I write this edition of the Chair’s Chatter resplendent in the colour only known to us with Celtic ancestry, when we step out in any light stronger than a 10-watt lightbulb!
What a great Bank Holiday weekend! It was such a change from the near biblical floods which dominated quite a lot of May and certainly gave us all a chance to test our wet weather clothing. This again reminds me of Alfred Wainwright: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.
For three separate observed rides, I turned up decked out in my finest Rukka. However, because it was raining so hard, I found out two hours later that a thermal liner and storm collar was not the right choice on the day.
It’s hard to believe that three years ago to this day (1st June) we were melting in the 33 deg heat of the Eifel region, as we got ready to do battle with the mighty Nurburgring Ring. Fingers crossed, we might be able to go there again in 2022.
Thirteen new people have joined LAM in May and welcome to the group and we all hope that lock down starts to relax, so that the time between joining and your first or second OR is not 18 months!
We continue to take OR bookings via the shop and will continue to do so for the time being. In addition to this, we are slowly removing the mothballs from both Banstead and Tatsfield to conduct (insofar as we can practically do this) the traditional, monthly pot lucks. However, we remain under the direction of HM Government and NHS England (and to a lesser degree now the IAM). Keep watching this space!
From the feedback I've received, the observers are enjoying the G-sheet organised rides and the one-to-one nature and it's certainly a more enjoyable experience for the Associate. We aim to continue this as much as possible and hopefully, with the opening up of the potluck centres, those Observers who are unable to fit in with the G-sheet can return to the good old days of a physical Saturday and Sunday in their diary.
The goal of OR's is to prepare you for the test, and I'm extremely pleased to announce that we have had our first test pass since lockdown restrictions eased and the IAM returned its examiners to our roads – a huge congratulations to Andrei Procopie who obtained a F1rst!
There was an excellent Zoom workshop on Sunday, where Peter Hase provided an excellent overview on riding in Europe, answered questions and gave excellent tips and tricks. We all looked towards the horizon and imagined riding our bikes off into the sunset – thanks, Peter.
Some lucky Associates have made it as far as Beverley for an OR with our Northern based National Observer Steve Pratt. From what I hear and the feedback received, these are going well and are a great way to see other roads and areas. I don’t want to know if people are returning home with the idea of buying a goat.
Now that we are allowed to meet in larger groups, we are beginning to carry out Associate-only rides. When I was an Associate (just after we lost the man walking in front of us with a red flag!) I found these rides were a great way of getting in extra practice between OR's but also a chance to meet other Associates and make some enduring friendships, which I still maintain today.
Making friends also accelerated my learning, because I would go out with my new buddies and ride the roads of the AOR or find new roads and practice, I was learning all the time by implementing what my observer had coached me on in the last OR but also picking up on the good habits and techniques of my riding friends and hopefully helping others develop their ride.
It also gave me extra motivation to pass my test as I saw people drop off the AOR and turn up in the car park with their shiny green badges. They would then head off for tea and cake to some exotic destination in Kent or Surrey, where I knew they served fabulous sausage sandwiches, velvety smooth sponge and cheese scones worth selling your tiara for!
One thing that I learnt from group riding was never to panic, ride too quickly, or go out of my comfort zone. The way we organise the group is with a ride leader and a Tail Ender. No-one should get left behind, provided that all junctions are marked clearly and all riders in the group are aware of their role and obligations to mark the turn clearly and to prepare to leave as soon as the Tail Ender approaches. However, if they do go wrong, then there's no need to panic, no need to act like a child lost from its parents in the market and no need to run (or in our case ride) fast to catch up.
Anyone familiar with motorsport will know the term “Field Spread”, which is essentially the rate at which a race matures over a given time. For example, in an F1 race (and please exclude the fact that speed is relative), the difference in time and position from the leaders to the rest of the pack, over a 60 to 70 lap race, this can be less than 2 minutes. Don’t forget those cars are travelling at over 300 kmh, admittedly without traffic lights, horses, cyclists or Ethel and Bill on their way to the garden centre. Hopefully, you can see what I mean – a distance of 1 mile between you and the leader, on an open road can be as little as 60 seconds. However, it will feel like an eternity and of course, that’s the danger because panic can set in.
Ultimately, no one gets left behind and whilst physically you may have ended up in Kent instead of Surrey, just stop, get off the bike and call the ride leader. It may be that you have to forgo your cake and make your way home, or that you're not too far away and a quick set of directions, or a hop onto the motorway/dual carriageway will get you to the destination.
Enjoy the better weather and enjoy the freedoms we are being allowed to undertake. Stay safe, smile and remember, whatever life chucks at us, we are bikers and every motorcycle no matter if it is C90 or a BMW1000RR M Carbon Sport, it comes with a built-in smile maker. What’s great about that, is that the smiles grow outwards exponentially through each other rider in the group.
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