by Colin Opie, Chief Observer, Devon Advanced Motorcyclists (DAM)
IAM National Observer, Insititute of Advanced Motorists
Advanced Riding as a title is often open to misinterpretation. What makes the difference between an Advanced rider and a “standard” one, for example a rider that has just passed their Part-II DSA test and is now legally entitled to ride without “L” plates? Is it pure speed? Is it machine control under on-road and off-road conditions? Is it being able to “get your knee down” around bends? Believe it or not, it is none of these things.
The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) and RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) are the only two Approved Advanced Test organisations in the UK for civilian riders. Together with in-house publications they both base their Advanced Riding on a book called “Roadcraft”. This is significant. “Roadcraft” is the Police Rider Manual of which the latest revision was released in 2013. To be quite frank, when it comes to Advanced riding on public roads, nobody does it better than the Police. They are the safest, fastest riders out there. It is one reason why anyone aspiring to pass either the IAM or RoSPA Advanced Test will be examined by an active or retired Police Class I Advanced rider/trainer. Okay, you don’t have to be able to ride quite as well as them, but you will be expected to display all the core skills that prove you are an Advanced rider. So what are these core skills? “Roadcraft” provides the answers:
- First and foremost that you are able to identify human factors which might increase your vulnerability as a rider, give priority to safety, be able to recognise and manage human factors which affect your decision-making and performance, and show you can honestly and critically assess your own riding in order to obtain continuous improvement (ie. after test). The mental attitude to riding is paramount. In surveys, most riders think they are safer and better than the average rider – but we cannot all be right! In around 2 out of 3 collisions, human error is the main cause.
- Be a systematic, methodical rider. The system used by the Police is based on Information (Take-Use-Give), Position, Speed, Gear and Acceleration (IPSGA), in that order, albeit that the Information “phase” works right through everything else. This gives calm physical control of the bike, leaving nothing to chance, and providing machine stability under all conditions. Ever gone into a bend too quick? Ever locked a wheel? Ever had a really close encounter of the scary kind? If you want to survive, be systematic.
- Develop a Riding Plan. This isn’t trip planning, this is the thinking side of the System and involves excellent Observation (what can be seen), developed Anticipation (what cannot be seen and what could happen), calm Prioritisation (some dangers/hazards are more severe than others), firm Decision making and rapid, controlled Action. It’s high-speed, continously varying Risk Assessment, enabling you to put your bike in the right positon, at the right speed and finally in the right gear to deal calmly with any hazard(s) you encounter.
There are a mountain of articles out there in the press and on the internet that bullet-point aspects of advanced riding on public roads, but they all come down (if they are valid) to the core skills discussed in “Roadcraft”. Taking bends well, overtaking skills, avoiding skids, safe motorway riding, effective progress at legal speeds, are just example details within the scheme of things, and all rely on a systematic approach to riding together with an open mental attitude to improvement. The latter is basically saying, okay, there was a scary moment, so “what could I have done to have improved my ride/safety in that scenario”, rather than “who or what else is to blame for me being in that situation”. That’s a big leap for some riders!
If you want to be a safer, more progressive, all-weather, thinking Advanced rider feel free to contact DAM ( www.advancedmotorcyclists.org.uk ). We do various Skills Days (taster sessions) during the year and our skilled, nationally examined Observers/Trainers will be able to provide you with professional training to Advanced Test standard through the IAM’s “Skill for Life” course.