July 12, 2022
I got into motorcycling a bit later than some as I did my CBT at the age of 19, living in the Glasgow the public transport was ok until I had two get two trains to get to my first job. After the trains being late so many times, I needed to get my own vehicle and the fact you could do your CBT in a day and then go and buy a bike was a win win.
17 years later and I still believe it's one of the best decisions I have made I thought my riding was pretty decent, but I know I feel much more confident going into left handers than right, I tip the bike in that wee bit to early coming into right hand bends. Anyway, back on track, the reason for me taking the course is it can be hard to see what you are doing wrong when your concentrating on riding and I thought it was about time I got some advice and who better than the guys & girls that are on the bikes day in day out who get intense training.
It was an early start to the day with a ride down to Dingwall, surprisingly cold with the sun just starting to burn off the Harr. Roads were quiet for the time of year but still some early rising motorhomes to contend with. Riding through the twists and turns of Garve I had the unpleasant experience of a bird strike which really did render all the cleaning I did on the bike the previous day pointless.
The Tenere was full when I left Ullapool but thought best to fill up again as was not sure how many miles we would be covering, another £10 just to top the tank up when that's what used to cost to fill the tank, sad days indeed. On a positive the sun was up and it was hot, very hot.
Arriving at the station i was welcomed by one of Scotland's finest and was great to see the variety of different bikes and riders that were here for the course. That is one of the things i love about biking is the range of different styles of bikes.
The course started with a presentation on what we would be doing and what we should be looking for when are out on the road. Some key points that took from this was how to better understand how far in front you can see potential hazards and preparing yourself in advance. We were broken into smaller groups and assigned a police officer and we got Ross, there would also be an IAM observer going between the groups.
Time to kit up and get on the bikes.
Have to admit i felt a little bit nervous, got flashbacks of taking my motorcycle test when hearing Ross giving instructions on the headset on where to go. We started off with a demo run where Ross led us out of Dingwall while using what we went over in the class and putting it into practise while we were riding, calling out potential hazards, using the landscape to see where the road direction is going etc.
After a quick stop and a check to see if everyone was good to go it was over to me to lead our group. Heading south down the A9 then onto a road route that I have never been down heading towards Cannich. What I found really interesting is how much that Ross was seeing that i was not, he was looking so far in advance while i was concentrating on what was in front of me. Ross commented on my positing being good but I was braking just before the bends when I could just be rolling off the throttle then back on it to keep the bike settled and taking his advice it did feel more smooth and controlled.
Checking mirrors and seeing a police bike takes a bit of getting used to as what I found later on is Ross changes his position a lot while observing.
A few miles on and the road started to get narrower and felt like we were in a tunnel with the vegetation. The road was quiet so making progress then round the next bend I found a cyclist struggling in the middle of the road lucky to be doing 5 mph and was a good lesson in itself not to panic and snatch the front brake. A few miles on and we pulled over for a quick debrief and to swap rider positions. I then went 2nd and had the IAM observer behind me and off went heading to Cannich. It was getting very warm in the textiles, very warm indeed.
Following riders in front its easy to get sucked into doing just that and following them instead of concentrating on where you are meant to be in the road. What was interesting to see was Ross was changing his position for observing. After repeating the process so the three of us could get assessed we were back in Dingwall for a very much needed lunch break. Its hard work when its 26 degrees and your used to 15 degrees being a warm day.
It was good time to chat to the guys and girls who were doing the course, another thing I love about biking is the social side, made many good friends over the years through the bike. Was interesting to speak to a Blood Biker from the east coast and his experiences over the years. If you don't know Blood Bikers, they are groups of volunteers that build a network that courier not just blood across the NHS free of charge, they do a bloody great job (excuse the pun). What was clear was there where many different people there with very different capabilities on the bike but they all had the same goal to advance their riding.
Time to top up the tank again, another £10 to Tesco. I am one of those tank is almost empty when its nearly full, I'm paranoid I'm going to run out as I've been caught out before.
We switch up the positions again and i would be riding last this time and i was told this is a really good road, I had heard of it by a few guys on the east in the past but never manged to do it. Heading out of Dingwall and turning off the A9 onto the B9176 you feel like your right out in the country and a million miles away from the A9. The road is very good and great fun to ride, there are a few bends that could catch you out. Heading back back down you come to the viewpoint where we had our next stop and i managed to get a couple of photos, stunning views looking down to Bonar Bridge.
Heading in a loop then coming back onto the B9176 to head back to Dingwall I got a some good classroom examples of what other roads could do, a car decided to pull out of junction when they should have seen me coming and then a teenager with headphones in and head down decided to walk across the road then jump back when he finally noticed me heading towards him.
Back at the station we each had a chat privately with Ross who assessed us on the days riding and gave us constructive criticism on what we did well and what we could work on.
Biggest thing I took away from the day is the feeling that I wish I never left it 17 years before doing something like this and now I'm seriously considering doing some advanced riding courses with IAM.
Id like to thank Ross and the other officers and of course the IAM observer for their time and i would highly recommend that anyone who rides should consider it.
Find out more about the https://www.scotland.police.uk/what-s-happening/news/2022/april/rider-refinement-north-2022/
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