How to improve your riding in one day | BikeSafe motorcycle training

Alex on the BikeSafe course in London

Have you completed any post-test motorcycle training? Led by Paul from the Met Police, Alex is off for a day with Bike Safe & Devitt Insurance.

You may have passed your test with flying colours, but it’s just as important to make sure you keep your skills in check - if not more important. Alex was off to a BikeSafe day in London, thanks to Devitt Insurance!

Whether you think you’re the next Rossi (or not), we all know that good riding skill is something built up over years, and certainly more than just twisting your wrist and hoping for the best. 

It’s an astonishing statistic, but 2% of road users in the UK are on two-wheels, yet 40% of road fatalities involve motorcyclists. Unfortunately, a number of these accidents happen when riding around like a knobber in the countryside when the sun comes out with nobody else involved, and motorcyclists are 62 times more likely to be involved in a serious & fatal accident.

So, taking a day to ensure your riding is up to scratch (whilst significantly improving your roadcraft skills in general) sounds like an extremely sensible thing to do. I’ve not personally completed any further training since passing my test, so it’s probably for the best I’m riding with the Police!

police motorcycles bike shed london

What is BikeSafe?

BikeSafe is the UK’s busiest dedicated advanced rider training service, with a whole force of expert police force riders whose day-to-day is teaching melts like me how to be a bit better on the road, and go on to consider further training (like the IAM and RoSPA courses). 

Priced at a very reasonable £65 for the day, and subsidised down from the £250+ it should cost, BikeSafe is a Police-led motorcycle training scheme with help from 36 Police force bikers around the UK. All aiming to deliver a day of advanced theory & riding, and led by a Police motorcyclist there to observe almost every move.

Post-ride you’ll get a written review on the 9 categories covered, complete with personalised recommendations for you to go away and work on, and an overall rating scale ranging from A through to D. 

This written post-ride review is perfect to refer back to if you’ve picked up any bad habits since first getting your licence, but crucially being able to raise any questions about your riding during the day to be safer on the road is invaluable. 

What do I need?

You’ll need to turn up on your own bike, and will need to have your own insurance, riding gear and licence with you on the day - plus making sure your bike is full of fuel and roadworthy.

Other than that, just turn up!

Speaking of your own bike, you should also get some money off a Devitt Insurance policy with the certificate that comes through by email a few days afterwards, always a welcome bonus!

It was another day out with Verity, she was washed and clean, full of juice, and ready for a day in the sun. Now if you’re wondering what I’m on about, ‘Verity’ is my current long-termer - the Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE Grand Tourer - and you can read the first review here. I’m falling a bit in love. 

school day training at bike shed with bikesafe

Anyway, moving on.

Ahead of me was a day of riding with a police officer watching my every move, and to begin with that’s just as nerve-wracking as you’d think, but you soon get used to it… sort of. Best behaviour, Alex!

Early start, back to school

After an early start, I was at the Bike Shed in London for 8:30 am. First up (after a coffee) were some theory modules for about an hour with a presentation, videos & light module work - though you have a few to watch online at home before you turn up. 

These modules (covering topics like cornering, overtaking, group riding etc) are to get everyone on the same page, and somewhat reframe your approach to riding properly (ie safely). 

Once that was done, you’re paired up with your Met Police rider, and have a quick chat about your riding background and if there’s anything in particular you want to get out of the day. For me, it was looking at filtering and improving my lane positioning decisions - living out in the sticks for a good few years, I didn’t tend to encounter much traffic!

bikesafe motorcycle

Road ride with Paul

We were heading north-east out of London towards Finchingfield, on a route that covered all types of riding (filtering in the city, town bits, and countryside routes). 

Paul was my assigned ‘tutor’ for the day. Top guy, knows his stuff and how to communicate that to you, and is obviously far more skilled on two wheels than most. I suppose that's a given if you're in that position at the Metropolitan Police, years of training and expertise under his belt.

To figure out where you’re going, you have to keep an eye in your mirrors for a combination of hand waves & indicates from your rear-gunner - there’s no intercom, so if it’s a complicated few turns in town, they’ll briefly take the lead and you follow.

To be honest, I’d say I did well overall. Certainly came away feeling like I improved my riding tenfold in just a short space of time with Paul. The day will vary from rider to rider, but for me it was a chance to enjoy some top roads and get a few tips to improve my riding.

Fortunately, I had top-tier training when first jumping on two wheels, so a much-deserved shoutout to Jim at CamRider. You could say he gifted me all the tools to keep up good riding habits - which this BikeSafe workshop is just adding to!

Realistically that’s what it all comes down to, having the right tools and attitude to riding safely, and ultimately more confidently. Those ‘advanced riding’ tools are (for the most part) you observing what’s around & ahead, reacting accordingly, and really trusting your own judgments with the tools you've learnt from these training days (particularly on a group ride).

Tips, and what I need to improve!

Bits I were told to focus on were mostly down to my use of speed - like carrying a bit too much speed into a 30 mph area, which admittedly is a risky manoeuvre with a bright yellow police BMW right behind you. But even things like using a lower gear in some corners to give you that bit more control, and remembering to make use of bus lanes to filter past (where you can legally).

Most common tip for the average rider from Paul? Keep on top of your observations. Whether that’s reading the road furniture and adjusting your momentum accordingly, or just riding with your brain switched on. That car on the crest of the hill has its brake lights on, and the road disappears into trees? Slow down, cowboy! Etc etc.

Verity the Versys

The beauty of the day is simply that it’s tailored to you as a rider. If you have a particular area you want to work on, let your ‘tutor’ know and they’ll address it with feedback during your ride, stopping regularly on the route to give you a chance to digest it all.

It’s not often you get the chance to substantially build your riding skills at such a good price, and I came away with a noticeable improvement in my riding ability and understanding of bettering my roadcraft - every day is a school day, after all.

All in all, I highly recommend going for it. Whether it’s just for a brush up on your skills after no training for over a decade, a confidence boost after any road incident, or just an excuse for a ride - BikeSafe has certainly got the Visordown stamp of approval. 

You may well just come away wanting to learn more - at which point you can consider the other further training options out there. 

At the end of the day, the sheer improvement in your own skill and confidence is worth the price alone, while the certificate with the potential for a discount on your insurance with Devitt is a nice bonus.

metropolitan police

Cheers to Paul, cheers to Bike Safe London, cheers to Devitt Insurance. Oh, and cheers to Bike Shed - the coffee there is mega, and it’s a biker cafe haven.