Sunday, 12 November 2017

Rider experience of Michelin Pilot Power 3

This is my experience of the Michelin Pilot Power 3, no I'm not being sponsored by Mr Michelin, although one could be forgiven for jumping to that conclusion as I've used a fair few Michelins over recent years.

Now I bought 2 sets of these, one in the standard size for my Busa, the obligatory 120/70-17 front and 190/50-17 rear. The second set I got with a 55 section rear. The set with the 55 section rear lasted around 8,500 km, which surprised me somewhat. One track day in late summer saw them respond nicely to a drop in pressure, but as this was a track based training day, we never got to stress the tyre to its true limits. In fairness this is not really the best choice from Michelin for track work anyway, and combined with a hefty powerful bike, it's fairly easy to find the traction limits of this tyre coming out of the tighter turns on track.

Being a Dutchie there was obviously some maths involved in the purchase of tyres haha. Had run two sets of Michelin Pilot Road 4 before the Pilot Power 3, following the same 50 and 55 section rear tyre trial. The 50 section Pilot Road 4 made the bike a bit sluggish to respond to direction changes, the 55 section Pilot Road 4 improved that a fair bit. Changing to the Pilot Power 3 was obviously going to be a serious change, especially as I started with the 55 section rear. Given the PR4 set cost a touch over $600 and got me about 12,000 km and the PP3 set was just on $400 and got me 8,500 km there was nothing in it looking at cost.

The difference is in how the bike feels, obviously! A sporty bike feels more lively with a sporty tyre which the PP3 certainly is. Having run PR4 on the same bike it will come as no surprise that I prefer the PP3 as it lets the bike use its performance more freely, without unduly hurting my squeaky wallet. In the wet the PP3 felt safe and secure, if anything it was a straight match for the PR4, at least in my experience. Now I'm not a fan of riding in the rain as such, but it doesn't phase me either. It's obviously not a scientific approach, but the seat of the pants impression of PP3 was the same as for PR4.

Now to add the impression of a Bridgestone S20 set that I ran on the Busa, straight after the OE Bridgestones were done, these S20s didn't like cold wet conditions at all. Given that the S20 and PP3 were developed at about the same time, one could reasonably make a direct comparison. On the basis of my experience, for my usage I'd not run another S20 or even the newer S21. Add in the fact that the S20s were toast after a mere 5,000 km, the value equation obviously favours the PP3. Yes it's that Dutchie coming out in me haha.

One aspect that may disturb Michelin users, is the slight step in the tread that shows where the centre (firm) tread compound meets the edge (softer) compound. The pic below shows rear tyre on current set of PP3s which is down to 2.5 mm in centre. This will likely see rear down to legal 1.5 mm by the time 8,000 km comes around. Front won't be far behind by this stage, so that will see this set come off.


Not just a visual thing, a distinct lip can be felt.


Mildly alarming from a visual perspective, no worries in practical sense, the ridge where centre and edge compounds meet.


Nice and shiny when new...

Seeing it's been a year or two since I've tried another manufacturers' offerings, have got a set of Metzeler M7RRs sitting ready to take over from the PP3s when they reach the limit. 


The Metzeler M7RR has a fairly narrow centre (firm) compound, along with some fancy varying belt tech to give life on the straights and grip on the bends. Be interesting to see how this plays out in real life. Yes I'm a bit of a nerd, fussing over tyre pressures and suspension settings from one tyre set to the next.

Will report back once I've got a handle on how the Metzelers are progressing. In due course I'll end up on a sport touring type tyre again, just couldn't resist sampling the latest sporty tyre offering. All for purely scientific comparison purposes, honestly!!

Let me sign off with a blanket statement. There's no such thing as a bad tyre nowadays. Buy a tyre from one of the major manufacturers, look after the pressures, and you can't go wrong. The variation that counts is rider skill/ability. So when I hear a rider blame the tyres for every single loss of traction event they've had, I just try my level best not to giggle at their unwitting admission of poor skills...


The passion is rewarded...

So yeah the word passion evokes different responses, depending on the context. For those with filthy minds, take a moment if you need one haha.

For me, and I'm upfront about it, passing on knowledge and watching others grow is best summed up as a passion. Still, it's very rewarding to get the occasional reminder when a trainee puts all the elements we've worked on together. That eureka moment when a chap reaches a point where he suddenly puts all the pieces together, and that old cliche about the end result being more than the sum of the parts comes to mind.

Let's not get into names in this instance, for the rider I'm referring to started off at a modest level. In reality he's not that far removed from what is in some ways an average rider, predominantly commuting, not afraid of wet roads perse, yet take him onto the open road in the wet and the confidence level plummets.

To explain this, let me go backwards. In order to approach any riding situation, the IAM uses Roadcraft of course, if you don't have a structured plan for dealing with what's coming at you there's a tendency to rely on luck. We all know this runs out eventually.

Over a period of months I'd gradually worked on putting the structure in place for this chap, then came the opportunity to put these newly gained skills to use. A damp road with a variation in surface quality, in other words the ideal place to use SSV. It helped that I knew the route well, and that other traffic could scoot past if need be. As it turns out, my trainee surprised not just himself but also me! I'll be fair in that I used plenty of demo running to placate any residual fear in my trainee, so when it was his turn to take the lead, he seemed quite relaxed at simply using SSV to pick a sensible path thru the surface variations. Moderating the pace according to the situation was simply IPSGA at play.

This particular ride was intended to be around 1.5 to 2 hours maximum. As my trainee was relishing his own accelerated learning curve, we took the opportunity to keep at it for a bit longer. The grin factor was there and watching him become smoother and faster, all in perfect control, was where that word passion comes to mind again. It's just cool to see someone take your coaching on board and thus make a quantum leap.

The next outing with the above trainee, I began by building on the learnings from our previous run. This quickly led to a mid ride chat, and the finer points of throttle control. It was partly prompted by a remark made by my trainee about tyres. He was looking at his front tyre and remarked how the front had a lightly feathered feel to it, whereas his rear was smoother in comparison. Yes I'd noted this before. Then he looked at my tyres and found the reverse. This led to a chat about chasing the vanishing point along with throttle sense. In earlier rides I'd gotten him used to using lower gears to achieve good engine braking, then using this lower gear to negotiate a twisty section on the throttle and how this was much smoother as it kept the bike nice and stable. Time to dial it up a bit.

The topic of neutral or positive throttle to enter the bend, then transitioning to a progressive throttle as we go past the tip-in point, which is depending on how quickly the vanishing point is moving away from us...was covered in chat, then by demo and finally letting trainee try this at his pace. Basically a repeat of the previous outing, the leap in confidence as the progressive throttle approach now made the bike feel more stable under more positive acceleration. Yes I'd covered this approach previously, but without getting stuck on it, for there were quite a few basics to sort out before spending some serious time on this.

This then reminds us to simply follow the building blocks approach, for to use a building analogy, do we really want the roofing crew to turn up before the walls are up? Now I'll be honest, for at the initial assessment with the chap I've talked about above, I didn't expect him to reach this level of riding this quickly. But hey, as Geoff James pointed out at the time, just tailor the observed rides according to the ability of the associate and build on it from there. Surprise surprise, it worked. Some folks are just a sponge for knowledge I guess. Yes I should have drawn a parallel with work, for some guys start off at a basic level yet grow quickly.

On a different note, recently had the pleasure of taking out a chap for his initial assessment, along with one of my trainee observers. We'll refrain from using names, suffice to say it was a bit of an eyeopener. Now my trainee observer in question is a very capable rider, so we may well have presented as an intimidating pair. Did our level best to chill the guy out, then go for a ride. The pre-ride chat item that stood out was the sheer number of Rideforever courses the guy had completed in recent times. So we could expect a reasonable performance one would think...

The reality was a little different though, and this was another reminder of what we, as IAM observers, consider an average rider. One of the items that stood out was the rigidity of the potential associates' positioning, so this had us transitioning to a demo ride earlier than intended, for it's about safety after all. Now it's too early to give a verdict on how this potential associate will turn out, but hopefully we'll have left him with a new found appreciation for the flexibility of the Roadcraft approach.

To follow on from the average rider theme, as part of my roaming the countryside for IAM purposes and various other social outings, I can't help but note the standard of riding overall is quite varied. Now let me be fair and admit that I'm not perfect myself. Right now I've got that covered, how would you feel if you've been following a guy riding a fancy bike, wearing all the right gear, but struggling to get around bends in a consistent fashion? On the odd occasion I'll end up chatting with a rider such as this, for I'll usually scoot past and be gone from him once the next few bends appear. Further down the road, be it a fuel/food/photo stop, this rider may want to know a bit more. For fellow IAM observers, this will no doubt have happened to you as well.

So what's the right way to handle such a roadside question? Well, I can but suggest humility is the right approach. OK, I'll happily point someone to both Rideforever and IAM websites, but beyond that I try to refrain from it turning it into a "damn I'm good" session for that just turns people off aye?

The importance to partake in social rides, to keep a sense of what constitutes an average rider is thus important, lest one slip into a mode of only riding for IAM purposes in some form or other.

The pic below is from this years' 1000 km cruise, aka 1 KC, with 5 IAM members (including myself) starting off from Hamilton. The damp start, or first 300 odd km, was not ideal and slowed the pace considerably, but we nevertheless completed the day.






The above pic is Rex Stentiford being presented his IAM Advanced Test certificate. Yes I know it's perhaps a little odd, but I reckoned it was fun to give him his certificate at the old Rangitikei River bridge on the Gentle Annie, about halfway thru our distance on the 1 KC. The grins sum it up. I have subsequently been questioned on where I intend to present the next certificate...so this might be the start of a tradition, and why not?

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Next batch of Observers 22.10.17

Seeing as it's been around six months since my last edition on this blog, about time I do some catching up! Have been busy on the work front, as well as doing my share of Observer runs in CNI region, the Observer training course just run seems like a timely reminder to keep my dear diary entries somewhat up to date.

Over the Labour weekend there was a combined Auckland & Central North Island region training course for Observers. Now I've been an Observer for barely 9 months myself, here I'm partaking in the coaching of the next lot. Is this intimidating? Well, yes and no. Watching the new trainee Observers struggle with the learning curve, as in the first intro to observing, was now very understandable. Maybe 15 months or so prior, I'd been in the same situation myself, gaining a new appreciation for the role of the Observer. Up until doing the Observer course, never really gave a huge deal of thought to what the Observer was doing "back there" when behind me, nor when he was out front doing demo work.

Now the full members who'd passed their Advanced Test, were sitting here, then out on the bikes, doing what an Observer does. Yes OK, one can have a bit of fun with this of course. I can distinctly recall being caught off guard by my assigned dummy associate, in the form of a fully fledged Observer taking full advantage of the caught in the headlights kind of funk I was experiencing when I did my course. Would only be fair to repay some of that now, and it will carry on in due course I'm sure. Now let's not beat around the bush, as a member of IAM, riding with introduced errors (on purpose) to allow the trainee Observers to get used to actually listing riding errors, just feels weird! It serves as a taster that the multi tasking element required of an Observer is quite a skill to master. In reality I found it straightforward, but never easy. The building blocks approach we used to learn the Roadcraft system ends up being repeated for the Observer learning curve, with the path to Observer being a bit easier than to the Advanced Test, at least in my humble opinion.


Geoff James fronting the class of 6 trainee Observers at the Pukekohe venue.

There are of course some very basic black and white elements to observing. Road Code and Roadcraft are written in clear terms, which leave little to individual interpretation. The personal interaction between Observer and Associate is where most of us have a bit to learn. Here we can quickly see who has done any kind of coaching of others, albeit that this sometimes leads to a somewhat direct approach. As in obey rule #4, don't be a d*ck, which for some reason was repeated by someone in our class. Very amusing, but a bit outside the no egos ethos of IAM in general me thinks.

One thing which has always stood out for me, since joining IAM, is that the learning never stops. This of course is quite contrary to many road users in NZ, they get their license, and then never undertake any training to either maintain or improve their skills. The result is that if one is involved with a road safety charity such as IAM, we can't help but shake our heads at the folly of Joe Average. At times we can even see accidents develop, unfortunately, which would be utterly avoidable if basic observation skills and discipline were used by road users.


Tony having a laugh while the Police rider is engaged in conversation inside...

There's no need to take ourselves too seriously too often, so we try to keep things light hearted, even inventing new ways to wave goodbye as the following pic proves haha!!

If you know this chap, you'll know he's always up for a giggle!

As I've mentioned, the learning never ends. Now we've got a handful of new trainee Observers, to match up with Tutor Observers, to put Associates thru their paces...and we're all learning all the time. I'll be brave and use the word passion, for I get a real kick out of seeing folks grow in knowledge/confidence/skill and knowing I played a part in that is enough for me. I look at how my own riding continues to improve, by being challenged, so I'm winning all the time. Getting to ride with skilled riders is just a pleasure, but in turn it also ends up skewing our view of what can be considered a normal or average rider. We tend to avoid those riders now as a rule don't we? For me, a constructive way to keep my gauge on what a normal rider is, comes in the form of partaking in a Rideforever course. And yes I did so earlier in the year, taking part in a Gold course, finding that my own sense of bad/average/good had shifted significantly!

Now the fun part starts, working with my trainee Observers to get the desired results.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Settling into the Observer role 09.04.2017

So it's been around 12 weeks since passing my Observer Test, must be time to reflect on how this has changed my view on the IAM world? Well yeah, it hasn't really and I'm finding that growing into the Observer role is rather enjoyable actually. It's a weird sensation in a way, now being the poacher turned gamekeeper, to coin one of the expressions I've heard in relation to the Observer task.

The initial trepidation soon gives way to just getting on with it. Yes the style of delivery will evolve over time, but the material that we're working with should by now be well ingrained into my approach to riding, so passing on what I've learned from the various Observers that have lent me their time shouldn't present a huge hurdle. So reflecting back on the first few guys I've been out doing observed rides with, 9 outings so far including 1 initial assessment, the word passion comes to mind. I'm really enjoying the passing on of knowledge, eliciting ongoing riding style modifications to bring an Associate closer to Advanced Test level.

The approach taken has evolved over time, with Geoff James now favouring an early introduction to commentary with new Associates. Funnily enough it seems to be working so far, to use the words of one Associate, it brings focus to the riding task he wasn't used to beforehand and thus automatically brings hazard identification to the fore. Now it's early days to give a definitive answer whether this approach merits universal adoption, but no harm in trying it with a new Associate, and if it works...well that's a bonus.

The variety of Associates that I'm working with at present is broad, two very experienced riders who are not far off from Advanced Test standard, one who is quite modest in ability and on temporary hiatus, another who is also quite modest in ability yet very eager and able to learn. So I guess the spectrum is covered, and it hammers home the fact that each ride really needs to be tailored to the needs of the Associate at the stage where they're at right now. The objective being to elicit incremental improvements at each outing. Then adding in how this becomes increasingly difficult as an Associate is approaching Test standard, so turning the focus then on maintaining previously covered aspects, while fine tuning the remaining items to the required level. Almost to the point of nit picking I suppose, but it's ultimately what sets an Associate up for passing the Test.

Setting a suitable route for where an Associate is at, on the surface it's simple, yet it requires a bit of preparation still. Google Maps is what I use to verify rough time and distance estimates, as I don't want a route to be too long or short, and whilst I'm still getting used to the various backroads I'm picking I'll continue this way. The urban and motorway sections are a doddle by comparison, for I know my way around Auckland quite well, and in reality the observing task isn't an exercise in orienteering but seeing an Associate deal with varying traffic situations.

With the Central North Island group not having an Examiner as yet, we're relying on having this task performed by our Auckland colleagues. I like to think that we'll grow to the point where we can independently perform the cross-check and examiner tasks in due course, but for the time being this is how it is with limited numbers of Observers. Pretty cool to be part of this growth phase, and I reckon Geoff is quietly chuffed that the huge effort he's put into the region, and us as individual observers, is looking like paying off.

The cycle repeats when the guys we've been coaching to their Advanced Test now, and if they choose to go on to Observing training, then get coached to their Observer Test. That in itself is actually less daunting to me, for if one can make it thru the Observer course then the actual coaching to Observer is not that big a deal. The logistics of getting a Trainee Observer and Associate together on a ride with a Tutor Observer, that's the challenging part!

Early days for me, but I'm enjoying giving up a few hours every second or third week to a worthwhile cause. I'm sure that over time the preparation required for each ride will become more efficient, as I fully accept I'm still learning as I grow into the Observer role. Not that the learning curve will ever end as such, but the efficiency of delivering the Observer function will improve I'm sure.

All in all, if one can find the time and enthusiasm to perform the Observer role, well worth it for the warm fuzzies it brings when one sees an Associate improving!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Observer Test 18.01.17

Shortly before the Observer Test we managed to sneak one last training run in. Geoff James brought along Tony Knight on Saturday 07.01.17 which served dual purpose once more in that I hadn't yet met Tony. Always good to catch up with members from IAM in my home territory so to speak, this being Central North Island. So it was fun to test my Observer (in waiting) skills once more, with Geoff calmly and kindly offering guidance. Always pleasing to see newer IAM members taking to the Roadcraft system with enthusiasm, then I found out Tony's path to IAM was very similar to mine. We'd both done the Rideforever courses and then asked ourselves what next?


Ready for takeoff post ride.



                                                            Midway chat in Drury.

Seeing Tony scooting around in a confident manner on his Yamaha Tracer was a delight. Pretty damn good effort all round from Tony on this outing, and finding him having the same challenges as myself on the learning process to master some elements was humbling. I'd had the same issues, so then being able to share my own journey and how I overcame the little hurdles along the way was rather neat. The process of helping others master a set of skills brings a weird sense of satisfaction. I've had this for years at work, so I know the word passion isn't misplaced in this context, for I thoroughly enjoy enabling others to do well.

But let's move on to the big day. Wednesday January 18th. After revision of Roadcraft manual and Road Code in the weeks leading up to the Observer Test, I felt ready for this event. It's an odd emotion leading up to this, not nervous as such, but rather keen to do well. If you've been thru it, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't as yet, don't let it unsettle you. In the back of my mind I figured I'd done the homework, showed my hand with my Tutor Observer on enough occasions and was found ready.

So Philip McDaid had brought in Keith Bishop to be my Associate for this event. Again, I'd not met Keith yet, so this was a dual purpose event once more. The info gathering stage with Keith was quite straightforward in that he's been in IAM for a while, so I didn't need to start from scratch so to speak. Devised a route that covered motorway, urban and some open road stuff, then off we went. The directive was to keep the run at around the 45 minute mark, and with a bit of help towards the end from Philip in terms of adding a bit of twisty stuff, this route covered the variety I'd intended. Now of course a 45 minute run doesn't allow for much in-depth stuff but that's not what it's all about anyway.

Got Keith to give us a couple of short bursts of commentary, which confirmed that his grasp of Roadcraft is sound. All the while Philip just quietly trailing in behind, which shouldn't be unsettling as such, but it's a different feeling to having Geoff bringing up the rear if that makes sense. The overall ride and then debrief was low key, and even got some nice feedback from Keith in the sense he liked my calm manner and timely directions. Always nice to get confirmation that my intentions come across correctly, after all we're just going for a bike ride, no need to amp up the stress level is there?

Thankfully the way Philip viewed my interaction was favourable as well, and seeing I'd managed to score 95% on both theory tests, things were looking up! Annoying how both the questions I got wrong, were simple things which I'll now probably never forget!!

So then I had to prove my own Roadcraft was still up to par by being followed by Philip on a brief run.  There was only one item on this outing that elicited a question from Philip, around the back of Taupaki we came across a car moving along a little under the limit in a mildly hesitant fashion. From where I was, this was an opportunity for an overtake and so I'd assessed the situation swiftly and snuck past the car without delay or hesitation. Then I looked in the mirror and found Philip sitting back and behind the car as its driver now kept a fairly steady pace. Momentarily I was worried, but then I'd not gone over the local posted limit even during the overtake, so figured the car driver just picked up the pace slightly after my overtake.

Back at Philip's Riderskills base we briefly talked about speedo accuracy, explained how my bike is equipped with a Speedohealer and how 101 indicated is 100 actual (as verified by GPS) and the overtake in itself was given the okay.

Quite cool to receive the big tick from Philip at the end of this test, not really sure how to best describe this emotion, for it's more one of feeling quietly chuffed rather than some weird fist pump kind of sensation. In no uncertain terms, this is why I joined IAM, to perform the observer task. I'll be rather humble and admit that I've learned more than I'd anticipated from the outset, lots of subtle stuff really and not just riding. The way we're taught to elicit an improvement in someone's riding is in some ways superior to the coaching methods we've been taught at work in the driver coach courses. I've even used the "shit sandwich" type of approach at work, and whether it makes you laugh or not, but it works.

So onwards and upwards, I still reckon we never stop learning and while now an Observer with my own wings, to coin a cheesy cliché, now being in the position that I aimed for from the outset of this journey...feels rather satisfying!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Trainee Observer update 02.01.17

Today was most likely my last training run before the dreaded (anticipated?) observer test. Having spent some time revising Road Code and the NZ-IAM riding standard, the offer put forward by Geoff to try to organise another training run was much appreciated.

So Terence Gates, Geoff James, and myself gathered at BP Bombay for the first run of the New Year. Terry brought along his new toy, KTM 1290 GT, which is quite a neat looking bit of gear. There's just something about a purposeful bike that also manages to be aesthetically pleasing in an odd way. I can understand the appeal!! One way to describe it might be to suggest it's a Super Duke R for (almost) grown ups. Over the course of the ride Terry's new toy was exposed to pot holes, slippery shiny tar, some mud and even ventured mildly off-road by traversing a short stretch of grass. Almost run in by now then...





Had a wee chuckle when we set off, ducked down Harrisville Rd towards Tuakau and for a minute or two it seemed like I might get some "fast rider" practise. The smooth asphalt had Terry showing a nice smooth and swift line into the first few corners, and I couldn't help but think to myself that he'd been down this bit of road before. Next we got some damp surface and for a moment it looked like the nice outing would turn damp prematurely. Exit Tuakau and venture onto Ridge Rd, which much like its Albany counterpart has a nice selection of challenging aspects. No doubt I'll be using this bit of road from time to time. Rest of the route was just to suit the purpose of the day.

There is a degree of challenge in doing a trainee observer run with an ex UK IAM Observer (Terry) as his riding standard was of course very high to start with. Then consider how little there's actually to work on for improvement, so here's where I deviated from the initial plan of a mid-ride stop, for there was little to talk about so save it for the end. In hindsight it'd be better to stick to a routine of a halfway stop, even if it's merely a five minute stretch and a brief chat.




For me, with the benefit of hindsight, the above picture brought to light how some of my learning curve still needs tweaking. The example being how I took a seat across the table from Terry at the debrief, which goes against what we were taught at the observer training course. Try not to put a physical barrier between oneself and the associate. Mental note made. The other funny element, well funny to me, is how we talked about commentary at the pre-ride brief yet I never got around to asking Terry to practise commentary on the road. At the debrief we discussed briefly how to make progress on commentary, as in bullet points or words, versus trying to get whole sentences in. Geoff shared how I tried to do exactly that at my commentary learning stage, and we collectively had a laugh about this.

Route selection has been kicked up a notch as well. Given a brief rundown on what was expected for this run, I'd ventured out the day before to double check what I'd mentally put together, found no major hurdles so stored this away. Then seeing as it was a fine day, did a bit more traipsing around roads unknown, all with the intent of improving my local knowledge and for future use with associates. Without a doubt, it also renewed my respect for current observers, for spending too much time on navigating a route that one isn't entirely familiar with can detract from the observing task. Funnily enough, this was another aspect that came to the fore in the observer training course. So in a sense, being fairly firm about the route, then giving clear and timely instructions to the associate aids in freeing up time to do the actual observing task. Hindsight was working in full swing today...

Consider how on a 3 up run, associate, trainee observer with training observer trailing behind, there can at times be a fair amount of chat going on over the comms, which in itself can add to the challenge. Overall this doesn't worry me, for it is after all still a social outing of sorts as well, and in future when it's a one on one experience for a while it'll possibly be missed? All about keeping it at a level all parties are comfortable with I suppose, so just storing this one away for once I progress to being the training observer at some point down the track.

Start/mid-ride/end or debrief locations. Being creatures of habit there's a tendency to just carry on doing what we're used to, so I've found myself largely following on the routine Geoff put me through. Not a bad thing of course, but I'll have to put a bit more thought into finding me a few suitable localities to aid in me changing gears to the observing task. Especially more so now that my home location is 5 minutes from BP Bombay...

Some ongoing minor health niggles have provided an unwelcome distraction to the task at hand. Now I'm in no way unique in that regard, but it has served as an odd reminder of how little it takes for us to be distracted from full focus to the task at hand.

To end this "dear diary" entry, can't help but reflect on how the learning curve to observer is both challenging, but also rewarding in a very enjoyable sense.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Trainee Observer update 04.12.16

So today marked run number 6 for me as Trainee Observer. With Geoff James as Senior Observer on overwatch, Associate Mark Ball as our willing subject, we gathered at Thames on a lovely sunny early summer day.

The intent for the day was to walk thru the basics of IPSGA, with the focus being to check that positioning practice has paid off, then lead this into correct selection of gears. In essence a building blocks type of approach, brought on by Mark being a little cautious on the bendy stuff, which he quite freely admitted during the information gathering phase. So what better place to work on gear selection and bendy stuff than the lower section of the Coromandel Loop?

Rather pleasing to both Geoff and myself, watching Mark make progress validates our relaxed approach as it matches the current ability of the Associate. In this case it's also working to the advantage of the Associate as we can help him make improvements without overloading him, thus potentially turning him off the process. In all fairness yes it'll take a few more rides to take Mark to the Advanced Test level, but so what?

The only downside on this loop was encountering a freshly watered lime section on a road works stretch...no doubt I'll be ribbed for this in due course as it's a bit of a bugger to clean off.






At the Observer training course in July this year, I can remember feeling a little overwhelmed at the task ahead, yet to be fair it's been relatively straightforward in practice. Now I would never call it simple, for there's a good deal of stuff to finesse, yet being deemed ready for the Observer Test at the conclusion of todays ride had a lovely sense of satisfaction about it. I reckon I've been lucky to have had Geoff James as my Observer from day one in IAM, for his style of coaching very much gels with me. Or put it this way, it's very similar to how I've been coaching new tanker drivers in my day job. Yes I'll freely admit that having done a few years of coaching existing drivers into improving their skills gives me a leg up, for doing the same thing on two wheels has loads of similarities. Now I've had a couple of other Observers acting as Training Observers along the way, and whilst this works ok as well, the overall continuity I've enjoyed with Geoff has definitely been to my benefit.

Looking back, at the Observer course many things seemed somewhat difficult, yet in reality the interpersonal stuff, putting someone at ease, getting a result without being too harsh on the negative aspects, all those elements more or less come along with a degree of ease. Maybe if I come across an Associate who rubs me the wrong way I'll feel different about it?

So now the joyous task of preparing for the Observer Test...in practical terms I'm not daunted by this, but I'm rather keen to do well of course! For me what follows after that is giving my time and energy back to IAM, for in reality this is why I've gone thru the process. I enjoy coaching those of lesser skills than myself, as much as I enjoy sponging up good info and knowledge from those who are better than me. To use a cliché, I wanted my two wheeled skills to be weighed and measured to an accepted standard, before embarking on passing on my knowledge to others. So in that sense, going thru to Observer with IAM seems like the ideal process.

Let's be honest though, the process of being involved in IAM is one of continuous improvement. I know this may sound funny, but I firmly believe we become a product of our environment, so my choosing to be involved with a group who rides to a high standard is infinitely preferable to joining a bunch of pseudo road-racers who view the law as a nuisance. Take a few like minded IAM members for a social ride and at least it's predictable and quite safe.

One aspect of getting to this stage, is one that I hadn't really thought much about, even though it seems obvious enough! It marks the end of being coached on an ongoing basis by Geoff, who has been in some ways a father figure to me. And no that's not a dig at his maturity! The enjoyment of learning from Geoff, as well as how he embodies the "no ego" ethos of IAM has allowed me to grow into my new role with ease. Best I work on making some social rides happen with Geoff, you know, just to keep us both sharp...





When I look back to the start of my IAM journey, I could ride safely and all that, but what's been added to my skillset has been quite significant in my view. Weird thing to admit, but at the outset I never thought that going thru the IAM process could have brought back so much enjoyment to my riding. If there is a downside to going thru the IAM process it's that one becomes ever more critical of other folks' poor behavior on our roads, but at least I'm now armed with enough skills to keep myself as safe as practicable I suppose.

Now the small but not insignificant matter of the Observer Test...