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Motorcycle riding courses - ride better this summer

By Kev Raymond

Kev's been riding since acquiring half shares in a CZ175 field bike back in the seventies, passed his test in a blizzard on Christmas Eve 1985, and got his first job on a bike mag in 1990. Likes: long distance touring and short-distance twisties. Currently owns a 1987 GSX-R1100, a 1992 Ducati 400SS, a 1973 Honda SS50, a 1978 Honda CX500, a 1988 Honda Bros special, a 1957 Mobylette and a 110cc pit bike. None of them work.



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Whether you're a relative newbie or a gnarled veteran, there comes a time when your riding reaches a plateau, and you need a new challenge to take you to the next level. The good news is that doesn't have to mean going back to school – it means you can award yourself an extended play time! Few things focus the mind like stepping out of your comfort zone and learning new skills, so why not book yourself a track day and explore the very edges of your tyres, or learn to feel for grip in the wet by sliding a dirt bike around off-road? An expert assessment of your riding levels on the road can help you target your weak spots and improve your strengths, and even if the weather's lousy you can head online and brush up on essential techniques to help you out on your next ride.

So, here's our round-up of some great days out (and in...). Better still, if you're a BikeSocial member you can get some great discounts on some of them.


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Hot tarmac, sticky tyres – what's not to like...?


On Track

You might think you're a quick rider on the road, but it doesn't take long on track to teach you how much further you can lean, how much more you can trust your tyres, and how you can use the available tarmac better. Even if you've never been a wannabe racer, the ability to stretch your limits and really explore your bike's performance in a controlled environment can give your road riding a massive boost.

However, traditional track days can be a bit daunting for a debutant. Obviously, we're biased, but we reckon the best way to ease yourself into track riding is on one of our BikeSocial Track Days, organised at some of the UK's best circuits, in conjunction with MSVT. Seven 20-minute sessions is loads of track time for most people, and you get free photos by a professional BSB snapper as a memento. First-timers get extra attention, with two classroom sessions and an extended safety briefing before you take to the track, as well as access to on-track coaching if required – you could end up taking tips from racing legends like John McGuinness or Peter Hickman or up and coming BSB stars. You can even hire a bike and kit if you don’t want to risk your own (or if it's not suitable for track use). Just one warning – track riding can be horribly addictive, and you might end up scouring the classifieds for a suitable track-only bike. But hey, there's room in the garage, right...?


Take a trip back to the glory days of BSB with the Classic Superbike Experience


If you fancy adding a bit of nostalgia to your track day, why not book onto the Classic Superbike Experience, which runs alongside selected our track days? You'll get to ride three beautifully preserved 90s superbikes from Renaissance Racing's stable of Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD, Ducati 996, Yamaha YZF750, Honda SP-1 and Kawasaki ZX-7R. BikeSocial membership nets you a £30-50 saving, too...


Little bikes, big fun – and you'll learn loads at (relatively) low speeds


Ever seen full-sized adults making fools of themselves on little pit bikes and thought, "That looks like fun...'? You're right, it is – loads of fun! It's also a great way to improve your bike-handling skills at relatively modest speeds, and that transfers directly back to enhance your road riding or track day skills. Booking onto a Full Day Pitbike Experience lets you thrash a 160cc pit bike round a kart circuit while taking tuition from experienced instructors who'll put the emphasis on learning and improving whilst having a ridiculous amount of fun. Discounts available through BikeSocial membership too.



Anyone who's done much off-road riding will tell you it's tremendous for honing your reactions, developing your bike-handling skills and forward planning, and keeping you fit. Oh, and it's also bloody good fun... In the olden days a dirt bike was just the same bike you commuted to work on in the week, fitted with knobblies for the weekend, and in some ways it's gone full circle, with lots of current adventure bikes being pretty handy off-road as well as ace on the tarmac. But if you want to dip your toes in the muddy waters of off-roading without risking your daily ride and without investing heavily in kit, a day out at one of the many off-road riding schools is the way to go – someone else takes care of the bike and the kit (and cleaning them afterwards) and you get expert instruction too.

It doesn't have to be a hardcore experience either – one of the most accessible courses we know of is the Off-Road Motorcycle experience near Lockerbie in Scotland. User-friendly AJP dirt bikes with lowered seats mean even complete newbies won't feel daunted, and with plenty of one-on-one and group tuition available, you'll come away with new skills and greater confidence in your general riding. BikeSocial members get a discount too.


Explore 1500 acres of private woodland in the beautiful Berwyn Mountains in North Wales on the Mick Extance Experience


Mick Extance is a legend of the British off-road scene. He's a seven-time Dakar Rally competitor (and five-time finisher – an incredible record) and just lives to share his love of dirt-bike riding. A day at his off-road school should be on every biker's bucket list. Based in 1500 acres of Welsh forest, there are bikes to suit everyone from complete beginners to experienced off-roaders – and levels of tuition tailored to each group. You don't even need a bike licence to take part, as it's completely off-road, and small group sizes (usually a maximum of 8 at a time) mean more time for on-on-one tuition. BikeSocial member discounts are available.


Choose from a Tiger or a Scrambler


If you've ever wondered whether modern adventure bikes are actually any good off-road, here's one way to find out... Triumph runs regular off-road days at the grandly named Global Training Academy, near Swansea in South Wales, where you can put a selection of Tigers and Scramblers through their paces in the beautiful surroundings of the Brecon Beacons. You can choose whether to just ride some great trails or whether to get some training as well, and there's a range of routes and challenges to suit riders of every level (although you do need a full licence to take part). Top entertainment, and once again BikeSocial members get 20% off.


Going nowhere fast, but skills learned here will help you out on the road


You've probably seen YouTube videos or Facebook reels of Spanish trials god Tony Bou making his Repsol-branded Montesa dance over ridiculous obstacles as if he's not subject to the same forces of gravity as the rest of us. In real life trials riding is a lot less balletic, and a lot muddier – at least in the UK. It's also the only form of motorsport where you can feel your heart rate climb to its maximum whilst often travelling at or near walking pace...

Balance, fine throttle control, forward planning and a feel for grip are all tested and honed

Inch Perfect Trials, based in the Ribble Valley, run courses and taster sessions for everyone from complete novices (you don't need to have ridden a bike at all, let alone have a licence) up to expert level, and for all ages from 6-year-olds upwards. There's a choice of petrol or electric bikes too – trials is one discipline where electric bikes work brilliantly. Guess what? BikeSocial members get a discount here.


No matter how much you know, you can always learn some more – one-on-one assessment and tuition is priceless


On the Road

It used to be that a lot of riders were wary of the idea of advanced training, maybe because they didn't want to admit they needed more skills, or maybe just because of 'not wanting to ride like a Policeman'. It's also fair to say that in the past organisations like RoSPA and the IAM did have a rather stuffy reputation, which put some people off.

It's all change now though – RoSPA and the IAM are far more welcoming, and there are plenty of independent trainers who'll tailor a course to your own needs, whether that's just a confidence boost or preparation for an advanced test.

As for the 'riding like a Policeman' bit, there is some truth in that, but not in a bad way. Pretty much everyone's reading from the same 'bible' – the Motorcycle Roadcraft manual which is based on the techniques taught to Police motorcyclists. If you've ever ridden with one of those you'll know that they're fast, smooth and safe riders and that's because they've been taught a system of rules and approaches that's been proven to work. Learning those same rules and how to apply them isn't necessarily hard – you could just buy the book and teach yourself – but it's a hell of a lot easier with an experienced tutor to help you.

There's a government-sponsored scheme and test available too – find out more and locate a tutor near to you here.

If you're a BikeSocial member, we can recommend day out with Rapid Training, which will give you a nice ride out with some tuition intended to brush up on rusty skills.


It's more than just a glorified arcade game – top riders use this system to learn new tracks



The Moto Trainer system puts you on the MotoGP grid – sort of. It's like a grown-up version of those old Sega simulators you used to get in amusement arcades, with the difference that you're sat on a real superbike, and lapping real GP tracks. You'll be using the gears, throttle and brakes exactly as you would in real life, and you'll get some serious lean on as well. At the end of your ride you can study telemetry and compare with your mates. If you’re a BikeSocial member you can also get a discount.



OK, so this one could have gone in the Off-Road section, but it's indoors so it's going here. The Cumbria Moto Park isn't a park at all – it's a former chicken shed now converted to the motocross equivalent of a kart track. It's designed as a family experience, with everything from balance bikes for very small kids, through electric balance bikes and mini-bikes, through to 24bhp full-size electric motocross bikes for teens and adults – all of them spanking new KTMs. It's cheap, too – 30 quid gets you three 10 minutes sessions on the bigger bikes and kids' prices start at a tenner.


Online learning's not for everyone, but this is backed up with hands-on training too



Can't get out? Bike in for a service? Or just don't fancy getting wet? Don't let that stop you... fire up the interwebs, resist the urge to click on all those cute kitten videos, and find yourself some online riding inspiration.

There are plenty of YouTube videos on the subject and you can spend hours working your way through them. You could do worse than starting with this one though, from Old Bird on a Bike on YouTube which is a pretty good example of the kind of observation and planning skills taught by most advanced instructors, presented in a simple and easily digestible way in the course of a twenty-minute ride.

We've also recently been looking at Motorcycle Riders Hub and it looks interesting – a full-on advanced riding course with personalised training plans, all carried out online via videos and personal interaction. There are options to book on physical training days as well, but the core is online. Courses cover all levels from preparing for CBT up to learning how to become an instructor yourself. It won't be for everyone, but if you're time poor and want to learn at your own pace it might be well worth a look as an addition to practical on-road experience and training.



Off the road, but NOT off-road

There are some things that are best learned or practiced away from other traffic – and some that are illegal on the road anyway... Up and down the country old airfields, empty car parks and midweek racetrack paddocks play host to courses and skills days that need a calm, controlled environment.

Bennetts Rider Confidence Days are a great way to brush up on rusty skills – and learn new ones – in a safe and fun way. Based at Donington, Brands and Bedford Autodrome for convenience but using coned-off sections of paddock to create technical sections for training, they offer a half day of theory and practical tuition on low-speed manoeuvres, hazard avoidance, emergency braking and more – all the stuff you already kind of know but which you probably haven't specifically practiced since you passed your test.

On a less formal note, there are also plenty of schools and courses offering tuition in how to be a hooligan – or at least how to ride like one. Why? Well you could argue that by learning how to do something that requires concentration and fine bike handling, you're improving your whole motorcycling skill set. It would be true, too. Or you could just do it because it'll make you grin like a loon...

So if you've ever wanted to pull a wheelie but been too daunted to try, you can choose from a decent fistful of courses that'll aim to take you from nervous debutant to balance point prowess in easy stages. Some use static rigs to give you a feel for the angles involved, most use safety devices that stop you flipping the bike. Extreme Wheelie, based near York, use both methods, and put the emphasis on learning how to control the bike at the balance point and as slowly as possible, rather than relying on power and speed. See for details.


Extreme Wheelie School's Yamahas have a clever system to stop you accidentally flipping the bike. Static trainer can be seen in the background


The same applies to getting your knee down – have a look at i2i's Machine Control 3 course, for example, which as well as helping you break in those virgin sliders will also teach you a lot about body positioning, feeling for grip, and being relaxed on the bike. They started the course as a bit of fun, but it's been a huge success.