Give me a Certificate, I really deserve it. (PV)

In a recent post Ted Simon wroteWhen I first told Harry Evans, the editor of the Sunday Times, that I wanted to ride around the world I was thinking only of how to describe the journey, to make it understandable – saleable, if you like. The act of making a complete circle was not at all important to me personally. I just wanted to see as much of it as I could. But I needed to raise some money and if I was going to write a book – which was always my aim – then that label, that headline “Round the World” would be important. And so far as we knew, I’d be the first to do it.

Since those days in the early seventies the business of making and breaking records has grown with record-breaking speed. The Guinness thing has become a huge business. Everybody wants to swallow more eggs, jump over more buses, swat more flies, fly, float, drive, swim, climb, drop, skate, crawl further, faster, longer, than anyone else and get a certificate.

I wasn’t thinking about records when I travelled. It would have been easy, for example, to nip across a few borders here and there to rack up a few more countries but it didn’t occur to me because that wasn’t the point.”

Getting a certificate is the name of the game, not only for specific skills like welding, building scaffolds, cabinet making or baking cakes.

If you search for “certificate of superior intelligence” (a quite vague definition) Google offer three millions three thousands eight hundred results in 0,26 seconds.

The lion share goes to company providing tests of IQ certifying that you have a brain (at higher cost, one can obtain the same result with a EMAR scan with the additional benefit of hard copy to frame).

Forget IQ,  Mensa and all the controversies about the measurement of thinking capacity; on the millions of results one can enjoy “Certificate of Applied Emotional Intelligence”, “Certificate of Competitive intelligence”, Certificate of Web Intelligence”, “Certificate of Social Intelligence” moving than to “Military Intelligence” (Online degree available) and Central Intelligence Agency (Field experience required).

Certificate of positive spirit (I was getting desperate in being generic) gives less results (1.350.000) but offers jewels such as “Merit Certificate”, “Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology” and “Certificate of Emotional Energy”.

There is a certificate for everybody and one does not need to go Citius, Altius, Fortius to obtain it: it just available on line from the comfort of your couch.

The “Certificate” is supported by a grading: a set of numbers (from 0 to 10) or a set of letters (from A to D) or a set of precious metals (from Bronze to Gold). The most complicated systems are regularly introduced to justify grading as politically correct. For example, Primary school children in UK are now graded on a standard of 100 “for KS1 SATs a score of 100 means the child is working at the expected standard, a score below 100 indicates that the child needs more support and a score of above 100 suggests the child is working at a higher level than expected for their age. The maximum score possible is 115, and the minimum is 85” Complicated? Confusing?

What about One More Mile Advance Riding Observation score with 80 as negative level, 39 as sufficient and 20 as perfect? It can be explained but the explanation (as per KS1 SAT score or Mensa IQ score) does not take away the stigma of grading or, what I consider the stigma of a value-base evaluation system. And Simon is clear in is question “what is a record?” He went around the world to see, to learn, to share and to report: a certificate of “record” was not, even remotely, in his goals: and yet Jupiter Travel has been the front runner, the beginning of all “around the world” travels including crazy record not anymore registered in Guinness Book.

Since we started going to school and to university to get “a piece of paper” (certificate) the quality of tuition and the quality of participation to culture sharing has been plummeting. “University Degree online” search beats all records with 490 millions of results. Among the 490 million we have qualified “online courses and remote teaching/learning” as serious as the most demanding University, nevertheless the majority of results are jut easy way to “get a document of certification”

And this is the key issue: when the search for improvement, the curiosity for knowledge, the passion for creativity are fading, mechanical grading comes in with numbers or with option: we give numbers to the beauty of women and men, to hotel comfort and services, to pictures taken. We search for large number of contacts, like, share, visitors: the social media are turning into a game of numbers and, not so slowly, numbers turn in our mind as criteria for judging all. Standardized measurements of varying levels of achievements invasive and viral, very viral.

We all know that a grade is limited in time and in situation: getting an “A” in History only means that in that day and on that subject I per firmed well: change subject or take me on the wrong day and the result will change.

We play a game of chance for the sake of “certificate”.

Take a rider passing a “grading session” from any “school” and passing with a high grade (Advanced, Gold, Diamond, Blue Ribbon or 22… whatever); he or she will be happily show the result in certificate, pin, sticker of other gratifying media. Forever.

But the grading just evaluates that specific ride, under the specific circumstances, along a specific itinerary.

It does not express the overall level of competence; it only fixes a moment in time evaluating the temporary performance.

In old time access to an artisan profession required years of apprenticeship for the evaluation of “repeated competence”, the capacity to perform well again and again. Today the apprentices are mistreated in TV UK by multi-millionaire Lord Sugar and in USA by Arnold Schwarzenegger replacing the President Mr. Donald Trump.

Since we want everything now and since the process must be instant, no more time is available for “continuous evaluation” and “grading” is the fast service of competence.

Signs of change (in positive terms) are at the horizon with school and universities replacing grade by overall evaluation supported by extensive knowledge of the candidate and intelligent, human guidance toward improvement. Time for all of us to revise our “evaluation system” rejecting mechanical ways to express like or dislike, to judge performances in any area.

And when a test is required better to adopt the “pass or fail” system that oblige the evaluator to take a clear position supporting it with meditated documentation.

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Spring Riding: Fluency comes with Frequency (from Aerostich)

“If you don’t ride year-round, you should know that the rate of motorcycle accidents and injuries is higher in the early part of the year than later” 

This simple advice comes from the people at Aerostich and the suggestion continues:

Four primary reasons, not in order of priority:

1. Car drivers don’t expect motorcycles or understand how they move as well.

2. Residual sand and winter debris on the roads.

3. Riders are more likely to ride overly ‘enthusiastically.’

4. Riders’ skills are rusty.

The last one is easy to address. Even if you are a very experienced rider, spending anywhere from ten minutes to an hour simply riding around a vacant parking lot playing with the capabilities of your bike makes a difference you’ll notice in the days that follow.

Set up some imaginary games using the car-space (or other) lot striping. Repeat controlled hard-breaking panic stops from low and medium speeds to pre-defined spots. How close can you come? Do some slow extreme weaves.  And some faster turns. Again and again and again.

The trick, because you are not learning this stuff for the very first time, is forcing yourself to repeat these made up maneuverability exercises over and over, trying to better your results a little each time.

It can be hard to practice something you already ‘know,’ but forcing yourself to do it will bring incremental improvements that may make a difference in some traffic situation later on. If you have time and want to improve even more, take an organized rider-skill class if one is available in your area.

The mental side of biking – May 2007 (PV group discussion)

I was walking and chatting with friends in the early hours of spring morning: it was a brisk walk designed to bring some aerobic advantages to our aging bodies. With the mileage increasing the conversation faded away in search of breath. Mind started wandering to the “things to do” ahead: plans for the day, the week, the month.

Then an internal voice crept in “It is walking time and you better think of walking”.

Following this inner advise I focused on the muscle of the legs, on the correct movements and on body posture. Without changing pace visibly, just focusing on the right thing to do, I immediately gained a good advantage over my partners. Nothing to do with physical strength: just the result of concentration and attention. Of being on the moment and rejecting multi-tasking and distractions.

The same applies to biking: in classroom and on the road the message from the experienced trainers is the same: “focus on the right positioning of the bike, the right standing of the body, the right line. Focus without distractions and leave all other thoughts at the garage door” 

To maintain concentration alerted even for a short ride is not easy. We are used to do many things at the same time and our mind wander, sometime aimlessly, as lost in a web browsing.

Momentary distraction, lack of focus on the action can bring dramatic results: in most cases it may be recoverable after few seconds but, when balance, centimeters  or speed come into play,  a small lapse of attention could be fatal, especially when your skin is the first line of defense.

The power of the mid to maintain the focus under strict control is the real “advanced step” for all of us passionate bikers. From attention to the “now” comes as well a capacity to constantly judge “how we are doing” and from it what Hans Heinz Dilthey calls it “realistic self-evaluation”.

From biking to real life focusing completely on the task at hand is a good cure to “illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing the ability as much higher than it really is”

The Dunning–Kruger effect is not only creating intolerable presumptuous idiot making our life miserable but also affect large part of the bikers population with the “I know all” virus.

Knowing what you know and, more important, knowing what you do not know, your limits, is the first step for constructive change, for moving ahead in skills and attitude: a better rider is, after all, a better human and vice versa.

Tips for speeding (RAPID TRAINING SCHOOL UK)

I recently had a close encounter with the “men in blue” and got a quite expensive fine for excessive speed: it may happen and one should take it with a stoic attitude, learning without complaining. Still I felt very depressed considering myself a real stupid: you see, I was caught in speed radar 6 miles from home in a stretch were all locals know police wait in ambush. I went back home and looking at the archive of wisdom of OMM I found this interesting set of advises for dealing with speed limits written by the English Rapid Training School: as we said, one thing is to know, another is to behave and to apply.

  1. Don’t speed in town. This is where 90% of speed enforcement is conducted. Most accidents (although not most bike accidents) occur in 50 kph speed limits, therefore resources are targeted at the problem area. Cameras and the man with the hair dryer are all to be found in these areas. If you find it difficult to quell your urges, remember going too fast in town won’t allow people see how cool you look. Do slow down so they can take in your stylish use of florescent green and yellow!
  1. Don’t be the fastest vehicle on the road. Whilst being overtaken is a concept most motorcyclists will never quite get their heads round, having someone flush out the police from the road ahead can be very satisfying. Especially useful on long Motorway journeys – let the Rep revving the nuts of his Mondeo slide past you… it is just plain decent of him to collect fines on your behalf.
  1. Never exceed three figures on the Motorway. For some obscure reason the powers that be think this is dangerous and you are likely to lose you license. There is no pleasure in speed in a straight line so get off the Motorway and find a more challenging route.
  1. Use speed sensibly. You are more likely to get away with a bollocking, if you didn’t also take 500 meters of solid white line and force an oncoming car into the ditch.
  1. When you are stopped for speeding, be humble! Grovel as best as you can, be amazed by his prowess is catching you, remember you are playing a game where the copper holds the entire deck. There is little point getting stroppy or asking if he knows his parents.
  1. Of course the best advice is don’t speed! And we all stick to that, don’t we?