Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Trainee Observer update 02.01.17

Today was most likely my last training run before the dreaded (anticipated?) observer test. Having spent some time revising Road Code and the NZ-IAM riding standard, the offer put forward by Geoff to try to organise another training run was much appreciated.

So Terence Gates, Geoff James, and myself gathered at BP Bombay for the first run of the New Year. Terry brought along his new toy, KTM 1290 GT, which is quite a neat looking bit of gear. There's just something about a purposeful bike that also manages to be aesthetically pleasing in an odd way. I can understand the appeal!! One way to describe it might be to suggest it's a Super Duke R for (almost) grown ups. Over the course of the ride Terry's new toy was exposed to pot holes, slippery shiny tar, some mud and even ventured mildly off-road by traversing a short stretch of grass. Almost run in by now then...

Had a wee chuckle when we set off, ducked down Harrisville Rd towards Tuakau and for a minute or two it seemed like I might get some "fast rider" practise. The smooth asphalt had Terry showing a nice smooth and swift line into the first few corners, and I couldn't help but think to myself that he'd been down this bit of road before. Next we got some damp surface and for a moment it looked like the nice outing would turn damp prematurely. Exit Tuakau and venture onto Ridge Rd, which much like its Albany counterpart has a nice selection of challenging aspects. No doubt I'll be using this bit of road from time to time. Rest of the route was just to suit the purpose of the day.

There is a degree of challenge in doing a trainee observer run with an ex UK IAM Observer (Terry) as his riding standard was of course very high to start with. Then consider how little there's actually to work on for improvement, so here's where I deviated from the initial plan of a mid-ride stop, for there was little to talk about so save it for the end. In hindsight it'd be better to stick to a routine of a halfway stop, even if it's merely a five minute stretch and a brief chat.

For me, with the benefit of hindsight, the above picture brought to light how some of my learning curve still needs tweaking. The example being how I took a seat across the table from Terry at the debrief, which goes against what we were taught at the observer training course. Try not to put a physical barrier between oneself and the associate. Mental note made. The other funny element, well funny to me, is how we talked about commentary at the pre-ride brief yet I never got around to asking Terry to practise commentary on the road. At the debrief we discussed briefly how to make progress on commentary, as in bullet points or words, versus trying to get whole sentences in. Geoff shared how I tried to do exactly that at my commentary learning stage, and we collectively had a laugh about this.

Route selection has been kicked up a notch as well. Given a brief rundown on what was expected for this run, I'd ventured out the day before to double check what I'd mentally put together, found no major hurdles so stored this away. Then seeing as it was a fine day, did a bit more traipsing around roads unknown, all with the intent of improving my local knowledge and for future use with associates. Without a doubt, it also renewed my respect for current observers, for spending too much time on navigating a route that one isn't entirely familiar with can detract from the observing task. Funnily enough, this was another aspect that came to the fore in the observer training course. So in a sense, being fairly firm about the route, then giving clear and timely instructions to the associate aids in freeing up time to do the actual observing task. Hindsight was working in full swing today...

Consider how on a 3 up run, associate, trainee observer with training observer trailing behind, there can at times be a fair amount of chat going on over the comms, which in itself can add to the challenge. Overall this doesn't worry me, for it is after all still a social outing of sorts as well, and in future when it's a one on one experience for a while it'll possibly be missed? All about keeping it at a level all parties are comfortable with I suppose, so just storing this one away for once I progress to being the training observer at some point down the track.

Start/mid-ride/end or debrief locations. Being creatures of habit there's a tendency to just carry on doing what we're used to, so I've found myself largely following on the routine Geoff put me through. Not a bad thing of course, but I'll have to put a bit more thought into finding me a few suitable localities to aid in me changing gears to the observing task. Especially more so now that my home location is 5 minutes from BP Bombay...

Some ongoing minor health niggles have provided an unwelcome distraction to the task at hand. Now I'm in no way unique in that regard, but it has served as an odd reminder of how little it takes for us to be distracted from full focus to the task at hand.

To end this "dear diary" entry, can't help but reflect on how the learning curve to observer is both challenging, but also rewarding in a very enjoyable sense.


  1. Another great ride Rob - well organised, great company and a terrific new route. With the full Observer Test just round the corner, can't wait for the post covering that momentous event!

    1. Cheers Geoff, it's all starting to flow quite nicely. You can tell I had a great Senior Observer guiding me...
      Yes, looking forward (in a way) to the Observer Test.