Sunday, 4 December 2016

Trainee Observer update 04.12.16

So today marked run number 6 for me as Trainee Observer. With Geoff James as Senior Observer on overwatch, Associate Mark Ball as our willing subject, we gathered at Thames on a lovely sunny early summer day.

The intent for the day was to walk thru the basics of IPSGA, with the focus being to check that positioning practice has paid off, then lead this into correct selection of gears. In essence a building blocks type of approach, brought on by Mark being a little cautious on the bendy stuff, which he quite freely admitted during the information gathering phase. So what better place to work on gear selection and bendy stuff than the lower section of the Coromandel Loop?

Rather pleasing to both Geoff and myself, watching Mark make progress validates our relaxed approach as it matches the current ability of the Associate. In this case it's also working to the advantage of the Associate as we can help him make improvements without overloading him, thus potentially turning him off the process. In all fairness yes it'll take a few more rides to take Mark to the Advanced Test level, but so what?

The only downside on this loop was encountering a freshly watered lime section on a road works doubt I'll be ribbed for this in due course as it's a bit of a bugger to clean off.

At the Observer training course in July this year, I can remember feeling a little overwhelmed at the task ahead, yet to be fair it's been relatively straightforward in practice. Now I would never call it simple, for there's a good deal of stuff to finesse, yet being deemed ready for the Observer Test at the conclusion of todays ride had a lovely sense of satisfaction about it. I reckon I've been lucky to have had Geoff James as my Observer from day one in IAM, for his style of coaching very much gels with me. Or put it this way, it's very similar to how I've been coaching new tanker drivers in my day job. Yes I'll freely admit that having done a few years of coaching existing drivers into improving their skills gives me a leg up, for doing the same thing on two wheels has loads of similarities. Now I've had a couple of other Observers acting as Training Observers along the way, and whilst this works ok as well, the overall continuity I've enjoyed with Geoff has definitely been to my benefit.

Looking back, at the Observer course many things seemed somewhat difficult, yet in reality the interpersonal stuff, putting someone at ease, getting a result without being too harsh on the negative aspects, all those elements more or less come along with a degree of ease. Maybe if I come across an Associate who rubs me the wrong way I'll feel different about it?

So now the joyous task of preparing for the Observer practical terms I'm not daunted by this, but I'm rather keen to do well of course! For me what follows after that is giving my time and energy back to IAM, for in reality this is why I've gone thru the process. I enjoy coaching those of lesser skills than myself, as much as I enjoy sponging up good info and knowledge from those who are better than me. To use a cliché, I wanted my two wheeled skills to be weighed and measured to an accepted standard, before embarking on passing on my knowledge to others. So in that sense, going thru to Observer with IAM seems like the ideal process.

Let's be honest though, the process of being involved in IAM is one of continuous improvement. I know this may sound funny, but I firmly believe we become a product of our environment, so my choosing to be involved with a group who rides to a high standard is infinitely preferable to joining a bunch of pseudo road-racers who view the law as a nuisance. Take a few like minded IAM members for a social ride and at least it's predictable and quite safe.

One aspect of getting to this stage, is one that I hadn't really thought much about, even though it seems obvious enough! It marks the end of being coached on an ongoing basis by Geoff, who has been in some ways a father figure to me. And no that's not a dig at his maturity! The enjoyment of learning from Geoff, as well as how he embodies the "no ego" ethos of IAM has allowed me to grow into my new role with ease. Best I work on making some social rides happen with Geoff, you know, just to keep us both sharp...

When I look back to the start of my IAM journey, I could ride safely and all that, but what's been added to my skillset has been quite significant in my view. Weird thing to admit, but at the outset I never thought that going thru the IAM process could have brought back so much enjoyment to my riding. If there is a downside to going thru the IAM process it's that one becomes ever more critical of other folks' poor behavior on our roads, but at least I'm now armed with enough skills to keep myself as safe as practicable I suppose.

Now the small but not insignificant matter of the Observer Test...


  1. Thoughtful post Rob! You've now ridden with Associates who are starting from a modest skill base as well of those with some high level skills. That's given you exposure to the need for totally different approaches to get the best out of people. This is pure gold for when you shortly become an Observer in your own right. It's not an exaggeration to say that you'll be an outstanding one.

    You've hit the nail on the head with regard to IAM and Roadcraft adding so much pleasure to riding - something we all appreciate very much indeed.

    I'd wish you luck for your Observer test but luck has nothing to do with it - your excellent skills will take care of that!

    1. Thank you sir, your efforts have allowed me to progress to this point.