Should you be riding faster or slower post training?
One of the better-known studies into the effectiveness on motorcycle training asked about the behaviour and attitudes of riders who'd participated in a BikeSafe Scotland course. Although the responses indicated that in town, compliance with speed limits had improved and riding speeds had dropped, the authors were rather alarmed that to discover that once out of town, some riders were happy to ride at higher speeds than previously.
In fact, "the proportion saying they would ride at 10 or more miles above the speed limit on faster roads in non-built up areas also increased."
It's perhaps not surprising.
'Progress' - or the ability to get between A and B in less time than an 'ordinary' rider - has long been seen as a benchmark by which the ability of an advanced rider is measured.
And that's led to something of a conflict, as the study found.
Years ago, the advanced group I was briefly associated with required absolute compliance with lower limits, yet at the same time the national speed limit sign was referred to (only half-jokingly) as the "go like f***k' sign". Some members treated it accordingly.
That free and easy approach does seem to have changed. Back in 2018, the briefing for a BikeSafe course made it very clear that national speed limits would be complied with.
But there remains a tension between the idea that compliance with a speed limit is a necessary part of riding, and that we should be able to ride AT that limit if circumstances allow.
As recently as 2018, I was still told by a puzzled BikeSafe assessor halfway through my ride, that once out of town I wasn't "making the progress he'd expect of an advanced bike instructor".
And I regularly have debates on this page (www.facebook.com/survivalskills) about whether or not a rider needs to "make progress" as a routine outcome of 'advanced' riding, and if a rider who chooses to 'go with the flow' on any particular road can be considered 'advanced'.
Progress revolves around the twin topics of speed and overtaking, so let's explain what I hope to see at the end of one of my training courses given that my training focuses on hazard awareness and risk management as much as skills.
In the case of a rider who was a bit lacking in confidence in use of speed, what I'd hope to see by the end of the session is the ability and decision to use more speed on stretches of road where there are no reasons to keep the speed down.
Conversely, when a rider turns up who is a bit too quick in some places, I'd hope to see a reduction in speed in locations where there is a significant risk that a sudden stop might be needed.
In other words, I'm looking not just for the ability to get from A to B in less time, but a nuanced approach to the use of speed.
Overtaking is by far and away the most dangerous open road manoeuvre we make on a motorcycle. Why? Because compared with the number of junctions and bends we negotiate, we don't actually make that many overtakes.
But overtaking errors kill at least as many riders as crashes involving cornering errors or rural junction collisions.
My theory on overtaking is that we shouldn't be searching for places we COULD overtake, but for reasons we SHOULDN'T overtake.
There's some sound reasoning for this.
In the first instance, if we get it wrong, we're going to find ourselves in big trouble, and struggling to get out of it. In the second instance, we simply look at a missed overtaking opportunity and say "oh well, there will be another along in a moment".
Put bluntly, an overtaking opportunity missed won't kill us. But mistakenly setting off into an overtake which isn't going to work is quite likely to.
So what about the rider who chooses NOT to 'make progress' when the opportunity allows?
That leads us straight to the million dollar question; "why do we NEED to demonstrate the ability to ride quickly and make as much 'progress' as the law and the road allows?"
We're not police riders on a call-out!
I was a motorcycle courier for many years, and although it was a job where getting from A to B without delay was usually of the essence, I found the job a far less stressful and tiring, and a lot more enjoyable when I backed off a bit and stopped trying to get from A to B as fast as I possibly could.
Crucially I also learned that easing off the speed meant fewer mistakes; the tortoise really does arrive ahead of the hare on many occasions!
Now I'm an instructor, there are occasions when I have some fun in 'attack mode', yet I also get a lot of pleasure from ambling along and looking at the sights of the countryside and towns I'm riding through. On my recent BikeSafe assessment, I was on a road that was new to me, and I was enjoying the ride at an easy pace.
And THAT proved a conundrum that puzzled the BikeSafe assessor - he was looking for maximum progress over the route.
But - and this is the crux - just because my speeds are low, it doesn't mean I'm any less alert to hazards, or bothering to manage risks.
As he said, there was nothing wrong with my hazard awareness or risk mitigation strategies, I just wasn't riding at the pace he expected BETWEEN the hazards, and that meant - according to his criteria which prioritised 'progress' - that it wasn't an advanced ride.
My take on that is that IF certain other conditions are met - hazard awareness, risk assessment and risk mitigation - then YES, a rider who doesn't look for every single opportunity to push on, but simply goes with the flow CAN - and indeed SHOULD - be considered 'advanced'. All I ask is that the rider isn't so slow, that he or she creates a rolling road block and impedes following traffic.
Over the years I've been offering Survival Skills courses, I've met many riders who feel much the same as me - that they want to enjoy riding at THEIR pace, and not be forced to ride to meet someone else's idea of how fast they should be going.
So if you're looking for a course that will genuinely improve your riding, but at a pace that suits you, then why not give me a buzz?