Saturday, 27 February 2016

Half a day with Philip McDaid 23.02.16

Hard work!

Not in a negative sense though. Just watching Philip in action, then listening to the effortless delivery of commentary, is something to aspire to. Yes I fully realise it's his occupation, and he's likely done the same bit of road umpteen times, but still it's pretty to watch. At the outset of my IAM journey, I'd read about encounters with Philip, now I got to see it first hand.

Kicking off with Geoff James there were often references to how Philip would do something/view something, and it didn't take me long to ponder a session with Riderskills doing a Roadcraft course, just working out at which point it would be of most benefit to my improvement was the key. Left it to Geoff to suggest this, after floating the idea with him.

Having met Philip the first time at a social IAM ride in January 2016, the first impression was of a quiet and humble man. The title of Chief Examiner might conjure up an entirely different image...

So met up with Philip, and after a brief chat about what my intentions were for the day, proceeded to an assessment ride. Well my intent was simple, take a step towards the advanced test. So on to the assessment, only about 90 minutes or so, but it seemed like hard work. The ride itself was at a fairly relaxed pace, mixture of familiar and unfamiliar roads. Funny how when fatigue combines with unfamiliar roads, the performance loses a fair bit of fluency.

This last bit is what Philip commented on in an impartial manner. Now ok, I'm not sensitive to being assessed fairly and I certainly didn't disagree that towards the end of the assessment ride my fluency started to fade significantly.

Plenty of positive stuff in how Philip viewed my riding, so at least Geoff James can rest easy haha! So after a coffee and some more chat on what's next, we headed off once more, now with Philip in the lead and giving me bursts of commentary. Well not so much bursts, more like a near non-stop verbal version of what I was seeing. For me this was a master class display, not surprising of course, but a reminder for me of when someone is really good at something, they make it look supremely easy. Mmmm, so I could be either despondent about watching Philip in action or I could see it as a performance to aspire to. So exactly how many years will it take?

For the moment I'm still at a stage where I'm adapting to the IAM approach, as much as it makes sense to me, the variations of defensive driving methods I've been exposed to at work have had a similar focus overall with slightly different methods. In all fairness a good part of my challenge is to deliver a brief commentary in a swift enough fashion so I'm not getting too close to the point I'm commenting on. Another aspect is to touch on all actual and potential hazards and use observational links. Rubbish bins being out could mean a rubbish truck around the next bend. Proximity to a school at start or end time, maybe we drop the speed back a little?

Practice is the key obviously, just need more of it. Next month at work we'll be doing our next SAFED (Safe And Fuel Efficient Driving) refresher course, which has similarities to the IAM approach. Be interesting to see the fresh version of SAFED and do a thorough comparison.

Traipsing around the back of Waimauku, so near yet so far from roads I'm a regular on, was a revelation. Perfect for practising limit points though! Yes, an ST1300 and a Busa can get around backroads at a fair clip. We even managed to practice an overtake or two in these conditions, despite my bikes' lack of power haha... Now limit points or vanishing points aren't new to me, but commenting on limit point getting closer or further away, then using acceleration sense to traverse unfamiliar roads certainly cranks up the sweat glands, nothing to do with 30 degree ambient temps.

The good part was that cranking up the pace a little seemed to keep me crisper and the fluency seemed to improve. Along the way we had multiple stops for debriefs and/or reviews on the last half hour of riding, along with what's next. Good way to break up the half day into manageable chunks of learning.

So to cap off, I'm gonna have to work at elevating my standard and keeping it consistent. Simple in theory and achievable of course. Practice practice practice...

Anyone who gets the chance to ride with Philip will learn a few things!


  1. Rob,
    Really enjoyed this post as indeed will have other IAM members who have ridden with our beloved Chief Examiner. Lovely guy but we've all experienced that mix of fear and admiration because of his sublime skills and high standards. We're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you over your comments :-). The respect doesn't diminish over time either. I was just as nervous having him behind me when sitting the Senior Observer Test!

  2. Hi Geoff, Yes watching Philip is definitely an experience! For me fear isn't the first word I'd use, more a case of awe inspiring. So basically a level of roadcraft to aim for. In the meantime feel free to laugh all of you guys and gals...