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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Introducing Ken, IAM Vespa Scooterista!

Crikey, this retirement business takes some organising!  Between doing voluntary work helping local senior citizens to use computers, acting as an unpaid carpenter for our offspring and IAM motorcycling involvement, there aren't many spare hours left in the day.  Still, at least we get to choose what we want to do and when to do it for much of the time!

Yesterday was no different as I'd promised to take out an IAM Associate, Ken, from Auckland to brush up on his open road skills.  There had been a snow dump in the central north island high country the previous day and although it was sunny, the strong southerly made it as cold as charity.  Wasn't looking forward to the early morning 2 hour run up to Auckland in those conditions so it was a case of piling on plenty of layers of Icebreaker merino clothing under the padded Gore-Tex riding gear and even slipping Rain-Off mitts over my winter gloves as a further insulation which paid off in spades. The trip was really enjoyable, simply by staying warm and by the time I reached Auckland, temperatures had lifted (just) into double digits C; although wind chill was quite noticeable.

Ken and I arrived within minutes of each other at a service complex just off the Southern Motorway - let me introduce Ken:

Time for a warming coffee and cake before the ride!

A lot of people think that  advanced roadcraft training with IAM is the exclusive province of big, fast roadbikes and whilst a lot of members do own big bikes, it's certainly not their exclusive domain.  Ken is a scooter enthusiast from way back, owning a 200cc Vespa.  He shares the common desire of other IAM members to ride safely to one of the highest roadcraft standards anywhere.  In an urban environment, small capacity scooters compete on an equal footing with any other bike but out of town, a high level of ride planning and situational awareness is required to meet the IAM requirement of "making progress".  Consequently, the decision was taken to plot a route which Ken wasn't terribly familiar with on 2 wheels just south of Auckland.  It incorporated a small amount of motorway (freeway) work, but mainly covered country roads of varying width, sweepers, blind bends and altitude changes.  A great challenge for Ken in terms of positioning and gear selection to make consistently good progress in unfamiliar territory!

Getting ready for the "off" - really nice Teknic jacket Ken!

The ride was deliberately set up to be "informal" so there was no documented marking, enabling Ken to concentrate on one aspect of the roadcraft requirement without the stress of an "official" observation. After a short briefing and connecting his excellent Scala comms set to my helmet, we set off.   The benefit of concentrating on one single aspect of roadcraft in this instance became immediately apparent with Ken attacking the conditions with enthusiasm.  The bike to bike comms was a huge bonus, allowing both of us to offer up relevant information at exactly the right time for maximum impact. Without going into the minutiae of the ride, Ken acquitted himself really well and the scooter also coped pretty well in the strong winds which prevailed on some of the ridge tops. Equally importantly, it was fun for both of us!  After one or two more mentoring rides of this nature plus some solo practice, there's little doubt that the official IAM observed rides will show a significant jump in open road confidence and performance. (A more succinct phrase would be ride it like you stole it Ken!)

Yours truly, looking like Michelin Man but warm as toast!

I guess that the main point of this post is that no matter what you ride, there is no good reason not to aspire to riding to the very highest standards.  The other relevant thing is a comment by both motorcyling guru David Hough and Oregon-based instructor Dan Bateman that the instructor/mentor gets as much, if not more out of training sessions as the trainee.  On top of those benefits, the fact that the IAM operates on a completely voluntary basis, there's no downside whatsoever.  Thanks for a great morning Ken!

To finish on an entirely different note, here's a job advertisement from an NZ south island newspaper for someone to work on weed control on Department of Conservation land.  Isn't it wonderful to see a bit of plain talking in today's politically-correct environment?  Well done that company!!!




23 comments:

  1. What a great excuse for a ride. :)

    I wish we had IAM here. It sounds like such a nice group to be involved with. The benefit and the comraderie are just such an attraction to bringing people in that want to be there.

    Love the job posting. Does New Zealand have ticks?

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    Replies
    1. Lori, forgot to answer the tick question. Yes, there are ticks but in general, they're not a problem for humans, unlike parts of Aussie or other countries.

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    2. Lori,
      Yup, any excuse for a ride, particularly as I haven't ridden for a couple of weeks....

      Yeah, fellow moto-blogger Chillertek (Steve) in Australia plus others have said exactly the same thing. As far as I know, the UK, Ireland and Hong Kong are the only other active branches of IAM although there may be others. The camaraderie is outstanding. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed and is happy to put in the effort.

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  2. Great stuff on Ken, I was wondering how u got on. I really hope he can get through his test soon, as for the add, classic!

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    1. Rog,
      As you know, sometimes stepping outside the formal environment works wonders. What we need is a couple of Auckland-based volunteers to carry it on before the next formal run **grin**

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    2. I got the hint.....will see what i can do.

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  3. Great post Geoff.

    It sounds as though you had a great day out with Ken despite the chilly weather. And it is always nice to hear about riders wanting to improve their skills, no matter what they ride.

    Thanks for the chuckle on the job posting. Guess we know what kinds of people have applied in the past and why they are still looking. If only more employers were that truthful in what job seekers are in for.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Brandy,
      Don't they say that there's no such thing as lousy weather, just inappropriate clothing??? You've hit the nail on the head and that's a powerful motivator for happily giving a helping hand.

      Yeah, I guess it does give a strong hint, doesn't it? I just love people who are prepared to tell it how it is. There was a recent newspaper article by someone well-known about a mean-spirited political activist in NZ who is equally well-known for self-promotion. I haven't laughed so much for a long time at some home truths being told very publicly!

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  4. What a beautiful scooter Ken rides. Looks like it is in very good shape. Next time I'm around I am going to book a IAM ride with you, my friend. One never stops learning.

    Like the job posting. I bet in Canada this ad would have to be taken down due to the refreshing political incorrectness. They must have gotten a lot of the opposite if they felt the necessity to post it like this. Good stuff!

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  5. Hi Sonja!
    Ken is pretty hard core with his Vespas - 100,000 mile on his old SS180 when he got rid of it. That's dedication for you! You can count on Rog and I to handle you with care and empathy next time you reappear (and if you believe that, you'll believe anything, hehe).

    The advert comes from the Southland area of NZ where the population doesn't have much time for political correctness. Speights beer and the big outdoors figure large in their lives!

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  6. Looks like you both had a great day, love the scooter so much I always wanted a Vespa.

    That add is just gold !!!

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    1. Hi Brenda,
      Riding for its own sake is great but riding for a great outcome is even better!

      In over 40 years of riding, I'd never ridden a scooter until 3 years ago when we were on holiday in Rarotonga. It came as part of the package and after a wobbly start because of the small wheels, we absolutely loved it.

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  7. Geoff
    I pissed myself laughing at that job advert, that has got to be an all time classic. Heck I even felt like applying myself.

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    1. Steve,
      Wasn't it just the best? I'd love to meet the people who wrote it up. Reckon they're a real work hard, play hard outfit!

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  8. Wonderful introduction of Ken and admire his and your commitment to training.

    So the job looks entertaining. I like the truth in advertising. Where do I apply?

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    1. Thanks Richard - it's no big effort when you have such a great organisation and see the dramatic outcomes. It's extremely demanding, but that's what makes it so worthwhile.

      I was going to say that you wouldn't like it at the bottom of the south island with their cold winters. Whatever was I thinking??? It would be almost tropical by comparison!

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  9. That's a terrific rider training program that allows for individual, differentiated instruction depending on the need of the rider.
    As for the ad, so glad they were advertising for someone who didn't stink - that's a quality that is often and sadly overlooked!

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    1. Hi Karen,
      Yes indeed, it's outstanding. Although the evaluation criteria are against UK police riding standards with no concessions, if a member needs extra work to assist with a particular aspect, there are any number of people who will go the extra mile for them. Annual membership of IAM in NZ is around $100 and senior riders donate their time(and gas). An unusual concept in this highly commercial day and age but everyone taking part wins from it.

      I'm actually surprised they mentioned personal hygiene in the ad - it's an area of NZ which is our closest equivalent to "Deliverance" country :-)!!

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  10. Nice write up and ride out Geoff.The criteria for the UK is 2 wheels, road legal and can maintain the National speed limit...so that was a bonus check ride to test your skills..."where's his feet, what brake is he using, what gear is he in!
    If I wasn't so old I would be up for that job....what a pleasant way to get fit!

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  11. Cheers Dylan,
    Maintaining the national speed limit in all circumstances might be a bit of a stretch in adverse conditions but there's another bike Ken can use if the primary option doesn't work out. Yeah, it was easy to be up close and personal watching the gear position on a twist grip gear change as the lever moves too!

    Awww.... c'mon mate, where's your sense of adventure? You don't live all that far from the location. Of course, you could always put Jo's name forward and I'll visit you in hospital :-).

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  12. Love the Vespa. I started my love of motorcycling with one as a teenager and still regard them with great affection.

    Will this weather ever improve?

    Cheers Jules.

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  13. Gidday Jules!
    Yep, scooters are good fun!

    Same here mate! Lovely yesterday, sunny right now but blowing a gale with torrential rain forecast for this afternoon. I'm off to Auckland tomorrow to take part in a prostate cancer charity ride and think I'm going to get wet and blown about!

    Hope you're on the improve mate!

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