Kent Fire and Rescue Service have devised a Ride Skills event at Brands Hatch, Kent, allowing motorcyclists to learn vital first aid training as well as experience two track sessions around the shorter Indy circuit.
Run in tandem with MSV Trackdays at a cost of £60, the courses are run throughout the summer months and cover first aid, emergency stops, slow speed control and even a one-to-one observed ride with an advanced IAM instructor.
While some activities will take place on your bike, such as the track time and slow speed slaloms, other elements take place in a classroom environment in intimate groups, with trained riders and teachers relaying life-saving information to pupils on topics including how to safely remove a riders’ helmet in the event of an accident.
Friendly members of staff
Although all dates have now run for this year, MCN attended one of the schools in the summertime and spoke to 48-year-old Jim Sanderson who is the Crew Manager at Kent Fire and Rescue Service Road Safety Team and helps run the events.
Jim is one of four Kent Fire Bike riders and the creator of the Biker Down! scheme, which is a free initiative that aims to give riders a basic understanding of first aid when first on the scene of a road traffic accident involving a motorcyclist.
This includes topics like clearing the riders' airway and breathing, helmet removal, keeping yourself safe and controlling the scene.
Much like a standard trackday, the event begins with a friendly briefing explaining the layout of the day. This is led by Jim, with interjection from fellow members of staff, in an attempt to calm everyone’s nerves.
Conscious that most attendees have never ridden on track before, he begins by saying: "This is about improving your skills. The idea from today is to tell you how good you are and give you some pointers on how to improve your skills and enjoy your riding a bit more.
"I expect to see loads of smiley faces – I don’t want to see any frowny faces. We are getting good at putting smiles on people’s faces here; from stripping down exhausts to fit baffles, to bump starting bikes in pit lane, we have done all it takes to help people out."
The Fire Bike program
Later on in the day, MCN sat down with Sanderson to discuss the Fire Bike scheme further. "The Fire Bikes are only used as an engagement tool and they are a rolling advert for the road safety events that we attend," he said. "They go to any events that we go to."
"I have been involved with the project since 2004. When we started, the team had four riders but only one bike, with the riders selected from serving firefighters. They wanted people who could go out and talk to motorcyclists and it was thought the public would respond better to active members.
'I was a biker before I was a firefighter and I’ll be a biker after I’m a firefighter' - Jim Sanderson
"We needed to ride to a level that was advanced, but we also needed to be able to talk about bikes as any other member of the public would. All of the riders are IAM qualified and my boss and I have gone on to pass the Masters course, too," Sanderson added.
"Bikers make up about 1% of road users, but nearly a quarter of all those injured. The budget to fund this project was taken from money set aside for community safety. It didn’t come out of the money for wages or for engines, or anything like that.
"I obviously thoroughly enjoy my job. I was a biker before I was a firefighter and I’ll be a biker after I’m a firefighter. I also get a lot of satisfaction from the fact that people are listening and improving their skills by attending the event."