There’s a sizable category of people out there with a dusty motorcycle license in a drawer somewhere and little time spent actually riding in the last decade.
As keen as many of these people are to jump back into the hobby, the thought of doing it alone can seem intimidating.
I’ve been in a similar situation myself. Having spent nearly a decade riding on the right in central and east Asia, I found it helpful and encouraging to get some practical guidance to riding in this part of the world again despite my “full license” status.
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A refresher course (also known as a back to biking course) is pretty much what you’d expect from the name. Aimed squarely at people with prior riding experience who have either been away from the hobby for a while, are moving up in power, or are trying a new style of bike.
Most courses take it pretty slow to accommodate people who’ve forgotten some of the basics. There’s also the possibility that someone who hasn’t ridden for a few years might be familiar with motorcycles but not the technological changes to newer machines.
A good course will cover changes to the law, the culture of riding, traffic conditions, and equipment too.
Is It For You And What Are The Benefits?
This is a question of how confident you feel in going it alone.
If you’ve got friends or family who ride, you might be perfectly happy to go to an empty car park at night, get your confidence back up in company then go for a low-stakes cruise.
If, however, this isn’t an option and you feel genuine anxiety about getting back on the road, we can safely say one of these courses will help.
The benefit of doing a refresher course is primarily confidence. A good course breaks everything down into small, easily accomplishable goals in a controlled environment.
By the time you’ve run through the checklist on the course, the anxieties you had around riding will largely evaporate. From there, it’s just a matter of getting in a few hours of practice time, and you’ll be back at 100%.
How Much Should You Expect To Pay?
There’s quite a bit of variety in this, but sticking with well-reviewed schools with a good online presence should keep you safe.
Most refresher courses are either a half-day or full-day training, with the former ranging from 150 – 250 GBP and the latter 200 to 400GBP.
Some schools offer training by the hour, which usually works out somewhere between 30-50GBP. If you’ve had previous experience riding, you’re unlikely to need anything longer than a day of training to get you back on your feet.
What To Expect
Safety should be the primary focus. Lots of courses start with you and your instructor discussing the aspects of riding that are making you feel anxious.
If this sounds like a therapy session, then it’s probably because it is.
In much the same way that psychoanalysis gets people to confront things that make them uncomfortable then develop strategies for dealing with those things, a good refresher course is about identifying things that are holding you back from riding on your own, breaking those things down into simpler, easier-to-achieve parts, then practicing them in a controlled way until your confidence is back where it needs to be.
Typically, trainers have a range of radio and safety equipment (which may incur an extra charge, depending on the school).
Some schools provide bikes for students at a cost and may allow students to start on a low displacement bike and work their way up to the desired power level over time.
Most people choose to use their own bike, gaining valuable experience in a low-stakes situation before riding their new toy on the road. The school provides a space for practicing a variety of techniques and situations away from traffic and pedestrians.
Ultimately, the objectives vary from person to person.
Even experienced riders (maybe especially experienced riders) can have entrenched habits that are sub-optimal for safety.
Being observed by a third party who knows their stuff can benefit a range of people. The course should be designed to lower your fears about getting back on the road, and a good instructor will immediately focus on those needs.
If you’d like to get back on a bike after years away but feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought, I cannot recommend a refresher course enough.
Just being in a situation where you don’t feel under pressure to know exactly what you’re doing takes the heat off and makes remembering how to operate a bike much easier.
Instructors are pros whose job is to iron out any kinks in your style and positively reinforce whatever you’re doing right. Anyone could benefit from one of these courses.
Lots of us have picked up bad habits over the years, and having another set of eyes can help us drop them.