5 min read

This month we meet epic traveller, LAM vice-chair, Observer Development Coordinator, Local Observer Assessor and National Observer, Richard Bowden-Doyle

When did you start riding?

I'm old enough to be one of the sixteener-special generation, so my first bike was a Candy Gold Yamaha FS1-E. The famous Fizzy. I had Doc Martens, a polycarbonate helmet, a donkey jacket and wellies - ATGATT! By the time I was 18 though, I'd discovered cars and didn't come back to two wheels for 26 years. We moved to a house with only one garage, so my wife suggested I sell my car and go back to riding a bike. As the car was a Porsche 911, I wasn't that keen on the idea but somehow she got her way and I often remind her it was all her idea, when she complains about me being off riding "again". I bumbled about as a commuter for a while but only got into riding for pleasure in 2010. I'd been working in South Africa and signed up for a farewell bike tour before coming back to the UK. I loved it but realised how poor a rider I was, so as soon as I got back to the UK, I joined LAM to learn how to keep up without scaring myself quite so much! I took my IAM test in 2011.

How long have you been an Observer?

It really is true what everybody says - the Green Badge is the start of a journey, not the end - and after a couple of years as a Full Member, learning to ride properly, I started training to be an Observer in late 2013. I qualified as a Local Observer in spring 2014, then as a National Observer in late 2016 and a Local Observer Assessor in 2018. I've just taken my LOA reassessment - and passed (just!).

What does LAM mean to you?

LAM is where I really learnt the fun side of biking. Yes, it's about development of better riders and training for the Green Badge but to me, in many ways all that's just incidental. It's been the gateway into the world of biking. I've made some great friends through LAM, ridden some great roads around the UK and in Europe with some of them and stated in some real off-the-wall places with them.
I love the way it brings such a cross-section of people together with a common interest. LAM has without doubt made me a better rider (I've got the badge to prove it:-) but much more than that, it's been an endless source of fun ...

What is your favourite route?

I'm not sure I have one - or at least one that wouldn't make me sound too pretentious anyway! I've been lucky enough to ride in many countries of the world - including in some pretty out of the way places like Alaska, The Himalaya, Tibet, Namibia, Botswana and Iceland - so many of the roads I remember so fondly, I've only ridden once. If you twisted my arm to make a short list, I'd probably pick:

  • The road from Dhingri to Everest Base Camp in Tibet (makes the Stelvio Pass look like Tesco's car park)
  • The JW Dalton Highway over the Atigun Pass in Alaska (so remote, the scale of the scenery is awesome)
  • The "road" from Langar to Murghab though Tajikistan's Wakhan Valley (a diversion for those who think the Pamir Highway's too easy!)
  • The loop between Sabie, Graskop and Hazyview in South Africa's Mpumulanga bikers' paradise (a better race track than most race tracks :-)
  • And for closer to home, my "local" favourite is the Plaistow Road, from Dunsfold to Wisborough Green (a brilliant road to practice proper IPSGA cornering techniques)

What is your number one safety tip?

Try not to crash ...

There are five parts to The System, IPSGA but by far the most important is INFORMATION and by far the most important way of gathering Information is VISION. If I can see it, I can plan for it. To me, the best riders are always the ones constantly cycling between Information and Position. They get caught out far less than the rest of us because their anticipation is so much better ...

What is your number one tip for passing the test?

Everybody says it but it's all down to practice. Ever since I've been an Observer, it's struck me that the people who get to Test Standard soonest usually need the fewest Observed Rides. It's because they take a few tips, go and practice. Come back for some more tips, go and practice some more. Come back for some final polish, go and practice some more. Take test. Pass. Yes, the test form has boxes to be ticked and lines to be written on but the examiners are only human. I still think they look at a ride and ask themselves "does the rider look comfortable and confident on the bike? Does the rider look like they understand the basic advantages of a bike over a car - do they understand what a bike's actually for? And most importantly of all - do they look like they're having fun? Passing the IAM Test is really a matter of confidence and confidence is borne of practice, practice and more practice.

What is your favourite piece of riding kit?

If I'm UK road riding, usually it's my Rukka laminated Goretex suit. It's not cheap but I love never having to go through the "shall I, shan't I" debate in my head when it starts to rain and I need to decide whether to put a rain suit on.

Wherever I am, I'm a fan of satnav. I don't always follow it (they don't always know best) but I love to have a map of the terrain unfolding in front of me. And I always have it set to North Up. No proper overlander would ever want to be seen with a satnav set to track up :-)

What is your favourite bike?

I'm still not lucky enough to have a big garage full of bikes, so usually my favourite bike is the one I own at the moment - currently a 2016 R1200GS. Like many Observers I have limited imagination. However, for my 3-month expedition from London to Beijing in 2019, I rode a Rally Raid Products Honda CB500X. What a brilliant bike for the job. Comfortable, simple and reliable. Absolutely bomb-proof. It was the only bike on the trip that had nothing fail in 13,000 hard miles and although it's a bit under-powered for progressive UK road riding, I can't bring myself to part with it so it's tucked up in my father-in-law's garage for the winter, whilst I plan another big adventure for the two of us ...

What has been your best or funniest moment on a bike?

I've had too many funny moments to list but only one that's ever brought a tear to my eye. Riding on my own across the Steppes of Kyrgystan, from Naryn, over the high passes towards the Chinese border at Kashgar, I stopped to take in the vast, unspoilt emptiness of the scenery on that crystal clear, freezing cold morning. It still takes my breath away when I think about even it now ...

Ask me about …..

What happens when you're sitting, both feet on the pegs with the side-stand down when the side-stand snaps ...

Useful Email addresses

Associates who would like to request an OR away from group meetings (for example during the week or on non-meeting weekends), please email OR@l-a-m.org

The following email address reaches all the Observers (for use by Observers only please) obs@l-a-m.org


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