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Andy Smith is a former Police Motorcyclist with years of experience in motorcycle training at all levels. He offers training through 1stClassRider.co.uk, and ride outs through his newsletter blog right here. To contact Andy click here.

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The New Test Cometh….

The Motorcycle Test is about to change. With effect from the start of October this year the practical motorcycle test will be extended to take in certain manoeuvres to be carried out ‘off road’.

The candidate must be successful in passing these off road tests in order to proceed to the on road element of the test.

These changes are as the result of an EU Directive, and off course the cost of the test (and probably the training) will increase.

The reason for the changes is to make “motorcycling safer”. From the implementation of the new system, the tests will only be carried out at new Multi Purpose Test Centres. As it stands the DSA are behind in the provision of these regional test centres but tests will no longer be able to be taken at the current test centres.

In this area the tests will move to Newport and bike tests will no longer be carried out at Cardiff, Bridgend, Merthyr, Abergavenny, Cwmbran, or Llandrindod Wells.

The DSA state that the off road element will mean that certain manoeuvres that presently are carried out during the on road practical test can be carried out on the off road site and this will leave more time for a variety of roads to be ridden during the on road section.

Particularly they are keen to ensure that sections of National Speed limit roads are used during the test, as this is the type of road that causes most difficulty for riders. (you only have to look at the latest biking statistics in Wales to see that this would be a good idea).

BUT, and it is a big BUT, the siting of the Newport test centre doesn’t allow for any national speed limits roads to be reached during the test. Single carriageway or dual carriageway.

The Newport test centre is centred in a ‘dead end’ industrial estate and only 50 mph inner city dual carriageways can be reached during the on road test.

This means that from October no motorcyclists in South East Wales will be tested at any speeds over 50mph. And you will be lucky on these busy sections of inner city road to even reach 50mph.

How does this ensure the future safety of motorcyclists in the region?

The DSA have had extreme difficulty in finding sites and by and large have had to take what is given rather than selecting the sites on their merit for providing a wide variety of road systems to test new candidates on.

Also the DSA have published figures for the radius of clients intended to be served by the New Multi Purpose Centres, and yet the two sites, so far, chosen in South Wales involve two coastal cities. Swansea and Newport. This means that more than half of the radius intended to serve the test candidates is water!!! Surely sites further inland (Merthyr for example) would have made far more sense and would have ensured that the type of road needed for higher speed testing would be on the doorstep. But … not to be.

This, in my opinion means that from October any motorcyclist who takes a test at the Newport test centre will not be tested as stringently as he/she could or should be.

Quite often in situations like this Training Schools will only provide training to ‘pass the test’ and it is envisaged that certain training schools will do just that. This could mean that even during the training candidates may never experience riding at national speed limits!

We at 1st Class Rider Training want to assure potential candidates that we will continue to carry out our training in order for candidates to learn to ride, and not simply to pass the test.

It is not unusual for our trainees to find themselves training almost anywhere within a days riding from our Cardiff based training site. The Brecon Beacons, Sennybridge, Abergavenny etc.

We will continue to go beyond the test routes to prepare our candidates properly for a life time of safe riding.

We believe that by and large our existing training sessions already cover much of what will be included in the new test.

The new test will require trainees to;

Take the bike on and off the stand.
Wheel the machine, backwards to the course starting position (as if out of the garage)
Ride a slow speed slalom.
Ride a figure of 8.
Ride around the circuit at 30 kph.
Carry out a ‘swerve avoidance’ exercise at 50 kph (approx 31 mph)
Carry out a controlled stop between a set of cones.
Carry out a U turn.
Carry out a slow ride in a straight line.
Carry out a 50 kph Emergency Stop.

Some shortcomings in this for example when doing the U turn on the ‘off road’ site, the candidates will be asked to “imagine” they are on a road whilst carrying out the observation checks.

I can’t understand why, when this was done on road in a live situation, it is felt more beneficial to ‘role play’ this manoeuvre now on the secured off road site and ask candidates to falsely imagine they are on a road.

This means that training schools can carry out the complete Direct Access Course and never require (or teach) a trainee how to do a U turn on the road in a live traffic situation, simply pretending to do is all the new test requires.

Is this a step forward?

Other things which don’t seem to have been considered. Currently when the Examiner needs to find a suitable stretch of road to carry out the emergency stop, for instance, he could use his extensive experience to find a safe place to carry out this part of the test.

On the ‘off road’ site, if the first candidate of the day drops his bike during the manouvres and spills oil, fuel or broken glass, there is no provision to move to another stretch of road to find tarmac devoid of these hazards. What does this mean for the subsequent tests that day.

One such incident on the new ‘off road’ site will render it hazardous to following students. Which raises the question as to what would then happen to their tests and test fees, (and any subsequent training -bike hire fees), if the tests have to be abandoned whilst the site is cleaned and made safe.

In my opinion I feel that the reasoning behind the implementation of the new test might seem honourable enough it has been rushed and ill thought out.

Also it does nothing to target the actual danger group for motorcyclists, which is not the newly qualified but the older rider (Unlike car test candidates who at 17 – 25 years of age are an extremely high risk category involved in almost a 1/4 of all road collisions) But a car driver can pass his test in a Citroen 2CV and then, without any further restriction drive a Ferrari.

We, as motorcyclists, have over the years been legislated against and still it continues. Also there is more to come with the new licensing groups that will change things further making motorcycling even more of a complicated tiered testing and licensing system.

So, when all is said and done, if you or anyone you know wants a motorcycle licence then get it now, or in any case before the new test comes in on September the 29th 2008!

We would be happy to advise anyone on the new test, (whether they wanted to book with us or not).

The new test, in my opinion, is not ideal…..but it is here and as far as we can tell, it is here to stay!

Post your comments and have your say.

Date of the next ride out to the Source of the Thames; Sunday the 13th of April. Full details will follow closer to the date.

There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. I makes you wonder who sits on these government committies and who advises them but allowances must be made for insanity which is a prerequisite for government in the first place
    However interesting stats re riders of advancing years.
    I suppose I fit the criteria and have undertaking further training and continue to do so.
    So those of you thinking about it – gone you know it makes sense.
    I have just done the first of two practical advanced training days.We set off on a spring morning(Good Friday to be precise)we travelled on motorway, A roads, B roads, hard shoulders(my fault), country lanes and bridges.Through city,towns,villages.Up mountains down mountains over moors and the National Park of the Brecon beacons into depest darkest Powys.
    We had sun, drizzle pouring rain high wind,light breeze snow and slush.I was disappointed that we didnt experience riding in the fog but hey, role play it – as you come to Merthyr from the Brecon Beacons the change of altitude,atmospheric pressure and humitity is just right – shut your vents and visor, hey presto fog!! it worked for me I couldnt see a thing.So for those thinking of embarking on a course get youself equipped helmet,leathers waterproofs,wet suit, dry suit goggles snorkel skis and snowboard – all widely available at odd times of the year in Lidl and Aldi
    But seriously a great day out and with all that vatiety I got the most out of it
    Also disappointed no photo of the Grim Reaper riding the Grim Reaper

  2. And for those of you who have read my blog I apologise for my spelling errors – I would blame the bi-focals but unfortunately my typing like my riding is in need of development
    Rim Greaper

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