There's a policeman following you, mate!

by Dick Henneman


Er yes, I know, thanks very much. He's on a big white Pan European with blue flashy light things, he's wearing a bright yellow overjacket, and his name's Howard. I'm at the National Bikesafe Weekend at Gaydon in Warwickshire, and I'm having my riding assessed by a Class 1 Police motorcycle rider.

bikesafe logoEstablished in 2000 as a multi-agency approach to promoting motorbike safety, Bikesafe was set up as a cooperative venture between the four police forces of Warwickshire, the City of London, North Wales and Northern Ireland, together with Black Horse Motorcycle Finance, and members of the motorcycle industry and dealers. Now, three years on, some twenty five police forces have joined the original four to extend the scheme to cover most of the UK.

My days of tests and exams are long past, and when I got my bike licence the examiner walked along the pavement with a clipboard in his hands while I rode around the block. Consequently, as we head out of the Heritage Museum site and head north up towards the M40, I don't mind admitting that I'm a tad nervous, and for the first couple miles I spend a little too much time looking at this big white thing that seems to be filling my mirrors, to see what it's up to, rather than the road ahead. This doesn't do a lot for my riding!

But hang on a moment - he's not there because he's going to book me (I hope) - he's there to tell me what's wrong and maybe what's ok with my riding. So the best thing is just to ignore him (not as easy as you think) and get on with the riding. Settle down, watch the road ahead, look for the visual clues and just ride normally. The rest of the 10-mile run up to junction 15 of the M40 is pretty uneventful, and we circumnavigate the roundabout and head back to Gaydon. Now for the debriefing.

I think that most of us are mature enough to acknowledge that we never get everything right on a ride, and there were certainly a couple of instances on the 20-mile journey where I could have done better. Not enexpectedly Howard's spotted my errors as well, and we have a good chat about what went wrong and why, and how to try and prevent such things happening in the future. But at the end of the day it's encouraging, some would say surprising, to hear that in all those years of riding without any formal instruction, I haven't picked up too many bad habits. I'm declared safe with good awareness of what's going on around me.

To round things off, I pick up a discount voucher for an insurance quote, a video, and details of the Bikesafe organisation and their skills training workshops. These workshops sound like a pretty good idea. Held over weekends throughout the year, the first half of Day 1 is a classroom session covering motorcycle roadcraft, security and first aid. Then after lunch it's out on the road for assessed rides with one instructor/observer per two students. Day 2 is all assessed riding. The whole weekend costs £80 including lunch and refreshments, covers around 300 miles of assesed riding, and has got to be about the best value in road riding instruction on the planet. More information on the Bikesafe initiative and booking forms for the Skills Workshops can be found on


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