Blog: On the road again to being Safer Rider

PUBLISHED: 17:34 15 May 2015 | UPDATED: 17:34 15 May 2015

Back on two wheels: Motoring editor Andy Russell gets some practice in for his police-run Safe Rider course. Picture: Andy Micklethwaite.

Back on two wheels: Motoring editor Andy Russell gets some practice in for his police-run Safe Rider course. Picture: Andy Micklethwaite.

Andy Micklethwaite

Motoring editor Andy Russell is back on two wheels and preparing for his Safe Rider course run by Norfolk and Suffolk police.

I’m back on two wheels, mid-Fifties and I’m having the time of my life... not a mid-life crisis. After 15 years away from biking, I am on a motorcycle again to help promote road safety.

I am of that generation where learning to ride was a matter of life and death. The days when you bought a bike up to 250cc, took to the road with L-plates and little or no training and, if you were lucky, you lived. Many were not so lucky and I had a few close calls.

Now I am brushing up my skills, and learning and practising some new ones I was never taught, having not had to do compulsory basic training (CBT), theory tests or the modern practical riding tests with an examiner for different sizes and power levels of bike with the necessity of also gaining riding experience between tests.

Road safety is vital and how you are taught in first place – and continue to learn – are crucial to putting you on the right road and keeping you safely on it.

The Safe Rider course is an initiative run by Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies with the support of their respective Casualty Reduction Partnerships. Road sessions are conducted by police riders for people who have passed their motorcycle test. It draws on police officers’ expertise of safe riding and experience of dealing with crashes, to reduce the risk to riders by teaching defensive riding techniques.

It’s been a steep learning curve, if a not particularly fast one, for me but it’s just like riding a bike... or rather a motorbike.

I would encourage anyone thinking of returning to motorcycling or wanting to hone their skills and iron out any bad habits to look seriously at this course.

Here are a few of things I had forgotten about motorcycling:

That feeling of vulnerability, especially when other vehicles don’t give you much space.

Wondering if vehicles waiting at junctions have seen you... Think Bike!

How much you get buffeted in side winds, especially when passing big lorries or gaps between buildings or woodland.

How noisy tiny flying insects sound when they hit your crash helmet... and how much mess they make.

How long it takes to get all that motorcycle clothing on.

Going to the loo and taking the key out of your trouser pocket before putting over-trousers on.

Paying extra special attention to the weather forecast to make sure you are prepared for the worst.

How hot it can get in a helmet and motorcycle clothing.

Those funny hairstyles when you take the helmet off. My long locks used to curl up where they stuck out from the bottom of the helmet now my limited locks look as though they have been crimped into ridges.

Having to travel light when you don’t have a boot to fill with clutter.

The sense of camaraderie that exists between motorcyclists.

That wonderful sense of freedom.

Finally, the joy of motorcycling and how much I have missed it.

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