For most of my life I always drove a car and didn’t dare think of riding a motorcycle. I’d spoken to a lot of riders and motorcycle groups during my career as a road safety officer with Staffordshire and Derbyshire County Councils, but motorcycle casualties were always a concern to me.
I was always honest with about my lack of motorcycling knowledge when attending meetings on behalf of the councils - although motorcyclists would discover my lack of knowledge in around three sentences anyway.
One thing did strike me was how I never came into contact with an ‘unhappy’ motorcyclist, and there was always a camaraderie between them and a willingness to help each other out. This friendship between riders was what inspired me to being my own motorcycle journey – this was aided by my son’s desire to also take to two wheels.
I completed my CBT (with my son) with a local training school in the summer of 2014. I found this quite challenging as in my mind, I knew exactly what I should be doing but it just seemed to get lost in translation and my control wasn’t the best.
My first bike was the Yamaha Virago 125 and I took every opportunity to get out and practice. However, my progress was hindered by the fact that I broke my arm - in a fall, not on my bike, shortly afterwards.
Therefore I didn’t get out on my bike until spring 2015, with the objective of completing my Direct Access course (DAS) in 2016.
I remember one Sunday where I had been out on my own on my bike and stopped for a 10 minute break at a layby on the A5 in Staffordshire. A fellow motorcyclist travelling in the opposite direction rode past me, then turned around and came back to the layby just to check that everything was ok. I didn’t know the rider, but it did reinforce for me the friendship that exists between riders.
My training provider, Shireoak Motorcycle Training (the owner Paul Butterworth is an IAM RoadSmart member and great advocate of ours) offered free ride-outs that were ‘L’ rider friendly, which was a great way to supplement my training and a place where I gained valuable experience.
You’ll be pleased to know that I passed my DAS Module 1 in July 2016 and my Module 2 (road test) in September 2016. A few months later, I upgraded my bike to a Honda Shadow 600 V-Twin which I still ride to this day (in my approved motorcycle wear with internal armour and Kevlar lining).
Since passing my test I have continued to try and develop my skills and knowledge and have completed:
I am involved in a couple of voluntary motorcycling groups with Staffordshire County Council; their Young Riders Focus Group that engages with younger motorcyclists to try and reduce casualties amongst this vulnerable road user group, and the council’s motorcyclist focus group that organises events to engage with the wider motorcyclist community.
So what’s next?
I am booked to complete an IAM RoadSmart motorcyclist Skills Day at Mallory Park in May and I’m planning a biking road trip for spring 2020 with my son.
We are going to California and riding Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) from San Francisco to Los Angeles. We’ll be starting at the Golden Gate Bridge and travelling South to Santa Monica – recognised as one of the USA’s best riding routes, then back through the Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite National Park back to San Francisco.
I ride as often as I can work permitting. I have learned a lot of new skills, made new friends and feel accomplished with what I have achieved. Someone once said to me that driving a car can be a bit like watching a movie, but when you’re riding a bike you’re one of the cast – and I can’t disagree!
By Alan Prosser, IAM RoadSmart head of retraining