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  • August 01, 2021 3 min read

    Why, when modern bikes are so reliable and inherently safer would anyone take the IAM Advanced Test on a 60’s classic bike?

    I’ve been riding since 1980 when I was trained at Ruxley Comprehensive School in Ewell by a couple of cool young rockers on old BSA Thunderbolts. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to ride many British and Italian classic bikes my favourite being a 1982 900SS Bevel Ducati with a Verlicchi race frame before being lucky enough to get my current BMW R1150GS Adventure and joining LAM.

    The LAM car park includes many lovely new models with rider aids developed for safety and ease of use such as automatic clutches or quick shifters, traction management and brakes that work.

    My challenge was to see if The Advanced Test could still be passed on a basic classic bike.


    Meet Brenda:

    I inherited a Triumph T120R 1967 from my dear uncle in 2007, which was sent down to Peter Palmer’s in Somerset for a full engine and gearbox rebuild. During this time late at night in his garage the Triumph ‘suggested’ to Peter that her name was Brenda. Peter receives the name from most Triumphs he works on, from Betty to Madge always a female name. Peter’s a top engineer and very passionate about the bikes he’s worked so hard on.


    Changes for The Test included:-

    • Recalibration of the speedo was not very successful. With its bouncing needle not reliable below 40mph therefore a GPS bicycle speedo was used in The Test
    • LED indicators were used from Motogadget
    • Halcyon 820 Bar End Mirrors
    • Michelin Pilot Activ Tyres
    • Red and white tape on the tank badges to remind me at crucial moments that gears are on the right
    • Replaced the battery as the first indication was the horn stopped working – all OK once battery changed
    • Sooty Spark plugs changed and was confused to see that the gaps were not the standard 0.025”. Later found this was because when a Boyer Bransden Ignition and Power Box are fitted the gap can easily be 0.035” Brenda was much happier
    • Checked fluids, tappets, tickled carbs and she was ready

    Thanks to Jon Taylor, my IAM Examiner, who joined me on his wife’s Triumph T100.

    At the end of the test I wanted confirmation that Brenda, 1967, was the oldest bike Jon had ever tested for the IAM.

    No, there were a couple of guys on early 60’s BSAs and one chap on a 1950’s Harley

    4th place for Brenda and me then!

    1930,'s / 40's Velocette KSS anyone?



    Would I want to encourage people, like my two sons, to ride bikes without disc brakes and modern tyres in the IAM Test – NO!!!!

    One of the most dangerous manoeuvres was the 3 stage overtake. Catching the vehicle in front before matching their speed… then pulling out and dispatching them was just about possible on Brenda, but was it safe to be less than 2seconds behind a car on a bike with drum brakes and having the power to quickly accelerate past? This is so much easier, refined and safer on my BMW R1150GS, because it has the instant power to get me out of a potentially dangerous situation without having to wind it up and thrash it.

    Classic bikes are a lot of fun and I really respect the riders of the older bikes who passed The Test, but they are a lot braver than me!

    I’m relieved there are modern bikes in our car park.

    Even my local mechanic who specialises in classic bikes said for the IAM Test ‘you’ll need a proper bike for that’

    Julian Clark


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