I passed my bike test on a KH100 as a spotty 17-year old back in the late 90s, when Britpop ruled the radio and Mick Doohan the track. Before the days of A1 and A2 licenses, once you passed your test you could go and ride any bike. My bikes have steadily grown in engine capacity since, but my training stalled as anything further wasn’t legally required.
Twenty years later I decided to get a refresher on my riding skills. Last year I completed my Level 1 course at the California Superbike School, which included some real lightbulb moments about cornering after years of riding on my own without tuition. That in turn, pun intended, got me interested in other forms of training too. After chatting with the BikeSafe team at London’s Motorcycle Show I had myself booked a course with the Police.
Before the course, Club Moto London fixed me up with their Ducati Monster 1200 S, an awesome bike that didn’t miss a beat. With 150bhp on tap it was certainly a step up from the little 2-stroke I used the last time I had someone in high-viz following me around.
Then it was onto the road. “Just ride as if we’re not there”, I was told. Turning out of the parking lot I was immediately faced with a long line of traffic. I would normally squeeze my way past so that’s what I did, only to have a Police bike catch up with me a minute later.
It’s strange at first to have a Police bike following your every move but it doesn’t take long to recalibrate you brain into thinking that you’re not going to get pulled every time you look in the mirrors.
My course started near Bromley, and we were soon out into the countryside on some great roads I never knew existed. I would tail the Police bike for a while, before getting waved past and being followed myself.
Constable Kevin Cosham, who was my Police assessor for the day, explains, “These courses let us point out places where riders might be likely to have an off. It’s all about learning a few little tricks that keep you safe. But also showing the fun aspect of riding as well. All the team here has a passion for bikes and we all ride in our spare time, be it classics, racing or touring. We’re part of a sought-after team in the Met Police, especially within Traffic, as we’re all doing a job we love. We get to share a passion of motorcycles with other bikers, while helping them out a bit too.”
‘Making progress’ was certainly a good term to describe the riding style. When we stopped for I was given a few pointers on my riding which was of a “good, confident standard” but it was clear I had picked up a few naughty habits after riding in Central London for the past decade.
Just after midday we met up with all the other riders on the course at a service station for food. Where I might be nervous leaving a shiny new Ducati unattended, parking between 4 Police bikes does give a certain sense of security. Lunch consisted of 10% riding feedback, 20% burger and 70% a very passionate biker (who happened to be wearing a Police uniform) talking customs, trips to Nürburgring, Marquez, and BSB tales.
The afternoon consisted of some more fantastic national speed limit roads, 40mph country lanes and a quick stop for a photo. Then it was back to the BikeSafe ‘Warren’ HQ at a pretty decent pace for final feedback.
So how did I do? In addition to my over eager filtering, I had also strayed a little far to the centre of the road on a few tight right handers. Not a problem on empty roads, but not ideal if traffic suddenly appears coming the other way. I was also changing gear more often than required, but I put some of that down to novelty of the Monster’s up/down quickshifter.
The feedback given by BikeSafe team isn’t intended to be critical or negative. And they are not there to sit watching the speedo and catch people out in anyway. They simply want to ensure bikers are safe out on the roads.
I found the day both useful and enjoyable. Some will get more out of it than others but I’ve definitely altered my riding style as a result of my recent training. And I’m also enjoying my time on bikes more with my new-found knowledge too.
So, what’s next? I’m still hungry for more training. IAM, ROSPA and the California Superbike School were all recommended at the end of the day. But there was also a surprising type of bike control class suggested that’s got my interest – wheelie schools.
BikeSafe courses cost just £45 and are run from several places around England, Wales and Nothern Island, including courses run directly from Bike Shed. See what events are available near you via www.bikesafe.co.uk
Thanks to Club Moto London for the Ducati Monster 1200 S. The club has a fleet of various motorcycles available for hire by members from their London location. What’s more, you can even pick up and drop off their bikes at The Bike Shed, so you can enjoy a beer and bite to eat after a day’s ride.