My road to a F1RST

by Andy Lee


My first outing with Observer Steve Rowdon took place in June 2019. Steve was pleased with that assessment ride, and in subsequent sorties he helped me to identify & improve the skills needed at the Advanced level. At first I thought Steve was just hypercritical (he is critical, which is a good thing in an Observer), but as our rideouts progressed I began to positively build Steve’s insights into my riding, putting myself in a better position to benefit from the next session’s analysis

The favourite stopping place for debriefings was Café33 in Stradishall, where great bacon butties, proper breakfast etc. can be had at affordable prices. After 7 sesssions together, Steve felt I was ready for the test and passed me over to Graham Scott, the club’s Chief Observer, with whom I had one more rideout. Graham confirmed Steve’s assessment that I was test-ready, and kicked off the process entering me for the Advanced Test. While I was waiting for test date to come through I managed a full English with Steve. Oh, and a ride out

The Test

25th October 2019 I should’ve known how the day would go: the washing machine gave up the ghost that morning. With only a half-day booked off for the test, a visit to the launderette after the Advanced Test and work was on the back of my mind

I met the Examiner at Scotsdales. He did his best to put me at ease, gave me a rundown of what he was looking for and posed the obligatory ‘Can you read the number plate on that Ford?’ question. It was a good ride on my part, but I made an observational faux pas in Litlington, an error which earned me a fail. In spite of this, the ride carried on and we returned to Scotsdales

The debriefing was most interesting; the Examiner went through every gear change, analysed each turn & junction, letting me know what he was looking for throughout the ride. Although sick in the gut from failing I could hear the Examiner coming across just like my Observer

Concluding the debriefing, the Examiner gave me this advice: “Put this behind you. Apply for a re-test, and sooner rather than later. You’ve had your observed rides, confirmed by a National Observer and you would have passed today had it not been for one faux pas”. OUCH. Then he gave his parting shot: “You have the potential to get a F1RST, but they have to be earned!”

My first action on returning home: telephone to re-book the test (phoning proved to be quickest method). In the afternoon I went to work (should’ve had the entire day off!). In the launderette after work I sat feeling sorry for myself as I watched the washing tumbling around. ‘Can this day get any worse?’

The days between tests

Saturday was rainy and miserable but, hey, at least I’d got the washing done the night before. After watching the England v New Zealand Rugby semi-final I had to pass on the news of my test result to Steve. I decided to have the day off of biking

On Sunday I awoke with a more positive attitude, and was soon out on the Tiger retracing as much of Friday’s test route as I could remember. I covered 80 miles in all, trying to build in the improvements suggested by the examiner. Upon my return home I discovered Friday’s test report in my inbox with some handy pointers from the Examiner –

You’ve benefited from the expertise of your Observer & Chief Observer, and experienced a test with a few pearls of wisdom from me. With all this is fresh in your mind, do your re-test as soon as possible:

  • Look further ahead & take in as much information as you can, then prioritize the information you need to use
  • Look to make good progress: I need to see this. Even when you can’t make overtakes, let me see that you are looking for them
  • You could have used more of the road and straight lined some of the bends and roundabouts
  • Brush up on anticipation & accceleration sense, and keep up the good work of missing pot holes and ironwork

 I managed to secure a re-test just two working days after my first test

The Re-Test

29th October 2019 I took a different approach in preparation for the second test. I booked a full day off work, and completely ignored the washing machine problem. I left home early for Scotsdales to do a little slow speed riding on the gravel at the end of the car park. As I practiced full lock turns I noticed that the Examiner had arrived and was watching what I was doing. I thought to myself ‘Well, that’s the low speed riding in the bag’. I was now up for the test

I felt more relaxed on the second test, remembering all the advice from the examiner. On our return to Scotsdales the Examiner told me that I’d passed  he then went through every detail of the ride, as after the first test, letting me know all the improvements I made. After the debriefing the examiner told me that I’d achieved a F1RST

For helping me to prepare for the test, I’d like to say a special thank you to Steve Rowdon for his dedication as an Observer, and his skill in planning our routes to pass by some very decent cafés!

Post Script: I rode through Litlington on New Year’s Day, and in my defense I can report that road markings through the village were repainted subsequent to my test (you’ll need your sunglasses if you pass that way during daylight hours)
Is this an admission by the Parish council? 😎 😎

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