The other day I was watching the tele and I saw a couple of guys riding around the world on motorcycles and I thought ‘Fuck me, that looks fantastic.’
Which is basically the entire back story to me wanting to get on a motorcycle again and go for my full motorcycle license.
The last time I had a motorcycle it was a puny 125cc. I loved the bike though. It was a Honda Shadow and it really looked amazing. Yet, like i said, it was puny. Alright for nipping around town but get out onto a major road and all of a sudden your being overtaken – by heavy goods vehicles. It had a top speed of about 55mph which for a motorbike is really quite pathetic. It was this reason, and the fact that I almost froze on the way to Norwich once, that caused me to sell up and go back to driving a car.
Yet here I am again. I think that once you’ve been on a bike and really enjoyed getting out and about, that it just gets into your blood. That’s how I feel anyway. I’ve caught myself looking wistfully up a road as a motorbike growls past more than a few times.
Sure it’s dangerous, but we all have a choice and if my nipping in and out of traffic with nought but an eggshell on my head is akin to a man on a pogo stick nipping in and out of a herd of buffalo then that’s my choice.
But I digress. This post was supposed to be about the day I went and did my CBT and so hence forth, it shall be.
Oh, CBT stands for Compulsory Basic Training and it’s… Guess? Compulsory! It’s basically the minimum legal requirement for riding a motorbike of up to 125cc on British roads. It’s also essential if you want to go and train for your full motorbike license. I booked my CBT for a Saturday and paid in advance to do my full bike training the following week. I should also note that in order to train for your full bike license you need not only a CBT but also to have passed the theory test. My theory test was booked for the Saturday morning – the day of my CBT. Now, your probably thinking that’s an awful lot to do in a few days and you’d be right. The CBT isn’t really a pass or fail as such. Worryingly it’s more of a safe or unsafe kind of thing. I wasn’t particularly worried about this though, after all I’ve done it before right?
I arrived bright and early at the training academy on the Saturday morning. I have to confess, I was pretty nervous. Yes I know I’ve done it before but that just means I was going to look like an even bigger tit if I couldn’t get on with the bike or I don’t know sent it through a hedge or something.
The training academy I had selected shares a building with a motorcycle shop and service station. I walked in through the shop and straight away went up to the counter where a young lad and his father were going through some paperwork. The young lad had that kind of slack jawed staring look about him – you know the look. Teenage lads cant really be described as having any other look. I can remember thinking ‘I wonder if I ever looked that thick?’
Anyway, the father was buying a moped for his son for when he completed the CBT. That’s confidence right there. I mean, there’s me wondering if I’m even able to ride the bikes and he’s all like he’s already passed. Mind you, the father had arrived driving a 2011 plate Mercedes. I’m sure he could afford to take the chance. Then again he didn’t look as though he was used to failure either.
The stern looks he was firing at his drooling boy were amusing to me but had the lad practically shaking.
There was four of us in the end and after a short introduction and safety chat it was off down to the training area.
I took my own car down to the training area as I would shortly be heading off to do my theory test. Fact was, I was there for a grand total of three minutes before the alarm I had set rang. So I hoped into the car and was off.
I passed and a few hours later I was back at the training area where I had been told I would have some catching up to do as the other students had a few hours on me.
My first task, or test, as I saw it was to simply get the bike on and off the stand. The bike I was learning on was only a small 125cc but christ it was difficult. If you get the technique wrong you could quite easily drop the bugger. The instructor was patient though. He kept me doing that – lift off, lift on for about 10 minutes. Eventually I got the hang of it and it was onto my next lesson. Sitting on the bike!
I was cacking myself at this point. I had a lot riding on this CBT. The instructors had gone ahead and booked the following weeks tests already so that even if I failed now I would still owe them the for both the CBT and the test slots. No pressure then.
All I had to do at first was to simply find the biting point between clutch and throttle and allow the bike to move forward a few foot, without falling off. I revved high a bit at first, which was a bit frustrating as I felt I was showing my nerves, yet the instructor was a diamond again and told me back off on the throttle a bit. I did so and promptly stalled it.
That was it though. Once I’d got moving and my body remembered to balance there was no stopping me. I completed each task set and before I knew it I was back in with the rest of the group.
The CBT is in two parts. The first part is manoeuvres in a controlled and safe environment. That’s what I’d been doing for most of the morning. To complete that section you then go onto approaching mock junctions and roundabouts the instructors have created with cones. This is a piece of piss really and quite simple. It’s your basic mirror, signal, manoeuvre bollocks with a life saver thrown in just before the manoeuvre. A life saver is what bikers call that last look over the shoulder before you change position or direction. It’s a vital concept to get to grips with as it quite literally could save your life. In fact, if you can’t do it, and some can’t (some struggle to look anywhere other than straight ahead for fear of falling) then you won’t be aloud to proceed to part two, which is a two hour ride on the real roads.
All in all the whole day was going swimmingly. I say ‘was’, because for me it was clear I had been worrying about nothing, but there was one guy who just couldn’t do it. He could do his manoeuvres, he could operate the bike and he could just about handle doing a life saver but he could not do all three together. He was just a mess on two wheels. This guy had paid for a full weeks training in advance but he wasn’t even going to make it through the CBT. It was painful and I did feel for him. It’s never easy to start out on the same path as someone, share the laughs and jokes and then watch them fall. When the instructor walked over and told him it was over the guy went absolutely ape shit. He was blaming everyone, especially the instructor. I have to hand it to the instructor though. He just stood his ground and calmly said,
‘Sir, you have to be safe to go out on the road. You cant ride safely in a straight line toward our cones.’
Fair point I feel.
There’s really not much to say about the two hour ride. It flew by and it was fantastic. If anything, I ended the day wondering why I had let my last CBT lapse.
I’ll write again soon about the bike training proper.
Bye for now.