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Feedback on a course – from Carlo

Every course I run, I try to remember to ask for feedback, when a trainee has had time to think about it. I do get some, not often very much more than “great time, thanks very much” it has to be said, but from time to time I do get some considered and constructive criticism, which is excellent because it helps me make improvements to my courses.

So it was good to get the following comments from Carlo Rimassa last year, after he did the two day Bends/Double Bends course. He’d already done a fair amount of training, including a course with a well-known police run training school so it’s particularly interesting to see what he picked up over the two days.

I’ve split his comments up with the replies I made to the various points, to make it a little easier to follow and also to throw some extra light on the way particular issues were approached during the two days. It also hopefully offers an insight into the way courses are put together, carefully planned with serious goals in mind, and not simply a nice ride out for me.

“As promised, here are some thoughts about the two day course I did with you. I think the balance of the first day could probably be shifted a bit more towards riding. I found the notes about road signs quite informative and a lot of information was new to me. The practical part though was maybe a bit too disjointed, it was difficult to get into a riding rythm. The second day was good, and the rides long enough to enable me to establish some flow in my actions. I think you could maybe give some consideration to incorporate a couple of variations in your riding plan.”

Interesting feedback. Good to hear the information about road signs was useful! I find it an unusual ommission from advanced training, to tell the truth. As for the “disjointed” comment, to be honest, part of the problem may be your history of previous training. In fact, what I am trying to achieve on the first half of the first day (after a short ride to assess the trainee’s standard) is precisely NOT to get into a rhythm, because as soon as riders feel comfortable, they start doing what they already know and NOT what I’ve asked them to do. There’s also a danger of overwhelming the trainee with new info – the opening briefing tends to last around 45 mins, of which 15 or so is actually the intro to the course, then approx 30 to cover the core ideas of reading signs – which quite frankly is long enough to start most trainees glazing, despite the fact I’m really only expanding on the briefing notes they already have. I have more information I want to get over to the trainee in the first half of the first day. So for two reasons, the initial rides are designed to be short exercises with a precise task to be achieved, followed by a brief review, then a bit more information. This is classic teaching technique too. After lunch, the last hour or so of riding on Day 1 is usually where the “flow” starts to be achieved. Interestingly on the Double Bends second day, which I’ve planned as a chance for trainees to get on and ride a wide selection of bends precisely to get the “flow” you mentioned was missing from the first day, we didn’t get to ride some of the more interesting roads we would have finished the day on because you wanted to repeat some of the sections we’d already ridden. Having said that, it’s no problem for me, it’s up to the trainee to decide what they want to cover.

“I have to say not having radio did probably contribute to this: you are surely used to delivering commentary while you ride in front, not having it made those parts less useful than they could have been, and more difficult to spot your riding demonstrations. I’m sure you do, but check again your radio works in all its parts before you get to meet your pupil.”

[The radio malfunctioned!] Indeed, it didn’t help as some of the stops could have been avoided or shortened by use of the radios – two new radios have been ordered, delivered, and were in use by the next course. I had a spare but still haven’t got to the bottom of why the spare didn’t work. I’d checked that earlier in the year when it worked fine and it hasn’t been used since. Anyway, apologies for that.

“I found the “body outside, bike leant away from you” technique for turning very tight bends quite useful. I would have liked to try that more, maybe on a big, flat and empty surface, just doing tight figures of eight and circles.”

Given your previous training history, I’m interested that you found this a new technique – given that it’s simply a variation of what most Direct Access instructors teach on basic training to cope with U turns and tight turns, I’m not sure why it hasn’t already featured! There’s certainly something missing from other advanced courses if this is not covered. As for off-road practice of counterweighting, you could have done that – it’s part of the Survival Skills 2 day course – or the Slow Control short course. If you’d booked the 3 day “Survival Skills + Double Bends” course, it would have been covered along with swerving. But there’s obviously a limit to how much I can fit into each course, and there are those expectations to meet too – I think most trainees would be a bit put out if I started a bends course in a carpark! Incidentally, this should show show readers that the different courses incorporate different material – they are not simply “the same stuff rehashed with a different name” as one advanced instructor suggested I was doing!

“That 90 degrees bend we found in the afternoon would make a great “testing ground”. You can approach it in several different ways, each testing important roadcraft parts: you could try to do it without braking or approach it with a racing line, braking well deep into it, or every other braking point variation in between. It’s an open bend with full visibility, so you could use it to test several body positions and approach speeds, up to and incuding those that require you to use more than your lane. And the presence of a side road right in the middle would enable you to stand aside and obeserve the pupil from a side. It requires a bit of time to turn around and do it again, but really, I think that bend has a great teaching potential.”

Main objection to that is that it’s not a particularly safe place to be turning the bike – it does get cars and riders coming along there at extremely high speeds who won’t expect a bike doing a three point turn. Safety has to be paramount – but the concept is something I’ll think about and see if I can incorporate a sensible loop at some other point on the course.

“That’s it really. I think that among the notes I took home, the ones that might affect my riding most were those related to your riding philosophy. I have always liked riding because of the mental challenge it represents, but if I incorporated more of your “easy ride” attitude I think I could improve further my daily mileages. Plenty to ponder for me over the coming season.”

That’s good to hear. I sometimes find I’m at odds with other trainers on my “plan for what goes wrong” and “Keep it simple” strategies, but they’ve worked for me for many years and I do think they are more applicable to the vast majority of riders than “max progress and perfection” style” riding. Tortoise and hare. At very least, I think the contrasting approach does, as you mention, get people thinking which to my mind is one of the most important outcomes of the course.

“Thanks again for your time.”

You’re more than welcome and many thanks for your attendance on the course!
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