My love of two wheels goes back to BMX bikes and making jumps in the local woods to see how far I could fly. Invariably it wasn’t far and I soon learnt that gravity wins …always! I used to dream of riding a motorbike, the open road, fast bends and lots of attention from pretty ladies however my mum had other ideas and a motorbike was put to the back of my wish list.
Wind forward to my mid-thirties when I decided to grasp the nettle and get my licence. Following a week’s intensive training around Rhyl and the surrounding area I passed my test and purchased my first bike, a Honda Hornet 900. Mum wasn’t and still isn’t that chuffed!
Following this I soon realised that there was much more to learn than the basic riding skills given to you during mandatory training. I’m friends with a couple of police riders and I could see just how easy they made everything look, smooth too whilst still making good progress on the road. After an altercation with a car and a bin wagon, that I most definitely lost I decided I needed to improve my skills and got in touch with the BikeSafe guru that is Paul Cheshire M.B.E. (the Hornet survived remarkably well mind).
Completing BikeSafe was a revelation to me and felt like my eyes had been opened up to the ‘dark arts’ of motorbike riding. Vanishing points, road positioning, ‘the system’ all became clearer and persuaded me that more training is never a bad thing when you intend to ride motorbikes.
Running parallel to this potted riding history is my career in North Wales Police. I joined in 1994, at the age of 24 having previously been a Quantity Surveyor working in civil engineering, such as the dualling of the A55 across North Wales. I can still remember the excitement when I got my first posting letter and, being a resident of Wrexham then looking at a map to find out exactly where Caernarfon was!
Over the last 22 years I have worked right across North Wales, from Holyhead to Wrexham and enjoyed every minute of it. More recently I have been lucky enough to hold the post of Head of Operations for the force. In simple terms I have the best job in the world – I’m in charge of or represent the force regionally for firearms, cars, motorbikes, major operations, counter-terrorism, underwater search and marine unit, public order, search teams and body recovery teams. There is never a dull moment in the office with that lot.
But back to motorbikes. As part of my work I’m responsible for overseeing our efforts to reduce the number of bikers killed and seriously injured on the roads of North Wales. My work in force very quickly led me to sitting on the Motorcycle Safety Steering Group, and shortly afterwards I was asked to Chair the group. I feel real pride at working with the members of the group as we all have a common goal – to reduce injuries amongst bikers but to do so in as supportive a way as possible.
As I’ve already said I don’t think you can have enough training so, given I’m in charge of our police motorbikes I decided it would be a good idea to learn to ride one. So in the late summer of 2014 I undertook the first step by completing my standard riding qualification. In layman terms that meant I could use all the exemptions allowed to the police, such as treating red lights as give way signs but couldn’t exceed the posted speed limit by more than 20 mph.
Following six months of practicing my new found skills I then completed the advanced riding qualification and am proud to belong to a relatively small band of riders with this qualification. But I felt it wasn’t an end and I wanted to pass on what I’d learnt in a suitable manner. Hence I am now an observer for BikeSafe and hope to undertake further qualifications with RoSPA in the near future.
That will be the subject of another Blog in due course!
Thanks for reading and happy, safe riding.