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Ride to Work (the advanced way)
- AuthorMichael Pace
Ride to Work (the advanced way)
This week those who ride motorcycles, know as ‘bikers’, have been encouraged to ride to work on their bike instead of going in their car. The motorcycle lobby says that if more people rode motorcycles the roads (especially in cities) would be less clogged up, which is an obvious benefit of a smaller vehicle.
These days most bikers are aged 45 plus. They are often called ‘born again bikers’ because many have come back to owning a motorcycle after a gap caused by the need to own a car and being unable to afford a bike and a car. Now with the children off their hands and a better income they can enjoy the freedom of the road once again.
The average annual mileage for most motorcycles these days is less than 5,000. It’s probably less than 3,000 if the truth be known, because having bought his or her second-hand pride and joy the last thing a biker wants to do is get it dirty by riding in the wet.
Back in the 1960s and 70s, average mileages were significantly higher. Mine was around 20,000 to 23,000 - similar to my car mileage these days. With lower mileage comes a loss of ability through experience, because to average the higher mileage you have to ride in all weathers and as I did all year round. These days many bikes get put away for the winter and then in the spring on dry, salt-free roads out come the out-of-practice riders, some of whom quickly end up as casualties.
Having returned to a motorcycle some 10 or 12 years ago after a 20-year gap, I was aware of my limitations, even though I had passed the Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists test in 1977. Back then I was both a chief instructor and a senior examiner for the RAC/ACU Motorcycle Training Scheme. I attended a course run by Lincolnshire Police known as Bike Safe. This is a nationally run course but Lincolnshire's was known to be one of the better ones because of the knowledge and attitude of the police officers who ran it.
I learned a lot from that day and felt confident to go out on my bike in all weathers. It had rained heavily for most of the course, where you are followed by a police motorcyclist.
Following on from that I really enjoyed the Performance Plus day at Cadwell park, organised once again by the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership. This is half a day in the classroom and half a day on the track, where you can learn the limits of your bike under top-class instruction.
So where to next? Well, in 1977 I was the first motorcyclist to pass the IAM advanced test, so in this 40th anniversary year I decided to see how my skills were standing up. I rejoined the IAM and was allocated an observer.
The IAM way is to follow and make observations to help you improve your riding. In conjunction with this, you are expected to learn the Highway Code, know your signs, and be aware of the IAM system of riding based on IPSGA (information, position, speed, gear, accelerate). The same system applies to advanced car driving which I had learned as a policeman in the 1970s. All of this comes from the police driving and riding manuals known as roadcraft.
Although I had some improvements to take on board, I had nothing new to learn, and on 16th June 2017 I passed again. The experience has been interesting. It has sharpened up my riding skills and made me more aware of the road ahead and what is happening. I re-learned the skill of looking at the limit point and not down at the road and as I result, I feel a lot more confident.
So, to all you born again bikers, I can only say with my road traffic lawyer’s hat on, go and get some training. It can only make you a better rider and hopefully help you stay on the road and out of harm’s way.