Fair for the time of year – relatively mild and clear.
What type of bike did you use?
Ninja 650, 2018
How did you feel at the start?
What questions were you asked before the test and if so what about?
Less than I expected, but I was asked if I knew the area and then the obligatory eye test
How long was the ride?
Just under an hour
What hazards did you encounter?
12th October 22 was a Wednesday and my test was at 2pm, so typical daily traffic. There were some road works in Caterham which meant one lane was closed that caused a delay and the need for some careful filtering plus a strange section of road where we encountered 3 rubbish lorries following each other at a slow pace.
How did you deal with them?
Patience. The road works were on a narrow two lane road so there was limited opportunity to filter and make progress. Looking as far ahead as possible I decided that there was very little benefit to be gained and prioritised position/safety and waited until the lights changed. The lorries were slightly different as we met them as they were on a left hand bend and going up a hill. In hindsight I was probably a tad close and the Examiner suggested that with more planning an overtake was potentially on. I held back as could see a left turn further up the road but probably could have ‘got it done’ if I’d been looking for it.
How close was the Examiner?
It varied depending on the road conditions of course but I would suggest 4/5 car lengths behind me for the majority of the time but 5-10 on the motorway section.
Were you asked any questions after the test and if so what about?
I was asked to talk through various sections of the ride and over coffee we dissected the test route and debated why I did certain things. I appreciated the feedback but also the opportunity to challenge the Examiner’s comments based on what I could see that he may not have. He was fair in both his praise and constructive input such as getting the overtake done when we saw the lorries and if my planning and observation had been better it would have been quite easy.
What errors did you make?
Too many to get a 1st!! I missed the opportunity for the overtake due to a lack of planning and observation but I also missed a speed limit change and only picked up the reduced limit on the second repeater sign which was really annoying. I should have noticed when I saw the Examiner ‘falling back’ and adjusted but it was too late. The Examiner also commented that I looked very ‘stiff’ in the early part of the ride and he felt that affected my steering and as a result my smoothness. That was a tricky one to take seeing as he was 10m behind most of the time but I respect the fact he knows what a good ride looks like. Overall no major dramas.
What did you do well?
I felt I rode my own ride and was consistent throughout. I had worked hard on positioning and holding my line through right hand bends which he noted in our debrief which was nice to hear. I made good progression, which was something I had to consistently work on when doing my ORs, but I felt I read the road well and spotted a lot of hazards very early on. I was also very pleased with my slow speed manoeuvring which he said was excellent!
In the training, what most prepared you for the test?
Simple. Mark Barling! I have nothing but the upmost respect for Mark. The time, effort and support he gave me was outstanding and I will be forever grateful for his input. Not only that but he is a great bloke even if he did drink nothing but double espressos while we were out but perhaps that’s the ‘secret sauce’ to staying sharp and making progress!! Mark pushed me hard to hold P1 through a right hand bend as I tended to exit a tad early and to always look as far up the road as possible to be looking for the next hazard or opportunity to progress. Outside of Mark though, and he won’t realise this, but while organising the test itself, Trevor Ambrose sent me a note that really stuck with me and made a huge difference and it was this:
They don't want to trip you up and make you fail. You start the test with a pass and only if things go pear shaped will you get a fail.
Honestly, those few words really helped my mental preparation. I knew I was riding well and more than capable and this really helped me go into the day with the best possible mindset.
Did you enjoy the test?
Haha! Does anyone enjoy being tested? I did once I knew I had passed but for the entire duration you are constantly telling yourself that you’ve missed this or should have done that so I’m not sure I can say I enjoyed it. For me I wanted to ride better and safer and so passing was an additional benefit. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of learning though so overall it was a very positive experience.
Do you feel I am a better motorcyclist as a result of undertaking the training and test? Without question! Smoother, faster, safer all the way. My ability has increased considerably but I believe that is mainly down to far greater observation and planning.
What was your overall view of the training and test? What worked well and didn’t? Your chance to tell it as it was, warts and all.
I really enjoyed it and loved learning. The instructors were outstanding and the routes they used were superbly curated offering a wide variety of road types. The main issue for me was getting an OR in the first place. There were times where there were simply no observers available at the Group meetings and therefore the gaps between my ORs was simply too big. It was very frustrating seeing all the ORs booked so quick and not getting anywhere with the reserve list. The Discord app was a lifesaver in the end as the ability to request an OR out of hours if you like meant I met Mark and managed to get regular sessions in thanks to his flexibility. I don’t get why (at the time) LAM wouldn’t let an OR take 2 associates out. The Instructor rides in the middle and the rider behind gets as much benefit following as they do learning. I would have loved to have just got out and would have gladly doubled up even if it meant I only got 50% of their focus and feedback – much better than waiting weeks!
What tips would you give others?
If you have joined LAM, hopefully it’s because you want to be a better rider and not just because you want to pass your test. Don’t rush to pass, enjoy the process, learn as much as you can and always offer to buy your Observer a coffee when you stop for a chat as they give their time and expertise for free!
Practise!!! If you just go from OR to OR then you are limiting your chance of success but also missing the point of LAM. You should be putting in 2-300 miles in between ORs, putting into practice what you have been taught and honing your skills. You will get more out of your next OR if you have ‘done your homework’ in between.
Never forget to practise your slow speed manoeuvres. Find 10 minutes at the end of every ride to do the odd U-Turn and figure of 8. It will come up in the test in some shape or form but is also part of being an advanced rider i.e. bike control.
On the day of your test get to your meeting point an hour early. Check the road conditions but more importantly familiarise yourself with the road layout AND speed limits.
Enjoy it! Your Observer wouldn’t put you forward if they didn’t think you were ready.
Do you plan to undertake and further test/ training and if so what?
I would love to become an Observer for LAM and give back to the club.
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