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  • April 01, 2023 4 min read

    As an IAM Motorcycle Examiner I was invited to attend the recent KAMG Observer Conference and expressed a view that Motorway riding was the weakest part of the ride of many of the Associates I had examined over the last few months. So much so that, a number of riders who would have been awarded a F1rst pass, missed out because of their riding on sections of the M25.

    I have witnessed the following rider behaviours;

    1.  Entering the motorway using the left hand on-slip lane of 2, to be then held up by slower moving vehicles.

    2.  Moving out to lane 3, in 3 separate manoeuvres, even when this could be done in one neat move.

    3.  Riding closer than I would have liked to have seen or would do myself.

    4.  Relatively late changing of lanes.

    5.  Positioning in a lane, putting the rider near to overtaking traffic, neglecting the Bubble of Safety advice.

    6.  Little or late use of indicators and shoulder checks.

    7.  Moving to nearside lanes after an overtake, then almost immediately moving back to the original lane again – very much a DVSA style of manoeuvre.

    8.  Moving to ride in lane 1 as soon as the mile marker prior to a junction turn off is seen – leading to riding at 55mph with HGV’s catching us up.

    I should clarify that this was not on just one single test (which most certainly would have been a test fail!) but witnessed over the course of a number of tests. I should explain that this is not just viewing Associate riders from KAMG. I have been allocated Associates from a number of local groups.

    So, what’s going on? It would appear to be a lack of emphasis on Associate rider assessment/training/coaching on Motorway type roads. Most time is usually spent on countryside, national speed limit roads, as this is the skillset that is usually lacking – it’s also more fun! Having been an Observer for 25 years or so I have probably been guilty of exactly the same behaviour. Thinking back, I used to initially check test my Associate on a fast road and if this was satisfactory move on to the more “important” areas of training!

    So, what should we be doing? The following is only my personal view put in my own words, but is backed up by the Advanced Rider Course (ARC) handbook and Roadcraft. Any advice is always tempered by the caveat “It all depends”! Have a look at the Motorway Tips and Hints chapter if you don’t believe me.

    Most importantly good (early) Observations, Anticipation and Planning (OAP) are vital. After all, 70 mph sees us covering 102 feet per second – approx. 34 yards/31 metres every second.

    My advice/suggestions to resolve the issues 1 to 8 above are as follows:

    1.  If the on-slip has 2 lanes, I would tend to use lane 2 – it generally has the faster moving vehicles and fewer HGVs. But good observations will tell you this early.

    2.  This comes back to early OAP, and intention.

    3.  Everyone knows the “2 second rule” but few actually realise (or can vocalise) how far a gap this means. At 70 mph we are talking about 60+ yards/metres or 14 car lengths! In fact, the ARC suggests a 3 second gap may be more appropriate – 21 car lengths or 90+ yards/metres. WOW.

    4.  Back to OAP. I know that some of us use the following exercise to encourage early planning. Set your cruise control (car or bike) to 70 mph. Then try to journey without altering the speed setting and see how far you get. It’s not easy but makes you realise how early we should be using OAP.

    5.  I am just going to say “Bubble of Safety”, bearing in mind that at 70 mph we are going to be overtaken by faster moving vehicles. Plan for it.

    6.  Give signals early and in time for others to appreciate them before manoeuvring. I try to allow 4/5 indicator flashes before moving. Shoulder checks used to be called “Lifesavers” for a good reason. Use them, particularly when changing lane.

    7.  This does not happen when passing a series of parked vehicles with gaps in between. Why do it on a fast road when every change of lane is a potential risk. Stay in lane if you are going to be overtaking another vehicle up ahead – although this depends on how far ahead and the pressure of other vehicles behind!

    8.  A mile warning gives us a nearly a minute to plan our exit. ARC suggests being in the nearside at the 300 yard marker, consider an indicator signal (be aware of the self- cancelling variety) and then use the exit lane to decelerate.

    Have a chat with your Observer if you are still in training. They can Explain. Demonstrate. Imitate. Practice. Assess and Consolidate. Otherwise get out on a motorway near you and practice on the bike. Have fun but ride safe!

    Ian Burchell - IAM Motorcycle Examiner and National Observer Assessor


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