Got the bike, wobbled around a bit. Now I’ve got a choice — I can spend time getting myself back into the groove or I can try to short-circuit the whole thing with some training. There’s a wide range of choices here — I could go back to Genesis and have them teach me about the mysteries of the clutch lever again; I can go to a track-based school such as the California Superbike School or I can join a club that provides advanced training. I can’t be bothered with the first, don’t feel ready for the second, so that leaves the club approach. Around us that’s the Wey Valley Advanced Motorcyclists.

Now here we have a problem. The WVAM are affiliated to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and put a great deal of dedicated effort into training people up to the standard required for the advanced motorcycling test. A very worthy and worthwhile thing to do. And that’s the problem — the IAM has a very worthy and very, very boring image — visions of legions of Belstaff and Sam Browne- bedecked old farts with their elderly BMWs nailed to a 68mph maximum.

Before anyone from the IAM starts leaving mutilated Boxer heads in my bed, I do have an admission to make — I’ve been a fully paid-up car driving member of the IAM for a dozen years. It’s just that I could wish that the Institute would extend its appeal to a wider audience — I’m a compulsive horder but theirs is the only motoring magazine I ever get that is binned immediately after first glance — the tedium factor is just too high to have it lying around where innocent houseguests might pick it up.
On the other hand, motorcyclists are an inherently friendly bunch and much less inclined to be driving Volvos. It’s also a beautiful Sunday morning, so I’m heading up the A3 to Ripley Village hall for their monthly meeting and observed riding sessions.

It doesn’t start promisingly — my first encounter en-route is with a small cluster of aged BMW tourers being ridden at, er, 68mph and clearly heading for Ripley. As I pass at a relative Warp 5 or so, I’m sure I can hear the cries of “irresponsible young whipper-snapper!” from behind the visors. Bad start, I’m going to be blacklisted and ceremoniously drummed out in the first 5 minutes.

Then, as I’m coming in to the roundabout outside Ripley, there’s a flash of light in my mirror and a loud whoosh as I’m passed by an R1 and ZX-9 in immaculate close formation. They peel off, skim low through the roundabout and head off into Ripley. This looks rather more promising.

Arriving at Ripley Village hall and of course all preconceptions are most definitely off — the car park is stuffed with about 300 bikes of every age and description, but with a distinct predominance of very shiny sports bikes and the more athletic sort of sports tourer. Distinctly promising.

I got there too late to go on an observed ride, but signed up, paid over my £25 and hung around for the bacon butties and friendly chat. There’s a load of social runs throughout the year and they do a 1:1 pairing system for observed rides designed to bring members up to (and beyond) the IAM test standard. I’ll find out next time just jow much work I do need to do.