Cheltenham & Cotswold Advanced Motorcyclists
promoting safer riding

I’m a relative newcomer to motorcycles, only deciding about 18 months ago that I wanted to give it a try. It has been a pretty steep learning curve. From those first few tentative wobbles in a car park on a little Suzuki 125 to taking my Direct Access test on a 500cc Kawasaki I felt I had achieved a huge amount. However the real task of learning to ride only began after my DSA test.

The concept of further training had always been in my mind. A friend, who had recently passed his advanced test, introduced me to the IAM and what the “IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider Programme” program was likely to entail. The statistics of motorcycle accidents speak for themselves and my first few months out on the road on my own only served to reinforce this. I was aware that when I went out I would have good and bad days with really satisfying rides only rarely. Once or twice I even felt lucky after a near miss and sometimes guilty for misjudging the situation.

No further encouragement was required. I joined the IAM online, handing over the £139 required to enrol as an Associate member in “IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider Programme”, and made contact with CCAM to go along to one of the club nights to find out a bit more. Turning up on the evening I was given a very warm welcome and I had the opportunity to talk over with a number of people various aspects of my riding that I felt were giving me difficulty. The comforting thing was that most of what I was saying was very typical. Picking the right line for cornering, holding your speed through them and what happens if you need to take evasive action being just a few of the things I wanted to know about. Andy Woodward, the associate co-ordinator, also explained how the Riding Observer system worked and very kindly volunteered to be my Observer.

My first observed ride with Andy was a on a chilly and showery Sunday morning last April. I guess everyone is a little nervous when being watched and the prospect of being on greasy roads made it quite a challenge. Andy explained the route we were to take along with everything that he would be doing behind me as observer. Finally before donning helmets he made me remember the key phrase. “Always ride for yourself”. The subsequent ride from Tewkesbury up to Ledbury was steady and not my best but the feedback from Andy when we stopped was the big surprise. Over those few miles the initial assessment was that my riding was very good considering my experience. I gave me a real boost and encouraged further discussion about certain aspects of the run and how these apply to advanced riding. About 30 minutes later we set off again for another 10-15 mile run so that I could put into practice some of the techniques from our conversation. After another stop in Upton upon Severn for a coffee and a bit more chat it was time to head home. To my amazement 3 hours had passed but I felt that I had taken a real leap forward in understanding how to be a better rider.

I had another 4 observed ride with Andy over the first half of the summer. All sorts of road types and conditions were encountered the training progressively working through all aspects of riding. Such things as observation, road positioning, cornering and overtaking to name just a few of them. The prime thrust of all this was turn me into a safer and thinking rider. To develop the skill of noticing all that is happening around me, what might happen and what others are likely to do so that I can plan accordingly and hopefully not have to take evasive action at the last minute.

Around mid June Andy declared me ready for my test and encouraged my to submit my test application form to IAM head office. My examiner contacted my within a couple of weeks of submitting the application and a date was set for late July. In the meantime I was to have one last “check” ride with another CCAM observer. Andy Downs kindly volunteered ride along behind me and give my main observer feedback that I was truly ready for my test. This vital second opinion on my riding to helps maintain the standards of training within the observer corps and also gave me the opportunity to ride some less familiar roads to demonstrate my new skills. I’m sure we all have our favourite roads and think we can anticipate what might be around the next corner. Of course this can be a big assumption to make with sometimes grave consequences.

When test day came I met my examiner at Arle Court Park and Ride in Cheltenham. Despite the inevitable nerves (who doesn’t get them) things went according to plan and I passed my advanced riding test after a 2 hour run through a fantastic mixture of roads around the Cotswolds. The fact that I have achieved this in such a short space of time from first climbing on my motorbike is in no small part due to the excellent preparation and training provided by the CCAM observers. The helpful feedback and support prepares you for all the things that you may encounter in your future riding career. Unlike the basic test it is not about teaching the rudimentary controls and getting you to a minimum level of competence. I now have a greater sense of confidence and get far my enjoyment from my riding every time I go out.

Morgan Gilbert