Blatant bit of self-congratulatory blogging here…
Last May (2007) I joined Thames Vale Advanced Motorcyclists (TVAM – www.tvam.org ) with the aim of polishing up my riding skills. After all, I passed my test 33 years ago and have had no additional training in that time. TVAM is the largest of the local IAM Motorcycling groups with nearly 1000 members. Luckily they meet only 3 miles down the road from me at St Crispins School in Wokingham, Berkshire.
For those not familiar with the “form”, here it is:
You go along as a guest and go out for a ride with (usually) another guest and an Observer (note the capital “O” – very important people if you want to become an Advanced Motorcyclist!). This ride was (for me) fairly informal. We went to Henley on a glorious sunny Sunday last May and drank coffee by the river whilst discussing the pros and cons of the ride so far. On returning to base, you can join up on the spot, go away and think about it, or just go away! The joining fee includes your IAM test fee and a year’s membership of TVAM. Once signed up, you are assigned an Observer and encouraged to go out with him/her regularly. My Observer was Gary Berresford of GS Motorcycle Tyres ( www.gsmotorcycletyres.co.uk ) – having a motorcycle tyre technician as an Observer was a bit of a bonus. I must admit to being fairly slow off the mark and didn’t really get down to it until earlier this year. As both Gary and I are effectively self-employed, we just timetabled a fortnightly ride on a Thursday evening and did it like that.
After each observed ride there’s a debrief (usually in a local pub) and a chance to discuss the ride and any questions arising. Then you get a grade..!..
When you get regular “A” grades (indicating a “pass”), you are cross-checked by a different Observer who will then recommend that you go for the test and give you the application form to sign and send off. My x-check was carried out by Howie Pyett on his brand new ‘busa. It was pretty tough and lasted about two hours.
The Examiner called me a week or so later to arrange a mutually convenient time and place for the test. Why did I chose 6pm on a Monday evening in S Reading? I don’t know but that’s where I was last night. The traffic was heavy, but not too bad. We headed off out of town and onto the M4, some fast A roads, bendy country roads, tricky junctions and back to McDonalds for a coffee and debrief. Before he would let me relax, though, he made me do lock-to-lock slow riding figure eights (that was the hardest part).
His final advice to me was: “Go home and have a beer. Don’t go out for a ride!” So I did (go home and have a beer that is).