RoSPA - the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
That kind of says it all... I don't want to have any more accidents. I'm happy that I am a safe rider however I want to be the best rider I can be, preferably as safe as I can be. They say that you can only improve a bike so far then its time to work on the rider. I think that's true. I did BikeSafe a few years ago and really enjoyed that. After my first "big" accident I went back to the riding school which spawned me and went out with an instructor for some advanced training and really learned a lot.
The way I see it there are several ways in which to keep improving your riding;
- keep asking questions of other riders, they may have tips or tricks you haven't learnt or just don't understand yet
- try to keep the voice of your last instructor in your head, when you do get something a bit wrong, think about what he/she would have said, not dwell on the fact you got it wrong
- read - there are lots of books out there, Roadcraft, Twist of the Wrist to name a couple
- go to open days at training groups where observed rides are offered, take on board what is said even if you choose not to join that group
All that is before you even look at advanced training. When I looked into it I wanted to end up with a bit of paper that tells the world that I have improved my riding to a level where I am considered to be a good, safe rider by a respected body.
I looked into both RoSPA and IAM. The general feedback I received from other riders seemed to point to RoSPA as the more respected of the two. The criteria and grading of the tests certainly seems to be more techincal. IAM only test once - this pass then lasts you as long as you want it to... RoSPA retest you every 3 years. This appeals to me as I am very aware that road skills need to be updated regularly and kept current. IAM seemed to me to be more about telling you what to do - almost an enforcement of the laws of which I am already aware (although I do choose to ignore them occasionally). RoSPA seemed to be more about safety - if you must speed, do it safely kind of thing.
I made enquires through one of the forums I frequent and was put in touch with the Thames Valley group.
I chatted with the head of the Motorcycle group, (Thames Valley do advanced car training too) Panos who quickly set my mind at ease as to the methods used in training with this group. (I don't respond well to being given orders or tedious requests to slow down). I completed my application form to become an associate member and sent off my £45 club membership fee. (The test will cost me £50 when I am ready to do it).
11/09/05 - Met up with my instructor (Panos) at McDonalds in Reading. I was hooked up to the listen only radio (no chance for backchat!) and we got under way. I rode ahead for a short while so that Panos could get a look at my riding, then he took the lead and gave a running commentary of what he was doing/seeing & why. Much of the time he was riding (not slowly) one handed whilst pointing to what I should be looking at. The trick of reading the road has always been difficult for me, however this technique suddenly made it much, much clearer. Once we swapped back and I took the lead I was already putting what I had learned into practice with Panos giving me a few pointers in my ear to ensure I kept it up.
The roads we were on were mostly nice fairly easy roads. We did move into more "technical" ground however I didn't actually notice until Panos pointed it out later. Riding to "the system" made it all seem so much easier.
A very positive start to my training.
18/09/05 - Met up with Panos at McD's near Petersfield. We headed out along what I can definitely say was a "technical" route with a nice fast road in the middle with lots of long sweeping bends. Some of the smaller unmarked roads were of the variety that I would normally avoid like the plague, yet once again provided I kept my concentration intact and my vision at the proper level it all seemed too easy.
We actually finished the run about 45mins ahead of schedule. We're going to try to discover why I ride the VTR with ease yet still struggle sometimes with the ZZR.
25/09/05 - Met up at McD's near Basingstoke on the B3400. Highly enjoyed the run to Highclere, then on to Wantage on the B4494, which we came back upon toNewbury before heading towards Andover on the A343. As the weather was a bit threatening and I didn't feel tiptop when I got up (dodgy tummy) I decided to take the GPZ. Panos was quick to say later that he will never again put forward any opinions on which bike to bring on a given run (he usually leans towards the VTR) as he was thoroughly impressed with how the GPZ was put through its paces. I did miss the power of the VTR on a couple of overtakes but other than that the pace was quick enough and the new front tire made corners a doddle. All in we did about 120 miles or so plus my 86 miles to get there and home again after. Normally I'd be pretty tired with that much riding, however I am far more exhilarated by the speed (sorry officer!) and the ease with which all of these roads were ridden.
Coming home from Petersfield I passed a CBR6 who then caught me up and managed to stay with me until the Holmwood roundabout where I slowed in plenty of time and gave the rider a little wave. The rider waved back and slowing up beside me gave an enthusiastic nod along with a "whoa" as in "bloody good fun that!" As I heard the rider I realised that it was in fact a fellow female rider. Glad she enjoyed the ride. I am pretty sure that that was the quickest (and hopefully safest) I have ridden that route.
08/10/05 - Met up at McD's in Basingstoke again. Headed out on the B3400 to Andover and the A342 to Devizies and back again. First time back on the VTR since the last run, bike felt a bit odd, though I think it was just me. I felt I could have done better today, I didn't feel on top form or that I was working with the bike as well as I should be. Panos was quick to point out that I had done very well really and was just being rather hard on myself. Today we did a silent run (i.e. no encouragement or tips from Panos, just directional instructions) to see if I was sticking to the system on my own. Overall I was with only the odd lapse when I let my vision wander. Had a lovely pudding in Stocksbridge, lovely cafe there, before heading home via the A272, now becoming very familiar to me. Next time we'll do a mock test and see how I fare...
23/10/05 - Met up at the McD's in Reading, near the stadium. Did a mock test around Reading area. I felt fairly good about it except that there was one stretch of road where I thought it was still a 50, and even though I was looking for something to tell me I must have missed the National Speed Limit marker. I would still have passed, and lets face it in normal riding it wouldn't be a problem as I wouldn't have been doing 50 there, but it is so frustrating looking for markers and not being sure. I was surprised how soon I slotted back into speed limits and also how quickly 40mph felt much faster when being stuck at 30mph so much.
Afterwards we met up with another instructor with his two associates and we headed out for a blast. It was a good run, a very quick pace and to be honest I had used up most of my energy in the morning, so was completely tired when I made it through the door at around 17:00. A good day out.
12/11/05 - Met up at McD's in Reading, had another mock test, this one was much better and I was happier that I couldn't pick many holes in my performance. We did spend rather a lot of time in towns and traffic which was pretty dull! Its incredibly had to maintain speeds within the limits without allowing yourself to creep back to the speed the rest of traffic is doing. It is also strange to note how much more vulnerable you feel when you are going slower then everyone (ok well almost everyone!) else.
No more sessions for me, this is it, next is the TEST! Fingers crossed!
Whilst I am concerned with how well I will do on the day, I do agree with my instructor that I am ready to take the test, I am using everything that I have learnt and am managing to maintain a good level of skill at all times. I have learned a great deal riding out with Panos and will certainly try to attend the monthly social meets as I have enjoyed my training immensely.
18/11/05 - Met with my examiner, Phil in the carpark at McD's in Reading. It was freezing. Fortunately I had arrived in plenty of time and had already consumed my McMuffin brekkie and a cup of tea. I removed my handlebar muffs for the test, but was very glad that I had had them for the ride into Reading. We had a brief chat which included running through the details of a bike safety check (we didn't actually complete it just talked it through) before getting underway. We had a very pleasant ride, mainly through suburban and country lanes, I was struggling at times to figure out which were NSL which were 30's & 40's, but I must have done OK as I wasn't pulled up on any of them.
I was quite satisfied with my ride, I only picked myself up on a few very minor points - too much hesitancy at one junction, forgetting to just ride for myself and not the pair of us, and perhaps not getting in as many overtakes as I could, however the sun was very low in the sky and the roads were very cold and a little dodgy in places, so I'll let myself off!
At the end of the ride Phil asked me 3 questions from the highway code, all of which I knew the answers to and congratulated me on passing my test and what's more on achieving the highly coveted Gold award.
After all the effort I have put into my bikes and my riding and all the doubts I have had following my various accidents, I cannot describe what it felt like to finally have physical proof that I am a good and careful rider. I could feel the tears rising but managed not to give in to the emotion, poor Phil would probably never have given another woman a gold again!
This is not the end for me. I need to sustain that level of skill if I want to keep that Gold in my retest in 3 years time. I know I can do it, I have proved I can do it I just need to ensure that I do.
My thanks must go without doubt to Panos for doing such a good job instructing and to Mikey for putting up with my many absences whilst off riding and my going on about RoSPA this and RoSPA that for the past 3 months!
Did you really think that that was it? Pass the test and get on with it? After a winter of straightforward commuting I was worried I may have been slipping into "courier" mode and perhaps not keeping to the system as well as I should. Panos and I met up for a social ride in March, following which Panos was quick to reassure me that nothing had altered in my riding style.
I do adhere to the system as well as I can - remember we sacrifice everything for safety and ride for the best possible view at all times. I know I do my best riding early in the day. After a days work my brain is tired and my concentration is not what I would like it to be so I have now got into the habit of taking it much easier on the way home giving myself precious extra seconds before executing manoeuvres.
I think its important to try and get together with my RoSPA group at regular intervals as I know if I do pick up any new bad habits they will be swiftly pointed out and rectified. Of course there is always the social aspect - it's just plain good fun too!
01/03/09 - Well it doesn't last forever you know, you need to retest every 3 years. I was a little late in my retest and to be honest I didn't think I would maintain my gold grade. I thought that day to day riding would let bad habits in and I was mentally preparing myself for a silver, trying to convince myself I would be satisfied with that. I was therefore very pleased and proud when Phil told me that not only had I passed the retest but I had retained my gold! Go me!
As you may know my restest was due in early 2012, however my trainer, Panos had moved on from RoSPA to the BMF system so you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for the new BMF section, coming soon!
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