For those thinking I am going to talk about this (and how it looks remarkably similar to this), you are about to be sorely disappointed.

Over 2 1/2 years ago I started riding a motorbike.  It was on my todo list for a long time, and after moving to Belfast I bit the bullet and started lessons.  After the basic lessons, a CBT exam, manoeuvres test and on-road test were passed I purchased my CBF600.  Since then I have put over 14k miles on the bike involving a lot of short runs and a few longer ones.  Doing all these miles presented four interesting observations.

  1. I never realised how bad car drivers could be, until I started riding a motorbike.
  2. If I rode a motorbike the way I rode a car when I was 21, I would be dead.  I enjoy riding a bike.   I have no interest in dying.
  3. After you pass the motorbike test you have basic skills.  And I mean BASIC.  It’s nowhere near enough to drive effectively or safely.
  4. Watching riders like my brother, Bill Buchan, Tim Clark, or even talking bikes with Steve McDonagh and Sean Cull, I realised I don’t know dick about bikes. (not forgetting the lotusphere hog riders too).

So at the start of the Summer I began research on more advanced biking techniques. Enter the Institute of Advanced Motorists.  This course (and subsequent exam) is aimed at upping your game to becoming a safer and more progressive (read: faster) rider.  You sign up to the Institute, pay your very small fee and you being your training.  If you pass the test, there is a side benefit of having significantly discounted insurance in future, or you will need to get it online at sites online as One Sure Insurance.

My training was hosted by adelaide insurance in Belfast.  They scheduled nights where you are followed and assessed by certified observers and they beat you into shape.  These guys stick to you like glue on the road, watch every move you make and cajole you to ride better, safer and typically faster.  They want you to get better.  They work around your schedule and observers even met me when it suited me to help me get ready for the test.

From an abysmal start in May I slowly got better until they decided I could put in for the exam.  Last night, I took it.  Think back to your driving test all those years ago.  Yeah.. it was as stressful as that but advanced.  The relief when I heard the sentence “I am pleased to tell you you have met the required standard….” was incredible.   The best line of the night when I was finished?  The examiner reminding me that “You are not an expert now.  Don’t ever consider yourself an expert.  It will be a learning experience until you never ride again”.  Noted.

I cannot recommend this course and exam enough.  No really, I can’t.

The strangest thing about all this expert training and examination was the cost.   There is a cost to join the IAM.  It’s not much.  After that, all these hours of education and practical skills transfer?

Free.  They wouldn’t take money.  Adelaide Insurance paid for all of it.  Even if you were not a customer.  They didn’t try to sell insurance to me once.  All they want to do is promote safe riding and driving.   No catch. No obligation.

What did I do?  I moved my insurance to them.  Of course I did.


  1. sean cull Said,

    September 27, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

    Well done Paul.
    For anyone else in the uk and ireland there are hundreds of IAM groups around the country. The course is £139 at most. I reckon that is about £10 an hour.

    I’ve seen a lot of people go through the course and they have all benifited hugely. In some cases it also give partners the confidence to go pillion behind the improved riders.

    You can do taster trials with most groups and sometimes the police.

    This is my group (excuse the web site) http://www.slambikers.co.uk

  2. Bill Buchan Said,

    September 28, 2011 @ 7:30 am

    I dunno where you get the impression that I’m a good rider.. I’ve done IAM in the car – significantly easier than the bike. You don’t get wet. So I tend to ride very defensively (AKA slow)..

    I’ll hav to do the IAM Bike course next year now. Something that was on my bucket list for a very long time, but you’ve shamed me into it. If you can do it in the rain…


    —* Bill

  3. Jason Hook Said,

    September 28, 2011 @ 10:33 am

    Congratulations Paul!

    Very impressed with your insurance company!

    I’ve started cycling again and now see all other road users as the enemy and assume they are all out to kill me. Some have gone on to try :-)

    I was once a IAM member and an observer. I found working toward the advanced test was a really worthwhile investment in my own road safety. Knock on effects are lower insurance premiums, lower maintenance costs that come with driving more sympathetically.

    I fell out of love with the IAM and felt ROSPA’s emphasis on re-testing and grading was likely to promote long term road safety.

    Must get back on the wagon. Have bought the latest Roadcraft and the Highway code. A lot has changed since I last read either of them….

  4. sean Cull Said,

    September 28, 2011 @ 4:01 pm


    it is very easy to fall out of love with IAM the intitution – its upper ranks have traditionally attracted a certain type of person and that has shaped the organisation.

    Many of the members and local organisers on the other hand are brilliant and the ride outs for people who have already passed are good for polishing skills.

    As you know becoming an observer takes it to a whole new level again because you have to understand the stuff to teach it ( I passed without really appreciating “the system” fully )and you have to ride to a much higher standard so as not to endanger your associate.

    There is also a higher level exam that is along the lines of the police rider exams without the pursuit element :-(

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