So with Geoff James having deemed me ready for the cross-check, had another (weekday) outing with both Geoff and Mike Watson, who is trainee observer at this point. For me this was a first, a three way comms outing. Nothing untoward to report really, the main point of note being the obvious difference between an experienced observer in Geoff and a trainee observer as in Mike. Seeing as I'm embarking on the same path, trainee observer, this was actually a relaxing point to note. So much to learn, yet if it's done in building blocks it's not as daunting a task.
In a way this ride with Mike and Geoff served a dual purpose, in that both Mike and myself got the benefit of each other for the stage of IAM learning we're both at. Some of the route was familiar to me, and some wasn't. When he turned off onto the Coatesville/Riverhead Hway the guess was Ridge Rd...and Mike sounded almost disappointed when I asked the obvious. We also came back via Ridge Rd, and it just highlighted to me how technical this bit of road is, with a multitude of challenges all jammed together in a fairly short stretch.
This ride was treated as a warmup for the cross-check that was on the horizon, and as such it worked quite well. No big changes needed, and a nice validation that Geoff had imparted sufficient knowledge to bring me up to par.
Then on to the actual cross-check with Richard Turnbull. This took place on the Sunday social ride day, for which we meet at Westgate. With the weather looking bleak, we set off on a circuitous route, with lots of variety to cover the spectrum obviously.
At our tea/coffee stop in Helensville Richard explained how I could make improvements.
1. In the damp conditions I was tending to be a little cautious in cranking into corners with gusto, the word Richard used for this was a typical English expression in "ginger" which bemused me slightly. He was spot on though, for in hindsight I was backing off a little more than I probably needed to, then making up for that with a bit too much throttle once I'd had the limit point moving away from me again. In a sense, going out with different observers is helpful in this regard, for it points out the varying nuances that one can improve on. Thinking of it another way, ride properly and don't simply use the grunt of the big bike to "mask" what in effect develops into an incorrect technique.
2. Speed and speed creep was another topic we briefly discussed. I won't make any excuses here, but I found myself at times running 5-10 clicks over the limit. This was partly complicated by the variation in speedo error we each thought we had. In the end, I just treated my speedo reading as absolute. As the conditions went from damp to ever heavier rain this became irrelevant anyway.
The departure from the Helensville stop was delayed slightly by torrential rain, after which Richard led me on a route that was at first unfamiliar to me. So here I am on unfamiliar roads, with the weather getting worse, being cross checked for my test and it was putting me a little on edge. In the end I fared ok once I got a rhythm going and the various elements that I'd practiced repeatedly flowed nicely.
But you know how this goes though huh? Get into the swing of it and then you have a wake-up call. On the approach to Scenic Drive around the back of the Waitakere township there was this one gnarly corner that I misread. Focusing on the limit point, taking in the shiny tar and the rain, the fact it was far more off camber than I'd initially assessed had me heading for the centreline like a bit of a novice. I must remember how to get to this corner for it's a great leveller for learners like me.
Once we joined Scenic Drive and made our way to the Titirangi debrief point, the rain went from drizzle to solid rain, at times near torrential. This in itself, apart from being uncomfortable, doesn't worry me so it was pleasing to hear Richard being complimentary about me still making good progress in the deteriorating conditions.
The end result of the cross-check was positive thankfully, ready for the test!
I do however really appreciate the pointers Richard gave me to continue to "tidy-up" my riding. The speed and speed creep, the cornering approach mentioned above and even seemingly minor stuff such as being decisive in stopping short of instead of on or just beyond stop lines, or give way lines in cases where a full stop is required. Far from being annoyed by this, it's the fact this stuff is pointed out in a neutral manner, that I see as being part of the ongoing improvement in skills.
As for speed, I used to have a GPS speedo fitted to my Busa, but when making some changes I removed it to have a more or less "gadget free" work space so to speak. Following on from the cross-check I pondered how to deal with the speed problem, so ordered a Speedohealer, which Stephen McCormick mentioned in one of the IAM Facebook topics. Now I've been aware of Speedohealer, but since I'd used GPS speedos for a number of years never looked closely at the Healtech solution. Yes the error will still be there once the rear tyre wears, but at least I'm going to be much closer to the mark than in OEM trim.