Updated: Aug 16, 2022
At the end of each and every course, I ask the trainee to go away and think about the course and give me any feedback they wish, positive or negative. Nice words tend to confirm that we’re doing the right things, but critical feedback is always good as it gets me asking the question: “OK, how can I do it better next time around?” and thus helps me improve the courses. I’m a big boy, I can take it 🙂
The good news is that the vast majority of feedback is positive, although that doesn’t mean I sit back and take it easy – I’m always looking for new ideas to incorporate into the courses. Here’s what Kevin Wood had to say after booking a Survival: SKILLS two-day course a few years ago:
“I’m glad that I attended the Survival Skills weekend.
“You said that you learn from ‘negative’ feedback but I can’t think of any worth mentioning.
“As I said to you, the biggest surprise for me was finding out the benefit of taking-in what the (often hidden) road signs and markings were informing me. Slowing down to allow reading time and understanding obviously also helps when encountering the subsequent hazard, but that feeling of having something ‘in the bank’ made the riding more enjoyable!
“Having read your book once through before I attended the weekend helped me understand some of the ideas that we were discussing, and subsequently, following the weekend, my second reading of the book is easier, and a good reminder that helps me visualise the things that we practiced.
“Your enthusiasm for biking is evident, and I would recommend the course to others and look forward to attending in the future, maybe a day round the twisties in France?
The book Kevin mentions is ‘MIND over MOTORCYCLE’, an in-depth look at the often-ignored mental side of riding. His comment regarding road signs is interesting because Kevin’s not alone in reporting how much he gained from learning about them.
Jason Knight took the two-day Performance: SPORT course, which features core cornering skills on day one, including the explanation of how road signs and road markings work together. He said:
“The observation stuff you do really made me think. I thought [insert name of very well known police-run advanced training school here] covered it all…
…but that was like a 5 on the scale where what you do is a 10. I never realised you could get so much information from looking at things as you ride along.”
It’s important to appreciate that whilst signs are certainly not infallible, since they are not always placed well and don’t flag up every hazards, they are very much worth seeing, then exploiting for the information they contain. I’m still astonished that more use isn’t made of them on other post-test training, because as the Institute of Incorporated Highway Engineers handbook says on the very first page:
“The road should be capable of being read like a book”
And the language the engineers use are road markings and road signs.
Why are they so under-exploited? Perhaps because we all have to learn the Highway Code and road signs for the test. And so maybe that’s why another instructor dismissed them as “only for learners”. And perhaps that’s why the ‘very well known police-run advanced training school’ barely mentioned them to Jason.
Day 2 on the Performance: SPORT course offers a raft of techniques rarely if ever covered on cornering courses such as trail braking and braking mid-corner, and body-shifting techniques. As mentioned, Jason had already taken a course with that “well-known school” and his bends positioning and machine control skills were spot on, and he could already put the bike pretty much on a sixpence, but he nevertheless he “really liked the body shifting in and out, peg weighting and ‘power up’ steering techniques” and was “amazed at how the different approaches changed the feel of the steering”.
————– For more information on our Survival: SKILLS two day course and our Performance: SPORT two day course, pop over to our website at www.survivalskills.co.uk – you can find out about those courses and all our other carefully focused training for riders of all abilities ————–
And the negative feedback? Radios, though better than ever, still aren’t perfect.
If you recall the old 59MHz ‘baby alarm’ intercoms I started out with, they were limited to a range just slightly further than I could shout. When Direct Access came in in 1997, I spent £800 (plus more on spare batteries) for some ‘short range business frequency’ radios from Motorola. Imagine my pain when a trainee dropped one under the wheels of an artic! Even the batteries were trashed.
Then I replaced those with sets running on the still-current PMR (private mobile radio) network. Cheaper – less than £100 for the more powerful instructor set and about £60 for the trainee sets, but they still ate batteries for breakfast. I also hooked up the instructor set to an expensive noise-cancelling system but frankly, the results were disappointing. We never did manage to get the VOX operation of the mic set up properly. Worse, with a PTT button on the bars from the radio, the curly cable to the lid and the feed vanishing under the seat to the noise-cancelling box, there were wires trailing everywhere which we inevitably got tangled up in, so I reverted to a standard noise-reducing headset good to about 50-60 mph.
For the last four years I’ve been using Bluetooth intercoms. Whilst mine is mounted on my helmet, that makes them impractical as training sets. But eventually I found a set that used a 3.5mm jack. This allows me to hook the unit up to either a robust ear-hanger speaker, or in-ear headphones. It’s the trainee’s choice. The battery life is several days, it charges from USB, and the range is several hundred metres, which is long enough. They stay connected well, and reconnect fairly reliably if the trainee’s gone out of range, with only the occasional drop-outs.
Headwinds and high speed does defeat the noise-cancelling system, but generally, I have had far fewer “can’t hear the radio” moments.
Occasionally I get someone who genuinely struggles to hear anything, anywhere. If it’s not hearing difficulties – like the trainee on the DAS course who was clearly having problems and finally said “I’m deaf in this ear” (I'm baffled - how did he expect to hear anything?) – then unfortunately it’s often the trainee’s helmet that is generating a lot of wind noise, drowning out the radio. I think riders simply don’t notice when they ride in the same lid day in, day out, and assume it’s the radio at fault.
And there’s nothing much I can do about that!