Wheel alignment

Friday 30 September 2011

An interesting day in the saddle!

I had my latest IAM check ride today (Thursday) and the day didn't start well!  The ride was to check my city skills in dense traffic so I made the 2 hour haul down to the city of Hamilton where my mentor, Wayne Holden lives. I've mentioned Wayne before - IAM Chief Examiner (cars), IAM Observer (bikes), ex-helicopter pilot and runs a highly successful driving and riding school.  With all those qualifications, it could be intimidating riding with him if he wasn't such a darned nice guy - really puts you at your ease.

Beautiful day, first day of the season wearing my leathers instead of Cordura, so why didn't the day start well, I hear you ask?  Well......  I committed the cardinal sin of fiddling about with something and not checking that it worked properly before an important occasion!  To be specific, I downloaded a software update the previous evening to the GPS.  I can ride to Hamilton with my eyes closed but needed the GPS to find the rendezvous with Wayne as knowledge of that particular suburb was virtually non-existant.  Kit up, leap on the bike, turn the GPS on and..........   bugger, it doesn't show any roads, just waypoints/POI's on an otherwise bare screen - no actual roads!  Darn it, will have to investigate when I get home.  Didn't think it would be a big deal  so set off for my first destination, the Triumph dealer in Hamilton where I bought the Triple from.  At least I knew where that was!  It's my birthday in mid-October and it was a good opportunity to look for a pair of new riding boots, which is my beloved's present to me (negotiated well in advance).

First up, it was a stroll round their showroom to see what new bike porn was on offer and boy, did they have some nice stuff!  I'll share some of them with you right now. (Click to enlarge)

2006 Honda RC 51

The RC 51 is virtually Honda's old V twin Superbike on the road.  Guzzles fuel like there's no tomorrow, will break the national speed limit in first gear, uncomfortable as hell and super-noisy carbon cans.  It's a gloriously insane bit of kit for the road, totally impractical and I'd have one in the shed tomorrow as a second or third bike!

The wicked Kawasaki 1400 in Badass Black

How about this view in your mirror?
Ducati Streetfighter

Ducati Streetfighter - looks great in the flesh

Chrome and more chrome - Supersize Me, the Rocket 3

Impossibly beautiful - the new 675 Daytona.  My personal favourite

After half an hour's drooling, attention turned to looking for a new pair of boots.  My SIDI's are 8 years old and were totally waterproof until the final 3 hours of last year's 1000 miles in 24 hours ride when it was like standing in 2 small bowls of icy water.  They've done sterling service but truly waterproof boots are an absolute must.  Didn't realise just how different various well-known brands of boot varied for comfort, both in terms of fit and the ability to walk without the gait of a chimpanzee!  Settled on a pair of Alpinestars specially made for Triumph with a nice embossed logo.  They were actually brought in for another customer who had been notified 3 weeks earlier and still hadn't turned up so I was delighted to benefit from his slackness!  Interesting though - I normally take an (NZ/UK size) 8 1/2 - 9 shoe or boot but the Alpinestars were a perfectly comfortable 9 1/2.  A compelling reason for not buying boots on line.

Beautifully comfortable Alpinestar - better be waterproof!

After spending more time than planned in the Triumph shop, I had just over half an hour to get to the rendezvous with Wayne and grab a bite to eat.  Four and a half km as the crow flies - dead easy right?  Wrong!!!!  In general, NZ cities aren't laid out in grid pattern and roads weave everywhere.  There was a little triangle on the GPS which was me and the meeting waypoint 4.5 km away.  I assumed it would be easy to simply point in the general direction of the waypoint and watch the distance close.  Crikey, every road seemed to run at right angles to where I wanted to go and at one stage, found myself on the wrong side of the river which runs through the city with the nearest bridge some distance away.  Made it with severely frayed nerves having covered over 10km with 5 minutes to go!  Wolfed down a million calorie, cholesterol-laden gas station meat pie (tasted great though) and then Wayne turned up to begin the motorcycling equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition.  Well, not quite but being observed can sometimes feel that way!

Wayne told me to head for the main street in the city and then basically weave down the side streets coming off it for a block, back onto the main street and so on.  Boy, was Hamilton busy!!  It's one of the main venues for the World Rugby Cup which is currently being held in NZ and the place is filled with flag-waving fans from round the world - looked fantastic but a bit of a nightmare to ride through!  Pedestrians jaywalking everywhere, cars everywhere too and doing stupid stuff.  On top of that, one road I wanted to turn down was blocked off by police and there was also a helicopter in attendance.  Turned out to be a bomb scare at a nearby Institute of Technology annexe.  So that'll be a student buying time to get an overdue paper in then!!

Now here's an interesting thing...... there was so much going on that a few months ago, I doubt that I'd have been able to process all the inputs sufficiently quickly to avoid making some stuff-ups which would have earned some red ink on the assessment sheet.  However, I felt quite comfortable and after 90 minutes of riding in the central city area, Wayne went through the assessment sheet and I'd scored straight A's!!!  There's no feeling quite like having tackled something which is genuinely demanding, having worked extremely hard to get a decent outcome and seeing confidence and skill levels improve..... fan-bloody-tastic!  It's also great to be able to repay in some small way the IAM observers who put so much time and effort in on a voluntary basis.  The final comment on Wayne's assessment sheet was "Go riding again with Philip McDaid (Chief Examiner) - all the best!" so I'm picking that the big one - the full membership test must be pretty close - eek!

Just to finish off, I heard a bit of scuttlebutt and because it hasn't been verified, it's all the more delicious to pass on.  Regular readers will be aware that there's another Kiwi blogger who is following a similar training path.  This particular blogger was due to attend an IAM ride last weekend but slept in because he forgot to put the clocks forward one hour!!!  I reckon that ought to be good  for a few beers all round, don't you?  Especially as it doesn't seem to have been mentioned in his blog, haha!

Until next time.....


  1. Congratulations on the straight A's! And I gather that you only have one IAM riding exam? Then what are you qualified for?

    In regard to the new boots, what is the closure mechanism and what are they made from?

  2. Great photos. I'll take one of each bike. They are nice. Love the Ducati.

  3. Cheers Richard!

    Basically, with IAM (originated in the UK), you have an initial assessment against the criteria used for training police riders. There are 2 books detailing this which Roger Fleming and I have reviewed in our blogs. You receive a detailed ride report on strengths and improvement areas. You then have a series of 1.5-2 hour check rides (practical examinations)in all conditions until you are deemed to consistently meet ALL the criteria. Apparently, this typically takes between 6 months and 2 years). I think that is where I am now after 4 check rides and a lot of practice. The next test will be a lengthy one covering city riding, country twisties and motorways. If I pass ALL the criteria, I become a full member of IAM and can begin training as an Observer (examiner/mentor)for other motorcyclists who wish to join one of the toughest advanced roadcraft courses anywhere. Observers are re-tested every 2 or 3 years, I forget which. Perfect for me being retired as I can voluntarily put something back into the motorcycling community.

    The Alpinestars have an oiled leather upper with a Gore-Tex liner and a rubber ribbed sole. Closure is a heavy duty zip to halfway up the boot and a substantial 2-part velcro covering over the zip and upper half of the boot.

  4. Motoroz:
    Darned right! Oh to have money!!!!

  5. I love the Daytona in blue, however every time I sit on one disappointment sets in. My legs are too long and it doesn’t seem to fit me. Not sure it would be worth trying to adjust it, if much adjustment can even be done.

    A Speed or Street Triple fits me stock so much better.

  6. Bryon:
    I haven't ridden a Daytona but Roger (All Things Rogey ) owned one. With its racebike ergonomics and minimalist seat, it could never be my choice for everyday riding but wheeling it out for a blast through the twisties........ hard to think of anything better!

  7. THe RC51 ....just stunning, that will bike will be a classic in the years to come, if it is not all ready.

    I think u have done incrediable well, and done it quickly with the results you are achiving through IAM. Next thing I know you wil be following me and filling out one of those love dockey books afterwards.

    Now who is this other blogger you speak of. Cough Cough....rumour has it though that it was a great night for NZ sport, so in his defense that may of had some thing to do with it.....just saying mind you......I mean how would I know?

  8. Roger,

    That RC 51 is a BEAST! Imported from the USA and not registered yet. The metallic black really suits it and the twin radiators look superb.

    Thank you! It's been hard work as you well know yourself, but it's nice to see some consistency coming into my riding.

    It was indeed a great night for sport and it was more likely the quantity of wine rather than the lateness of hour. Would you know of anyone who fits the bill? ;-)

  9. RC 51 & Black ZZ14. ........ahhhh to dream !!!!

    Boots...best boots ever had...and still wearing

    BMW Santiago ...superb Geoff !!!!!!

    Off out now on X11 , the sun is shining in Bonnie Scotland

  10. Hi Andrew!

    To dream indeed!

    Safe riding mate!

  11. Geoff

    Well done on the "A" s - I'm sure that you will sail through the test with your eyes closed (don't try that at home)


  12. Well done on the check ride Geoff, I was a bit worried about how you as a hill bllly would hold up in the big city! Seriously though your peripheral vision has to learn to work in conjunction with your forward observations to help you progress at good pace safely whilst maintaining your safety bubble. I know you do not get to do much town traffic so you have obviously been able to draw from many past years experience of town work. Yes the Test is on it's way and the examiner will be looking for your advanced skills taking complete control when fatigue has taken over. Just remember into corner position as early as poss and keep those revs mid tacho min for hazards.
    Nice boots....

  13. Geoff,

    I'm glad to hear you did so well, I usually fall into one of the extremes when it comes to tests, either I do not care at all, or I start to hyperventilate. Too often it's the second.

    And that ZX14 is a mean machine. My Connie has the motor from that mean mother (though significantly detuned) and I love it. Although, it rides too much like a sport bike and tries to break your coccyx after 15 miles.

    A whole hearted endorsement. I think you need to get out the checkbook and go back to the dealer. Take a taxi in, cause you should ride out.

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

  14. Congratulations on your test scores, very well deserved.

  15. Geoff, congrats on the A's - well done and all the best for the final hurdle.

    Of course that ZX14, in stealth black, caught my eye. Did you have a sit on it?

    I'm on my 2nd pair of Alpinestars Gore-Tex lined boots in 12 years. The ones I have are called 'Effex Gore-Tex' and your Triumph branded A* look pretty similar. I like that they are so light and comfy to walk about in, but I do wish there was an option for the zipper on the outside, though I tend to wear the leathers over the boots these days.

    You mentioned that you've swapped to leathers now that Spring is here. (Daylight saving starts here tonight by the way) What leather conditioner do you use? I use Renapur leather balsam, but it does make the gear a bit sticky at first. Oh, and I suspect that it may make leathers shrink, as I'm damned if I can fit into my old vintage Dainese leathers any more!!

    Cheers Jules.

  16. Good job on straight A's. Must be all the practice you've put in.

    Happy early birthday. Sweet of Jennie to get you new boots.

    Great pictures of the bikes, but now I need to wipe the drool off the keyboard.

  17. Nikos:
    Thanks mate! As you well know, you simply can't afford to get sloppy between check rides but keeping up that consistency is getting a bit easier every time.

    Cheers Dylan! I marshalled the Pink Ribbon Charity ride in Auckland over the weekend and as well as it being for a good cause, it was also great practice. Riding with the police was a privilege - see Roger Fleming's blog for pictures and write-up.

    Thanks Brady! The first couple of tests were like that for me - barely controlled panic but it's getting easier as I build confidence.

    Going to that bike shop is a good reason to leave the chequebook and credit cards at home :-)

  18. Troubadour:
    Many thanks! Trying to maintain those standards is going to be the real issue!

    Cheers mate - the Chief Examiner is going to take me out on another "polishing" run (just for the fun of it) soon which will be nice. No, I didn't sit on any of the bikes - the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, haha

    They're great boots, incredibly comfortable but the soles are stiff and need breaking in a bit. Had aching arches by the end of the day. Won't take long though.

    Renapur is a good product - some of my mates use it. I use Mothers Leather Conditioner. It's not really a waterproofing agent but it does make the leather really supple. We use it on our leather lounge furniture as well as the seats in Jennie's sports car. Good luck with leather stretching this season!

    Thanks very much indeed - seems like I've been practising forever but now I'm over the worst of the learning curve, it's real fun.

    Yeah, Jennie's a honey (as well as long-suffering of course) ;-)

    Too right - oh to win the national lottery!

  19. Geoff:

    I am having trouble posting comments. this is a test

    Riding the Wet Coast

  20. Bob:
    You have passed the test. May the Force always be with you.

  21. Geoff:

    I have changed some settings, but I still have some problems on some blogs, but not others. so this is another attempt

    Riding the Wet Coast

  22. Still seeing you loud and clear Bob! Whatever you've done works fine.

  23. Congratulations! Great news on feeling the confidence increase and snowing the examiner under. ;)

    NEVER! EVER!! do anything mechanical or updating the evening before. It never turns out well. Do you have it all back in order?

    And thanks for the scuttlebutt on the "other" rider. I hadn't heard about it!!

  24. Cheers Lori - it is pretty cool :-)

    I stand suitably admonished! Yes, all working again and it turns out that the maps didn't transfer from the PC due to gross incompetence on my part.

    The "other" rider has suffered a fair bit of leg-pulling, I can assure you, hehe.

  25. Congratulations :-)
    Agree with you about the RC51, I would have one in my garage if I could afford one ;-)

  26. Cheers George!
    So many choices, so little money :-)

    Thank you for dropping by!


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