The short answer is YES. However, there have been several learnings on the way…
Since getting my CBT 3 years ago, I have sat:
- Two Module 1 exams (A and A2 licence)
- Two Module 2 exams (A and A2 licence)
- IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) exam
- Bike safe training
- Biker down training
- Honda Ron Haslam Race School
It may not seem like much, but in such a short amount of time and university in the way, it has been rather hectic. I am very lucky in that, virtually every time I ride my bike, I have Iñigo as my personal coach, speaking through the Bluetooth and guiding me on how to improve. Not only is he a ROSPA Gold and IAM full member, but he regularly attends further motorcycle training and is a great teacher! I really trust his suggestions. Not only will he talk me through what to do round a bend, but I get demonstrations along the way and am pushed to succeed. In a way, I have been lucky enough to understand and practice advanced riding since passing my CBT. Having said that, I was strictly told to forget this way of riding for my DVLA bike licence, which I find ridiculous as it is considered the safest way to ride (i.e. I actively check my mirrors for safety, not as a tick box exercise! But that is a rant for another day…).
I would also consider myself as someone who is very keen to improve my skills. Partly so that I don’t slow Iñigo down during our rides or trips, partly because I am afraid of being judged on my riding skills by others and mostly because I don’t want to die on the road. I am always keen to please and open to learning new, safer ways to ride. In fact, when we ride with other people, I often ask them to be as blunt and honest as possible on my riding style, to help me improve.
After getting my CBT, Iñigo signed me up for Bike Safe. I turned up as the only girl and on my little Honda CBF125. This course is a police-led motorcycle safety initiative, which starts in the classroom and ends on the road. I must say that I had a brilliant day out with the police and learnt a great deal. Not only did I find my assigned observer to be incredibly reassuring and encouraging, but the other police officers and attendees on the course, helped build my confidence enormously. Everyone told me to take my full licence and I left with the biggest grin on my face, feeling good about my riding ability, after passing my CBT just months before. I highly recommend this course and I am very keen to take it again, now that several years have passed and I have my full licence! As I have written elsewhere, I also recommend attending a Biker Down course and could not talk more positively of my experience on the day.
It was also Iñigo who first suggested I became a full IAM member. There is no denying that aged 23, my main reason for doing so, was to try and reduce the cost of my insurance, especially as we were looking at buying a BMW. Iñigo had a very positive experience with the IAM and I must say that overall I have too. Right from the start, my local IAM (Herts and Beds Advance Motorcyclist, HBAM) group proved to be very organised and arranged an observer for me incredibly quickly. I mention this because I am aware that waiting periods can be rather long at other IAM groups. My observer was also very organised and always worked around my plans, which was greatly appreciated, especially as it was not easy for me to meet after work. As someone who gets quite nervous riding with new people, they helped to calm me down and get the basics right.
At this point, I must also add that everyone I have met through the IAM has been welcoming and friendly and I thoroughly enjoy the few social nights I have been able to attend, in particular the yearly summer BBQ! The group are always keen to share best practices, meet up for rides and offer help when needed If you take the time and effort to embed yourself, you will make good friends and enjoy yourself. In my local group, the ladies have also created a ladies WhatsApp group to go riding together and seem to be good friends.
Having said all this, I do have a few qualms about the IAM and there have been various elements which I have not particularly warmed too.
- Examiners appear to test differently, which infuriates me. When my examiner was assigned, I was suddenly told by various members of the IAM how I should ride my test. Many of the suggestions on things I needed to do, or change, specifically for that examiner, actually went against the comments my observer had shared with me previously. In my opinion, if you are riding in an advanced way, you may be able to justify certain decisions, but your general riding style should be judged in the same way. You cannot have examiners with varying attitudes or understandings of the basics of advanced riding (e.g. whether you should break before entering a lower speed zone, or simply reduce your use of the accelerator and ‘slide’ into the lower speed zone).
- Originally, I was refused IAM insurance because of my age, despite having taken the test and passed. As I mentioned before, the main reason for sitting my test, was to reduce my insurance, however the day I called, I was told that they did not insure 24-year olds. I found this outrageous. Surely, if your criteria to be ensured by the IAM is to have taken your test, age is an irrelevant factor – I have proven I can ride to your standards. Iñigo sat through a lengthy telephone call with them and managed to resolve this, but if he had not fought and stood his ground on my behalf, I would not have been insured.
- Although everyone seemed very happy with my riding and I did not have to sit too many observed rides before my test overall, I lost my confidence greatly, which was rather upsetting for me. I had chosen to focus the latter part of my summer for IAM rides to pass the test as quickly as possible and therefore halted my usual rides with Iñigo and friends. I went from confidently riding around at the speed limit, to tensing up with fear at every road sign signalling an upcoming bend and riding them at 30mph. I would get so angry at myself for lacking all my confidence, that I was put off riding. This was mainly because I had been told to ride more calmly and had stopped pushing my limits. I understand that this is very personal, and I am sure that the IAM gives a lot of people a boost of confidence – it just didn’t for me. I did not enjoy the constant scrutiny, second guessed everything I did and felt as if everything I was doing was wrong, despite riding that way all my life. It was a real shame and took quite a while for me to regain my confidence.
Based on my experiences with the IAM, I am not entirely sure I would recommend them. Please do not misunderstand me, I fully agree with their way of riding and believe it to be the safest. I follow their rules of the road and respect their standards (I follow their standards on the road and respect their rules). However, having unconsciously ridden this way for some time, the process of completing my test simply knocked my confidence and I fundamentally disagree with the varying expectations different examiners. A real shame.
Having said all this, for those who have never done advanced riding, it really is worth the effort. It can increase your confidence and riding skills. I see nothing wrong in this. Just try to find a method that suits you.