Take your skills to the next level.
The texts are the same, the syllabus is the same, so what more are we expecting from you in the Advanced Plus? We are still riding to the four Ss. That means your ride should be safe, systematic, smooth and appropriate progress (speed) made. The difference between this level and the IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider test is the length of the test in terms of time and distance and the level of consistency expected. You must continually concentrate and give your ride your full attention. You must ride every situation according to The System, as if you had never ridden on those roads before.
The Solent Advanced Plus is also about developing your riding positions so they become second nature and are adopted naturally without conscious thought. This only comes from a total passion for your riding and ensuring that every time you ride, you ride to the highest standard. (Riders often ride to two standards, one standard to pass a test or give a demo ride and another when no one’s watching, where they slip back into bad habits.)
The rides you will be doing in this intensive course will provide you with opportunity to ride on roads you might not have seen before. They will be challenging at times and have been carefully selected to help in your continuing development as an advanced rider.
To get the most out of these sessions, it is essential that you practice in between – several hundred miles of quality practice and before your test date, 30-40 miles per day. Treat the observed rides as a master class to fine tune your own rider development.
Rider development points that come out of Solent Advanced Plus training
Over 100 people have taken training with us at this level. There are some common themes around implementing The System that reoccur as they prepare, so if you are aware in advance of what they are, you will know what you might need to work on in your ride.
To take all the information you need to make effective riding plans, you have to scan. Scan all the way to the horizon and then back, taking in more of the periphery as you get closer to where you are, and then scan your mirrors, including any blind spot check if required, and then back to the horizon again.
Be constantly curious: Ask yourself what’s happening? Where does the road go? What do the clues mean? If that is happening, what is going to happen next? Link information as it presents itself to events that may transpire. Plan accordingly on the basis of what you can see happening and what can reasonably be expected to happen. Grade hazards in your mind and don’t over react to those hazards that are not an immediate threat to you. Note the hazard, recognise that it may develop, but don’t make unnecessary adjustments to position or speed that might upset the smoothness and progress of your ride. The ethos of the ride is, “Expect to go, be prepared to stop.”
On the approach to junctions, collect information early. Don’t wait until you are at the Give Way line to start looking; plan early and adjust your speed on approach, then you may not have to stop or put a foot down at all. This is one area where significant progress can be made in a ride without the need for higher speeds. However, safety is paramount. Ensure you have sufficient view before the line, otherwise you will have to stop to get one.
Give information where useful to other road users, but don’t use signals by rote. Acknowledge courtesy with a wave of a hand, if appropriate, especially where your positive positioning to maintain your safety bubble has caused another driver to hold back.
You are riding a motorcycle, not driving a car. This gives you a huge advantage in being able to position for better view and therefore earlier information, which you then use to make riding plans to make progress!
While we moderate positioning for safety, e.g. in the face of oncoming vehicles, or stability, e.g. where the edge of the road has potholes or debris, most riders can still make far more use of the full width of their side of the road, especially in planning for corners and overtakes while in the National Speed Limit area.
Position early for bends to give maximum view, where the view is available; if you can already see through the bend you are in, position for a view through the next bend where there are a series of bends. Keep your head up and your chin out. Constantly ask yourself, “Where is the exit? Where is the limit point going?” Look for all the clues and use them to transition smoothly to the next best position.
Position early for possible overtaking opportunities; you can assess a vehicle and the way it is being driven on your approach to it. There is no need to hang back in a following position for a while, and then move up. Move up, assess and be prepared to overtake, but then drop back without committing yourself if it is not on. Make sure you are fully familiar with the way the 3-stage overtake works. Practice it and gain confidence in the safety margin it provides. The riders who have the most problems with overtaking are the “safe” riders who lack confidence, but eventually give in to frustration and then commence an overtake that genuinely isn’t safe!
On the approach to hazards, think position first and then speed; on many occasions you can avoid the need for a speed adjustment by a change in position and planning a different route through or around. The speed adjustment that follows will likely then be moderate – a slight relaxation of the throttle, as opposed to heavy use of the brakes – and you will be able to see better through the hazard.
IAM RoadSmart Solent can’t advocate that you break the law while training with us, so don’t ask us questions you don’t want to hear the answer to in regard to speed! Your ride is your responsibility and it’s your licence. Making progress is about so much more than maximum permitted speed; it’s primarily about processing information faster and planning, taking advantage of opportunities that you would have otherwise have missed.
If you make your brain work faster on the Information phase and position earlier, the additional progress will come automatically. This is what we are looking for at this level, the “quiet efficiency that is the hallmark of an advanced rider”.
The System for many riders falls down in respect of their use of gears. In the same way that position should be considered before speed, speed should be considered before a change in gear. It’s “brakes to slow and gears to go!”.
You should always be riding in a gear that gives you the required degree of flexibility of control for the speed you are doing. This is about using the appropriate gear to aid acceleration/deceleration in any given situation. However, do be clear in your mind on the distinction between this desirable use of gears and the unwanted use of gears for braking.
Using “engine braking” only works on the rear wheel, which is the least efficient wheel to brake on at speed. Your bike’s weight is transferred towards the front wheel under braking reducing traction at the back wheel! There’s a reason why bikes come with two big brake discs on the front and only a smaller one at the rear.
Gears are a tool for acceleration; refrain from unnecessary intermediate gear changes on the approach to a hazard until you know which gear you will be using to accelerate through the hazard. Use brakes to slow on approach and once you have reduced speed as far as you need to, come off the brakes and block-change one, or maybe two, gears down to the gear you need to accelerate away. If smoothing out gear changes with the throttle (blip-throttle changing) is something you struggle with, practise it. It’s an essential art to making progress.
Many people still have an urge to get through as many gears as they can in as short a time as possible. They then use too high a gear while riding. Most bikes will give you much better control in bends where engine revs are at or just below 50% of red line. So, if your red line is around 9,000 rpm, consider cornering in a gear that provides 4-5,000 rpm. But, once you are travelling at the desired speed, you will be expected to demonstrate confidence and eco-riding by relaxing the engine and taking a higher gear on the straights. Don’t ride around in 3rd gear all the time as if your bike was an automatic!
The guidance on acceleration out of hazards is that it should be progressive, by which we mean brisk. It should not, however, involve you pinning the throttle open wide as if you were doing a quarter mile on a drag strip! The throttle is a device that allows the engine to draw through more fuel and air to convert into energy that gives the power required for speed. The process isn’t instant. The amount of throttle applied does not have a direct relationship, in the moment, with the amount of acceleration you get. Get a feel for how your bike performs with differing amounts of throttle applied during acceleration.
Lastly, the point at which you should begin to accelerate away from a hazard is at the point of no-return, i.e. where you are already traveling too fast to safely stop. So, do accelerate away through cross roads on the last few metres on the approach. Don’t demonstrate how good your hazard awareness is by slowing down in the middle of the hazard, especially a cross roads. That’s where you are most vulnerable and want to spend as little time as possible.
Understanding why you are riding in this way
Why do it? Why not just go out and bimble round the countryside admiring the views, the lambs and the flowers etc.? You ride this way because you aspire to be an advanced rider. You want to be able to make progress safely. And, ironically, in doing so your observation skills will be honed so that you’ll probably see more of the view than a bimbling rider anyway!
The full name for The System is The Police System of Motorcycle Control. Think about who it was developed for and why. Police need to be able to get from A to B as safely and as progressively as possible. They need a system that allows them to plan their way through hazards efficiently without fuss.
Progress should be the result of excellent information processing, advantageous positioning, appropriate use of speed, being in the right gear and accelerating briskly through hazards. In simple terms, think about the ride, look for a route through the hazards, take it and get on with it! Back to where we started. Expect to go, but be prepared to stop. It’s riding like a hot knife through butter, not a sledgehammer through a wall.
And above all else, we’re doing it because it’s ultimately safer, less tiring and more fun! What more could you ask for?