I can see clearly’.
Instructor: ‘You need to assess each individual situation uniquely and adapt your riding to suit the conditions. But you need to show confidence, control, decision making and be clear with your intentions to the examiner’.
So basically ride how I ride before I came on this course?
The issue arises from a strict process being applied to a variable situation. You will never have enough rules to cover all situations. It’s maddening. When I ride I try to be keenly aware of my surrounding situations and make intelligent decisions. With knowledge of road markings and signs I find this keeps me safe. Developing my riding with the goal of an observed test and merit badge does not sit right with me.
I have always felt safer on a motorcycle than in a car until I took my advanced riding course. I was expected to ride outside the rules of the road, pushed too far too quickly and because I was being taught a prescribed riding style and not having the course tailored to my specific needs the result was frustration and disengagement. I cancelled the course after five sessions and did not take my test.
Some weeks later I went to my local Honda dealer to look at the possibility of getting a scooter. In there I was lucky to meet the chap who taught me when I passed my motorcycle test. We got talking (as you do) and it turned out that he still offers people tuition.
So now every 4-6 weeks as I feel the need or as his availability allows we go out for a ride and work on areas of my riding that I wish to improve. Braking, corning, acceleration, forward planning whatever it may be. We work on whatever and then following feedback do it again. Improve and then move on. That’s it. He has taught me a lot and I now feel like I am a better rider for it.
I have looked into this and places that offer teaching to take your test are keen to take out licensed riders to develop their skill. Even the police will take you out for half a day. I do not need a badge to show my friends or to tell people I am an ‘advanced rider’. I just want to feel safer on my motorcycle.
Find what is right for you by all means but this was my experience and left me wondering when do you become an advanced rider? When you complete a prescribed course? After 10, 20, 30, 40 years of riding? Once you have decided that you should be an advanced rider? For me the idea of reaching a point when you can say ‘I am an advanced rider’ just doesn’t exist.
The more you ride be it lessons or different types of bikes the more experience and skills you will gain. All motorcyclists have to demonstrate self control, vehicle control and traffic awareness consistently and over time these skills will improve.