However, a couple of weeks before Christmas, Tony, one of the Institute of Advanced Motorists Trainee Observers (mentors) that I'm coaching rang and asked me whether I'd seen an article in NZ Bike Rider magazine about safe road positioning. Tony was pretty disappointed with the article as he thought that it needed a lot more context and could be misleading in its published form. I suggested that he contacted the magazine and constructively point out where he thought it fell short of the mark.
Tony wrote an excellent email with no hint of one-upmanship or negativity and a few days later, received a reply from Sean Willmot, the Assistant Editor. Sean's response was gracious and as Tony doesn't live far from the magazine's editorial offices, Sean asked whether they could meet for a chat. Cutting to the chase, they hit it off extremely well and Tony was able to talk about the UK Police Roadcraft system which IAM and other organisations use as the basis for advanced training. It ended up with Sean being invited along for an initial assessment, which he was happy to accept.
It was a great opportunity to make the ride part of Tony's coaching programme so I went along to keep an eye on proceedings.
Tony (L) giving Sean a pre-ride briefing
We spent a couple of hours on major highways and highly technical twisty back roads with significant gradient changes, stopping for a ride mid-point debrief to discuss our observations with Sean. The pre-ride briefing made it abundantly clear that the assessment had nothing to do about being either a good or poor rider, simply to determine what was done well and what improvements could be made as a starting point. It would have been a surprise if Sean had been seriously lacking good skills given the amount of time he spends in the saddle but nonetheless, Tony was able to identify some improvement areas which Sean happily acknowledged.
Tony and Sean in the high country overlooking the Firth of Thames
What did surprise Sean was Tony's outstanding demonstration of a continuous commentary over the comms, showing his situational awareness and how this was impacting on his road position, speed, gear selection and acceleration sense. Sean couldn't believe just how much information Tony was processing at any given moment whilst maintaining good progress.
At the end of the ride, there was a final debrief together with a detailed written report and Sean announced that he'd be joining IAM in 2018 as no matter how experienced you thought you were, learning never stopped. He then said that he was going to write a series of articles about his journey with IAM for the magazine which was a fantastic outcome and may encourage other riders to do the same.
A few days ago, the latest Bike Rider magazine came out and there is a 2 page spread about Sean's assessment experience. Very well written and complimentary. Amazing what a bit of courtesy and positivism can do as opposed to having a rant at someone!
Page 1 of Sean's article
Arty-farty shot taken on Coromandel wharf at sunset after getting back from the ride