Hello everyone and welcome to another Chair’s Chatter.
As I sit at the keyboard typing this, the sky is blue, the sun is shining low in its winter setting and there is nary a cloud to be seen. The flower beds are full of snowdrops, the first daffodils have poked their heads up and it is hard to believe that this time last year, everything was still relatively normal with thoughts of Easter getaways and summer trips.
Fast forward twelve months and once again, the thoughts of getting out into the world are becoming more of a reality. As each day passes, I really do believe the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. As soon as HM Government allow us, we will be able to go about and meet friends and have some form of socially distanced normality. With this in mind, I hope we can return to on-road training on a one-to-one basis but I'm afraid I cannot see us meeting in large numbers for a while yet.
Fingers crossed we will soon start to rack up those smiles per mile!
For those of us returning to our motorcycles for the first time in quite a while (not the regular commuters/ essential workers amongst us) please make sure you and your motorcycle are in the best shape possible to start rolling on the roads.
Hopefully, you will have been carrying out essential maintenance on your bikes over the winter, such as trickle-charging the battery (on or off the bike), rotating the tyres, and giving it a thorough visual inspection for any fluid loss underneath the bike or at the various seals (forks, shaft and drive), anything that might have been knocked during storage and checking that all the lights and electrics work.
Before getting out, check the bike again! Check the tyres are okay and at the correct pressure and now the really hard part – check that you are okay. By this I mean that you can still fit into your Valentino Rossi one-piece race suit or your Lyndon Poskitt Dakar / Charlie and Ewan Long Way up desert ensemble – remember lockdown might have seen you grow and also shrink.
If you are like me, check that the new bits of kit you’ve hidden about the house (what this old thing darling? no ... I’ve had these years) work when you are out on the bike, not just when you are sat in your bedroom wearing your new adventure boots. It is no fun discovering that your leathers are too tight, too loose or that you can’t bend your knees properly because the armour has ridden up and this is now occupying 98% of your thought process when you should be concentrating on the red Astra ahead.
Likewise, if you’ve just added a new water bottle holder to your GS, go for a ride and check the bolts when you're back – believe it or not, Wunderlich might make the best side stand extender in the world, but it's useless if it's now living in a flower bed on a roundabout in Arundel (it happens).
But most importantly, for all of us who are just coming back to riding after an extended period off, start slow and take time to build up. It’s a lot like getting a lockdown haircut from your wife, go with the longest setting first and see how that looks. You can always go shorter but you can't stick it back on (even with the crazy fad of supergluing your hair that seems to be the rage at the moment).
Top tip for lockdown haircuts, always make sure the hairdresser is in the best of moods, otherwise, people won’t be commenting on how tight or how loose your leathers are!
Even the professionals take time to get used to their new machines before going out to see if they can beat last year’s lap record. Remember what time of year it is and how this might affect some of God’s great creatures, such as Mr Pheasant, who has been the king of the single track road for five months only dealing with the occasional tractor and lost cyclist, who is out today to find the love of his life, only to find the front wheel of a GSXR.
Check the state of the road. It could be covered in mud, debris or stones which have been washed off the fields over winter and just waiting to find that front tyre or it could be covered in potholes eager to warp a rim or two. What I am saying is, plan your ride - and that begins long before you throw your leg over the bike.
For those of you who made Mark Clarke’s excellent presentation on cornering and the more recent one on overtaking from Norton, these were a great way to fire up the noggin and to help you switch back on to being a thinking rider; one that is both equally cautious as you are curious and remember always plan for what you can see, what you can't see and what can reasonably be expected. If you plan your ride and ride your plan (constantly adapting to new INFORMATION) then we can all make safer transits, be that commuting regularly or out riding for the first time since November.
To all Associates, please look out for your emails from the IAM containing information on how to access the new course materials for Associates Choices which will provide you with additional online content to promote learning whilst you are unable to get out on the road.
The IAM is considering a similar rollout for Observers, but they have their hands full currently with the rollout of DARTS phase 2 which is replacing their old database, which holds details of all members and groups.
Finally, a big thank you to the Training Team and members of Hull and East Riding Advanced Motorcyclists who have linked up to combine resources and training concepts (our bridge being Steve Pratt who is a National Observer in both groups) under an initiative sparked by Stuart Haythorn (our IAM Area Service Delivery Manager), who was keen to promote cooperation between groups large and small, with the hope of exchanging ideas and experiences to better us all.
We have carried out two Zoom sessions now and who knows, come the summer we might be able to arrange a trip or two.
Stay well all,
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