Observations

Observations
Observations, there can be a lot of misunderstanding on test about what an examiner is looking for, what he/she wants you to do is ride round sensibly, so lets break this down into different types of observation and look at the reasons for each type.

Forward Observation – Near and Far

Sounds obvious but the farther ahead you can see the more time you will have to assess situations, make a plan, and deal with whatever it is neatly. Clearly you can not spend all your time staring into the far distance and crashing through potholes. So you need to scan, near far near far. Prioritize what you are looking at as things change but keep switching your gaze every few seconds.

You are looking for

changing road surfaces
vehicles turning across your path
vehicles that you need to give way to
you are trying to make eye contact with other drivers to assess whether or not they have seen you
you are looking at where other road users are looking to give you a clue about what they might want to do next.
you are looking at the wheels on other vehicles to see which way they are steering
you are monitoring pedestrians to assess what they might do next
what can’t I see ? use some imagination what can come out of a blind spot ?
Where does the road go next
Early warning of oncoming vehicles
Slowing/stationary traffic
Road signs warning/route information/mandatory/prohibitory
You will think this odd but on two wheels I am looking for moving trees i.e. cross winds
What can’t I see ?
You get the idea, you are trying to gain any useful information that will help you plan ahead so you end up in the right place at the right time.
Mirrors

Remember that mirrors have convex glass to reduce the blind spots and that ” objects in the mirror are closer than they appear “.

Mirrors are amazingly useful, use them often ! On test an examiner will accept that you are using your mirrors unless you show them otherwise. If you have a sensible view in your mirrors when sat comfortably on a bike then don’t feel the need to exaggerate head movements to show you are looking in the mirrors for the routine observations that you are making every few seconds. You might however need to drop an elbow/move your head if you can’t get a decent view in the mirror, this depends on your size and the layout of the bike.

This sounds like a contradiction but on test I would make it a little more obvious that I was checking a mirror in some situations by dropping an elbow and perhaps a small movement of my head. I would use it to send a message to the examiner about what I was thinking about doing next.

For example, at changes of speed limit to show I had spotted the sign and was dealing with it. I would do the same if I was considering a lane change/overtake because of a slow moving vehicle. A few “ obvious mirror checks “ would show I was checking out the other lane about it even if I did not change lane.
It all helps examiners assess your skills and abilities.

The Blind Spot Check

Checking your blind spot means just that, check the mirror first and then move your head far enough to see the area that you can’t see in the mirror, usually chin to shoulder. If you look farther back when moving there is a very good chance of putting steering movement into the handle bars and you going off line unintentionally.
Blind spot checks have two main uses, the obvious one is to check out the area you cannot see in the mirror, the other use is often overlooked but very useful, you can use them to send a strong message to another road user about what you intend to do next. Other road users include examiners !
You will need to check blind spots to make sure it is safe to move off and safe to change position. Check which ever side makes the most sense, check left before you move left, check right before moving right. Easy.

Observations seem to cause the most confusion on test, do not get into some rigid system of ” always do this now “. If your training school teaches this way consider going some where else ! We are looking for an ” Effective Minimum “, meaning make rear observations when they are needed and/or serve a purpose, not because you are “supposed” to.

Check left or right whichever makes the most sense. Check right before moving right, left before moving left ( I am always surprised at the number of test candidates that look left and then move right, what is all that about ! ). Occasionally it will make sense to check both sides, do!

The Full on look all the way round back up the road observation.

Only do this when you are stopped, it is a full on look over your shoulder back up the road. If you do this when riding you will go off line, not good. There are really only two times occasions when I do this, if I am about to do a rolling U turn and I want to absolutely sure it is safe to do so. The other occasion is when I am out training and I am checking for a student who is lost/stuck in traffic.