JohnRLong gone are the days when you could pass your IAM test one day, and be out as an Observer, with your very own shiny, new Associate, a couple of weeks later. So, as it can’t all be fresh air and motorcycle riding, we were back to the classroom for the next stage of our training – The TOb Induction Day.

Having recently undergone major re-structuring, TOb Induction takes the form of a very full course which is constantly being tweaked with improvements to maintain the TVAM Training Team’s leading position within the IAM. Not knowing quite what to expect, all of the Pre-TObs met in Basingstoke early one Saturday morning in October for our induction to begin.

First up, we were confronted by a man in a full-face crash helmet and dark tinted visor.

“Right, I’m going to take you out and watch you ride for a bit and then tell you all the things you’re doing wrong” were his words by way of a greeting. This was most definitely how not to do it, we soon learned as Simon Rawlings revealed himself!

All morning, presentations and role play continued with Observers playing the parts of Associates. We were given the task of finding out more about them. How better to build a picture of an Associate’s coaching needs than to find out as much about them as possible? Tell me about yourself, your biking history and what you’d most like to improve in your riding was our starting point as we practiced our introduction and briefing skills. Then we ran through the various logistical points we must make clear to Associates before we hit the road. We learned about how to keep the ride safe, legal, under control and hopefully fun.

Stopping for nothing (other than lunch, regular coffee breaks and chocolate hobnobs) we talked about the Observer’s position on the road, what we should be looking for from our Associate on the ride, how to spot the key indicators, root causes, and the importance of keeping ourselves safe.

The intimate details of the Run Report Form and how it is structured were next on the day’s agenda, including tips on how to involve an Associate in their coaching for lasting results.

The induction day is clearly about interpersonal skills and how we can develop a positive relationship with our Associates. We’re given a structure to help us get going, but encouraged to make it our own.

The next St Crispin’s would be a milestone for us as we were to be presented with our yellow Trainee Observer badges.  

Stooge Ride 1

Chris Brownlee, the GNATs TOb training coordinator, emailed details of the next stage. I should get in touch with Martin Cragg, one of the Senior Observers, to arrange a date for my first “Stooge” run.

This is a first attempt at sitting in the hot seat and running an Observed Ride. We’re assigned a reasonably tame subject who will provide instant feedback on how we’re getting on, as well as helpful suggestions for improvements.

We got together at Thame Services on a damp Saturday morning and now, suddenly, it’s my turn to go through the pre-ride briefing so effortlessly delivered by TVAM’s corps of seasoned Observers. ‘Tell me about yourself, your bike and what you hope to get out of today’s ride’ I hear myself say, as I work my way through the stages of the Pre-ride briefing. Martin’s answers come easily. He tells me he’s an occasional biker having passed his test about five years ago, and can’t understand why he gets left behind when he’s out on weekend runs with his mates. I completely forget to ask what he does for a living, so Martin kindly offers that his character is a truck driver.

As we get to the end of the pre-ride briefing I remember to tell Martin that he should wait until I’ve got my helmet and gloves on and we’re both ready to ride off together before pulling away. He later admits that a favourite Observer sneaky trick is to ride off leaving a TOb standing there if they forget to mention this in the pre-flight checks. Can you imagine? I reckon you’d only forget that once!

Out on the road the pressure is definitely on as I try to spot each of the deliberate mistakes Martin is incorporating into his ride. After a few miles of this, I think I might be ready for my first attempt at de-briefing, and find a point where I can slip past my Associate and lead us into a lay-by. This is where we get to try out Richard Tickner’s ‘open question’ training from our TOb Induction day. ‘How did you think that went?’ I ask, hoping for his own reflections on his riding style. ‘Great’ Martin replies with a broad grin, ready to get going again!

On we go, and I hope that the short discussion about his road position has had an effect. Now I should reinforce my points with a demonstration ride and show Martin what I’d like him to consider putting into practice.

Finally and mercifully back at the services, the debrief and Run Report Form phase of our session was a complete blur. I hope I didn’t show my panic too much. Can this possibly ever get easier with practice? 

John Rodda – May 2013 (first published in Slipstream June 2013)