Want a new life on two wheels? On your bike!
And, much to my surprise, it would seem that learning to ride a motorbike is actually one of those things.
Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has only ever driven cars for the last 20 years, making the switch to two wheels wasn’t without its moments – but it still wasn’t exactly difficult. And it’s left me wondering why I didn’t do it a long time ago. All those wasted years!
I have always meant to take my motorcycle test but just never got around to it – until now. Having spent a bit of time on the back of my stepdad’s wheels (Honda CB1300, fact fans) I finally decided enough was enough, it was time to finally take the plunge. Call it an early midlife crisis if you want – plenty of my friends have!
The first steps to getting your full motorcycle licence are a doddle. Firstly, take your theory test – a minor hurdle but one that has to be jumped, otherwise you won’t be allowed to take the module one and module two tests that you need to pass to get your full bike entitlement.
Secondly, take your CBT (Compulsory Basic Training). Once you have this piece of paper you are allowed to ride scooters and/or geared motorcycles up to 125cc. On the roads. Unsupervised. Scary thought!
I booked mine through Horizon Rider Training, who are based at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes (call 01908 694333 or visit www.horizonridertraining.co.uk). It costs £110 – but it’s £110 that will save your life.
The day begins with a safety briefing and a rundown of how bikes work and how they are operated, along with basic maintenance procedures that should be carried out before each ride as well as on a weekly basis. After that it was on to the exciting bit – getting on the bike.
This was where things got a little difficult for me. Having driven a car for so many years, trying to get my tiny little brain to register the fact that my left hand and not my left foot was now the clutch, and my left foot and not my left hand controlled the gears, proved to be a little tricky to start with.
Combine all that with the fact that my right hand had to open and close the throttle and operate the front brake and I was in a whole new world of confusion.
I will freely admit, and so will my extremely patient but ever so slightly sardonic instructor Guy Aitkins, that in that first couple of hours it really looked as though I just wasn’t cut out for a life on two wheels.
But after a couple of hours on the training ground I was moving up and down the gears with confidence, weaving in and out of cones and performing figure-of-eights before riding circuits of the National Bowl.
So far, so good – but next on the agenda was the road ride. Fail to complete this part and you fail the CBT.
There were three of us taking our CBT on the day I took it, and because an instructor can only take two out on the road at any one time I drew the short straw and had to wait around for an hour-and-a-half. An hour-and-a-half in which I seemingly forgot everything I’d been taught during the morning session.
But after a few more circuits of the Bowl, and an eventual nod from Guy, we were finally ready to take to the roads. And what an experience it turned out to be. As with anything else in life, there is no substitute for doing something for real and being out on the road was incredible.
The bike may have had only a 125cc engine, but that was more than enough for a newbie like me.
There were wobbles, obviously – mainly down to my insistence on taking lifesaver glances over my shoulder continuously, rather than focusing on the road ahead. A problem that a stern talking-to from Guy soon ironed out.
But the goods far outweighed the bads and at the end of the day Guy put his signature on my CBT certificate. Motorcycling bliss, here I come!
More information about getting on two wheels is available from the motorcycle industry’s campaign aimed at recruiting more new riders. For details visit www.geton.co.uk