By Mark Anstey, Chief Observer at Chelmsford & District Advanced Motorcyclists (CaDAM).
You don’t need me to tell you what a strange time we find ourselves in at the moment. Fortunately, it looks like things are improving for many and a positive step from my point of view, is the permission to ride our motorcycles again.
Understandably, during the initial lockdown back in March, the general public were being asked to stay home and avoid any unnecessary journeys. Consequently, I found myself unable to ride my motorcycle for the longest period since I started riding almost 25 years ago.
When we were finally given the go-ahead to ride, roughly 12 weeks had passed. I rode my bike for the first time, feeling very much out of practice; an odd situation to find myself in. In those first couple of sorties, I repeatedly questioned my use of the ‘system’ and my ability to make accurate, smooth and safe progress.
I am happy to say that in a short time, I regained the composure and finesse that I thought was initially missing. It’s interesting to think that once we have undertaken ‘advanced training’ we automatically raise our own standards, and even the smallest slip leaves us questioning our own ability.
It’s so good to be back in the saddle again and undertaking coaching. We obviously have new guidelines to follow but we’ve felt fortunate to be able to continue when car drivers could not.
At Chelmsford & District Advanced Motorcyclists (CaDAM), we have ensured that the team are back up to speed and each held 1:1 check-rides for our group of Observers. I’m pleased to say that all who have been able to get back on the roads have demonstrated the top standard that is expected and each of them is keen to resume coaching.
Meetings with the Associates for observed rides isn’t as it was, and I suspect it won’t be the same for some time yet. We prefer to hold a group meeting for training days; that way, everyone gets to know everyone else and it reinforces the ‘club’ feeling. The new post lockdown guidelines are for 1:1 training or occasional 2:1, and Associates are assigned an Observer for that session, not necessarily the Observer assigned as their mentor.
We are now carrying out the briefing prior to the ride by phone, text or video. No material is permitted to be exchanged on the day and of course social distancing is observed at all times.
Traditionally, our rides are also a social affair with a break mid-way for a cuppa and possibly a piece of cake (permissible before the lockdown resulting in weight increase and expansion of my own waistband!). Sadly, that’s not so easy now either. Although, at the time of writing this, pubs, restaurants and cafés have been granted permission to reopen in England, so who knows how easy it will be to stop for light refreshments in the coming weeks.
We are gaining momentum though and making good progress through the list of Associates ready to resume coaching. We hope soon to also reintroduce our Trainee Observers to the joys of post-lockdown training; a few in our ranks are already renewing their acquaintance with observation and nearing sign-off to join the main Observer ranks. Others are itching to follow and we will get to them very soon.
Good news is already filtering through on test passes. Only last week, one Associate achieved a F1RST in his ride assessment and received exceptional post ride feedback from the Examiner. Also, a member of our training team gained a distinction in his Masters and has been invited to become a Masters Mentor - that’s despite him keeping his training quiet to most in the team.
Some areas of our group activities are still being affected. Traditionally, CaDAM hold an annual ‘slow riding’ training day at a company development track not far from us. This day is usually very well attended by club members: Associates, full Members and guests - and includes slow riding, braking and swerving exercises to name a few. However, regrettably the world isn’t back to normal yet and with more than six riders present, both Government and IAM RoadSmart guidelines have forced us to cancel our July date. We are keeping everything crossed for our second date in September though.
So, odd as the world is at the moment, it’s good to be back on two-wheels and enjoying our own form of isolation! Stay safe, ride safe!