On Sunday 18th November I sat my IAM advanced motorbike test.
Here’s my breakdown of the day:
The test was due to start at 10:30am in the car park of the Klondyke garden centre, Glasgow Road Stirling. I arrived just after 10 am having fuelled the bike at the service station just off the M9 – that was an expensive fillup, so anyone meeting at the same place, note there’s a petrol station immediately opposite the Klondyke which is far better value.
As I was parking my bike and contemplating doing some slow manoeuvring practice I spotted a black pan european pulling out of the petrol station opposite, and sure as fate, it was the examiner, David.
For anyone attending their first test, note that the examiner likes you to be there EARLY!!
After the introduction, checking documents, some highway code questions & eyesight check David gave me a very comprehensive pre-ride briefing.
The highway code questions covered what gaps to leave between yourself and the vehicle in front – in the dry, in the wet, and in icy/snowy conditions ; multiple warning signs on a single post – what order to read them in ; rules for double white lines ; where might a cyclist or a horse approaching a roundabout on the left of the carriageway be reasonably expected to be going to off the roundabout?
The briefing itself covered the planned route (too much info to remember), where David’s position might be relative to me, how he would signal for a turn, and he did his best to reassure me that he KNEW I would make a few mistakes here and there, but that the main thing was to demonstrate a safe, and advanced level of riding, to a consistent standard.
The route :
Left out of Klondyke (here I hesitated, but this wasn’t mentioned post test – the early test nerves get out card!) onto Glasgow road, right at mini roundabout onto Milton Road, continuing onto Morrison Drive (highly built up, lots of parked cars on both sides of the road, 30mph limit, was lucky if I reached 25mph at any point – post test debrief described this as an appropriate speed for the conditions). Left at r/bout onto A9 Bannockburn Road to St Ninians r/bout, straight across r/bout onto Borestone Crescent, past police station, past council offices, into right turn lane (I cancelled right turn indicator when I noticed a side junction, and put it back once I was passed it – commented as good observation/signalling) right at lights onto Wellgreen road.
Straight across Wellgreen roundabout following road round to Craigs roundabout. Here David wanted me to take the 2nd exit, but I saw his signal too late. If he’d signalled earlier I may have taken the 1st exit. As it was he beeped and continued on the A9 Burghmuir road, and it was too late for me to take that road, so I continued around the roundabout and then took that road (lifesavers aplenty, even though he couldn’t possibly see, but then that’s not the point!) – I caught him up at the traffic lights for the tesco(?) car park entrance, and he waved me passed. Up to 50mph, staying left as all the other traffic was definitely not sticking to that, and back down to 30 and onto Customs Roundabout, where we turned right, over the river.
The plan had been to turn left onto Cornton road, but the road was closed for roadworks, so we went straight on, continuing along Causewayhead road, the left at Causewayhead roundabout towards Bridge of Alan. Through Bridge of Alan and out the other end to the M9 roundabout and right, up the A9 dual carriageway to the first exit to Doune, left at the end of the slip road onto the A820, into Doune and left just before the monument, down George Street, and left onto the A84, and at some point, right…
Here I’m very hazy on the actual route – it did take in a road known locally as the Stirling Straights, but I have no idea what the actual route was!!!
The road had plenty of long straights, plenty of crossroads, and the odd 2nd gear corner. I overtook two large groups of cyclists and two cars. The first group of cyclists were drawing level with a set of small junctions off to the right, I waited until we were passed them then moved out to the far side of the road and passed them. A second group of cyclists further along were on a better section of road hazard wise, so I kept my speed down and passed on the far side, giving them as much space as possible. The two cars were miles apart, and were sitting in the low 50s speed wise. I had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate a full overtake system – nearside view, over take position, move out, then accelerate.
After I passed the 2nd car, David said it sped up, so he didn’t pass it for a while, I slowed until he had caught up.
We came back in Stirling on the A811, up Queens drive to the double mini roundabout – right and left, up Drummond Place and Victoria place, and left onto St Ninians Road, back past the council offices and a right at the lights down to the Craigs roundabout. Here David wanted me to go over onto the A905 Springbank road, but I was in the wrong lane. Again he beeped and went the correct way, I circled the roundabout and took the correct road – David was waiting a short distance on, waved me on and I continued on. We stayed on the A905 all the way through Airth to the BP station and holiday inn just beyond it where I pulled into the hotel car park for the debrief.
The debrief covered the route chronologically.
Learning points –
I could have given some parked cars a wider berth by moving into the opposing carriageway, as at that particular point there was no oncoming traffic.
At a minor junction there was a car waiting to pull out, I gave it a wide berth, but David felt that put me closer to another hazard – oncoming traffic – than the waiting car warranted. Not a fail, just a learning point.
I was a bit slow entering a few roundabouts, a combination of test conditions, and icy start to the day, and something that always plays in the back of my mind – the only motorbike crash I’ve ever had was on spilt diesel on a roundabout – my slow joining at roundabouts contributed to my progress score being 2 – without the slow roundabouts it would have been a 1. Still, better to be a bit too slow than to be too fast!
No need to be in the command position all the time – when there’s no other traffic around, and no other road features/hazards to define position, it’s not always essential to stay in the command position – clearly that’s my default position.
Good points –
Blind spot checks and road positioning. Excellent road positioning for junctions – clear where I was going and signal backed up the road position, good clear checks.
Progress – up to speed quickly, good overtakes, only let down by roundabouts
Cornering – good, but could change line earlier in the corner – he’d obviously like to see more ‘police lines’ – he’s got quite a good little diagram drawn out, which compares the different lines taken and goes into a lot of details of the IPSGA systems being applied to each line.
Overall, it was far from a flawless ride, but of a consistent standard that warranted a pass. The two times I missed the intended road at the Craigs roundabout, I wasn’t penalised, and a crazy lane change to get the road David wanted would probably have been an automatic fail.
Overall a very enjoyable route, plenty of interesting challenges, only one junction worth of dual carriageway, plenty of national speed limit work, varying limits, enough overtaking opportunities. All of which contributed to giving me plenty of opportunity to demonstrate my riding.
And that’s me, ‘recommended’ as a full member of the IAM!