What an emotive subject speed is. I think speed in general must generate the most arguments, the most disagreements, and the most questions of our whole hobby.
I was listening to questions put to Nigel Jones during November's club night after the insurance issue clarification was broadcast by the 'Chair' and after Keith had said that we could only be liable for a claim against BWAM if negligence could be proven against us as a group. This led to the issue of and the discussion about speed i.e. if we as a group were seen to be promoting the exceeding of plated limits then we could be seen to be negligent in case of accident? Questions were put: 'but I was told we could use 10% in excess of the plated limit? Is that correct? Because if it is, then we are being told to speed', or 'I was told that on test we could ride up to within one mile an hour of the next limit i.e. 39 in a 30, so are we being told we can speed?
What are the answers?
Without equivocation we, as advanced motorcyclists must endorse the requirements of the Highway Code and abide by the law. We strive in our training to improve our standard of riding to that which can be classed as advanced and the examiner will either fail or pass you based on his observation of your performance about that standard. He may give advice prior to the test referring to the speedometer accuracy tolerances that he is prepared to accept, at your own decision and risk, where he will not fail you. That is not condoning exceeding any plated limit; it is allowing you to show where necessary that you are advanced in your approach to your riding.
A question? You are riding along a wide single carriageway plated at 30, say, Castle Lane. You are (as someone said to me last club night that they would do) 'holding your position and riding with your speedo rigidly indicating 30 mph regardless'. You have a queue of traffic behind you for as far as you can see (your actual speed may only be 27 or 28 mph). The cars behind are getting agitated with you commanding your position in the road and enforcing a speed on them. At that particular time of day the normal flow of traffic along this road would be about 35 mph. So, the cars behind are getting even more hacked off and the queue is getting even longer. The lead car driver who cannot control his impatience any longer overtakes you, miscalculates the space available to return to his side of the road before the tnaffic bollards, pulls back in and knocks you off. You are going to be well annoyed, self-righteous and blame the overtaking car. Think about this whole situation!! You are also to blame! You are the 'advanced' motorcyclist, you should be positioning so as not to be obstructive, (regardless of others' speed, we are not the police nor in a position to enforce speed on others), you should have assessed what was going on behind and either pulled over and let them pass so you could continue at your 'spot on indicated 30mph', or you could have ridden with the flow and used your advanced observation and planning to avoid unsafe situations!
Another question? You are riding into a lovely quick twisty bit of road, say, the Cranborne Rd out of Wimborne, dreaming of lovely fast bends, getting the line just right and feeding in the power to chase the limit point, lovely!! And you come across Mr Volvo doing 58 mph 'indicated'. At a passing speed of two miles an hour it will take you about twenty minutes, so what do you do? Do you use an advanced assessment of the situation and overtake? or stay where you are? The old blue book gives good advice: 'A motorcycle travelling alongside another vehicle is in a zone of danger in which it does not do to dwell too long'. Does that say plus 2 mph or does that say 'get on with it' and get that particular hazard out of the way?'
Progress! Another emotive subject. Easily answered; do you satisfy the criteria on page 41 of PYAMT? Also ask yourself: would it be considered 'advanced' to sit in a line of traffic doing an indicated 58 mph on a nice national speed limit road with opportunities galore to overtake and then maintain that national limit? (Accurately not indicated see next para). Not talking about a Sunday afternoon sightseeing bimble with the misses on the back, I'm talking out riding as an advanced motorcyclist.
Let's look at this perceived 10%. The IAM itself advocates the fact that new speedos are by law allowed to be up to 10% fast, so most manufacturers aim for 5%. OK this error may have disappeared on the odd percentage of machines over a period of time buts let's be realistic here. I have mentioned indicated and actual speed, what is the difference? Well it is probably this magic ten percent. I have calibrated my speedo on the Beemer and at 30 actual I am indicating 33, at 70 actual I am indicating 76. Quite often on the motorway the traffic is all backed up because plod is on a patrol and everyone is driving at an indicated 68 mph. I blast past in the outside lane indicating 78 but only doing an actual 72. 'No fear'. This is probably why I am sometimes all over the back of you like an annoying rash on social rides when you are indicating 60 (only doing about 55) and thinking to yourselves 'what the hell is he doing now?' The IAM tell you how to calibrate your speedo so that you can drive at the legal limit NOT at your indicated limit. (It's in the Motorway Driving book and you will need a pillion to help.) So again, it is an Advanced 'assessment' of all the facts to decide at what indicated speed you are happy riding at.
Another question was asked about speed on social runs and the possibilities of claims of 'negligence'.
A run leader, being an 'advanced' motorcyclist will, while maintaining a speed within the bounds of the law, be progressing quite rapidly due to good hazard perception, accurate planning, nippy overtakes and brisk cornering. As you go back down the 'pack', to 'keep up' the riders will have to be pretty sharp and will be pushing the legal speed limits. This will (should) be well within the ability and self-restraint of an advanced rider but perhaps not so for a newcomer to this style of riding. They may be pushed way beyond their ability trying to 'keep up' which could lead to an accident. This is where negligence could be perceived and the club rule of associates being assessed and OK'd as ready for social riding events by their Observer is mature and sensible, and one of the responsibilities of which the observers are well aware.
To me, a part of Advanced Riding equates to gaining more pleasure by making calculated decisions on how fast to ride (taking into account all the legal and limiting factors), when and where. Which in the two situations above could also mean the difference between survival and death. It could be a 75 tonne lorry driven by Doug Grimes coming the other way around the blind bend you have found yourself stuck in the middle of while you are overtaking the Volvo at plus 2 mph.
Neither the IAM nor BWAM can ever advocate exceeding the plated limits; it has to be your decision as a part of the Advanced Riding process as to what speed you ride at and when. We cannot criticise anyone for complying rigidly with plated limits (via 'indicated' speedo readings) however it does pose the question; 'is that always advanced'?
It is your licence and your life but let's use some common sense here people, or perhaps you would be more 'comfy' in a car?
John Torring (JT)