I'm very pleased - and perhaps a little proud - that I've not only passed the regular tri-annual test to renew my RoSPA Diploma (which means riding to the Gold standard and then delivering a training session to the right level) but also qualified to deliver the BMF Blue Riband Rider Award. There's more about it on the official BMF website here.
For me, this is quite a big deal. I took my RoSPA Diploma in 2006 (I'd been a Gold holder for a few years) when I was production editor on Bike - a role that involved sub-editing copy. Now, contrary to what some writers will tell you, a sub's primary role isn't to remove the jokes until the copy fits on the page. The main thing a sub has to do is check the copy is safe to be published – getting it checked by a lawyer if it might be libellous. But a lawyer can't tell you anything about better-riding features, so I thought I should get qualified to be able to check copy against recognised best practice.
With the Diploma under my belt, I went on to help the local police deliver BikeSafe assessments and, when I moved to RiDE, did a number of fix-the-reader features over the years, helping people overcome issues with their riding – whether that was difficulty overtaking, nerves at low speed riding or whatever was bothering them.
Now I'm looking to spend more time on the bike (perfect time of year, right?) so I'm gearing up to start instructing off my own bat – delivering not only the orthodox Roadcraft based knowledge but also supplementing it with any tips or techniques picked up from road testing.
The aim is to get riders to a place where they're happy, confident and safely in-control – while at the same time having a great ride. And for those who want to progress to an advanced qualification that can earn an insurance discount, I can prep them for either the RoSPA or Blue Riband test.
My first rider was an old friend, Jacques, who's spent a bit too much time on four wheels recently and so had lost a bit of confidence, especially with right-handers. We spent an afternoon on the glorious roads around Rutland, working on how he looked at the road, polishing his positioning and refining his lines. "It's transformed my riding experience," he texted me when he got home.
So if you'd like to ride with me - either just for a bit of polish and confidene-building or to work towards an advanced riding qualification - get in touch here.
Meanwhile, I've been busy working on the next book (details to follow in due course) though I have managed to get out on the bike. A long weekend saw me heading north to my regular haunt, the Buccleuch Arms Hotel in Moffat – which I can't recommend highly enough (book your visit here).
Over the years, I've become good friends with the Smith family who run the hotel and I managed to persuade Dave and Clint (patriarch and eldest son) to stop working and come for a ride – Dave knows every road in the Borders and we have a running joke about who makes the better routes (only one of us writes best-sellers about them, which I think settles that one). If you're staying at the hotel, he'll even plot you a route around the weather so you'll get the best roads with the best chance of avoiding any rain.
That was what Dave did on my visit: rather than heading west, where showers were forecast, we did a route he calls the "Bucc and Kielder" – a fantastic few hours on a mix of familiar favourite roads and one or two wild lanes across the moors that I hadn't seen before. Spectacular, quiet stuff... though with one or two bumps that made me think I'd have been better on the CrossTourer than the firmly sprung Z1000SX. We stopped for lunch at Kielder Water before looping back into Scotland at Carter Bar.
Things went sour when I got home, though. I arrived to find my cold-water tank had overflowed, flooding the landing and soaking down the stairs to the living room. While I was trying to sort that out, my father was taken to hospital where, after a few days, he passed away. It's disappointing that my last conversation with him was about good local plumbers – but you just don't know these things at the time. Which puts everything into a bit of perspective (and why it's taken me a while to get round to updating the blog).
So the things to take away from all this are: life is short; bikes are great; and I'm now ready to help you get the most from them with a day's training. Once I've repainted the ceiling after the flood, that is...