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WINTER FEATURE: Try advanced riding this winter with the IAM

Paul's friendly advice convinced our test rider Dan to join up
Paul's friendly advice convinced our test rider Dan to join up
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Wednesday, 23, Oct 2013 12:02

by Daniel Cartwright

As part of our series on winter riding and things to do over winter MotorbikeTimes has been in touch with Suffolk Advanced Motorcyclists to find out more about being safe on the road, particularly in winter.

I went along to one of their free rider safety assessments to find out why you should consider joining your local Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) this winter, not just for safety but as a good way of getting safely on your bike in the winter months.

In these days of traction control, ABS, combined braking systems, airbag jackets and tech that automatically alerts ambulances when you fall off, it is easy to forget that the single best safety device on any bike is the grey matter between the ears of the rider.

So many times I have heard bikers say "accidents are rarely the fault of the rider but the car that runs in them, so how can you train for that?"

Whilst this is true, could the biker have avoided the accident had they trained themselves to be in a better position to view and predict potential accidents?

Okay, it might not be bikers fault and it seems unfair, but when you are lying on the tarmac waiting for the ambulance to arrive, with your pride and joy looking like a Transformer made by a five-year-old, would rather go back in time and avoid the accident or blame the car driver?

The IAM is there to give your grey matter a tune up and give you as many tools as they can to avoid an accident, whether it is your fault or someone else's.

As a teenager, I did my car advanced motorists test and became a member of the IAM at the time to reduce my extortionate insurance premiums and convince my parents I was competent enough behind the wheel to borrow their car.

Since then I have been amazed at the difference it has made to my car driving and road awareness, I am convinced the additional training saved me some huge accidents and to date have not had even a minor accident or scratch on my car since taking the test 14 years ago.

So why did I not do the IAM bike test? Well in truth there are only two reasons I have never done it; arrogance and lethargy, both of which I regret.

About the IAM

The IAM is a road safety charity that has been running for 50 years. Their aim is to make roads safer by a number of means, from lobbying to research, but also by providing one-to-one training to road users to make them better and safer divers.

The IAM is a national organisation and for bikers, it offer skills assessments, rider assessments and full advanced riding courses with a test at the end.

There are local branches such as the Suffolk Advanced Motorcyclists who took me out and offer training for the advanced riding test and other events such as the free rider assessments is local areas.

It's worth pointing out at this point that the IAM is a charity and as such is a non for profit, all local assessors are volunteers who don't get paid to take give you advice - they do it just to help you to be safe.

What to expect

Rider assessment, such as the one I did with Suffolk Advanced Motorists, involves meeting at a local bike shop, saying hello and then meeting the assessor, who in my case was called Paul.

Paul explained to me that I should ride as I normally would, not as if I was on a test, but naturally.

He also explained that I was responsible for my safety and that he would simply follow me and I was to keep checking my mirrors and if he wanted me to turn he would indicate. Simple.

We set off and rode for about half an hour, then pulled over for a chat, where Paul gave me some points on road position and how I could apply these.

It was pretty relaxed and I could freely ask questions. Then he suggested I try these on the return journey of our loop back to the start.

Once we got back he critiqued a few points and then gave me some encouragement that I was in a much better road position on the way back.

With Suffolk Advanced Motorcyclists this was free and they do these sessions throughout the year. With the National IAM these cost £40 and local institutes will vary, but give them a call to find out.

The full test works in a similar way to the rider assessment. Once you fill in your forms and pay your fee you are assigned an assessor, then you find convenient times to do assessed rides for about two hours.

Typically you will go on between four and eight assessed rides until your assessor deems you are ready for your test.

Between rides you are expected to cover at least 100 miles to practice what you have learnt on your assessed ride.

What will you get out of the experience?

This is different for each rider, but can include increasing confidence on the bike, judging corner speed or improving town riding.

The point of one-on-one rides is to assess which parts of your riding you do well and which could be improved.

For me I am a confident rider so much of my advice focused on road position, I naturally enter a corner in the correct position i.e. if I am approaching a right hand turn I will be on the left hand side of the carriage way and vice versa.

However, I turn far too early looking at the apex of the corner keeping my bike as straight as possible.

Paul pointed out to me that if I turn later in the corner I will have much greater visibility further up the road ahead.


Not only did I pick up safety tips from my short ride but I enjoyed it and the people were very friendly. I buy in to the whole philosophy of IAM and their aim of increasing safety on the road.

The experience convinced me join the Suffolk Advanced Motorcyclists and do my full test. The way I look at it is that in perfect conditions I may want to go out and be a bit of a hooligan (within the limits of the law obviously!) but I want to train my default riding to be as safe as possible.

I will keep you posted with regular updates as to how the training and the experience is going.

I would recommend you too give this a go, at least to try an assessment and see if there are things that the IAM can teach you to keep you safe and sound.

For more info contact Suffolk Advanced Motorcyclists or the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

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