Getting My Bike Licence: Step One

When I was younger I was obsessed with motorbikes.

My dad’s friend would ride over every week for a cuppa, and whilst the kettle boiled he would let me sit on the front of his seat and ride along for a whopping three metres. When I got older this changed to three miles, and a few years later my mum’s friend took me on my longest ever bike journey: Chichester to Southampton on a Harley. I loved it. To the point that I swore I would have a bike of my own one day.

Then my mum’s friend died in a motorbike accident and my mum’s concern and worry prevented me from pursuing a licence of my own. I didn’t want to put that kind of worry on her. I couldn’t. But then I met S; a motorbike enthusiast who had grown up riding motocross pretty much since the year he could walk. I watched from the sidelines as he scored holeshots, whipped over tabletops and flew past me with his rear wheel flicking mud in the air as he went. I disliked that he got to ride on two wheels but at that point I couldn’t even ride on four as I hadn’t passed my driving test.

I looked into starting motocross at one point, but it’s an expensive hobby and when you’re young and earning £4.77 an hour – it’s a little out of reach. So I tucked the idea away and lived vicariously through S’ passion. When the time came that I had money to pursue a licence I was torn between whether to get a bike licence or a car licence. In the end I chose to do my car test first. Having a car meant boot space, and boot space meant that I had room for snacks. Plus there was more than two seats which meant that I could have snacks within reach or passengers, and passengers usually bring snacks. So it seemed like an obvious choice.

From then on I pushed the idea of getting my bike licence to the back of my mind. I had one day where I rode a bike in Thailand

But outside of that I spent my money on food and travel and generally just thought of it as a “one day” thing rather than a priority. Until last year.

In June 2017 S and I took a motorbike trip around France.
We visited Reims, Lyon, Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes and Normandy and I can’t even tell you how much fun it was. Well. Technically that’s a lie because I can tell you how much fun it was and I did. If you missed the posts previously the above locations are linked to the corresponding blogposts!

ANYWAY.

We took a tour around France and I loved it. I loved the fact that S’ BMW GS has the comfiest seat ever so I didn’t get a numb bum. I loved the feeling of the wind blowing through my hair. I loved that I saw each passing bit of scenery because a motorbike forces you to be in the moment.

But the part that I didn’t like, was that I was the passenger.

I mean don’t get me wrong – it was awesome. The GS was so comfortable that I almost fell asleep at one stage. (Good job BMW). I just mean that I don’t like being a passenger in life. I like to help drive things, to change things but most of all to try things. But when it came to our trip – I couldn’t. Literally. I mean, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t lift the GS, yet alone ride it, and as S and I have split everything equally throughout our relationship, not being able to share the driving was frustrating for me.

But whilst the trip was incredible, it was also eye-opening because it reawoke my desire to get a bike of my own. So at the end of last year on a particularly grey day, I booked in to do my CBT with Rhiannon (cus she bad ass too).

AND I PASSED.

I mean – I’m pretty sure that you can’t fail a CBT – it literally stands for Compulsory Basic Training and 16 year olds can do it. But considering how shocking the training was it was a surprise that we made it through the day. I wasn’t going to go into detail on it because I can already feel that the word count of this post is getting long, but whilst I’ve got you here I might as well.

The company which I booked my CBT with were, as I said, shocking. On the day of our booking were three attendees; myself, Rhi and one other. Rhi hopped on the scooter as she had been riding them across Asia so she was well versed, and myself and the other chap were on geared bikes. He had a licence and used to ride bikes over a decade ago, I had been on a bike once.

Yet the instructor’s attention was solely on him.

Fortunately because I’m proper keeno, I managed to get the hang of things pretty damn quickly, but his lack of attention meant that I was spending hours practicing the most basic tasks. Basic tasks such as left turns, right turns and figures of 8… All using the clutch. I literally did nothing else. The day started early and at 2:00pm I hadn’t been shown how to change gear, practice emergency stops or gotten the bike over 9mph. I was bored. I was riding around a car park in circles and I wasn’t learning a thing except that going round in circles is really fucking boring. I was also getting sick of the lack of feedback from somebody who was supposed to be teaching me, so Rhi and I pulled him to one side for a chat.

During this chat it transpired that the instructor was focussed on training the other chap because he had his bike test booked on Saturday and was nowhere near ready. So what was supposed to be our CBT had basically been his private lesson.

At the end of this chat I was told by my instructor that he didn’t have time to finish teaching me how to ride a bike (which was hilarious because had he even actually started?) and that I’d have to come back another day.

I smelt a scam.

I know (at least) a handful of people who all raved about their CBT experience and came out of the day competent on two wheels. There was no way I was coming back for another day of being ignored, especially when I had taken a day off work for it. So after a few stern words we came to a conclusion: I could go out for the road test on the scooter which Rhi was using.

Now – I haven’t ridden a scooter since I was 15 and outside of the day of my CBT, plus the one day in Thailand; I had no experience. Heck I had no road experience – both of my bike days were in fields! Fortunately I had the road safety side of things down, because I drive a car, but the driving of the scooter worried me. I had literally spent all day riding around in circles doing between 4 and 9 mph – and now he wanted me to go out on the roads and do 30-60? Pfft. I decided to see how I got on but after two laps of the carpark plus one emergency stop; I was out on the road.

Being on a scooter was the weirdest thing.
Bikes go between your legs; scooters feel like you’re sitting on a chair.
Bikes go over bumps; scooters make you feel like you’re going to fly off every time.
Bikes are what I want to ride; scooters are definitely not.

I made it back in one piece that day knowing two things.

1: I still wanted to ride bikes.
2: I was not going to use this company to learn to do so.

Fast forward to present day:

I have my CBT – YAY.

But I’m not sure what I’m going to do next – BOO.
Basically; I’m torn between getting the 125cc bike that my CBT allows and practicing, or getting some bike lessons and going straight into my test so I can get a bigger bike. I definitely need more practice, but buying a 125 when I’m only going to use it for a month whilst waiting for a bike test seems uneconomical. So as you can tell I’m not to sure.

Anyways. Step One is DONE and I’m officially one step closer to living out my two-wheeled dreams.
Here’s to hoping that Step Two goes a whole lot smoother…