In a change to the usual “Meet the Observer” format this month we are instead “Meeting the Master”. Phil Mabb is one of a small number of LAMkins who have passed the coveted “Masters” test.
When did you start riding?
Way back in 1983 when I brought a Yamaha ‘Fizzy’ and stored it in a neighbour’s garage (for who I tended their garden whilst they were based abroad) since I did not think my parents would approve. I later discovered my father had been riding bikes down in Brighton back in the 1950’s such as a Matchless 250 when lids were not obligatory and he took my grandmother without one over the Ditching Beacon many times – how times have changed.
I subsequently has a variety of second hand bikes that I ran until each was beyond economical repair, using them primarily as commuter vehicles from South London into Central London to avoid the dreaded public transport commute.
Why did you decide to take the Masters?
Very simple to answer - from what I understand it is the highest accolade a civilian rider can achieve. However, we need to go back to 2014 when my Advanced Rider journey began. I was in my mid-forties, had run out of ‘biker friends’ as we all had obligations such as kids or had had accidents which took us off the road. My last crash was back in the late 1980’s (before I had even taken my bike test) and I was reasonably comfortable plodding along, but in 2014 I came across a Bikesafe course. After 10 minutes with a Leatherhead based Police observer, I was pulled over and asked if I was a commuter – everything I did suggested the same but was not appropriate for every road condition. At the end of the ride it was recommended I look to an Advanced Rider course to ‘significantly’ enhance my driving skills.
My understanding at that time was that the RoSPA Gold was the top civilian qualification, primarily because it required a 3 yearly retest to ensure continued measured skills. Off I set for a year ably mentored by Yesh Patel passing in summer 2015 and tested by Jon Taylor. At my re-test in 2018 I was advised by my examiner (Jon Taylor again) that the IAM Masters was the next step up and he referred me to both LAM and what became my IAM Masters mentor Barry Salmon. Ironically, I had to take the IAM Advanced test too and, guess what Jon Taylor was the examiner again!!
Ultimately, I knew that was the next stage of a continually improving learning process, something that cannot be underestimated apart from which it gets me out of bed at the weekend (not that I ever need an excuse to get on the bike).
What does LAM mean to you?
I think it goes without saying us members are lovers of biking and kindred spirits in our desire to ride competently, safely within the laws of the land.
What is your favourite route?
Despite using Surrey, Kent, East & West Sussex and Hampshire to a lesser degree as a “playground” I have no specific favourite route, but do take an enormous pleasure in joining in the LAM ride outs which have ably put together by those that spend a lot of time putting together exciting, testing and attractive ride outs. Always looking forward to the next trip come rain or sunshine, and irrespective of the fact that some routes may be familiar – the old one are the best for good reason.
What is your favourite piece of riding kit?
Um, it’s a toss-up between the Innovv K2 front and rear dash cam which I can use for recording rides, or the airbag I have not yet received to reduce the weight of my riding gear – a Dainese smart d-air airbag vest (which is still on back order).
What is your favourite bike?
That which I am comfortably seated on currently - a 2017 Kawasaki Versys 1000 GT. If you knew what I had ridden before you would fully understand (Yamaha Fizzy, C90 Cub, Honda 125, 250, 350, Yamaha Virago 500, Kawasaki 550 Zephyr and Honda CBF600N) I think that is the lot. Mine is an Executive Saloon by comparison to what went previously. That said, I have a hankering for a Harley Davidson Fat Boy - but not on the roads we use!
What has been your best or funniest moment on a bike?
Staying alive after 30 years on the road.
Driving down to Bordeaux in 40c+ having installed the most (and expensive) wind protection effective screen only to wish it was not there. It left me leaning to the left and right to cool down all the way save for a few pit stops.
Ask me about …..
Too embarrassed to contribute. What happens off record, stays off record!
Bustin’ for a Pee
In this instructive, edifying and enlightening tale of why you should practice your slow riding skills so that you can do them under the most testing of circumstances, Andrew Craster relates the test day experience of a former Associate
For some reason best known to IAM HQ my test was scheduled to take place near Banbury, Oxon. Well I do live in Barnes and they do sound similar don’t they? For long and tedious reasons the previous test dates had had to be postponed so I was determined that nothing should get in the way of it this time. The examiner had even rung me the night before to suggest that due to the forecast of sub-zero temperatures and ice we should cancel – “Would I ring him back to confirm I knew it wasn’t on?” Err no, I wouldn’t - it was going ahead this time, whether he was there or not!
The night before was one of tossing and turning and not a lot of sleep. The alarm was set for an unearthly hour so that I had masses of time to do the 40 miles to Banbury and find the venue. After a slightly too much coffee at breakfast, I set off on a freezing cold and damp day. The examiner was right in wanting to cancel – it was so cold all my extremities were numb. My bike, meticulously washed for the only time in its life, was caked in salt and grit. As soon as I got off the motorway I could see ice on the road and pavement.
As luck would have it I managed to negotiate Oxford and find the road to Banbury. By now the effects of the hot coffee had worn off and it was making its presence felt in other ways. Things got worse by Banbury. If you could ride a bike with crossed legs I would have tried it.
The Examiner’s instructions on how to get to the start venue were clear enough and I found it with no problems. But there was nowhere that looked like it had a toilet. So I decided to carry on and see if I could find a suitable petrol station - or anything. Things were getting bad now, but I was aware of another motorcyclist following me. At a set of traffic lights I stopped and so did the second biker. He leant across and asked: “Are you Fiona?”
“Yes.” I replied, still bouncing from cheek to cheek.
“Hi, I’m the examiner. Do you know you have gone past the meeting point?”
"Oh, err, um, yes, but I’m desperate to find a toilet so carried on for a bit.”
“No worries. There’s one at the meeting point. If we turn around I can show you where.”
How to turn around? In front was the pedestrian refuge with traffic lights on it. There was no way to squeeze past the leading car to carry on and find a suitable turning spot, goodness knows how far away. Traffic in both directions was stationary as the pedestrian phase took its time. So nothing for it but a full lock right-hand U-turn from standstill, avoiding the ice at the edges of the road. Luckily it worked a treat with no dangling legs either.
As we got off our bikes, the examiner came across and said, “Well that’s the slow riding bit over and done with. Well done!”
So the moral of the story is practice your slow riding so that you can do it in the most trying of circumstances. The examiners are not sadists; they are just looking for a demonstration your ability to control the bike at slow speeds.
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