I’m not exactly what you would call regular with my updates on motor sport, and I’ve taken a step back from Twitter as I feel it stifles my creativity in writing somewhat.
With both of those things in mind, I’ve decide to try and include any of my own motoring adventures on here. They don’t happen all that often as the weather curtails many opportunities, as does the price of petrol in the UK! However, I did have an adventure yesterday, one I’ve been talking about for years and thanks to a bit a web research I found out I could try it for free!
I have been interested in cars and motorbikes for as long as I can remember and although I have been driving for years I have never ridden on a motorbike, not even a moped, part of my reasoning for that was the way I used to drive, if I rode a bike like that I wouldn’t have been around for long. In recent years my driving has calmed and slowed down, and my road rage has subsided, as such the thought of doing the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) has been in my mind for the last few years. For my recent birthday I couldn’t think of anything I really wanted when the CBT came floating into my mind so I threw it into the hat. Amazingly it was agreed that if I really wanted to go for it I could.
This was when the doubts started creeping in, what if I can’t do it? What if I fall off? What if I hate it? So I put off booking it. My birthday came and I received the ‘New Motorcyclist’s Handbook’ which is a fantastic bookazine that explains almost everything you need to know to get on two wheels. In it was a feature on a scheme being run by ‘Get On’, where you can have an hours free ride, an hour long no obligation free motorcycle riding lesson! The closest session to me (I was visiting Mum in Carmarthen for the week) was in Bristol. Then I had to argue with myself, along with the same questions as above plus do I really want to drive all the way to Bristol to do it?!
In the end I decided that I had to do it or I would never get on a bike, so I booked it and at 7:30am yesterday morning Mum and I got in my little MX5 and headed to Bristol City FC and Ace Motorcycle Training. The drive took just under two hours and I was a little early, which gave me the opportunity to look at the helmets and gloves to find out what was comfortable and I had a look at all the photos on the walls of happy bikers!
The instructor, Kelly, introduced herself and asked what I wanted from the free ride, I told her I wanted to know if I had the competence and confidence to complete the CBT and own my own bike, she decided that because of my driving experience, push bike experience and slightly nervous attitude to skip the twist and go scooters and just get straight on a manual geared 125cc bike. So I found a jacket and hi vis vest as Kelly warmed up the bike then made my way out into the unknown….
First of all Kelly sat on the bike with me stood next to it and explained all of the controls and showed me how to start the bike, then she handed me the bike and taught me how to stand with it, how heavy it was and let me find the biting point of the clutch. Then we did the ‘penguin walk’ where I give it a little throttle hold the clutch at the point where the bike moves forward and walk with the bike for a few metres before coming to a slow controlled stop using the front brake. We did this a few times before doing the same thing but with my right foot on the peg covering the rear brake and my left leg still on the floor. Then I had to bring my left leg on to the peg and I was properly riding a motorbike!
I then had to turn a corner, first time we ‘penguin walked’ it then Kelly said that where I look, the bike will follow. Sounded bizarre, but worked and I rode the bike around a turn, I did a few circuits of this little rectangle before Kelly brought out some cones and set up a slalom for me to tackle keeping the throttle constant and controlling the speed of the bike using the clutch and the rear brake. This is where I started to find it a bit tricky, I couldn’t seem to keep the throttle constant and struggled with the rear brake. After a couple of circuits I realised that when the revs started to rise I would lift my right foot as I would in a car and that’s part of why I couldn’t quite get it.
Kelly saw that I was getting quite frustrated so stopped me and moved on to the next stage, changing gear. I was surprised that I didn’t have too many problems with that, as a hand clutch and foot gear change seemed strange to me before getting on the bike, I just needed to be a bit smoother which would come with practice.
I then parked up the bike and as I put away my helmet, gloves and jacket Kelly and I had a debrief. She seemed quite pleased and said that I would probably be ok going for my CBT but suggested that I thought about another hour’s lesson just to get a bit more comfortable with the slower speed stuff which would only be £15. I thanked her for her time and headed off to KFC with my Mum!
It was a great experience and Kelly was a great instructor, patient, funny and informative, she explained everything in a way that, as someone who had never even sat on a bike before, I easily understood and could use on the bike.
As I got back in the car fresh from the bike I was still processing everything, yet knew that I would probably go back for at least another lesson to get the slalom done! Now, 24 hours later, I realise that I really enjoyed it, loved being on the bike as it just felt so natural and that I definitely will do my CBT and buy a bike and all the gear as soon as I can!