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Top of the training table

If you’re in the habit of attending Championship football matches, you may have already visited Bryan’s Motorcycle Training premises without realising it. Stoke City FC’s bet365 stadium is not only host to the city’s biggest football club but also the home of the Midlands regional centre for BMW training – Bryan’s.

But while Stoke City FC is languishing in the bottom half of the championship table, Kevin Bryan’s business is on the up, having just announced plans which will see a 50% increase in garage space, taking its bike storage capacity from 22 to 50-plus.

With bookings well into next year and business now surpassing pre-Covid levels, Bryan feels the time is right to future-proof the business, “The extended premises, complete with electric charging hubs, mean that we can continue growing the business and secure our long-term future here in the heart of the city.”

The success of the business is in no small part due to the strong local ties forged over the years with other businesses in the area, which Bryan has nurtured. Having initially joined the family driving tuition business as an instructor at the age of 21 after completing an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering, Bryan spotted an article in the press a few years later about the Driver Standards Agency taking over motorcycle training and testing, and he saw an opportunity. Already a keen motorcyclist himself, he approached the DSA, and also went in search of a manufacturer tie-in. “I visited almost every dealership in the city, but the only one who saw the potential was John Taylor Motorcycles, which was a solus Honda dealers at the time”. While Bryan was off getting the necessary qualifications to launch the motorcycle training business, John Taylor had sourced Bryan’s first site and also bikes through Honda UK, a couple of Honda H100S’s and a Honda 450 for Bryan to use as the trainer’s bike – a far cry from the 22 strong bike fleet of today!

From humble beginnings, Bryan’s bike training business started to grow, and he was soon in need of bigger premises. A chance conversation led to him putting a request to Stoke City FC to host his business within the confines of the car park and using the old ticket office as a base. An initial deal was agreed upon for twelve months (subject to no red cards being received for bad behaviour), and when the then CEO of Stoke City FC – Jez Moxey turned up to take his bike test, Kevin knew things were looking up. Some six years later, Bryan was shown plans for the new bet365 stadium and was delighted to agree with the club, local developers and the council for the company’s first purpose-built training centre to be built as part of the development. Ironically, whilst the new stadium was being built, Bryan’s Motorcycle Training was temporarily housed with local rivals Port Vale FC and then, in 2001, returned to Stoke City FC when the works were complete.

The link-up with Stoke  City FC has undoubtedly worked well for the business, as Bryan recognises: “Having upwards of 20,000 people visiting the venue every other week has provided us with the best form of free local advertising we could have wished for!”

Bryan also approached the motoring correspondent at the Evening Sentinel newspaper and offered him the opportunity to learn to ride in exchange for him documenting his experience in the then-popular regional daily paper. Bryan wasn’t expecting a weekly full-page giving a blow-by-blow account of every lesson the reporter took, from slow manoeuvring to road positioning, giving another injection of excellent free local advertising.

Local people and local connections have been invaluable to this day. “I always listen to those giving advice, people genuinely want to help, and this has helped the business continue to grow.”

The affiliation with Honda continued for several years, but when John Taylor retired and Honda left the area, Bryan had a brief spell with Yamaha and then went on to forge an alliance with BMW, and this remains his partner to the current day.

Bryan’s Motorcycle Training is one of BMW’s five authorised Rider Training Centres and it has just taken delivery of a new fleet to service the busy training diary. The fleet consists of a range of BMWs from the 310R and 310GS right up to the R1250RT and R1250GS, Bryan also has a fleet of 125s and 50cc scooters so that he can cater for all training requirements.

A growth area for the business is from the female biking sector, with 20% of all new customers being women. To cater for this, the firm has a full-time female instructor among its six-strong team, as some women prefer a choice of instructor.

An increase in interest in starter bikes for commuting is also being seen. “Whenever there is a downturn in the economy, we always see an increase in training for commuters as people look to bikes to make savings” says Bryan. Post-test training through ERS (Enhanced Rider Scheme) and Bikesense instruction, in association with the Staffordshire Road Safety Partnership, give the business the depth and breadth required for long-term sustainability.

The new premises will see a three-phase construction process, with the foundations going down in early 2023 and a completion date later in the year.

As the business moves into what can only be described as the premier league of training establishments, its neighbours at Stoke City FC will be hoping that some of Bryan’s magic will also rub off on their promotion chances. Kevin’s enthusiasm is plain to see. “I can honestly say I love this business as much as I did 33 years ago and still get a real buzz from teaching people to ride a motorcycle.”

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