Never Stop Learning

IAM Masters – is it for you?

So where next after you’ve done your IAM Advanced Riding Course, and passed of course!

  • Observing – that certainly not only helps your group and your Associate but boy does it help your own riding.
  • SLAM ride clinics – a great way to ‘check’ your riding with an experienced Observer
  • SLAM rides out – a fun way to keep developing your riding, on different, sometimes challenging, routes.
  • Become an IAM Fellow – which entails an Advanced retest every 3 years
  • IAM Masters – so what’s all that about then?

The IAM introduced the Masters qualification some 3 or 4 years ago now and its ‘touted’ as being the highest civilian level riding standard (and qualification) there is. You can be your own judge but a quick Google search about the IAM Masters will show a general consensus that it lives up to this billing.

The facts.

The Masters Mentoring Programme. (is very similar in structure to the Advanced Course with the Observer / Associate 1:1 relationship)

When you sign up (and pay) for the IAM Masters Programme you will be allocated to a Masters Mentor who will (typically) ride out with you on up to six sessions or 10-12 hours of mentoring.

Your Mentor will hold either an IAM RoadSmart Masters qualification or an Advanced Police Riding Certificate and will also be an IAM RoadSmart National Observer.

In SLAM there are currently 3 Masters Mentors, Howard Sidery, Derek Saunders, and Colin Stanfield, all of whom would be pleased to talk to you about the Masters Programme.

The relationship is very much two way. At Masters level much development is around judgement, rather than black and white do’s and don’ts. Your Mentor will offer advice, strategies, and discuss with you your ideas and experiences.

In my experience the rides out and discussions that I had as part of my mentoring for the Masters was the best element of the Programme, with the test being the ‘icing on the cake’!

Passing the Masters Test

A 90 minute on-road test with two levels of success – Pass / Distinction. The test is carried out by an IAM Examiner.

  • On unfamiliar roads of all types
  • You will be expected to travel to the assessor – SLAM Members who have taken the Master’s test have met the Examiner at the Ferrybridge Services on the M62
  • The test includes slow manoeuvring and theory knowledge checks.*
  • The test requires a good knowledge of Roadcraft and the Highway Code*

*these two are more likely if your on road riding suggests to the Examiner that there is a need to check these aspects.

You will be assessed against the following criteria for the competencies listed below.


  • competency has not been displayed to the required level.
  • competency has been demonstrated to an advanced standard but there were sufficient minor errors within it, or its interaction with other competencies, to take away from the overall performance. This would also be the correct grade for a candidate lacking the required depth of theoretical knowledge.
  • competency has been consistently demonstrated to a Masters standard throughout the entire session. This includes the practical and theoretical aspects of the assessment. The candidate demonstrated a thinking approach to the System and applied it in a considered and timely fashion. Each competency meshed seamlessly with others to provide the overall polished efficiency of a Master Rider.


  • safety
  • system
  • observations
  • anticipation
  • planning
  • positioning
  • hazard management
  • eco driving
  • vehicle sympathy
  • gear changing
  • use of gearbox
  • acceleration sense
  • braking
  • steering
  • mirrors / rear observations
  • signals
  • cornering
  • overtaking
  • restraint
  • progress
  • smoothness
  • human factors / concentration
  • knowledge
  • legality
  • slow manoeuvring
  • courtesy

Any area marked as a ‘3 -requires development’ will result in the candidate being unsuccessful.

To pass the test and become a Master rider a score of 39 or less must be recorded (starts at 27).

To obtain a distinction a score of 34 or less must be recorded and a score of 1must be recorded in the areas of safety, legality, and slow manoeuvring.

To be a Master rider you need to be commended in a minimum of 14 areas.

To pass with distinction this rises to19.

It is possible to be marked as Advanced in all boxes (as an Advanced rider already you should be) but unsuccessful in the overall assessment. Masters is set at a level where you are required to display a far higher degree of skill in all areas of your ride.

The Masters qualification lasts five years

The mysticism - so what makes a Master’s ride?

This is often debated and people typically come up with words like flair, sparkle, smooth, systematic, polished and flowing, quiet efficiency.

Masters riding encourages a detailed consideration of the ‘human factors’ involved in riding. How these influence your riding decisions and your interaction with other road users. You will be encouraged to develop a thinking and considered approach to your riding, and you will need to be open minded  to new approaches. There is often more than one ‘answer’ to a riding decision and you will be able to discuss your thinking with your mentor to develop an even greater understanding.

The mark of a Master’s ride is perhaps easier to see than to describe but think Roger Federer in tennis and you’ll get some kind of idea. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time with minimal effort, flowing around the court, because of his planning ahead and how he reads the game – in your case, how you read the road.

As with the Advanced Course, you will be expected to apply the system (IPSGA) in a timely, developed, and accurate manner, demonstrating well developed smoothness of vehicle control. You will be expected  to exhibit a safe, legal, systematic ride in accordance with Roadcraft; applying cornering principles, assessing, planning and executing safe overtaking manoeuvres; recognising opportunities to make safe progress, with observation, anticipation, planning and awareness consistent with your speed; applying sound judgement of speed and distance, with expert knowledge of machine dynamics.

You will be expected to recognise how ‘attitude’ will affect rider behaviour and to identify and manage external influences that may impact on your riding performance

OK , so far so much the same as you would expect of an advanced ride, certainly anyone that gets a 1st. So what sets a Masters ride apart from a damn good advanced ride?

Perhaps this statement from the IAM’s Masters distinction grade criteria sums it up, ‘Each competency consistently meshed seamlessly with others to provide the overall polished efficiency of a Master Rider.’

Your advanced riding skills will be taken as read, what you will need to demonstrate consistently is their application throughout the ride so that each element flows seamlessly.  So for example, exiting one corner at the correct speed, gear and position, setting up early for the next and anticipating and safely executing an overtake on the exit from the second corner as the car is slower to accelerate away.

Another example may be taking up the line of least resistance early on the approach to a roundabout, being ready to stop, but prepared to go and, on exiting the roundabout, being in the right position to scan ahead ready to execute an overtake before other vehicles reach the speed limit.

It is not about riding fast, but it is about ‘making progress’ by the various means that this implies, such as; ready to stop / prepared to go at junctions; filtering where safe; straightening corners where safe; taking the line of least resistance when safe; crisp acceleration to the limit, and riding at the limit when safe; positioning correctly through corners and bends to maximise vision and using the limit point; looking for and taking safe overtaking opportunities; planning ahead to avoid getting ‘boxed in’ on motorways. All of above do not involve speed per se, but allow an advanced (Masters?) rider to make safe, legal, efficient progress.

Offsiding – it is not expected that you use this technique, especially on tight left hand bends. It is appropriate however to fully use your lane to maximise vision and to use the offside lane when assessing an overtake, and to straighten a corner / roundabout if and when safe to do so.

Trail braking – is not expected. You will be expected to be in the right gear at the right time for each bend.

Colin Stanfield.



Appendix – IAM RoadSmart Masters test report descriptors

These relate to both driving and riding and the terms driver and rider

and vehicle and machine can be interchangeable


Safety cannot be compromised for any perceived advantage during the

drive. A Master driver understands that safety is the overarching principle

of any drive.


Does the driver/rider grasp the phases of the system and can they apply

the system correctly to each hazard?


Is the driver/rider identifying hazards and making scans in all directions

around the vehicle/machine?


Does the driver/rider make appropriate assumptions for what might

occur, based on their observations?


Does the driver/rider identify the potential danger associated with the

hazard and develop a suitable plan to deal with it?


Is the appropriate position adopted with regard for safety and advantage?

to help in negotiating the hazard?

Hazard Management

Does the driver/rider deal with the hazards identified? Do they

appropriately manage the risk associated with each hazard? (By change

of speed, positioning, use of horn etc.) Do observation, anticipation,

planning and positioning combine effectively?

Eco Driving

Does the driver/rider use higher gears to reduce emissions when

appropriate, do they save fuel by avoiding unnecessary idling?

Vehicle Sympathy

Do they treat their vehicle with respect, avoiding over revving or allowing

the engine to labour and avoiding pot holes if possible or slowing if not?

Gear Changing

Are all gear changes made smoothly, matching engine revolutions to road?

speed where appropriate? Is the operation of the clutch pedal and gear

lever smooth and progressive?

Use of the Gearbox

Is the correct gear selected in accordance with the gear phase of the

system? Are lower gears used appropriately when an advantage can be

gained either for acceleration or engine braking? Is an automatic gearbox

used in the appropriate mode for the conditions?

Acceleration Sense

Can the driver/rider accurately vary the speed of the vehicle in response

to changing road and traffic conditions by accurate application of the

accelerator/throttle? Constant ‘comfort braking’ or pulsing of the throttle

are clear signs acceleration sense is not being employed.


Can the driver/rider use progressive (three stage) braking smoothly? Do

they avoid comfort braking by braking in a decisive and planned way? Do

they identify issues that may affect braking and manage them?


Are all steering inputs made smoothly and accurately ensuring the

outcome is what is desired? Can ancillary controls be operated safely

whilst steering? Does the rider understand the benefit of counter or

positive steering?

Mirrors/Rear Observation

Are the mirrors used in a timely fashion when information is required?

Is the appropriate mirror visited at the correct time? Are shoulder life

saver and blind spot checks conducted at the correct time?


Are signals considered at the appropriate time and correctly applied when

they are required? Does the driver/rider correctly interpret signals given by

others? Can they communicate with other road users?


Is the vehicle/machine correctly positioned on the approach, through and on

the exit of the bend, is the speed correct and an appropriate gear engaged?

Do they understand the principles of the limit point and maintain balance

through the bend?



Does the driver/rider understand the principles of overtaking including

the follow position, overtaking position and then demonstrating a safe

overtake? Do they know where and when an overtake is likely to be

safely completed?


Has the driver/rider displayed a clear understanding of when it is necessary

to display extra caution e.g. around vulnerable road users?


Has the driver/rider displayed the ability to move briskly to the speed limit

if conditions permit and the ability to make safe progress at this?


A Master driver/rider should be able to retain smoothness in the drive or

ride, all control operation should appear effortless and the vehicle should

appear balanced at all times.

Human Factors/Concentration

Has the driver/rider demonstrated mastery of their emotions in order to

provide a safe and controlled drive/ride? Are they able to describe the

various factors affecting themselves, their drive and other road users?

Do they maintain concentration throughout the test?


Does the driver/rider display courtesy in their drive and are they mindful of

the effect they may have on others such as noise or spray generated when

going through standing water? Do they acknowledge correctly any courtesy

displayed to them?


The driver/rider must understand and correctly comply with the road traffic

act and the Highway Code rules.

Slow Manoeuvring

Can the driver/rider reverse a car or drive through narrow gaps with

confidence? Can a motorcyclist ride at walking pace without losing their

balance? The examiner may choose to ask for a slow speed manoeuvre to

be performed if they have not seen sufficient skill demonstrated during the



The driver/rider must display a sound knowledge of The Highway Code,

Roadcraft and the IPSGA system. The examiner may test this with


We are aiming to expand on ‘Quiet Efficiency,’ the hallmark of the

expert driver/rider. This will be displayed by drivers or riders who have

a true mastery of their vehicle. They will allow each of the competency

areas to complement the others.

Hi all – Chairman’s bit!

Well so far, it’s been a great summer weather wise, both in the UK and on the continent – if anything too hot!  It’s been really good to read about the tours that various SLAM members are having both in the UK and abroad - it’s my turn soon.  A special thank you to all our ride leaders for the planning and preparation that they do for the rides we have almost every weekend, and also to those organising weekends away.

The great weather for biking reminded me that there may well be some members who have dusted off their bike, from its winter home, for the summer and this may have prompted some thoughts on riding skills?  Well, don’t forget our SLAM ride clinics – these are available to all members, they’re FREE, and there to help you brush up on whatever skills you may want to improve.  We had a lot of people taking us up on ride clinics last year, and we got some really good feedback; so if you’re thinking …… maybe ……. well, drop John Burns an email ( and we’ll pair you up with an Observer.  Remember, whilst passing your advanced motorcycle test is a fantastic achievement, it marks just another milestone in improving your riding – which never stops!

I quite often get asked why we don’t do something or other in SLAM, and the honest answer is because no one is organising it.  For example, I wondered why there weren’t some shorter, midweek rides …… well there are now, and the solution to my own question was for me to lead a shorter midweek ride.  I was surprised by the numbers who turned up, but it proved that I was not the only one wanting the same thing.  So, if you’re in the position of wondering why something isn’t happening, please let me know, but I warn you in advance, the answer may well be support from me and a suggestion that you organise it for us – you’ll be surprised about how many others will join you – I was!!

If you’re reading this wondering about how you could get more involved in SLAM, please give me a call – we’re always looking for new people to help.  It doesn’t take a lot of time but working together, we make SLAM the club we want it to be.  We’re going to have a couple of gaps on the committee next year so if you’ve time and enthusiasm to help out a bit, please let me know and come along to a meeting to see how it works.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be an observer, well we’re planning just the event for you.  Watch this space but later in the year we’re looking at running an event where you can come along and find out exactly what it’s like to observe.  From my perspective, it’s the best thing I’ve done since passing my test.  I have learned as much, if not more, by observing as I did by being observed.  Some may be thinking “I don’t have the time” – well yes, it does take time, but quite honestly, it’s not too onerous – most associates have around 7/8 rides and we know that it’s not always possible to volunteer to take part in all our SLAM courses.  So, if you are thinking about it, have a chat with either me or Bob Fletcher, our chief observer, and think about coming along to the event.

At this month’s social on 1st August we have Invisible Patterns.  They do an amazing job adding a protective coating to your bike and once it’s done you can hardly see it’s there.  I’ve used them before and can recommend them so why not come along, find out what they do and have a chat.

Finally, we’ve now set the date for a SLAM xmas do!  It’s on the 30th November and will be at Preston Grasshoppers.  Tickets are now on sale and Paul Grundy will have these at the social in August.  The cost will be a bargain - £10, and this will include a selection of hot food and a disco.  So, let’s get Christmas off to a swing with SLAM this year!

Some say that the way I write is a little like rides I organise – they ramble on, but every now and again we pause for a brew – well, I’ve been rambling here for a while, so it’s time for a brew!  Safe riding everyone, enjoy the weather!


I always look forward to spending a good few days on the bike in Europe – apart from the variety of roads, there is the culture, food and thirst quenching offerings that are so different in every country you go to.

This year’s Continental Jaunt (or CJ) was organised by Neil (or to give him his Italian name, Neil Nerobruciare, but more of this later) and we were heading for the French Alps, then going on into Italy.  It was to be a first for us all – we were using Bike Shuttle to get the bikes across to Europe, rather than having the two day slog into the Alps (not to mention the return trip!).

Day 1 saw us ride down to Bike Shuttle’s base near Northampton – an easy ride, which we used the motorway route for speed (well relative speed, given all the 50 limits in place!).  Breakfast at our usual stopping place – Hollies Truck Stop on the A5 near J12 M6 – it has been renovated significantly, and offers good value, no nonsense grub – recommended ( ).

We arrived for our 11.30 check-in time, the bikes are quickly loaded onto the purpose built transporter, and our helmets, leathers etc. put into transportation boxes.  All we needed was a small overnight bag for our hotel in Geneva.

Whilst the drivers got underway (they travel overnight, double-manning, so they are in Geneva at our hotel when we get up the next morning), we were taken by minibus to an excellent local pub for lunch… and a little liquid refreshment.  A couple of hours later, fed and most definitely relaxed, we are taken to Luton Airport to catch our Easy-Jet flight.  Easy peasy so far!


A couple or so hours later, we are in Geneva, collected by the hotel’s courtesy coach and dropped off just in time for a night-cap!  So far so good.  The gang head to bed – they are me, Dave (Il Piccolo), Gary E (Prosciuttoest), Gary L (Dominare) and of course our guide Nerobruciare!  The daft pseudo Italian names appeared on team t-shirts to celebrate the trip.

True to promise, when we’d finished breakfast, we went out to find the bikes unloaded and ready, the sun shining and the Alpine roads beckoning.  Our leader (Nerobruciare) had the routes ready on his Tom Tom (which by the way, rarely agrees with my Garmin on details of route planning), and led off along the Southern shore of Lake Geneva… where there are far too many 50 limits, but we got past them as we headed out onto the foot hills of the Alps, starting to get the feel of the twisty and mountainous terrain.

The first three days we were to ride the Route des Grande Alpes (RdGA), using the routes from the Ride magazine website, with no modification.  Have to say, they worked a treat too.  We also used the hotel recommendations suggested by Ride’s Simon Weir, and again, they were all absolutely fine.  Day One took us over the first part of the RdGA, passing close to Morzine, and over a number of passes, including Col de la Colombière (1613m) and Col des Aravis.  Although total distance covered was only about 125 miles, it felt like a full day, and our appetites were well and truly whetted, looking forward to the next day.

Day Two took us a further 175 miles (around 7 hours riding…) along the RdGA – by now we were pretty adept at hairpins… there were literally hundreds!  Skirting Lac de Roselend, we followed the Isère valley, reaching Val D’Isère, as the low cloud and rain started to spoil the views.  A quick coffee before heading up the highest pass we would cross – the Col d’Iseran at 2,764 metres… or over 9,000 feet to you and me!  We expected the temperature to drop, but didn’t quite expect the all enclosing cloud (which stopped us “enjoying” the vertiginous views along the road), nor the snow… approaching the top of the Col, the temperature dropped to 1 degree, and the snow came down, or at least came at us horizontally!  Fortunately not for long. But we definitely hoped for warmer weather as we descended!

And we weren’t disappointed!  The route took us through the Arc valley, taking in Col de la Madeleine (1,993m), more tight, tight bends to enjoy, with some respite between to enjoy the majestic scenery.  Col du Galibier came next – a magnificent 2,645m climb, with views to make you giddy… yet again.  It really was a case of sensory overload.

By this time we were getting quite good at the old hairpins… not complacent, I’d add, but definitely a lot more comfortable!  Parts of this day’s route were quite open and flowing too – a nice change from the rigours of the hairpins!

So… what next?  You guessed it… more passes, more hairpins.  Before reaching our night stop in Guillestre, we crossed the Col du Lautaret (2058m), then the impressive Col d’Izoard (2,360m) – often playing a pivotal role in the Tour de France… I can’t imagine cycling up there!  The Col is generally closed from October to June… glad we chose wisely!

Shortly after the breathtaking stop at the top of Col d’Izoard, we reached our overnight stop – the very pleasant Le Catinat Fleuri, in Guillestre.  Nice town with pleasant restaurants and bars… but we did end up in the locals’ disco bar, where chain smoking, banging music, tattoos and piercings were de rigeur… we had a quick drink and left, brave bikers or not, shut-eye called!

Day Three, and 145 miles to cover – M. TomTom suggested around 6 hours riding… so more hairpins, we guessed!  This day proved both fascinating and challenging, as the RdGA took a turn for the smaller, with the roads generally being narrower and tighter than the previous two days.  We were going through prime skiing country, again here, passing slope after slope, but with very few people about.  Passes included Col de Vars (2,108m), Col de la Cayolle (2,326m), plus a host of smaller ones.

At one point on this section, we came out of a small French town, feeling comfortable with our progress and hairpin prowess as we climbed towards the next pass… only to be blown off by a couple of locals on scooters… oh well, a little local knowledge always comes in handy.  We didn’t follow them… far too progressive for us!

The route today seemed busier with more cars about – especially sports cars with ambitious drivers behind the wheel.  It made blind bends (of which there were many) a bit more fraught at times!  In fact a hastily driven Porsche 911 encountered Prosciuttoest on the apex of a hairpin, and managed to beach himself on the concrete drainage gutter giving Gary room… we felt a bit guilty not stopping!

Despite the narrower roads, the scenery was magnificent – we stopped frequently to soak it in and enjoy the views.  At the stop shown here, we were overtaken (!) by a couple of Scottish guys on cycles.  They were going to Nice… which was a sobering thought, as we weren’t expecting to get that far ourselves in the day! 

After a couple of lesser passes, we reached our hotel for the night, L’Auberge Provençal in Sospel.  Our last night in France before heading into Italy. Again, another Ride recommended hotel, and it hit the spot – too far to walk out to local bars, but well-appointed and a good meal was had by all.

Day Four – a nice coastal run from Sospel to just outside Genoa.  On the map it looked great, with lots of nice seaside spots to linger in - it was a short 95 mile saunter, so plenty of time to enjoy the journey.  It turned out to be a bit disappointing, with end to end townships and 50kph limits.  If you are thinking of doing this link, you might want to plan an inland route!  Our hotel was great – the luxury one on the trip!  Hotel Punta San Martino in Arenzano was an oasis of comfort and friendliness from the staff – not cheap, but recommended.

Day Five - we had planned originally to go into Italy (heading for Lake Como) over the recently collapsed bridge in Genoa… S. TomTom helped us avoid the chaos there, and we had an uneventful, but not hugely exciting ride up to Como.  Northern Italy is an industrial heartland, and there are a lot of towns and villages running into each other, so plan your route carefully.

Lake Como is beautiful – really stunning.  Our small hotel (Hotel Anton and Art) was a short walk back form the waterfront in Como, whilst the (Sicilian) restaurant next door was “friendly, good value and not too expensive” to quote our receptionist… and he was right… we ate there both nights in Como.  House wine (quite acceptable) at €8 a bottle… remarkable!  We had two nights here, with a day off the bikes between.  We took the opportunity to soak up local culture (it comes in nice glasses) and take a boat for lunch in Bellagio – home of stars of screen and stage… but they weren’t at home that day!

Day Seven, we head north to return to Geneva.  The route through Italy to Switzerland was mixed, with open roads, then leading into more mountain areas.  An enjoyable run, if not epic.  Overnight in Martigny, an excellent beef fondue shared with Nerobruciare completing the Swiss experience!

The short final day saw us take the north shore of Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman as the locals call it), reaching our hotel in time to have the bikes loaded by BikeShuttle for the trip back to the UK.  We enjoyed a few beers, a nice meal, and then an early night before the morning flight back to Luton.  The bikes were ready and waiting for us at Northampton, everything having gone like clockwork.


BikeShuttle, headed by the friendly and helpful Guy are highly recommended.  The cost, including EasyJet flights really is no more expensive than riding out to Geneva… but you get up to 4 more days to play on the great roads of Europe.  They also do a route to Toulouse – perfect for the Pyrenees and Northern Spain.

Now where are we going next year?

Latest SLAM Events

16 Nov 2019
08:00AM - 05:00PM
SLAM Autumn Run
21 Nov 2019
08:00PM - 09:30PM
Fylde Social
30 Nov 2019
07:30PM - 11:30PM
The Great SLAM Christmas Party!
05 Dec 2019
08:00PM - 10:00PM
SLAM Social - IAM Surety Insurance Talk
07 Dec 2019
08:00AM - 05:00PM
SLAM Fylde Ride
19 Dec 2019
08:00PM - 09:30PM
Fylde Social
02 Jan 2020
08:00PM - 10:00PM
SLAM Social
04 Jan 2020
08:00AM - 05:00PM
SLAM Fylde Ride

Where We Meet

The monthly SLAM Social Meetings (1st Thursday) are held at Preston Grasshoppers RFC, Lightfoot Green Lane, Preston PR4 0AP

The Fylde Socials (3rd Thursday) are held at the Boot & Shoe, Beech Rd, Elswick, PR4 3YB

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