ROWAN Elliott is not looking to take his cycling speed to a whole new level despite becoming an ‘expert’ rider in quick time in a different field, writes Mike Parsons and John Westlake.

The Northwich 35-year-old, crowned British Masters 1km sprint cycling champion for the past two years, was left feeling hungry for more motorbike track rides after featuring as a ‘guinea pig’ on the Bikemaster course – designed to take a beginner to an expert on the roads in 11 days.

Part of the course included Rowan, a personal trainer working out of Elite Health in Knutsford, putting his foot down on the gas on racing tracks.

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“I’m not planning on racing at all on the motorbike but I will be doing the odd track day more for the enjoyment of doing it,” said Elliott, who won two silver medals at the World Masters Track Championships at Manchester Velodrome last October.

“I’m going to be sticking to pedal power.”

Rowan was hit with a health scare eight months ago but despite his recovery the coronavirus pandemic curtailed competitive cyling.

“Things have been a lot more reserved following a cardiac arrest on November 13, only three weeks after I’d competed in the World Masters,” he said.

“All events for me have been cancelled so far this year but there is a possibility of The Black Line Open on November 7. This is an event that’s run by the team I race with and is the most turned out race in the country on the track.”

He has used his time this summer to enhance his motorbike riding skill.

While most people learn slowly, gradually accumulating riding skills over decades, Rowan wanted to be a genuinely superb road rider by the end of this summer.

By chance, he bumped into Brian Glover-Smith, an ex-traffic cop working for Rapid Training who was designing a new kind of training course that he reckoned wouldn’t just improve someone’s riding, but utterly transform it.

“I wanted to build a professional-standard course that could take someone from being an average rider to being exceptional, as good as they could possibly be,” said Brian.

“Rowan seemed like the perfect guinea pig – he was keen to learn and his skills were at quite a low level because he’d only been riding for a year. If it could work for him, it could work for everyone.”

Rowan went from a motorcycle newbie to a rider so fast, confident and safe that he appeared as an ex-racer with 20 years of road experience thanks to the intensive 11-day course.

For Rowan, the results are just what he hoped for.

“By the end of the course, my riding had changed completely,” he said.

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“I was looking miles further ahead, so I was going faster but I felt more in control, and I was far more confident in my ability to cope with any corner.

“I actually went out for a ride with one of my mates and he was gob-smacked – he couldn’t believe how much better I was riding.”


He accepted that his riding wasn’t great at the start of the process.

“I enjoy going fast and the sheer escapism of riding a bike, but before the course my control was poor and in hindsight I didn’t really understand what hazards I should look for,” he said.

“Also, cornering at speed baffled me – I really wasn’t sure what I should be doing. I just sort of did it.”

Rapid Training's Brian Glover-Smith agreed.

He said: “Rowan had raw ability and wasn’t scared of the bike, which was good. But on the first assessment ride I asked him to start off steadily, and he batted off down a straight faster than I would have gone – there were several blind side roads – then was very tentative when we got to the bends. But Rowan’s a humble guy and he knew he needed help.”

The Rapid Training course Rowan took – Bikemaster – is split into three levels, each comprising three days of one-to-one training on the road, plus a day on track on Level Two and Three.

Level One concentrates on the basics of high performance road riding – reading the road, planning, and machine control.

Inevitably, Rowan had a lot to learn.

“On his first day he wasn’t recognising danger and was overtaking at huge speeds in inappropriate places,” said Brian.

“He was riding too close to vehicles so he had no view around them, wasn’t using his mirrors effectively and turned in too early on right hand bends, coming into conflict with opposing traffic. He had a lot of balls, but didn’t have the skills to match.”

But he was a fast learner.

“The biggest improvement I made during those early days was to my observation,” said Rowan.

“Before, I thought I was looking far enough ahead, but I wasn’t – nowhere near.”

The crunch point came when Brian asked Rowan to give him a commentary of what he was looking at during a ride (the two were hooked up with intercoms).

“If you ask most riders about observation they say ‘yeah it’s very important and I’m very good at it’,” said Brian.

“But most aren’t, and it’s only when you do an intercom commentary that you find out if you’re any good or not.

“And the ability to gather huge amounts of information, make sense of it and automatically respond to it can be learned and practiced. At the beginning, that wasn’t one of Rowan’s strengths.”

After numerous drills, Rowan improved.

“I got him to tell me when he saw the next bend, or any warning sign related to it,” said Brian.

“And I’d say that I’d seen it three bends ago using cross-views, so he’d have to raise his vision even more. By the end of the day he was having a laugh trying to spot things before me – the penny had dropped.

"You can learn to look harder, and that’s the reason most fast road riders are able to do what they do. They see things earlier and have more time to work out how to deal with them.”

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Rowan’s bike handling skills were also coming along.

“Steering a bike is a very technical process,” said Brian.

“One rider can go into a bend at 60mph and run wide, while someone else can go in at 90 and hold a perfect line with barely any effort. The difference is often how quickly and accurately they get their bike onto the right line, and that’s a technical process.”

By the end of day three, things were starting to come together.

“I was looking a lot further ahead and reading the road a lot better,” said Rowan.

“I was slowing down more going into corners but opening the throttle a lot harder when I started seeing them open up.

"Going down Snake Pass on day three I was putting in a lot more overtakes because my vision was better and I was timing my arrival with the traffic much more accurately.”

Part of the Level Two course is a day on track, and Rowan had been looking forward to this for ages.

“What a buzz. I learned so much on that first day on track at Blyton Park (in Lincolnshire).

"I was doing a lot wrong to start with – turning in too early, going in too fast, chopping the throttle.

"And at the start of the day I was just sitting on the bike, but towards the end I was gripping the tank with my legs a lot more – I found that really helped my connection with the bike and it felt like I could be far more precise with my steering.”

But why use track training on a road riding course?

Brian explained: “Level Two is all about making the fundamentals intuitive and pushing the pace a bit, and that’s where the track comes in. It’s the perfect environment to discover what your bike can do in relative safety. All the drills are road-focused, so it’s entirely relevant.”

One of Rowan’s biggest gains was getting the power on harder out of corners.

“You can easily demonstrate exit drive on track,” said Brian.

“Both riders can go into a bend at the same speed, but the one who understands about exit drive is a dot in the distance by the time they both come out.

"Most road riders don’t know what the bike and tyres are capable of until they see it in action. We started working on braking too, plus polishing his steering technique so he can get in and out of S bends more quickly.”

By the end of the day, Rowan was flying.

“I was getting my pegs down everywhere. I definitely want to do more track days,” he said.

Almost all advanced riding techniques originate from Roadcraft, the police rider’s handbook. And very useful it is too.

But one problem identified by the Rapid Training coaches (who are all vastly experienced police class one riders), is that it can encourage an over-reliance on a rigid system, where every hazard has to be negotiated using a process abbreviated to IPSGA (Information, Position, Speed, Gear, Acceleration).

“There is nothing wrong with this as a start point for beginners,” said Brian.

"But as we progress we need a more intuitive approach where reading the road, planning and machine control all become one, dynamic, seamless and effortless process.

“I know how we rode in the polic and none of us were consciously going through IPSGA, that’s for sure – and we used to ride at ridiculous speeds without smashing our bikes up.

"The whole process was intuitive. If we approach each hazard with a pre-formed checklist, as we constantly react and adjust our plans to the evolving situation the process quickly becomes overwhelming unless we travel so slowly that we can restart our check-list repeatedly.

" Instead, we show people what police riders really do, and how to develop an intuitive and natural approach to riding fast.”

Consequently, Level Three is all about helping the rider to achieve a natural, intuitive riding style.

“Expertise involves developing an ability to compute and react to much more information than a novice can possibly cope with,” said Brian.

“That is what makes great riders great.”


Rapid Training is one of Britain’s most respected advanced training companies. Every coach is trained to police class one standard and all MCN’s road testers are trained by Rapid. Details about the courses and ethos are at


It’s an intensive 11-day course run by Rapid Training. It’s split into three levels: Level One is three days on the road and costs £795. Levels Two and Three are three days on the road plus one day on track, each costing £1195. All coaching is one-to-one apart from on track when it is one-to-two.