So on the last Sunday each month the Auckland IAM crew gather at Westgate. For the January month end social ride my observer Geoff James and myself joined this gathering of the troops. After the briefing, which served as a good opportunity to meet a few more members, Geoff and I trundled off for an observed ride. Commentary whilst maintaining the riding standard was the key element. Ridge Road was an interesting bit of road, short sightlines and constantly varying corner radii. Still, apply the system and all should be well huh? Almost, had to use a bit of brake at the beginning of Ridge Rd when I misjudged a corner...tut tut!
Down the hill into Albany the next small error, not getting enough engine braking going into the 50 km zone, so slightly over the limit. Missed a couple of head checks and while the ride overall got a good review, it's niggling to me that the multitasking elements take more practice than anticipated.
One very important thing Geoff pointed out early on this ride is to use shorter decisive phrases during commentary. My habit is to use "looks like" when approaching a corner, together with "tightening" or "opening" which suggests I'm guessing when it's merely a habit in how I talk or jabber to myself. Fair point though, and one I've been working on.
Another valid point Geoff brought up was to call out the speed zone changes well in advance, together with the requisite mirror check for aggro drivers as well as situational awareness all around. On main thoroughfare type routes, by nature of my trucking background, my familiarity with the roads and also speed zones I was being cautious with calling out speed zone changes coming up. Last thing I wanted to be doing was calling a speed change out before the sign is actually in sight... On the back roads this isn't an issue of course, but come onto the motorways etc and it's like my own sandbox.
The debrief took part in Clevedon, all very positive stuff, but as always aspects to work on. Joined Geoff for a trundle down past Kaiaua, before turning for home thru the Hunua Gorge. We both copped some rain but that's just part of being out on two wheels isn't it?
A couple of short practice runs in the meantime to build a rhythm or routine, but self assessment is not one of my specialties I'll admit.
Sunday 14.02 saw me join the Auckland IAM crew for a social ride. Quite a mixed bunch of bikes and ages of riders. Cool to see a few women riders amongst this bunch as well. What was most pleasing though was the general discipline of the riders, no squids or heroes here. For quite some years I've shied away from riding with groups, preferring to ride with a small number of guys whose riding is sensible. The system of ride leader, tail-end-Charlie and using the tagging system to guide riders in the pack in the right direction was new to me. Makes perfect sense doing it this way though.
Observing the variation of skill levels was an eye opener, seeing one of the newer associates have a moment and then let a bunch of us past, this showed maturity. Rather than exceeding his comfort zone, let the faster runners thru and it's no sweat. In some ways it also shows more experienced riders how far we've come over the years of riding we've done.
So todays' route took us from Westgate around the back roads to Woodcocks Rd, onto SH1 at Warkworth and gather at the Puhoi pub. For my liking this was merely a warm-up to a real ride, so I came home more or less this way as well. And avoiding the motorway as much as I can, why not turn off at Kumeu and head home across Scenic Drive? Yep, I prefer the back roads on my bike, especially seeing I cover plenty of clicks on main routes while trucking along...can you blame me?
Now Geoff has commented my riding standard has improved to the point where I should start thinking about a date for the advanced test. On the surface this is daunting as well as challenging. Off for another observed ride with Geoff come Monday 15.01 and the following week a day with Philip McDaid as part of my prep for the inevitable advanced test. We all go thru this in order to gain full membership of IAM of course, and whilst I want to do well, I keep telling myself to keep calm. No snipers on the ridges and no incoming mortar fire and all that...
In reality the testing of my habits/skills etc is part and parcel of my job, what with being assessed at least once every six months. The joys of driving fuel tankers I guess. But hey, I get days off during the week so I can trundle along my favourite back roads while they're deserted.