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Gremlin's Tall Stories

IAM Observer Test (10/07/2014)

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If If’s and An’s were pots and pans, then I’d have a whole pile more blog posts than I do. Suffice to say my blogging has been crap in the last year or so.

I blogged my IAM Initial Assessment round April 2012, a monthly ride in May 2012, and then nothing, so I should probably update you on that. Around May/June 2013 I passed the IAM Advanced Test, making myself a full member. In August/September I was part of the 2013 Trainee Observer intake, essentially, right back into being observed and getting feedback.

In IAM Observers are the volunteers taking associates on runs, assessing their riding across a variety of roads, urban and rural and then giving them feedback as their primary role is to get associates to Advanced Test standard. It was always my aim to work towards that, to return the time and skills to others coming through the system.

My first assigned Observer ended up with other commitments taking priority, so another, Roger, took me on while his Trainee Observer was painting his house. Some intensive work with almost weekly runs from April to June this year paying dividends as I got used to all the elements required in the role of Observer.

As an Associate, you are paying attention to the indicators of the Observer showing you the route to follow, or listening to Bluetooth comms which many of us run and concentrating on getting your riding right and applying the system.

As an Observer, you’re remembering your chosen route, giving route directions in good time for the Associate to follow, watching what’s happening in front and behind of them, what they’re doing, what’s happening behind you for safety, remembering everything during the ride and then debriefing the Associate after the run. On top of those requirements during a run, you need to have good communication and listening skills, good knowledge of road code and roadcraft and a supportive manner of the Associate without crushing them during debrief. Yeah… the first few runs were hard work.

As with anything, practise is the key and I could see the improvements after every run. Part of the trainee program is a set of 8 modules that need to be completed, from gaining information from the Associate (helps with tailoring a run to their needs) to briefing them on how the run will work, through to other specific modules including observing fast and slow riders. This part I was never too phased by, as I figured they’d get marked off as and when I’d achieved them. Roger also assisted in getting specific riders for the slow and fast modules and comms between them only, doing things specifically to test my observation. I’d also become comfortable with being observed again, as simply there was too much else to pay attention to, to focus on what Roger might be thinking. The key anyway, is to ride normally, as any mistakes will be brought up and you’re then able to correct them.

Last month Roger starts mentioning that if the next run or two go according to plan he’s putting me forward for the test and suddenly I find my comfortable environment of an Observer to catch my mistakes is vaporising… While a certain mate thinks this is the fox watching the hen house, I certainly feel the responsibility for representing IAM and doing right by the associates.

The test, like the Advanced Test is run by an IAM Examiner, in this case Phil McDaid of Riderskills, Chief IAM Examiner for Motorcycles. Roger, in true fashion leaves me after the last run, saying he’s putting me forward, with the parting comment: “No pressure, but no-one I’ve put forward has ever failed” *hard stare* … mmm…

Since Phil also has his own business to run along with putting up a lot of his time for IAM, weekends were his busiest time, so I arranged to take a day off work instead and do it during the week. Thursday was arranged, 2pm out by Westgate at Phil’s office.

The Observer Test is made up of 3 parts. Theory on roadcraft and road code, a short version of the Advanced Test and then a run with an Associate where my observation and feedback is observed by Phil and then assessed.

During the initial weekend of trainee training, we’d sat some theory tests and all 4 of us had scored 100%, so I was at least hoping to equal my previous score. Associates must score 70% and Observers must score 80%. Unfortunately, I got one roadcraft wrong and one road code wrong (who the hell needs to text in emergencies… argh!) leaving me with 90%.

Onto a short Advanced Test to prove I can still ride to the standards required (Observer riding is different to the system due to the dangers of being close on the same line). Phil takes me on a tour of West Auckland, most of it unfamiliar and I have to provide two (or was it three) running commentaries. Urban one I fail to mention the rubbish bags on kerbs… duh. Rural one I thought I was doing well until he told me to relax and said watch out for the concrete truck around the corner… huh… ah, I see it as I round the corner having failed to observe it early somewhere… I even replied to him “You had to do that to me Phil!”. I swear he was laughing in his helmet.

See, no matter how hard you try, Phil is always going catch you somewhere. However, on returning to the office, besides those couple of things during commentary, my ride has gone well and Phil is satisfied. The one thing I’ve learnt so far (OK, amongst a pile of things) is that the Advanced Test is sort of a minimum standard. My riding has improved from there and you never stop learning.

Onto the observation part, the associate has arrived and I’m semi in control, having to run this section of the ride, figure out a suitable course with a mixture of urban and rural riding and do anything required like I would in a normal run. Phil then gives me feedback once the run is finished and written up.

3-3.5 hours after starting Phil is leaving me hanging, working slowly through each part, questioning certain things, commenting positively and negatively on sections, before finally giving me the good news and declaring I have passed the Observer Test!

It was definitely a happy moment, a lot of relief for sure and also satisfaction that I had gained the skills required in order to contribute. Beforehand, I’d found myself in an unusual position of being slightly nervous. All the work by Roger, a day off work, Phil and Associate committing their time, to waste the opportunity would be at the very least frustrating. On the other hand, I was calm, knowing I needed to be. I’d done the theory, I knew how to ride, I figured I knew how to observe from practise with Roger, and if I made mistakes then they needed to be corrected anyway.

Fortunately, Roger’s record remains intact, therefore my health is intact and IAM has one more Observer to help associates through the system. Another intake of Observers is also planned for next month, so it frees up another Observer to take a trainee.

So while I now fly solo, so to speak, I know there is still plenty more learning to be done as I start taking on my own Associates and guiding them towards the Advanced Test.

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  1. Tricia1000's Avatar
    Well done!!!
  2. Blackbird's Avatar
    Well done Alan! You've achieved something which is measurable and anything but easy. Something to be really proud of.
  3. Gremlin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Tricia1000
    Well done!!!
    Thanks Tricia... seems like a different life from March 2012 when I had a session with you:

    I also find it amazing how much I've sort of absorbed. Hard to explain, but without very deliberately studying (just a little instead) I've incorporated so much into my riding and knowledge since then, and just over 2 years from the beginning to now, I find myself having reached that intermediate goal of Observer.