I’ve finally done it, I’ve passed my IAM Skill For Life Course, I’m now officially an ‘advanced rider’.
I started the course back in January, when I signed up with the East London Advanced Motorcyclists (ELAM) group. The course is based upon the Motorcycle roadcraft police rider’s handbook, but is presented through a slightly more digestible ‘How to be a better rider’ book (included with the course). The ELAM group begin the course in a fairly structured manner; starting with a machine control day on an airfield to practice slow manoeuvres, emergency stops and slalom. This is followed by 5 observed ride outs roughly every fortnight, each concentrating on particular areas, e.g. overtaking, bends, motorways, town riding etc. There were also 3 theory night sessions around these rides which covered the ‘system’ – an underlying principle to apply to your riding, various best practices and many legal points.
Following the structured first half of the course, I was assigned an observer with whom I continued further ride outs as convenient, to practice further and work on any areas as required. I got on well with my observer, he helped me progress and set me straight on what I needed to change. Once my observer felt I was ready, I booked the test. The test examiner follows you for a reasonably long ride (1 – 1.5 hours), covering a multitude of different roads; town, rural, motorway etc. To conclude the test, I had to show my slow-riding skills in performing a tight figure of eights and circles. The test was mentally tiring but generally quite relaxed. I put in a good ride, though not the smoothest and a little hesitant on my overtakes. It was still a pass nonetheless.
I have really enjoyed the whole course, all of the observers were really patient and helpful and my fellow students were a good friendly bunch with whom I’ve made many new friends. The ELAM group also organise numerous social ride outs and evenings too. I have learnt a lot from the course and definitely feel my riding has improved a lot. My slow riding is now much smoother, I’m more confident on twisty bends and I plan my ride much better now, with fewer risks taken. I should (in theory!) be a better and safer rider now.
I can definitely recommend this course to all riders. It may not have the thrills (and spills) of a track day or off road session. But it is a good course with a lot of sensible advice for sharing the UK roads with others in a safe, legal and progressive manner. At just £150, you are getting a lot of tuition for your money and it may also gain you a little discount on your insurance too.
What now? Learning never stops, the course teaches you to continually self assess and consider how you can improve further. There’s scope to train up as an observer and help others. Tempting, but perhaps when I have more experience. In the mean time I plan to attend more ride outs and keep honing my new founds skills.