Today I ache. Yesterday I spent the best part of six hours trying to learn how to ride a motorcycle. About two and a half months ago I entered a competition.
I work for my local council. They often are trying to promote new initiatives, and a couple of months back it was all about being "green
". An email was sent to all staff recommending that people walk
more and consider using motorbike
s and scooter
s rather than car
s. To make this email more than just advice, they ran a competition. In less than fifty words entrants had to write why they wanted to do either a Cycling Proficency
course or Compulsory Basic Training
(CBT) for Motorbike.
Having spent three years solidly trundling around Cambridge on an ancient push bike, I didn't feel as though I wanted much instruction in bicycling. I had fancied learning how to ride a motorbike since my mother got one when I was about 18. I'd ridden pillon a few times too, and enjoyed it enormously.
I entered the competition for the CBT, wrote just over fifty words which were incredibly cheesy (I reasoned that writing exactly what they probably wanted to hear was the only way to win), and promptly forgot all about it.
About ten days ago I received an email from the Road Safety Unit at the council informing me that I'd won. I don't often enter competitions, and the last time I won anything was a McDonald's colouring competition when I was about seven. I was really excited, rang them up and organised that I would do the CBT on Saturday 12th November. Instructions were received by email a few minutes later.
As the 12th drew nearer I began to get really nervous. I have been driving a car for about six years and like to think I have good road awareness and highway code knowledge, but I wasn't really sure what to expect. I arrived at the training centre at 0845 and wandered around looking lost and wearing biking leathers until one of the instructors arrived and pointed me and another lost learner to the training room.
After they checked our driving licences and explained how the day was suppose to pan out we were taken outside. The first part was a sight test (checking you can read a normal sized licence plate from 67 feet), and a safety talk about biking with a basic introduction to the different parts of a bike. That was when it stopped being easy. I am good at sitting in a room listening to information (for short periods at least) and with the assistance of my specs can read licence plates.
I don't like to do things by halves. It's a cliché, but I honestly believe that if something is worth doing, then it's worth doing properly. I had the choice between learning on an automatic scooter or a manual geared motorbike. I also demonstrate a tendency to make things difficult for myself, often far more difficult than anything would ever need to be. I learnt to drive a manual car, and would learn to drive a manual motorbike.
I was given a Yamaha YBR125 which looked small next to the Suzuki GS500Es, but a behemoth next to the scooters. For the next two hours I divided my time between stalling the bike, bunny hopping around a small car park, and falling off. And stalling. Lots of stalling. Eventually I actually flattened the battery and the instructors had to resort to kickstarting the bike.
Despite how terrible this sounds, I did eventually manage to do some convincing figures-of-eight and get through a slalom course of six cones before we stopped for lunch at about 1300. My progress was not fast enough for me to be allowed out on the road (the final part of the course). In fact, when the instructor told me this I was very relieved as the idea of riding among cars and other bikes was, quite simply, terrifying.
I spent the afternoon practising stopping, pulling away and left and right turns (when to look, when to indicate, when to look again, and road positioning. I am not sure if you could say I was good, but I definitely improved over the afternoon.
When I left they encouraged me to return to complete the course (they assured me that plenty of people do not complete the course on the first attempt, and you do not have to start again from the beginning). I have to arrange a time for this, and am trying to decide right now if I want to do it. When I woke up this morning my arms, legs, wrists and fingers all ached. They still do now.