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Gremlin's Tall Stories

IAM Initial Assessment Ride (29/04/2012)

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The alarm rings at 8am and I'm not exactly jumping to my feet. Not feeling particularly excited either, but nevertheless, after snoozing the alarm for 10 minutes I got up and had some breakfast and got ready. Out the door just after 9am in slightly questionable conditions I made my way out to Westgate.

Following on from my blog about having a session with Tricia at Roadcraft School of Motoring, it was now time to start the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) course:

Initially, Iíd decided to delay it a little, while my leg healed from the burn on the Poronui weekend, but raftn was having none of this, sending me a PM asking for my email address to put me on the mailing list for the monthly organised rides, and that heíd spoken to the IAM Chief Examiner, Philip McDaid who runs RiderSkills ( ), that I would be coming along and would need an initial assessment ride.

Well, if heís already done that, I guess there is no escaping or delaying, so, with no time like the present, I find myself heading out like a lamb to the slaughter. I guess itís not strictly correct, as I first found the IAM website last year and Iíve watched several videos of UK bikers in action, showing mind-set, lines, thoughts etc. and read the Police Ridersí Handbook. Factor in I always travel by bike and Iíve had plenty of time and opportunity to practise and improve my riding!

Everyone was to meet at RiderSkills HQ in Westgate, and when I arrived just after 0930 most were already there. It was odd feeling like a bit of a newbie, but I saw the familiar faces of raftn and Blackbird and said hello while raftn hunted out Philip. Iíve met him once or twice before and he seemed to remember me. While some of the behind-the-scenes organisation was done, putting people into groups I chatted to some of the other riders.

Blackbird came out and cheerfully announced I was in the fast group. Say what? raftn came out and said he was with me, and that he would be practising his Observer skills on me, with Phil observing both him observing me, and observing me, and joining us another pairing of Observer and trainee. We took some unfamiliar roads out to Bethells Beach and sections of it were rather damp. I found it a bit of hard work, as I was keeping an eye on Phil in front and raftn behind, the skills required for advanced riding and the road conditions and layout. The trainee in front was not certain of the route, and subsequently struggled a little to watch his mirrors for direction and focus on his riding. After a wrong turn Phil took the lead back to the correct road.

At Bethells the other trainee got some feedback on his riding and then it was my turn to lead. We took a different route back, as Phil had put it, heíll make it up as we go along. The first part was easy, as it was one road away from the coast and to keep going where we turned onto the road. The road had dried out so I could set a good pace and quickly got into my rhythm, taking the corners smoothly and reading the road well. Raftn seemed to hang back but had his boy as pillion so a slowed a little to keep us together.

As we returned to civilisation I did a couple of overtakes I thought I did well and the route got more tricky and was a bit of mystery, so both raftn and I had fun trying to keep an eye on bikes behind for direction and the road in front. After some roundabouts we got separated by traffic lights so I swung into a side street to allow the group to catch up. At the next traffic light raftn pulled alongside and said to go onto the motorway and head back to base, which we did. We were the first group back, but one had seemed to have a bit of bad luck and was still repairing a flat, but Philip had an air compressor to assist.

While waiting for the other groups to return raftn took me upstairs and gave me his feedback, with Philip sitting in. I think this was probably the best part of the day. I remember both raftn and Blackbird saying they always dreaded this a little as the truth was coming out, but for some reason I was only curious what would be said. Instead, it was raftn who was still nervous, now cautiously trying to give me my assessment but trying to make sure he was saying something similar to Philip would.

It seems that while he got all nervous about reaching IAM level and the result of each ride, the nerves continue through to becoming an observer I probably didnít help, laughing through it.

On the serious side however (coz there is the odd one), raftn reckoned I had done really well, and he wished Iíd made more mistakes to make his job of grading easier, so all that was left was to nit-pick. Canít make it easy for him now can we? I need to work on making head checks more obvious when merging lanes or checking my space when making turns. Also need to accelerate a bit faster into higher speed zones. Never thought Iíd be told to accelerate more, but sweet!

Grades are not given for the initial assessment, instead focussing on the areas that need improvement, and if you choose to join then your future rides are graded. Raftn put an ďOKĒ on my sheet.

I filled in the form for associate membership and the bank details will be forwarded through to me so I can become an associate member until I pass the test which will make me a full member. From there, as the others said, Iím free to continue to become an observer, but Iím aiming for that already. Philip mentioned that they havenít promoted it yet as they are still trying to build the capacity and if 100 riders pitched up they wouldnít be able to cope. It also makes it that much more important to give back into the system that gave to you.

As the other groups returned it started to rain but then disappeared after a short while. There was no need to stay so I headed home, with a somewhat paltry 100km on the clock. Good thing I didnít fill especially for it, but I understand the usual rides are longer, which are a better test. The paperwork should come through shortly and a membership number and observer are assigned. The observer will follow my progress and give feedback until they are satisfied Iím consistently achieving the advanced standard of riding and then I will take the test with another Observer.

I headed home confident Iím doing the right things and on the right track. My challenge now is to consistently do everything right and pass the IAM test.

Ride Route:,4&t=m&z=12

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  1. Tricia1000's Avatar
    Well done Gremlin, on getting out there and looking at improving your skills. It would be lovely, if more people went that route. I am sure Advanced Riding would save some lives.
    Keep me up to date on your progress. I am so pleased that raftn did his IAM test.
    Way to go!!
    Roadcraft School of Motorcycling Ltd.,
    RoADA (Dip)
    Consultant to NZTA.
  2. BMWST?'s Avatar
    why do head checks need to be obvious?
  3. Gremlin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by BMWST?
    why do head checks need to be obvious?
    Well firstly there is the assessment factor. If you can't be seen to be making one, then are you? I'm falling into this trap a little, because while I might look at something, the person assessing me can't see I'm looking unless I'm turning my head. Same advice we (the forum) give learners and restricted riders going for their tests basically.

    Second, you can easily fall into the habit of not doing a proper check. A quick glance isn't sufficient and is a bad habit. You want to be physically turning your head and looking at your blind spot to make sure there is nothing there. It's actually an easy habit to get into and I've had two occasions now where a good head check found something I didn't expect (even though I'm regularly looking in my mirrors). You initially think, argh, but what are the odds of something getting into your blind spot, but then, it only takes one mistake to take you out aye?