Forty years ago I'd be looking out through this window onto a car park spotted with oil stains from the leaking crankcases of British bikes, and watching the early morning traffic battle its way along the North Circular Road. BSAs, AJS, Nortons, and Triumphs would be lined up in rows outside, crankcases and exhaust systems gently pinging as they cool down, while their riders have a quick fag or pop inside for beans on toast and a mug of tea. It was a time of back leather and denim, Cromwell helmets and aviator goggles, white scarves, and socks turned over the tops of boots.

Nowadays, the three-lane dual-carriageway that's the new North Circular is hidden in a cutting so that you can't see the grid-locked traffic, and the old North Circular is relegated to being a service road. My plastic-sheathed Japanese bike looks strangely out of place on the clean surface of the Ace Cafe car park, parked amongst the Volvos and Audis of the early morning executives and salesmen that have stopped for a cappuccino and a croissant whilst making calls to clients and prospects on their mobile phones. In the background, American Rock 'n' Roll music comes from loudspeakers in the cafe, lending a somewhat surreal air to this mixture of 21st century living and 1960s nostalgia.

However, I'm not here to take in the atmosphere and reflect on the social changes that have pervaded our society, but to spend a day with the Metropolitan Police on their Bikesafe course. They've been running these courses for a couple of years now, both here at the Ace Cafe and from their sports club at West Wickham in Kent, with the purpose of making motorcycle riding in London both a safer and a more enjoyable experience. Not that many of us would chose London for the ideal bike ride!

It isn't long before more bikes start arriving, including some of those big white Pan Europeans with the blue flashy light things on them and riders with High-Vis jackets, and by 8:45 were ready to start. Refreshments are grabbed and introductions made, and immediately it's clear that this isn't going to be one of those courses where you're going to have the information beaten into you with a big stick. Whilst safety is going to be right at the top of the agenda all the way through the day, the focus is also on the fact that motorcycling is fun and you can have fun on two wheels and be safe at the same time. All the officers involved in giving this course were motorcycling enthusiasts and ride thousands of miles each year just for fun when they're not on duty. They're not Police Officers who ride motorbikes, but motorcyclists that happen to be in the Police force. You might be surprised to learn that the guy on the Pan in the dayglo yellow jacket has an MV-F4 and a ZX10R in his garage!

With everyone relaxed we run through a number of presentations that cover the Police system of bike control, and how you can use it to your advantage to make safe and rapid progress, how to position yourself on the road and in traffic to get the maximum amount of information from any situation and then use it, when you can safely filter and when you shouldn't, and using the bike's acceleration to put a potential problem behind you. Then it's time to get out on the road and see if we can put this into practice.

The group is split into pairs and each pair is assigned a Police instructor. My instructor for the day is Brady Woodnick, and after a brief check over of our bikes and documentation, he gives us the outline of the route and how everything will work. One of us will lead off with Brady following and the other rider bringing up the rear. At the halfway stage we'll stop for a debrief, then swap places and head back to the Ace Cafe for a second debrief and an assessment of the whole ride. Then we set off with me bringing up the rear, on a 40 mile run that takes us out through the suburbs to South Mimms and Elstree on a variety of roads and traffic situations. At the halfway point we swap places and I manage to get us all back the the Ace Cafe with only a few prompts from Brady. The assessment of the ride is detailed and excellent and I'm pleasantly surprised at how well I've done. Given the fact that I passed my test back in the days when examiners carried clipboards and stepped out in front of you to check your emergency braking and I haven't had any additional training since, I don't appear to have acquired too many bad habits.

After an excellent lunch there are further presentations on bike control, security, and a rather chilling one on what happens when it all goes wrong, before we head off for a second assessed ride. This time the route takes us out to Denham, and once again we have a debrief at the halfway point before swapping places for the run back to the cafe. I certainly felt a lot more comfortable and relaxed on this second ride, so hopefully some of what had been discussed and practiced during the day had begun to work on me. However, I have to admit that there's nothing like riding with a Police motorcyclist to make other road users back off and give you space. It's a cross between having you own personal guardian angel and riding inside a protective force field.

Back at the Ace Cafe there's final debrief and presentations before we all head off home and hopefully use what we've learnt during the day as we battle through the Thursday evening rush-hour traffic on the North Circular Road.

The Bikesafe initiative is an excellent idea by the Police and no matter whether you've been riding for 30 years or thirty days, you'll get something out of one of these courses. You can find out what's available in your area by going to, or if you're close to London you can book a day on the Met Police's course at For £25 including lunch and refreshments this has to be the best value in road riding training that's available anywhere. However, be warned, some of the humour is dire!


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