Observed rides - Skills for Life

Twist Grip – June 2016

Observed rides

Reporter: Phil Holt
Time & Location: Sunday, 10am The Steading, Edinburgh
Observer: Elliot Beattie
Associate: Daniel

On a warm late summer morning I decide to take a ride out with Elliot Beattie and his “Associate” Daniel.

This is one of a series of observed rides, where a qualified observer (Elliot) follows an associate rider (Daniel), on an agreed route and then provides feedback and advice at the end of the session. The Edinburgh & District Advanced Motorcyclists (EDAM) runs these year-round courses, called Skills for Life, aimed at helping improve the riding ability and safety of motorcyclists. It’s an advanced course of lessons, spanning 2-3 months, and at the end the Associate takes the Advanced test.

Daniel is a 20 year old student, studying computing, at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University. He’s been riding for two years and recently graduated from a 125 to a 600cc motorcycle. This is Daniel’s sixth lesson and things have been going well. The initial weeks concentrate on the basics of the IPSGA system and each subsequent week reinforces the principles as the rider gains confidence and approaches test standard.

It’s a great morning for a ride. The roads are quiet, the tyres are warm and the conditions are very good. We set off in convoy from The Steading car park and quickly join the Edinburgh City bypass, heading east towards Lasswade and Bonnyrigg. Elliot reckons the run will be about 25-30 miles and shouldn’t take more than fifty minutes.

The route provides a mix of fast dual carriageway, twisty B roads and suburban riding. For good measure we also stop off at a large and virtually empty Park & Ride on the outskirts of Edinburgh so that Elliot can take a closer look at Daniel’s slow riding skills.

The pace along the run is brisk, but always within the speed limits, and Elliot is keeping a keen eye on Daniel’s progress. This means looking at his general observation skills, road positioning, gear selection, acceleration and management of hazards. The general idea is to create a safety bubble.

Elliot has a good memory and back at the Steading over coffee he quickly recalls the points in the run where Daniel’s riding shows room for improvement, whilst acknowledging his areas of progress and strengths. All Observers have a video camera attached to the front of their bikes, and this provides an opportunity for Observer and Associate to review the key points of the ride.

Daniel is nearly test standard and Elliot suggests that he arranges for another Observer to take a second look at his riding before marking him as 'test ready’. If all goes to plan, then Daniel should be taking and passing his advanced motorcycle test within the next few weeks. 

The Skills for Life Program is free to under 29 year olds (conditions apply) and is an excellent program that matches experienced, trained volunteer observers with less experienced motorcyclists who are looking to improve skills and ride more safely.

I’m impressed with the time the volunteers give to this worthwhile cause and would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in riding more safely.

More details of the program >