3 min read

This month we meet national observer and LAM webmaster Mark Clarke.

When did you start riding?

I grew up on a council estate in the North East of England and one day the local scallies nicked a battered old Yamaha. I'm ashamed to admit that my first experience of riding, was on a stolen bike going round and round in a field. I didn’t know how to change gear but it was such a thrill and I've been hooked on bikes ever since. However, I tend to acquire them by more conventional means now … 

How long have you been an Observer?

I passed my bike test 6 years ago at the ripe old age of 50 - clearly, having my second mid-life crisis. After being wiped out by a car 9 months later, I thought it may be a good idea to invest in further training. Once I’d recovered, one of my friends suggested 'Bike Safe' and I signed up for one of the Warren sessions. They introduced me to the concept of Advanced Riding and LAM was my local group. I dutifully joined and passed my test in 2016, became an Observer in 2017 and a National Observer in 2020. 

What does LAM mean to you?

I've loved everything on two wheels ever since I was a kid. I spent 25 years riding and racing bikes (cycles). However, injuries and the passage of time made it impossible for me to ride, so I kept the faith on two wheels and took up motorcycling. Bikers make up 1% of road users, so we're automatically in the minority and a sub-culture – and I quite like that. I genuinely love the friends I've made through LAM, the camaraderie of my fellow petrol heads and the similar (sick) humour we seem to share.  

The skills and techniques I've learned from LAM have saved my life on at least two occasions. I find it incredibly rewarding to give something back and pass the skills I learned on to new riders. Hopefully, it will keep them safe and save their life one day. 

What is your favourite route?

I've a few ... I love Wales and riding up Llanberis Pass, over Snowden and down through the Ogwen Valley. The roads around the Nurburgring in NW Germany are simply amazing. However, I think the best roads are in Austria and Switzerland, amazing tarmac, breath-taking scenery having the stunning Alps as a backdrop and no-one else on the road. Word of caution – if you go over there, stick to the speed limits. When I got back from my European Tour, I had two brown envelopes waiting for me with speeding fines for going 5km/h and 8km/h over the limit!

What is your number one safety tip?

Information!! Keep your chins up (both of them) and throw your vision as far up the road as you can. Riding is inherently dangerous but getting information as early as possible lets you to spot clues, make a plan and navigate a safe path. 

What is your number one tip for passing the test?

Focus on one thing, practice like mad, nail it - then move on to the next. Build on a solid base and get it ingrained in your muscle memory so it's automatic and you don't have to think about it. 

What is your favourite piece of riding kit?

My snood. It's like Arthur's blanket in Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. You can't go anywhere without your snood. 

What is your favourite bike?

Kawasaki Z1000SX - I've had three of them so far. It's a sports tourer (more sports than tourer) and does everything amazingly well - commuting, track, touring, twisties or a trip to the shops - it's a brilliant bike. 

What has been your best or funniest moment on a bike?

As I got back late from work and was putting the bike away, the side stand flicked up. As it was dropping, I managed to catch it and lay it down on top of me. Unfortunately, I was stuck and couldn't move. It was a cold, wet January night at 10:30 PM and I was lying in a poorly lit parking bay. After about 10 minutes thinking “how the hell am I going to get out of this one”, I heard the 'click clack' of high heels and this lady asked if I needed help. She placed her handbag on the floor and deadlifted the bike up - in high heels - then walked off calm as anything as if nothing had happened. Strong girl! 

Ask me about …..

I have an eclectic taste, so ask me about anything involving ballet, IT or UK bird watching. 

 


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