Monday, 6 June 2016

8th observed ride 07.06.16 - ready for the cross check, yippee!!

So yeah, I'm outwardly quite relaxed, but inwardly quite chuffed to have reached the point where Geoff has deemed me ready for cross check. Hopefully onto the advanced test in short order...

Between the weather in recent weeks, work and family commitments, only snuck in two brief rides to practice my skill set. One of these rides ended up in rather wet conditions, unintended I might add, but all in all no drama. Using the Roadcraft system under trying conditions underlines the value of participating in IAM training. As much as we might want to give a thumbs up to Mr Michelin for his Pilot Road 4s, the bikes we ride do much better when ridden correctly with suitable restraint and training.

The run today was a little different to the norm, starting from a different meeting point, traversing some country roads Geoff hadn't ventured on before. All in all no big deal, variety of conditions, some overtakes, some commentary and still some room to improve on my part. In fairness though, Geoff found it hard to be critical about much overall. Given the score for today also being an A+ (as was run 7) it feels pleasing to have reached a consistency in how I perform.

We talked a bit about how riding according to the system makes one look not just smooth, but quite fast, compared to a rider with no roadcraft training. In fairness, I find it difficult to assess my own progress in isolation, for it's only really apparent when riding with others who haven't chosen to work on improving their own skill set. For those who've been thru the Roadcraft system, this will sound familiar I'd guess.

Also made me think some more about the vexing question that's been on my mind recently: "What's the best way to encourage someone to partake in training?" At the risk of rambling, I will admit that I had some reservations about partaking in IAM training, for it would lay bare the inadequacies of my two wheeled skill set... Let that sink in, and then picture the variety of two wheeled near misses that we've either had ourselves or those that we've witnessed over the years? I'd venture that the vast majority of these near misses were preventable, in the sense that neither the road nor the bike itself could be to blame. Mostly down to rider skill/training/attitude...

So I looked at my own hesitation at joining IAM, then imagined if I was blessed (or cursed?) with an ego that couldn't take constructive criticism, then joining IAM would likely seem more daunting than it should be? Let's face it, go for a ride with Philip McDaid and you can't help but feel like a novice, at first anyway.

The way Geoff James has observed/mentored me has been to never shy away from pointing out my failings (opportunities to do better) whilst also being complimentary about the things I'm either doing right, or have improved on since the last outing. So overall it's a very positive experience! Any nervousness or hesitation I may have had prior to my first outing soon evaporated. I'm certainly pleased I pressed ahead with kicking off my IAM journey, and would happily encourage others to take the plunge as well.

The next part of that is to pass the Advanced Test of course, and then in order to give back, on to Observer training. Which brings me full circle, back to the start if you wish, for my original outlook some years back was to be weighed and measured on my two wheeled skill set prior to imparting my experience onto others. Also a connection to my work in there, for coaching drivers new to my industry and turning them into confident and competent operators has a very pleasing aspect about it. The word passion comes to the fore, and anyone involved in teaching/coaching will no doubt understand what I mean.

7th observed ride 11.05.16

The rendezvous at the BP on top of the Bombay is now almost routine, and now I'm living mere minutes away from this location there's no doubt Geoff is doing the hard yards in enabling me to improve my two wheeled habits. Yes I know it's all about the right roads and riding environments.

Making progress, as in improving ones' own set of skills, is an enlightening experience. Yes this is obvious, but it was this thought that was at the forefront when I returned from this ride.

The overall ride in itself was unremarkable, covering mostly semi-familiar territory. What was telling for me was how much more at ease I felt when "performing" to a higher standard than what was the norm for me 6-12 months ago.

Our route on this occasion was the usual variety of motorway, urban and rural routes. Had a wee giggle at the sharp left hander on Great South Rd when dropping off the Bombay. No brake application needed here for I knew this corner, Geoff commented positively, but I freely admitted this section of road is routine for me. One thing which stood out on this run was how little traffic we're encountering, near free flow on the motorway from Drury to Mt Wellington is damn near unheard of mid morning on a Wednesday.

Out thru Botany to Whitford, on to Maraetai to end up in Clevedon at the cafĂ© opposite the monument. The variety of roads was not a problem, but it certainly allowed Geoff to observe how I dealt with them all in a timely fashion. White van driver texting while driving? Road works with stop/go crew? Loose chip with no signs out? Restraint whilst on open road section with short sightlines and multiple driveways? Holding back to make sure rural postie has spotted us? Check on all counts.

It felt like a good, relaxed ride. The A+ rating Geoff gave this was a nice result. Did it feel like hard work? Not as such. My challenge is still with delivering commentary in a concise manner, the tendency to slip into a monologue is still there. In itself not an issue, but like Geoff points out rightfully, when the workload goes up in a more challenging situation this will create an issue.

Part of my ongoing revision includes poring over various videos, must make mention of JK's blog here once more, as the phrase "observational links" keeps popping back into my head. On the whole it still doesn't feel like my performance has the right polish to it, but I accept it's not a finished product as such. This whole IAM experience to me is one of evolving, and thus continuing to improve.

A couple of short practice runs, one in rather damp conditions (unintended) brought home the value of continuing to polish my skill set on two wheels.

We had an interesting discussion about reasons why folks look at IAM and then choose not to participate. More on this next chapter.