Sunday, 28 December 2014

The hardest ride of my life - the motorbike test

At the beginning of June this year I decided I wanted to get my full motorbike licence. I did my CBT in May and it was actually much easier than I thought it would be and a lot of fun. So I got back in touch with Aaron and Ang at Cumbria Motorcycle Training in Carlisle and decided to do my Direct Access course to get my full licence.

Before getting straight on a 600cc "big bike" my next lesson was on a 500.
First time on the Suzuki 500

I really enjoyed having more power and found the bike easier to handle than the 125. All I can remember about my early days on the bike was how much fun it was. I had a ride around in the car park on this bike and then was allowed to go out to the quieter parts of town. Feeling the wind on my face for the first time was amazing and after this first time out  I couldn't wait to get back on a bike.

My next lesson was on a Suzuki Bandit 600 and I liked this bike as well but found it quite a bit heavier.
Me on the Suzuki Bandit 600

Generally my lessons were with Aaron and one other pupil. We were in radio contact with Aaron and took it in turns to be in front or behind. The lessons were fairly intense and Aaron is a great long as you can take criticism. Every time you did something wrong Aaron told you, but in my opinion this is the only way to learn. I was always knackered after a couple of hours intense riding and learning. 

Steve was away riding his bike across the States, whilst I was learning to ride. He kept sending me pics and emails of amazing riding tales... I didn't need any more motivation to pass my test! Before he went away he had bought a Suzuki DR 350 for himself and for me to learn on. However as the laws have changed I couldn't put a limiter on it....a real pain.
I decided I really needed more practice in between lessons and I needed to get out on the roads more. At first I had thought I would wait and ride the DR 350 when I had passed my test. But I just seemed to get so rusty in between lessons, I would spend the first hour trying to remember how to ride a bike! So I ended up buying a 125. My choice of bike was a Honda XR 125 L 
My pride and joy - my first ever motorbike!!
At the bike school we started to work towards passing my module 1. This is the second stage of the bike test. The first part is a theory test done on a computer. The mod 1 is all about bike control. I spent many hours in the car park practising figure of 8's, U-turns and slaloms. We worked on clutch and brake control and a big one for me - turning my head!

Thumper - full of helpful hints on bike control
So the lessons continued and we did a mix of riding around town and slow speed stuff. I booked my mod 1, hoping to pass it before Steve returned from States. But it was not be, I failed and to be fair I shouldn't have passed - I really wasn't ready for it. 

When Steve did return from the States the first thing he did was put off road tyres on my little Honda. He claimed the real way to ride was to get off road!
Practising off road skills

Pooped after only a few hours riding!
And how right Steve was!! I honestly believe riding off road really helped my bike skills, confidence and balance. And it was great fun...I loved riding off road and exploring the Lakes. I also commuted to work on my little Honda over Whinlatter pass, which again helped my all round riding and saved me heaps of cash - £10 a week on fuel!!

However the reality of the matter was I had to get my mod 1 passed and so it was back to practising in the car park. It took me another 2 goes to finally pass my mod 1 and then I booked my mod 2 test straight away. I thought the mod 2 would be pretty straight forward as by now I had had a lot of lessons, been out in Carlisle loads and was riding my 125 pretty much every day. I have also been driving a car for 20 years so I was fairly familiar with the Highway Code and road rules....or so I thought.

My first mod 2 test went really well but I got confused at a roundabout and ended up in the wrong lane. Something I wouldn't have normally done but I think the pressure got to me and I failed :-(  The one problem with bike tests is if you fail, you cannot book another test fro 10 days and with it being summer you can't always get one. So I got another test booked but it was for a month later! 

Enjoying the freedom of exploring by bike
Steve cheered me up by suggesting we just go out and have more off road fun!! On my 3rd attempt of the coach road I finally made it up the "bad step" on my Honda. The first couple of times I aimed it straight at the little rock step and all that happened was the front wheel bounced off it, followed by me!!

A successful ride along the coach road

Steve and me also spent a couple of evenings in Carlisle practising junctions and roundabouts....yawn yawn but necessary. My next test date was badly planned. I had PMT (not a good start), I had my dissertation to finish for my Open University degree and I had my test all in the same week. This mod 2 test was awful and I got stuck in a filter lane at traffic lights. The lights turned red and I should have gone but I ended up staying in the filter lane and of course failed...the pressure got to me again! It didn't appear to be my riding was highway code stuff that I was failing on. I was absolutely gutted but managed to book my test for pretty much 10 days later. And yes you guessed it .......went off road riding in between to cheer myself up!!
An evening of easy lanes by myself near Loweswater
The day came to take my test again and to put myself under pressure this time I had 2 weeks booked off work and Steve and me were hoping to head to Wales for some off road fun and with me on a bigger bike....hmmm.
This 3rd mod 2 test that I took was the hardest of them all. I had lots of obstacles to deal with and a lorry stranded on a roundabout, but I concentrated hard and passed. Happy Days. I cannot put in words how happy I was. It really was a huge weight off my back and one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. 

So to celebrate.. I went shopping as all girls should. However, it wasn't for shoes and handbags, it was for a new bike!! And that's when I said a sad goodbye to the Honda and became the proud owner of my KTM EXC-F 250.
Caldbeck ford on my KTM
My riding is improving all the time and I love my KTM. It was a bigger jump than I thought from the 125 to a 250, but it's a KTM after all...a bit of a monster that I have finally got under control!! And as for the bike test...yep it's hard but it's also one of the best things I have ever done as I now have a new world of freedom and travel by bike opened up to me. It's a passion that I feel will stay with me for the rest of my life. Happy riding!

No comments: