I was pretty nervous, as the traditional animosity between motorcyclists and scooterists still remains and I wasn't sure my speed could match the big boys, even if we remained within legal limits (which I don't believe is always the case). But somebody has to be an ambassador for the scootering species and prove we're not all irresponsible teens who bunnyhop their Speedfights from the traffic lights with only a T-shirt and shorts for protection.
Besides, cybersofa has got so much out of riding with the Bournemouth and Wessex group, both riding-wise and on the social side, and anything that increases the odds of survival on two wheels has got to be a good thing. Not to mention anything that brings insurance premiums down, as the IAM qualification does.
There were lots of big, shiny bikes lined up at the venue, and the GT stuck out like a, well, a Mod at a Rockers' convention. Lots of big shiny men within, too (and several women, which pleased me; females are underrepresented in the biking community), all dressed sensibly in leathers or man-made two-pieces and proper boots. I felt rather inadequate in jeans and Doc Marten's, which afford the absolute minimum level of protection.
Though most folks stuck with their mates, several made the effort to come over and introduce themselves. I was paired with another newbie, Paul, for the ride, and we went out with a Senior Observer and a Trainee Observer.
A short journey, but we covered lots of different road types: A-roads, dual carriageway, town driving, twisty country lanes. (Could a driving instructor utter a more terrifying phrase than 'And then we're going to go back via Corkscrew Hill'?) We stopped twice on the way for debriefing and critique of our riding style and to swap observers. For half of the ride back the observers gave a demo of how we should be riding, for the rest of the way we had a chance to try out what we'd seen them do.
The main area I should work on, I was told, is my positioning. I ride as I was taught on Compulsory Basic Training six years ago: always smack bang in the middle of the left lane, Dominant Riding Position. It turns out that what is a good rule to keep you safe when you're learning can be improved on when you're a more advanced rider, and I learned a lot about using your position on the road to increase both vision and visibility.
Another problem is my speed. I am not afraid of gunning it, at least not on a straight fast road, but 70mph is attainable only downhill with a following wind and this means I may not be able to take the qualifying test. Makes no sense to me; I don't see why someone on a 50cc moped should be barred from being an Advanced rider. You need all the skills you can get if your top speed is 30.
Still, going for a qualification is a long way in the future - maybe years. My riding pre-training scored 64 points out of a possible 100; you need to be above 90 when you book in for your test.
I had a lot of fun and picked up some useful pointers. It's not entirely pleasant to feel you're being observed all the time - you're more aware of and annoyed by your cockups than usual, and when I got off the bike my neck and shoulders were stiff with the tension of concentrating. But I'll be going back. Somebody has to prove that scooters can do it too.