Paul's Latest Blog - The Experience that was not meant to be
iCAN experiences founder Paul Nicol embarks on his own personal blog, taking the readers on his journey from diagnosis of a sight losing disease through to the present day as he makes iCAN experiences a success in the midst of tough economic times.
Hello blog readers. Last week I skipped my normal topic to give a little insight into my day as a guest speaker and BBC Radio 4 appearance. Now it's back to reality and I continue on with running iCAN Experiences!
We are moving on quite nicely and soon my story will catch up to the present day when I will bring you insights into the highs and lows of business. As it is, I said that I would share with you one of the many incredible experiences I have taken part in.
It was through a discussion with my Wife's best friend that the idea came about to try and contact someone involved with motor bikes. Natalie (The Wife's Bessie) run's her father’s Motorbike shop up in North Wales. We got talking over dinner and she mentioned that she might be able to get me talking to Ron Haslam Race School.
Ron Haslam Race School is a Superbike racing school based out of Silverstone and is sponsored by Honda. Ron Haslam is a World Champion Superbike rider, now retired, but still perfectly capable of riding a bike and passing on his knowledge. Natalie's shop being a Honda dealer gave me a link to the Ron Haslam Race School and so I made contact with the Race School using some names that Natalie had given me. It worked, I was able to speak to Ann Haslam, Ron's wife, Ann runs the operation, ensuring that bikes, instructors etc all come together on the day.
Ann was open to my proposal perhaps having people come along and be a pillion passenger. We agreed that the best way forward would be for me to visit the Race School in action on one of the Race School days. We booked the first date of the season in Mid April. On the day I got in touch with Ann and she explained that as it was raining, they would be unable to take me out on a pillion ride. Essentially if there is water on the track, they do not entertain the idea of a passenger ride, makes sense! So we postponed for the next week.
Now being April, as you can imagine, the story was the same for the following week and in fact for the following 4 weeks! Finally, the day came when the track was a little damp, but drying out. I called in the morning , then again at lunch time and Ann confirmed that we were on! Great, I hopped in a Taxi and made my way to Silverstone.
I walked into the "Experience Centre" at the Silverstone Race Circuit and wondered up to any old stand which happened to be the Bridgestone Tyres stand. Not quite the right place, but someone went and located Ann for me!
We said hello and off I went to get kitted up. I have never worn full motorbike leathers and I can tell you, it's a little odd trying to squeeze yourself into an all in one thick leather body suit! The leathers kind of hold you in a slightly crouched over position (Apparently this is a good thing). I popped the boots on and my outfit was pretty much complete.
With helmet and gloves in hand, I was driven down to the pit lane and introduced to the quite famous, but completely down to earth Ron Haslam. Ron came across as a top bloke and he nipped off to get a bike for us to go out on. Soon enough, Ron was astride a bike and I was putting my gloves and helmet on. I had to enquire what bike we were climbing on to and I was thrilled to hear it was a Honda Fireblade 1000RR. Now, I don't know the exact capabilities of such a machine, but I remember from my Teenage years, with a poster on my wall that this was one of the fastest, if not the fastest production motorbike on the market. I can now confirm, nothing's changed!
On I climbed and when the lights turned green, we cruised off down the pit lane. Now I have been a pillion on a motorbike before, never on a bike like this, but the feeling of being on two wheels was a familiar and strangely welcoming feeling. Ron wasted no time at all, once we were on track, he began to ride like a demon!
I followed the rule that i learnt many years ago, look over the shoulder of the corner your going around, shifted my weight as best as I could and hung on for dear life! As we accelerated out of corners, it was easy to feel when the front wheel was lifting up off the ground and we were accelerating at a speed like nothing I have ever experienced before. I could not tell you how many laps we did, it was 2 or 3 and to be honest, I couldn't have held on for too much longer, my hand's were cramping a little from gripping on so tight. At no point did I fear for my safety, I did on many occasions whoop for joy as we powered out of the corners and I recall the odd expletive as we braked insanely hard for the corners.
When we got back to the pit, Ron and I had a quick chat, we had got to 170mph on the straight and had been running at around 140mph on the back wheel out of the corners!
It was an awesome experience, completely thrilling and one that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end just writing about it! So you may wonder, why this totally awesome experience is not on the catalogue. Well, I did want it to be, Ann and I talked about it on a number of occasions.
In a nutshell, there were two primary reasons, firstly, as I explained earlier, the track needs to be completely dry in order for a pillion ride to take place. The Race School only operates 20 days in the year and as you know from the summer we've just had, not many of those 20 days have been dry. So from a practical perspective, customers would need to book, be postponed, rescheduled etc. It wasn't going to be practical for either party to manage this and would likely result in disgruntled customers. The second reason was that the race school understandably, don't offer these pillion rides out to the general public, they are not considered a commercial venture.
The combination of these two things essentially meant that as much as I wanted it to be on the catalogue, it was one of those tough business decisions, I had to walk away knowing that it wasn't right for either party, no matter how much i wanted it to be!
That's it for this week, next week I will share the go-live for the website, what went well, what not so well. Have a great week, whatever you do!
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All the Best,
Founder - iCAN experiences
Where possibility can become reality!