I sat there on a warm sunny Tuesday, early afternoon, and my examiner just left. I sat there holding a card. A card that said
Congratulations on becoming an IAM RoadSmart Master.
In their own words this is the “highest UK civilian riding standard”. Quite an honour.
How did I get here?
It started in 2019 when I decided to join the IAM and the local riding group. I have heard too many stories and seen too many accidents and I wanted to improve my riding, be a better and safer rider. At the end of the day all us bikers want to get to our destination alive and well. OK, some bikers don’t seem to show so much regard for their safety.
I actually applied to the Bike Safe course as well but the date to do it was much later in the year. So my lessons with my observer (a name they use for basically your mentor) started in early Summer. The first lesson went badly. I was so nervous being observed that I made some silly mistakes. Mistakes I would have never done if I was not observed. I was actually on the verge of quitting and not continuing the course as I thought it was not worth it as I would only get myself hurt. I slept on it for a few days and I decided to persevere. I am quite stubborn at times when I need to be … and sometimes when I shouldn’t.
Had a couple of check rides - this means that someone else other than your observer takes you out and assesses your riding. Like a back-up plan for mentoring.
The lessons were a week or two apart so I ended up having my exam in September. I actually did my Bike Safe day a week or so before my exam. And my riding was much better and it showed. On the Bike Safe day you have a presentation by a highly experienced IAM examiner or instructor. And in the second part you go out on a ride, usually with a uniformed police officer. In most cases its two riders per officer. Even though I have already completed my lessons it was still very informative. And bloody good fun, Especially seeing the reaction first hand riding with a police biker and seeing the reaction of other drivers when they have a mild panic seeing the police bike in their rear view mirror.
My IAM exam was with a former police riding instructor. And it was pissing down that day. But I did pass.
After that I began riding with the local IAM group who have either scheduled rides every Sunday morning or have longer all day rides and sometimes three day rides.
So fast forward a few years to 2023, skip but not fully ignore the covid saga as we did still ride when we were officially allowed, just in smaller groups. Was on a riding trip and saw another biker have an accident which spurred me to think about even more training that I already had.
It is true that you will have skill degradation over time and sometimes bad habits will also creep into your riding. There were two ways I could progress. Either or training to be an Observer myself and teach others for which I would not have much time with a full time job. The other option was doing my Masters degree. This lasts you 5 years after which you have to do another exam if you want to keep the “title”.
The examiner was a former police riding examiner so he knew his stuff. This guy and others in his level of qualification are one of the best on-road riders in the country. But his official title was rather more admin-sounding - “Area Service Delivery Manager”. I kid you not. Sounds like a local pencil pusher who makes other people’s lives a living hell. And this could not be further from the truth. The guy was awesome.