Wednesday 2 December 2015

My background and why the IAM approach for me?

For me, as a rider since my early teens, the desire to become a better rider was largely driven by my work environment. Going from a truck driver doing all sorts of freight, to taking up hauling fuel, was quite a shift from a safety perspective.

All of a sudden it's like being sent back to school, learning how to drive a truck "properly and safely" instead of just getting from A to B. Over time this had me examine my behaviour behind the wheel of my car, this then lead to me doing some defensive and advanced driving courses with various providers, but it took me a bit longer to consider my riding skills. I mean c'mon, I'd been getting around on two wheels since, well, ages ago, and had never been in any serious accident.

So I must be a good rider huh? Well, not really as it turned out. You see I'd been away from riding for a brief spell, the usual scene when one gets married, buys a house, examines priorities and shelves the two wheeled addiction for a year or five. Anyway, once back on two wheels, now with a multitude of courses done for truck and car, the focus on improving my riding skills to a solid standard once again came to the fore. To a point I can admit that due to being involved in hauling fuel, my safety focus was high, and one can't help but become more risk averse in ones' private life when trained to perform a somewhat challenging task for a living.

So how does one go about improving ones' riding skills? I read books, watched videos, went on track based courses, but none of this felt like a complete solution for my road riding. Came across IAM thru a course done in Wellington, and swiftly got hold of the Motorcycle Roadcraft and the IAM How to be a better rider books. Reading these two publications quickly made me realise nothing else comes close to suiting a road rider. Some family situation then developed and we ended up relocating from Wellington back to Auckland, and the riding skills improvement project was momentarily shelved. Maybe about a year or so ago, got into some email to and fro with Geoff James (IAM co-ordinator) and he suggested I look into taking the IAM approach.

Some of our plans in Auckland took a while longer to sort than planned, and so it's taken until mid November 2015 to get my initial assessment done, ironically by Geoff James, who first suggested I look into this approach. Have also had my first run being coached/observed by Geoff, and thought I'd start taking some notes, if nothing else it may serve as inspiration for someone in a similar quandary as myself to take action on improving his/her own riding skills.

I should perhaps mention that one of the factors for me taking the IAM approach is simple, I enjoy coaching up and coming tanker drivers in my line of work. The perverse pleasure derived from building confidence in someone else by showing them in simple steps how to make improvements, well I like to think I'd one day be capable of doing that on two wheels as well. But, and it's a considered one, shouldn't I first be weighed and measured on my own two wheeled skills before making the step to coaching others? So I can't help but feel the IAM approach suits my way of thinking.

So how did my assessment go? Well, simply put, I survived. Got given a ride report at the end with 3 key points to work on prior to my next "proper" observed run. After the assessment, I went out and practiced to improve on my key points, with mixed success. After my 1st observed run, the same deal, 3 key points to work on. Maybe it's because I'm used to having my actions assessed at work at regular intervals, nah it's mostly just a genial coaching rather than drill sergeant style of observing/coaching that takes most of the anxiety away for a new IAM associate like myself.

One thing I will share right away, as a reminder of what NOT to do. As soon as I got the two books I mentioned earlier, I tried to polish my skills by trying to work on too many things at once. Don't is all I'll say, break it down into small chunks and don't proceed to the next lot until you've got the first lot down pat. Jeez, I'd been working like that when coaching new tanker yankers (small steps) and yet here I was making this basic mistake when working on improving my own skills.

I'll leave it at this for now, and will work on getting a bit more technical as my journey progresses.



  1. Welcome to the Blog-O-Sphere Rob - just found you! All the best on charting your journey with IAM. It will be great for riders thinking of joining IAM and established riders alike. It's great to be reminded of the path we've taken, including the highs and lows to keep us real!

    Look forward to seeing a few photos of your escapades and practice too :-)

    1. Cheers Geoff, it's a novel experience for me to create a diary/blog of my experiences. For me it's partly about motivation to keep on improving, and if it helps even one other rider in some way, all the better.

      It's a work in progress of course, some new stuff and pics posted.

  2. Hi Rob,

    I am a newly qualified motorcycle observer for the IAM (July 15) and from my prospective it's always useful to have feedback from Associates on how they view how the training is delivered. I discovered there are no egos in the IAM motorcycle division which prompts everyone to do their best for everyone else but how we do it, in the eyes of the Associates, is very important to ensure we are 'in tune' with requirements. - Barry Holland

    1. Hi Barry, Not sure how to respond, for by nature I'm quite cold to ego, in the sense that it doesn't bother me if someone displays some occasionally. That said, my interaction with Geoff James could be likened to father/son almost. And no, not having a dig at Geoff's maturity. For me the coaching has been from a positive angle, constructive criticism to my ears. Cheers, Rob

  3. Hi Rob,
    I’m an associate too and have enjoyed my time with IAM. I look forward to meeting you and your machine, I have a Yamaha TDM 900 (twin). I’m interested in your perspective about motorcycle positioning with regards to trucks. I’m sure you have a few stories on the subject !

    1. Hi Lloyd, Yes I'm sure we'll meet on two wheels in coming weeks. To briefly talk about bikes and trucks, if you pass a truck go middle of lane or further out, and get on with the overtake! On multi lane roads minimise the time alongside my truck please if we're running at open road speeds. If oncoming, personally when I'm on my bike I often will go left hand wheel track to minimise the buffeting. On tight corners where in the truck I need to get close to the centreline, the amateur riders who ride just inside the centreline with their body hanging over the line...oh boy. Not a fan of being tailgated by a bike, not worried about it though. Lots of wheels on the deck means anything picked up will come your way at speed, seen it often enough. This is also a reason why I don't run to the left of the fog line at speed, for I'll just pepper following vehicles with whatever debris is lying there, never mind the fact it's also illegal. Will stop here, for I could write a whole chapter on truck vs bike interaction. Cheers, Rob