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A police motorcycle course. What’s that all about?

Without doubt the most challenging road motorcycle course you can undertake is a police course. What this article seeks to do is reveal what the course content is and some of it may not be what you expect!

My force was West Midlands and we had a policy where your entry requirement was in the first instance that you had to hold a full motorcycle licence for twelve months. Preferably you needed to have been riding a medium to large capacity on a regular basis during that time. An IAM or RoSPA qualification would do you no harm at all either. In later years we even required a pre-course assessment day.

There used to be three levels of motorcycle course Standard, Intermediate and Advanced now there are only two which are Standard and Advanced. The difference is that with a standard you should only be allowed on a patrol bike on a part time basis and you shouldn’t do any escorts (ambulance, VIP, royal etc).

You also needed to be a qualified police car driver at any level. The main reason being that on motorcycles you got a debrief about once an hour whereas in a car you did commentary drives and real time input from an instructor. You should already have a full understanding of “The System” albeit transferring those skills to a motorcycle is not easy.

All police motorcycle courses start with three students and one instructor. If you see such a group the lead rider will be a student, number two is the instructor (you can usually identify him by all the head shaking!) numbers three and four are also students awaiting their turn to lead after the debrief. Courses follow the same basic formats in that they have a ride element, obstacle course element and written exams. Every part of the course MUST be passed with an 80% minimum pass mark. They have two ride tests, a midpoint (progress) and a final test. Very often you would lose students as they failed elements along the way or if the instructor decided the student was getting out of his / her depth. Officer / public safety was the number one priority.

The levels differed thus:-

Standard Course (3 weeks duration)

An introduction to “System” riding. Intensive classroom sessions on hazard awareness and “System” approaches to them. This course was on smaller lower powered machines, all speed limits complied with but mainly town work anyway. The focus was on discipline and plans for hazards with excellent machine control including excellent communication with other road users. A slow ride element not dissimilar to a modern CBT and written exams were also critical parts of the course. A pass authorised riding of lower powered machines only and total compliance with speed limits at all times

Intermediate Course (3 weeks duration)

This involved larger machines and after confirming town riding for a couple of days we ventured onto open roads. The focus this time was on total safety plus reading bends and accuracy at slightly higher speeds. The course limit was 80mph. A common problem was that as the speeds started to increase rider errors would creep in such as missing hazards, gears, leaving indicators on or neglecting rear observation. Speed was then immediately checked for that individual until he corrected the fault and was able to either rectify the issue or leave the course. Safety critical points would not be tolerated. Don’t forget that there are also still more stringent cone courses, stage riding tests and written exams to pass! You also need to pass well enough to be recommended for advanced course training otherwise you couldn’t apply.

Advanced Course (3 weeks duration)

You have to be a proven quality rider to even start this course and this is where the pressure really ramps up.

You now ride the most powerful machines in the force and are immediately out on high speed roads. You may have had a considerable break between your Intermediate course and Advanced but you needed to be back up to the standard where you finished your intermediate course within two days or you were off the course!

The focus is still on total safety but with the added pressure of very high speed overtaking skills, a skill many ‘advanced’ riders still haven’t perfected!

Yet again you have obstacle courses (tighter than previous courses) written exams and stage/final ride tests. The difference with the road tests now being that if you don’t go as fast as the road and conditions would allow you would fail but if you went too fast you would also fail (no upper limit).

Riders passing this test would be allowed to ride any force motorcycle (except off roaders) and be eligible to attend an escort course for loads and VIP.

All courses are retested with a one week refresher course every five years.

I think you’ll agree that the level of training intensity is second to none?

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