Just before Christmas, I was due to sit my Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists Observer (Mentor/Instructor) test and managed to stuff up my back at home 2 days beforehand. Chief Examiner Philip rang up a few days ago to re-schedule and today was the day!
Having just concentrated on having a good time lazing about (i.e. eating and drinking too much) over Christmas, getting the back fully recovered and avoiding Coromandel Peninsula roads full of stupid visitors with only a few brain cells between them; it wasn't really good preparation for sitting one of the most exacting advanced roadcraft tests anywhere on the planet! You might think with all the training so far, I'd be quite relaxed about it but the truth of the matter was a bit of confidence had ebbed away with the layoff . As the appointed day got closer, so anxiety levels increased and sleep was pretty broken for the last 2 nights, waking up thinking about it.
Hopped on the bike early this morning and rode 180 km to Auckland to meet with Philip. There was sufficient time for a serious think and to get some measure of composure. An earlier comment by U.S blogger and bike instructor Dan Bateman (Irondad) kept floating through the brain, "Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can't get it wrong". I'm a long way from being a professional but that comment was sufficient to remind me of all the intensive training that all IAM members go through and to have faith in "the system". Amazingly, I was relatively relaxed on arrival, albeit a bit apprehensive .
First step was the written exam in 2 parts covering the NZ Road Code (road rules) and Advanced Roadcraft principles. Yep, all pretty straightforward and passed them!
Next stage was for Philip to take me out for a personal ride evaluation to ensure that standards had been maintained, covering urban, motorway and country road work. Not too stressful and at the half-way point, Philip was complimentary, with just a couple of refinement comments. Next, he asked me to give a running commentary about the environment, my situational awareness and actions over the helmet comms. Having given trainees a running commentary to help them previously, I didn't think it would be too bad but it turned out to be quite difficult giving it to the best of the best. Philip, sorry to be gabbling like a gibbering idiot but you obviously thought I did ok thanks! Phew...... another pass.
The final test was to follow a trainee and observe their performance. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of a working day and unlike me, most trainees were either earning a crust or otherwise occupied, which meant that I had Philip as the trainee, deliberately throwing in subtle faults - oh nooooooo.... not good for stress levels. When we pulled in at the end of the ride, I honestly didn't know whether I'd picked up enough to merit a pass until Philip shook my hand and said "Congratulations, you are now an Observer, you have a very high standard to uphold". To be completely candid, I didn't know whether to cry or grin. The stinging eyes must have been dust kicked up by the wind.
Philip McDaid, Chief Examiner and a very relieved pupil!
Less than 2 hours after getting home, the main feeling is one of profound relief at not having let myself and others down after 20 months of darned hard work. The other feeling is of pride in achieving something incredibly demanding and worthwhile in an age where striving for excellence seems to be regarded as something slightly distasteful and elitist.
I started the journey after motorcycle author David Hough asked when I was going to get off my butt and do something about "future-proofing" my riding as I aged. I owe David big-time for kick-starting it all.
To senior IAM members Philip McDaid, Wayne Holden, Simon Pamplin, Morne de Lange and Duncan Seed - put simply guys, you've transformed my riding and your generosity in making yourselves available on a voluntary basis in the cause of raising riding standards is truly humbling. The only way that time and effort can be repaid is by doing the same for others. Words aren't sufficient.
To my special mate,fellow blogger and Observer Rogey , we've travelled the same path together, shared doubts, taken the piss out of each other and most importantly, laughed our heads off ! Cheers, buddy!
It doesn't stop here of course, it's really only just starting. Now we have to pass on what we've learned to others, raising our game every time we do it. And that's the beauty of an organisation like IAM!