A common question, usually from new riders is this: "when should I take post-test or advanced training?" And a common response "when you have picked up some experience". But that's the wrong answer - we should always look for training when we need it!
What do you do if you’re a newly qualified rider and you realise you have a problem making the switch from the bike you learned on, to your new bike? What do you do if you've done nearly all your training in town and you find you're struggling on rural roads and not really riding corners well? What do you do if you're an experienced rider but have suffered a crisis of confidence?
Pop the question up on social media or on a bikers' forum and I can guarantee that many of the answers will be along the lines of: "wait till you have picked up some experience" or "why spend money when you can just keep riding and figure it out for yourself?".
Here's why. A problem is something that needs a solution. If we don't know how to solve solve it, how is simply riding around 'gaining experience' going to help?
The first thing to say is that whilst we're experiencing a problem with our riding - whatever the cause - we're at higher risk. So it really IS important to take riding issues seriously. Just because other riders will tell us how they "toughed it out" doesn’t mean they did the right thing.
It might be the cheap option to struggle on with your problems - at least until you decide biking’s not for you or you end up crashing the bike. Both of those outcomes regularly happen to riders who asked for help but rejected extra training. And even if we keep at it, we need to ask: "will that make for the enjoyable two wheeled experience we hoped for?"
Nope, it’s far more likely to be a tense and stressful time and riding will be far from fun because the chances are it'll takes us far longer to solve the problem for ourselves...
...if, of course, we ever do solve it. What many of those riders who talk about 'gaining experience' won't tell us is that there's a risk that for all their efforts, they never did sort out their problems. What often happens is that riders find a workaround, something that seems to have solved the problem but actually just hides it, or creates other issues in its wake.
Nor will we get more out of training “when you’re used to your bike”. And of course, if we delay training when we’ve got serious issues, there’s no guarantee we or the bike will actually still be in one piece after a month or two.
You may have been told to "get out there and practice, because practice makes perfect”. Well, actually it doesn't. It makes what we’re doing PERMANENT. So if we’re learning and using the wrong techniques, all practice does it make it bloody difficult to unlearn them, and start using the right approaches when we finally get round to asking for help. Get the help needed BEFORE falling into bad habits. That's when we’re most open to learning and the bad habits and workarounds aren't yet embedded in our riding.
Admitting we need help is nothing to be ashamed of. Basic training remains notoriously weak in dealing with open road cornering, and few trainees get any instruction on how to deal with overtaking on single carriageways. And when we think about just how badly things can go wrong in bends and when trying to pass other vehicles, it should be clear that absolutely the BEST TIME to fix existing problems and learn new skills is as soon as possible.
Another alternative often suggested by experienced riders to newly qualified riders is to head off to the IAM for training. I'll be frank - we need to be fully aware that the goal of the IAM is to get riders to pass the advanced test. Whilst they are undoubtedly good at that, what IAM observers are not so good at is fixing basic riding faults because they themselves simply don’t have either the training or the experience to cope. I regularly take on trainees who've tried the IAM first and haven't found a solution. My suggestion? Get the bespoke training FIRST, and then head to the IAM second.
Or - at the risk of triggering a loud chorus of “well, he would say that, wouldn't he” - we could tackle the problem by working with a properly qualified and experienced rider coach, one who can carry out an accurate assessment of our issues then deliver the INDIVIDUALISED and APPROPRIATE training that addresses our needs. And that's what Survival Skills Rider Training seeks to deliver. And when we know what we SHOULD be doing, THEN we practice the right thing, and with practice will come the confidence and finally the enjoyment of doing something well.
The final objection is cost. OK, it’s true the right tuition will have to be paid for but most riders will be spending twenty or thirty times the cost of a day's training on the new bike, and that's not even considering the cost of riding kit and insurance. Frankly, in terms of what it costs to get on the road, the cost of a training session - particularly if it saves a spill - isn't an expensive option! .
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HOW SURVIVAL SKILLS CAN FIX YOUR RIDING PROBLEMS? The fact is that I have a lot of experience of the problems of learning by experience! That's for two reasons. Firstly, it happens to be the way I learned to ride. That was in the days before it was easy to get on a decent training course. And secondly, since I became a rider coach, I have many years of problem-solving for riders - if you have a problem, there's a very good chance I've already fixed it for another rider. And finally, I even have a specific course to deal with these issue - it's the Confidence: BUILDER one- or two-day course. It's a 'fix-it' course, and rather different to my Ride4Fun or Ride2Work courses as there's no specific syllabus. Instead, with no formal assessment or test at the end of a course, the training is totally personalised. I take a look at your problem, we discuss your needs and I work out a course of training which addresses your specific issues.
So if you're looking for a course that will genuinely improve your riding AND FIX your problems and issues for good, then why not give me a buzz?