On a bleak and damp Tuesday it was my turn for the advanced test...
Yeah ok, I'll keep it serious. Met up with Philip at his Westgate base for my big day. It's weird how one can look forward to something like this with anticipation, and yet also want it to be over with already?!
Having had the benefit of spending a few hours riding with Philip thru his Riderskills school, I already knew his relaxed approach. Theory part first, 1 out of 20 questions incorrect. Room for improvement in other words!
The ride in itself had similarities to the cross-check, bit of dry stuff but damp conditions for the most part. The variety of roads Philip took me on covered the spectrum obviously, and with a good mixture of unfamiliar and somewhat familiar at least this reduced the pressure a little. The silence over the comms, apart from giving directions, was a little odd at first. With Geoff we'd near constantly be delving into how to improve here, another angle on that, consider this etc. Now it was like show time, you've done the homework so just lay it on.
Accepting the fact the IAM experience is an ongoing learning curve, I'm almost ok with my performance on this day, for in reality it represented my best under the circumstances. Will I be better in another year of exposure to the IAM system? I'm sure I will, for more practice and mentoring will bring more accurate and consistent results.
So yes I passed, but let me be fair and focus on the important aspects for me, the areas that could do with improvement. Funnily enough Philip laid out three areas, the number seeming curious as it's been this way all thru the observed rides, three areas to focus on...a hint of things to come?
Observational links were commented on, as in there should have been more. Yes, no argument at all. More practice and focus will improve this I reckon.
Overtaking position held for too long. Absolutely. On the run from Helensville back towards Waimauku, the opportunity to overtake arose. Two cars were dawdling (to my way of thinking at least) at around the 80-85 mark, far too ginger (to use Richard T terminology) for the conditions in my book so in short order snuck around them in a decisive fashion. Further along though, caught up to a car that was for a good spell hovering around the legal limit, so sitting back seemed like the done thing. Then this car for no apparent reason slowed down a bit, so I got myself into an overtaking position, yet with the overtake not being on in short order...I failed to then drop back to a safe following distance in a timely fashion. Funny how indecision creeps in, wanting to "make progress" without getting carried away with speed, all because one is in a test situation. With the benefit of hindsight, a beautiful thing, the decisive thing would have been to overtake at first opportunity with a bit of gusto or just drop back. Had I been on my own, the likely approach for me would have been to sit back. By nature and profession I tend to be risk averse, a funny thing for a Busa rider to admit to perhaps? Just a case of finding the right balance.
Smoothing out the setup for right handers. A valid point of course, and this will lead me into expanding a little on another topic shortly. I found myself on occasion setting up for a right hander by leaving the getting into position a little late, thus almost swerving left to then crank into a right hander. Not intentionally, but it was fair for Philip to comment on it of course. Part of this action I put down to some nerves creeping in, and part to my observation skills needing further honing. One could thus ask when I'm late getting into position, is it due to me not looking far enough ahead or going too swift for the conditions? Again using the benefit of hindsight, bit of both. So again, not stressed about it, but practice and focus will iron this out in due course.
This got me into sharing with Philip something which has come to the fore in both my work environment and also when travelling privately. I found myself having to work quite hard when traversing unfamiliar roads, something that perhaps sounds obvious, but as a career trucker I cover loads of kilometres. The downside is that by the time one has travelled to a certain destination often enough, the road in itself brings few surprises, so we're left with just the variations in traffic or surface conditions on any given day. Take me onto unfamiliar roads though, and all of a sudden it's like hard work, and it shows up how "blunt" the observation skills can become. Partaking in IAM training and the most recent SAFED course we did at work, all made me think about this topic. So I'll be working on venturing onto unfamiliar roads on purpose to hone my skills.
Now I'm just looking forward to taking the observer course to take the next step as trainee observer.