Wheel alignment

Tuesday 30 January 2018

A nice win for the team

I must be a bit of a disappointment to magazine sellers, no matter what the subject matter as I don't subscribe to any of them.  In fact, the only time I night buy them is if I'm in a shop waiting for Jennie, bored and there's a handy magazine rack.  Motorcycle mags (naturally!), boating/fishing or house & garden mags are normally what attracts my interest but I haven't looked at any for months.

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

Sunday 7 January 2018

A slight case of Deja Vu

Bloody hell, I've jinxed the weather!  In the last post reviewing 2017,  I showed a photo of an angry sunrise just before a storm last January and said that we "sometimes" get summer storms.  Well, the Coromandel Peninsula and other parts of the country have just copped a real beating from a low pressure storm that has come out of the tropics.

We desperately needed the rain after weeks of hot, dry conditions. We had cracks in the ground on our property that you could put your hand in.  The forecasters were warning that over 100 mm of rain could fall in a 24 hour period, with nor' westerlies above 120 km/hr.  That didn't bother us all that much as our house is protected by a ridge from that wind direction.   Sure enough, we survived just fine and the only remedial work required was picking up small branches from around the property and a small amount of unripe fruit blown off various fruit trees.

However, as the storm moved south, the wind swung towards the west and that's when mayhem struck due to a number of factors coinciding - talk about bad luck!  This is where we live and what happened.

The Coromandel Peninsula, NZ

The Coromandel Peninsula is a major tourist destination, particularly in summer on account of its beautiful beaches, great fishing and its forest parks.  State Highway 25, also known as the Coro Loop; is a mecca for motorcyclists because of its challenging, technical nature.  There are only two ways off the Peninsula and for us, the most direct route is due south to Thames which normally takes a little under an hour.

Anyway, back to the story.  As the strong wind shifted to the west, it built up a storm surge which hit the eastern coast of the Firth of Thames.  Normally, that wouldn't be a major issue but it happened to coincide with high tide and a king tide at that.  The torrential rain added to the problem with already swollen rivers and streams.  This meant that big waves came over the road, carrying large rocks from the shallows.  The combined action has caused extensive flooding in some small communities and smashed the road to pieces in quite a few places.  At best, the seal has been torn off the compacted base structure and in the worst spots, the base structure has been wiped out too.  Here are a few photos from the local news services and public sources.

The mail must get through!

Boat floating in someone's back yard down the coast

Much of the road is now on the beach

Debris at Te Mata

Tar seal ripped up north of Thames

More seal damage

My heart goes out to the people down the coast who have suffered significant damage to their property.  In terms of economic damage, it's happened in the peak tourist season.  With the road closed for the foreseeable future whilst repairs are being made, businesses on the western side of the Peninsula will be badly affected.  In terms of direct impact on us, it will increase our travel time to get off the Peninsula by a further 1.5 - 2 hours by having to drive round the eastern side of the Peninsula so I guess we'll be minimising travel for a while.  We really haven't got much to complain about though compared with people further down the coast.

As mentioned earlier, the severe damage came about through a number of factors coming into play at the same time.  However, these extreme weather events seem to be increasing world-wide.  Whether it's a temporary phenomenon or a longer term trend remains to be seen but there sure is a cost to them, both in financial and human terms.  Let's hope that the rest of 2018 is a whole lot better for the planet!