Old grey beards like me will witter on about what a disaster the Direct Access is as novices can jump on the latest exotica and then proceed to wobble around or crash as talent is overwhelmed by ego. And all of that without serving their apprenticeship on lighter slower bikes. Motorcycling is a skill that demands practise.

Teaching helps. A few years ago I was conducting the trial for a motorcyclist who had been passing backed up traffic alongside a car boot sale. He was a novice rider but was cautiously filtering when a Mercedes turned right into the car boot sale entrance ignoring a very large, but informal, sign which said: DO NOT TURN RIGHT.

Bound to lose

My opposing solicitor invited me to stop the case as it was so hopeless that I was bound to lose.

According to the judge my rider, the ink still wet on his DAS pass, was a star. It was the rider’s analysis of his own thinking that so impressed the judge. He passed slowly, he was satisfied the car was not going to turn against the sign, he was alongside it when it did turn, and he won his trial cleanly.

Where he differed from me as a novice motorcyclist in 1985 was the standard of his training was so much better. We old sweats may scoff at ‘book learning’ but the judge didn’t. I’d have just gone whistling past the queue as a newbie.

What really won the Judge over was my rider saying: ‘yes, I made the wrong call, but I had analysed all the risks and really, I did think I was safe to go. I wish I had made a different call, but I didn’t’.

My closing submission was dusted off: The motorcyclist does not have to apprehend every conceivable folly, and he does not have to apprehend a driver turning right when he is there to be seen contrary to a big sign, unofficial as it was. He does not have to expect a car to turn across him without so much as a check of mirrors’.

Direct Access

Perhaps my well hewn submissions won it, but the judge stated himself more impressed by my client. His own examination of his riding had come out of good Direct Access teaching.

Advanced riding will also teach you this risk analysis. I did my Advanced test over 30 years ago, as a very young man. I still look under cars and especially vans for feet just to be sure no one is planning on crossing unsighted.

But what I see as the big difference between old school riders like me and well trained DAS graduates is they have been talked through, and experienced in relative safety, emergency situations.

Back in the day I had to find my way through by experience, luck and fractures. The swerve test is too rigid at its set speed but the skill of getting the braking right while steering is a skill I wish I had not learnt the hard way.

Good skills, well executed and kept honed make for a better rider. And there is much to be said for getting out frequently on your bike to keep those skills honed. After we are released from lockdown be aware of ring rust.

Experience is a great teacher, but the lessons are expensive. A controlled environment will turn out better riders. And practice makes perfect.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine May 2021