Meet the instructors behind the BMF Blue Riband
The BMF is best known as the UK’s largest motorcycling organisation and for its lobbying initiatives to support the rights of UK motorcyclists – but training has long been seen as an essential part of BMF activities, delivered through the Blue Riband training scheme.
Recognised as the UK’s most advanced and professionally delivered training programme, the BMF has built up a nationwide training network to allow this advanced rider course to be offered to riders wherever they are in the UK.
BMF member Alan Wright, an ex-police advanced motorcyclist, was approached by the BMF Rider Training Scheme board in 1990 to develop and launch a training programme to meet the needs of modern motorcyclists.
“I developed and upgraded the existing Blue Riband scheme to operate along police training lines, at the same quality level as RoSPA or IAM training,” recalls Alan. “The Blue Riband scheme was designed to deliver advanced training at the highest level, and to work commercially.”
Having been involved with the BMF since it first started, and with more than 20 years of experience teaching motorcyclists, Alan still delivers training in Leicester. “The guidelines are based on police training but with a slightly different ethos as Blue Riband trainers are instructors rather than observers,” notes Alan.
Step by step
Continually developed ever since and designed to offer the highest possible level of training and assessment, the Blue Riband scheme starts with a theory session before moving on to practical road training and instruction over a road course of about 150 miles. Once at the required standard, the assessment is conducted by a separate instructor. The practical sessions can be held either in one concentrated day or broken down into separate sessions at times convenient to the candidate and instructor.
Once assessment is completed, candidates receive a written report containing advice on the subject areas of machine control, information gathering, psychology, judgment and road craft. A copy of this is sent to the BMF and is followed by a certificate of competence valid for three years, a Blue Riband badge and membership of the BMF for 12 months.
Flight of the phoenix
BMF member Tony Smykowski is now the UK’s major supplier of Blue Riband training through Phoenix Training, built up in conjunction with the BMF to become a nationwide network of training schools.
“I started Phoenix Training after being disappointed by the standards and customer service on offer through other programmes,” says Tony, an ex-Army instructor experienced in motorcycle training as well as instructing in mountaineering, skiing, rock climbing, armaments and military skills. Now, after 18 years, the company he founded is the biggest in the UK and still growing, covering 10 franchises operating 18 training schools across the UK.
“I started riding motorcycles at 16, was an instructor in the Army for 30 years and I’ve had a motorcycle licence for 50 years,” says Tony. “In that time, I’ve ridden every motorcycle there is, as well as riding across the USA on a Harley-Davidson, leading off-road courses in the Andalucian mountains and riding every single UK racetrack on a GSXR1000. Now I’m focused on continuing to build Phoenix Training as the UK’s biggest training provider without compromising the high standards we have developed over the past 18 years.”
Key to the success of Phoenix Training is the delivery of a fully accredited tailored training programme using top-quality instructors and equipment to the Phoenix Training blueprint – advanced motorcycle instructors, and a ratio of no more than two pupils per instructor.
“Our aim is to be the top motorcycle training programme in the UK and to be as good as we can be,” says Tony. “Keeping our standards high means our pass rate is exceptional – in the high 90% – and feedback from customers is outstanding. We rarely have to advertise.”
Ten years ago, responding to requests from other instructors for training and affiliation, Tony took the decision to franchise the business and now Phoenix Training delivers Blue Riband training through a nationwide network of 18 schools. From the beginning, the aim was to raise the standards of motorcycle training and to ‘train the trainer’, providing instructors to the highest possible standard. Now Phoenix runs four instructor-training courses per year, with many going on to open their own training schools or operate a Phoenix franchise of their own.
“We are open to opportunities for new franchises where open areas exist – contact us if you are business minded and committed to providing high quality training,” says Tony. “Franchisees receive the Phoenix business model blueprint and training materials and will be operating as part of a nationwide organisation closely linked with the BMF. We provide training for CBT, Direct Access, Back to Biking, Advanced and Blue Riband standards. We are proud to be associated with the BMF and will continue to work closely with them to deliver the best possible motorcycle training in the UK.”
The aim of the Blue Riband course is to assist experienced motorcyclists to improve their riding skills and therefore increase the enjoyment they get out of motorcycling. The course seeks to encourage you to think about the ‘why’ and ‘what’ you are doing when riding, to be self-critical and to be able to recognise your own strengths and weaknesses.
In 90% of motorcycle incidents, the main cause is human error – either deliberate or accidental. During the Blue Riband course, BMF-accredited instructors help clients to improve observation, planning and control, all helping to reduce errors and reduce the likelihood of causing your own accidents and helping avoid other people’s.
Many insurance companies will allow a discount for attaining the Blue Riband award – a recognition of the high esteem with which the scheme is viewed.