Local IAM examiner Chris Smith, a Police Class 1 Motorcyclist and Motorcycle Instructor with Dorset Police explains the format of the IAM bike test and what you can expect.
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The IAM bike test is based on the IAM's manual 'How to be a better rider'. The format and nature of the test is well known to the local IAM groups and the group observers so you should have ample time and assistance in preparing for your test. Few people can prepare just from reading these books so you should seek the assistance of your local group when considering taking the IAM test.
The first thing to say is that there is no such thing as a perfect ride or rider. We all make mistakes and so the IAM test is not about producing a faultless ride, although that would be nice if you can manage it. It's about being able to demonstrate your skills and awareness as a motorcyclist ensuring that safety is the overriding factor in any situation. Minor mistakes are not only allowed but also expected and as long as they do not compromise your safety or that of another road user you won't fail for a being slightly out of position or making a late gear change.
The test itself lasts for around an hour and takes in all the roads and road conditions available in the county over about 35 miles. Your examiner will meet you at a comfortable location and over a cuppa explain the test, the route and what will happen. The test is not a navigation exercise and you won't be expected to remember the route given. The examiner will communicate the route via his indicators signalling well before any change of direction as to where he wants you to turn. This is purely telling you where to go and you will be expected to apply signals as part of your own planned approach.
Examiners are looking for something that sets your ride above the norm. The advanced rider should be aware of what's going on around them and deal with all situations in a calm and professional manner. They should be travelling in the right position at the right speed with the right gear engaged at the right time. When faced with traffic or slower moving vehicles they should look to make safe progress and exploit the advantages of speed and flexibility they have as bikers. They should not be surprised by what is happening in front of them, rather look to react early and use advanced observations to formulate a riding plan. Plan the ride then ride the plan.
The IAM is a safety organisation and as such cannot condone any speeding or contraventions of road traffic laws. Riders will be expected to not only know what all signs and road markings mean but comply with them fully. They will also be expected to overtake traffic where it is safe and possible within the set limits as this is a key riding skill and allows the advanced rider to make progress.
Finally there will be a slow riding element to the ride either out on the route if traffic and circumstances allow, or back in the car park in the form of a simple figure of 8 manoeuvre.
Above all try and relax. It's impossible to really enjoy a test, but the mark of the advanced rider is that they are not fazed by circumstances and can ride to an advanced level regardless of time, weather and traffic. If it rains, we will still go ahead. And don't forget your licence and bike documents that need to be checked along with your eyesight before we set off on the test route.
The IAM badge is not easily won, and nor should it be. It stands for riding at a level most people can only aspire to and marks the successful candidate as a rider of above average ability and skill. If you earn it you can wear it with pride.
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