I have always enjoyed driving, ever since my dad paid for my driving lessons when I turned eighteen. The feelings of movement and independence combined with the excitement of exploration. It helped that I had an innate aptitude for driving along with a patient and relaxed instructor. It was a couple of years before I bought my first car, a frugal and unassuming Skoda Favorit GLX, that I used to travel to my industrial placement. Since then I have clocked up many miles in the UK and overseas.
This March I wanted to try something new, so I signed up to do the motorcycle Compulsory Basic Training day with a friend. CBT is a one day course that goes through the essentials for riding a motorcycle and needs to be completed before you are allowed on UK roads as an unsupervised learner. Leading up to the day, I looked on it as an “experience day” similar to the ones where you can go up in a microlight, or drive a car on a skid-pan or racetrack. I wasn’t sure what to expect and whether I would enjoy the day, but on the drive over I was excited and for the first time in ages had butterflies in my stomach.
My friend Mark was interested in doing the CBT as well, so we booked with an instructor he knows through musical connections – AJH Motorcycle Training. Andy of AJH met us at the training site, a school playground in Reigate. Along with Mark and I was another student, an older woman, who was there for a refresher to allow her to continue to ride her scooter. The day was a combination of absorbing information and a good amount of practice. There are five parts to the CBT detailed here. After Andy had spoken to us about choosing the right equipment for riding we walked over to the bikes we would be using for the day and there was more talk, this time about the controls on a motorcycle and what maintenance and checks are needed before riding. After an information dense introduction we got to sit on the bikes.
On the Honda MSX
Mark and I were each given a Honda MSX 125 to practise on as we wanted to learn on a geared motorcycle. We began by simply riding in first gear for about twenty metres and coming to a controlled stop in a box of cones. Next Andy showed us how to ride in a wide turn and come back to the starting point, all in first gear. The exercises continued to increase in complexity, introducing how to change gear, checking our blind-spot and more until we had practised many of the skills we would need out on the road. I was finding it tricky to change gear correctly and was over-thinking things (as is typical for me) but I did quite well at low speed control doing corners and figure-of-eights. Mark was the opposite, finding the figure-of-eights tricky but having no problem with changing gears. Eventually we both managed to improve to a level where Andy was happy to continue.
After a snack break there was some more talk to prepare us for the on-road riding – advice on speed, attitude, anticipation and much more. After this we had a wait while Andy took the third student out on the scooter. On their return we had the final part of the training – on-road riding. It was like my first driving lessons all over again. Our little convoy filed out from the playground where we had safely been practising, out to the car park, past the gates and on to the roads of Reigate. It was great! Andy kept in communication with us through a walkie-talkie and earpiece that we each had, and Andy having a microphone. One in front of him and one behind, we rode around practising everything we’d been taught and getting pointers as we progressed. Lots of junctions, positioning ourselves correctly and checking for hazards as well as the obligatory emergency stop and turn in the road. After a good amount of time on the road we headed back to the practice area and Andy presented us with our all-important CBT certificates.
It was a fun day and definitely worth the money with the added bonus that I now have two years where I can ride unsupervised with L plates. I would like to say a big thanks to Andy for his clear and comprehensive instruction. Also thanks to Mark for accompanying me on the day. It was much more fun doing the day with a friend.