To say I’ve been around the block a few times is probably an understatement, on Sunday 2nd February, or rather the Banstead Group Meeting at the beginning of February I will be celebrating 30 years at LAM! No, that’s not a typo, THIRTY YEARS! I don’t remember how I ended up there or the process I went through to sign up but I do remember going to the pub the night before and talking to a friend of a friend who was there with us and said that I had joined “some bike group” and would be attending the following morning. He asked me what the name of it was, and I couldn’t tell him! I gave him the name of the person I had spoken to on the phone and surprise, surprise the person I was talking to was the then Chairman of LAM!!! Small world huh? Obviously I hadn’t listened to his stories close enough or thought the bike group he was a member of sounded like snoresville, how wrong was I? I do admit he was an awesome rider!
I joined as I thought my riding could do with some improvement, I had a group of riding buddies and there were ride outs on most Friday nights but they wouldn’t let me join in (I felt like Rudolph!) - how hurtful (but honest), they told me I couldn’t go round a corner! Looking back, this is absolutely true, how could I go round a corner at a decent speed if I couldn’t see all the way round? I just didn’t get it. Anyway, I remember walking into Banstead on the Sunday morning and being absolutely terrified, with no idea what I was letting myself in for but knowing it was something I wanted to do, no, I had to do. I wanted to be able to ride “properly” and this was the only way I was going to do it.
I had a wonderful experience, can’t tell you who was my Observer or where we went or what we did, but I couldn’t wait for the following month so I could go again. Back then we only had one meeting a month and no out of hours OR’s available, Tracker hadn’t been developed into what it is today and we had green A4 cards folded in 3 where the Observer would write about 2 lines (no room for anything more) and gave us a score, told us to go practice and “see you next month”.
There was so much going on in LAM, I was probably out doing a LAM thing every weekend on some ride or other. There were no residential weekends to Wales or Norfolk, but I do remember the residential weekends to Cornwall, and they were so much fun but a long way to go.
The issue I had back then was I didn’t want to pass my test, there was nothing for full members “to do” but plenty for Associates to do, so I dragged my feet. After 18 months I was coerced into putting in for my test. I got my test date, 2nd August 1993 with Jon Taylor, better get swotting. Test day came and I met Jon in the allotted meeting point, given my instructions and directions and off we went. I’ll be honest, I don’t like tests but the roads we went down were unfamiliar and challenging and I had an absolute whale of a time and almost (almost) forgot it was a test. We stopped and I eagerly asked for the next set of directions only to be met with disappointment that the test was over! I exclaimed that we hadn’t gone on a motorway yet but was told that we did do a dual carriageway which apparently was enough. It was over, I had passed, there was no such thing as a F1rst back then, otherwise I would have been striving for that.
Although I had passed, that piece of paper didn’t make me a better rider. I was no better rider than I was the day before I passed. It is a gradual process. My riding today is nowhere near what it was when I passed. The test is just the end of the beginning. I have built on that knowledge and practiced and practiced and practiced. I would go on rides and watch how the full members with experience rode and even though they didn’t know it, I was still learning from them. I’ll admit, I still do that today. I watch a more experienced/better rider and see what they are doing, watch their line, their positioning, their speed etc and see where it differed from mine and see where I could improve. I am still improving on every ride.
No matter where we start, or what experience we already had, we can always do better. I was already a CBT instructor and examiner by the age of 21 so surely I knew it all and there was nothing more for me to learn? Oh how wrong was I! And I’m so glad I was wrong and I am so glad I joined LAM. Wherever you are on your Advanced journey don’t forget we’ve all been there, even those biking Gods that you see riding, they started where you are, I eventually understood the Limit Point of Vision (LPOV) to allow me to go round corners, I understood it, didn’t mean I trusted it, that took time and practice but eventually I got there.
As you can see LAM has been a huge part of my life, in fact it’s been there the whole of my adult life and I love it. I have made so many friends, been able to go on so many trips, and done so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to do. As my level of experience goes up, so does my level of enjoyment and I have never enjoyed biking as much as I do today.
I hope all you LAMkins are enjoying riding and getting out of it what you hoped. Remember our Observers are all volunteers giving up their time to help you so make sure you do all your practice miles (non-commuter miles) and not use your next OR as practice as that won’t help anyone.
The weather has turned a bit cold again, so if Santa didn’t know what to bring you, I can thoroughly recommend some form of heated clothing, it does make the world of difference.
Keep riding, keep learning and above all keep safe.
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