Okay, so after I failed my mock test, I met with my Observer, Ian Souter, and we had a chat about the test and what we felt I needed to work on.
To be honest, after my mock test I did go out a few times on my own to work on the areas that Charlie had said needed looking at and, after discussion with Ian, we decided to go for a ride and then stop for a cuppa and a chat.
After our ride, Ian said he would put me in for my test. I was ready!
I had an email from IAM RoadSmart to say an examiner had been appointed, Chris, and I would receive a telephone call from him. Sure enough I got a call and after a brief chat we set a date. Chris said he could do the following afternoon so I said yes, I figured this way there would be less time for me to dwell on it and start stressing.
I printed off and completed my Documents Declaration that had come on the IAM email and put that in my bike jacket so I wouldn’t forget it.
I was meeting Chris at two o’clock. As the morning wore on, I could feel my nerves building and by the time I met Chris I was really nervous. I think it’s that word ‘test’. I am not good with that word. I was struggling to relax.
Chris and I had a general chat when we met and then Chris explained to me how the layout of the session would go, how long the ride was expected to be and the roads we would be using – a combination of dual carriageways, A and B roads, country lanes, towns, villages etc.
Chris then asked some general questions about:
IPSGA : Information, Position, Speed, Gear and Acceleration
Petrol: have I got enough
Oil: have I checked the oil, does it need topping up
Water: have I checked the water, does it need topping up
Damage: check over the bike to make sure there is no damage that would cause an obstruction / be a hazard to riding
Electrics: are the brakes, lights etc working
Rubber: are my tyres okay – no nails (!), enough tread etc.
Yourself: am I in a fit state to ride – mentally and physically, am I hydrated, do I need a comfort break before setting off.
Chris also asked some general questions about my bike maintenance and the highway code.
Chris asked if I would be happy to use an intercom for him to give directions or if I would prefer to look for his signals and I said intercom. It was only a one way intercom so there was no talkie talkie whilst riding along (I should think Chris was grateful for that) and Chris only spoke to give directions.
Okay, we were on the bikes, ready and off we set. I could feel I wasn’t relaxed riding the bike and just hoped it didn’t show through too much in my riding.
We got to the finishing point and as soon as we got off the bikes Chris told me I had passed. Wow, what a relief. A huge relief.
We grabbed a drink and sat down to have a chat. So it was a safe, mostly legal ride. I went over the speed limit on one occasion (I know, I was impressed myself at this that it was only just the once!) We pulled out of a busy junction where you had to pull across to the central reservation and then pull out onto the other carriageway. I did this no problem. I then increased my speed to 50 (which I thought it was) and then very soon came across the de-restricted sign. I then realised it was a forty. However, Chris was pleased that I knew where and when I had done this.
Chris said I had a good understanding and implementation of the IPSGA system. However, he would like to see me slow when I come down from a national speed limit to, say, a 40 limit in a different way, he would like me to use the brakes to slow down to 40 and then change down into the appropriate gear whereas at the moment I roll off the throttle, come down through the gears on the approach to the 40 limit so by the time I reach the limit I am at the correct speed.
Chris would also like to see me get up to the speed limit quicker when entering a national speed limit.
Thank you Chris, I really appreciate you giving up your time so I could take my test.
But I passed. That was the main thing. A few things for me to work on but I think you can always improve on your riding and be open to learning new things.
I have to say I have really enjoyed the course, way more than I thought I would. It has been really good to take a step back and look at my riding and see where I can make improvements to keep me as safe as possible, always thinking about my bubble of safety.
My ride outs with my Observer, Ian, each week very quickly became a highlight of my week. I felt lucky to have such a great mentor and I feel my riding has improved over the duration of the course. The coffee and cake was just an added bonus but a great chance to sit down and have a relaxed chat about my riding and the course itself.
I would just like to say thank you to Ian for giving up his time to get me through the course. The IAM Observers are all volunteers and they give up their time for people like me and you so we can become better riders.
If you are thinking about signing up for an IAM course but are not sure, I can recommend doing a taster session with your local group so you can see for yourself what it is all about.
I, for one, am glad I did just that.