A mentorship scheme aimed at connecting newbies and experienced riders is set to launch this weekend in Western England. The man behind the idea says he sees it as a way for folks without an existing network of motorcycling friends to benefit from the experience of long-time riders.
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Moto Mates is sort of a relaxed version of the multitude of “advanced riding” courses that are available to licensed riders in the UK – eg, BikeSafe, RoSPA, and AIM – and one that not-yet-licensed riders can also benefit from. Moto Mates founder Will Hopkins got in touch with TMO about the idea not too long ago, saying he felt there was a gap in learning opportunities for fresh riders – especially those people who have recently earned their CBT.
“The idea is simple: experienced riders with a few hours a month to spare mentoring fresh riders,” he told me.
A CBT-licensed rider is free to take to the streets on a 125cc motorcycle but may lack the confidence to do so if he or she doesn’t have any friends or acquaintances that ride. Equally, he or she is not eligible to take part in the aforementioned rider courses, which require a full license. As such, a brand new rider finds him- or herself somewhat in the wilderness – a situation that no doubt crushes the enthusiasm of many riders.
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Certainly it’s a feeling I can relate to. When I first returned to riding a few years ago, all my friends were artists and performers. I didn’t personally anyone who owned a motorcycle, let alone who rode regularly enough for me to ask questions. So, even after I got my license I had a tendency to feel pretty uncomfortable. It took me almost a year to develop enough confidence that I didn’t feel a sense of panic each time I geared up.
Will stresses that Moto Mates is not rider training, but just an opportunity to pick up tips and advice from people who have been on two wheels for a long time (at least three years, says Will). The mentor doesn’t necessarily have advanced rider qualifications and won’t be teaching per se, but serves as a voice of experience.
I suppose it’s similar to the Paned a Sgwrs events we used to host when I was a Welsh-language teacher. We’d encourage fluent speakers to come along to give learners an opportunity to use and build upon the skills they’d learned. The fluent speakers weren’t expected to sit and break down grammatical points or any such nonsense, they just needed to be a patient and encouraging voice.
Obviously, the trick here is for learners to take all the advice with a grain of salt. My pal Shuffles has a fair few thousand miles under his belt, but he also fills his Facebook feed with pictures of himself doing wheelies on the motorway or being dragged behind a car to test the integrity of racing leathers. Shuffles is a good dude, but I feel he should be kept away from the impressionable minds of people who have just earned their CBTs.
Nonetheless, I think Moto Mates is a good idea. If motorcycling is going to expand, many riders will have to come from backgrounds where riding has not been a part of daily life. Not all of those riders are going to possess the possibly-a-mental-health-issue obsessiveness I displayed when returning to riding. Without another rider with which to simply interact, many may lose confidence and give up. An idea like this will hopefully provide encouragement.
And certainly the price is right. Moto Mates doesn’t cost the new rider anything, though the scheme encourages newbies to foot the bill for “a bit of tea and cake” as a sign of gratitude.
A launch event focusing on slow riding skills is set to take place this Sunday in Cheltenham (to find out more, get in touch with Will via the Moto Mates website), but ultimately Will hopes to see the idea catch on throughout the United Kingdom. Here’s wishing him the best of luck.