Way back in history, almost three years ago in fact, I did an assessed ride with Lothian and Borders Police under their bikesafe initiative.
At the time they called me up to fit me in with a run from Peebles, which at the time was a bit of an experience as I had to find my way all the way from Livingston near where I live to Peebles in the Scottish Borders. At the time I didn’t get along to their theory night but just did the assessed ride.
Wind on a bit and I asked to see if I could get along to the Theory Night as they had a new nationally produced DVD showing some of the situations bikers get themselves in to. I emailed in and Dougie Jamieson the bikesafe coordinator suggested tagging along. Although I only planned to get along to the theory night, I got signed up for a ride assessment too. I must admit to feeling a little guilty as I’ve done a fair bit of work on my riding towards advanced and didn’t know how I would benefit – but I couldn’t resist an opportunity to get out with a serving police officer on a police motorcycle.
So myself and another guy from Livingston (Keith?) pitched up at Fettes HQ of Lothian and Borders Police for a ride with Neil Crozier of the Motorcycle Section. First bit was form filling (you’re in charge of your own vehicle yada yada) then checking insurance, MOT (for my bike – Keith’s was nice shiny new).
Then radios went on and we waited for Neil to turn up on his company bike – a Yamaha FJR1300 as converted for the needs of the police – single seat, flashy lights etc.
The general format is that Neil follows one of us on the bike, has a chat, then follows one of the others of us, then he goes up front and the two of the others of us took turns to follow him describing what he was doing on the road.
So we headed out towards Craigiehall off the A90 which has a twisty road beside it, then stopped at the roadside in Kirkliston where Neil had a chat with Keith. Keith had passed his test the year before and had lots of good habits that he had retained, and also had great machine control – direct access these days is a lot better than the scheme I trained under. I listened in a little, though I didn’t want to impose as I felt that Keith had the most to get from the ride out. Neil was very good at highlighting the positive, highlighting a few work ons – very good at getting a rapport. From what was said at the Theory night Neil is up for his instructors course at Tulliallan, I think he will do well.
Then it was me out front (eek). And we headed West out of Kirkliston towards Winchburgh, then down the back road to Newton. This is quite a familiar route for me – in fact it overlapped with the route of my IAM Motorcycle Test which went in the other direction. So I chilled out and enjoyed myself, with a few of the pointers from my test debrief that I tried to build in. Straightlining for stability through visible bends, apexing for short twisties – got these in. And the debrief was good, one or two bits to work on – following distance when there was no chance of an overtake, going to the centre of the road when a corner had complete visibility – some of the road surfaces are a bit dodgy, but Neil paid me the complement of saying that it was difficult to say any more without knowing what was in my head – i.e. via a commentary. To think how far I have come on since my first BikeSafe is quite satisfying and a good checkpoint. It was a good encouragement to keep practicing and trying to improve and also to have fun!
So we headed back and Neil got up front on the company bike to show us how to do things and telling us over the radios what he was looking for and seeing, and all the things he was trying to do to increase his safety margin. So we headed back in to Edinburgh on the A90 to head back to Police HQ at Fettes. On the way in we got a few more city smells – it is typical to smell oil and diesel as the volume of cars and lorries etc travelling means more rubbish is spilled on the road. And bus lanes concentrate certain spills together in one place.
However as we headed along Hillhouse Road there was a persistent smell, and Neil had obviously noticed too as just as we went past the junction with Telford Road he told us that he would have to pull the car in front as it was spewing fuel. So on goes the flashing lights and the three (four! including the car) of us pull to the side of the road. And right enough, there was a line along the road that followed the path of the fiesta that had been pulled over. So I kept out of it, and Neil called his colleagues in Traffic to come along and help out, so we waited on them.
So a rather unique ending to a nice (but again short!) run in the evening even though it was wet and windy. I wish Neil Crozier all the best with his further training and hope that Lothian and Borders continue to find the funds to help give folks an idea of what advanced training can give motorcyclists – I’m not saying it is the only training that can help, but in terms of road skills it is one of the best developed and practiced schemes in the world.