Jennie Gow blog: I've passed my bike test!
Getting a licence & training
28 July 2010 14:41
I'm on a Honda GR 125, the sun is streaming off the River Thames and I have a massive smile on my face as I look down at my Speedo and realise I've just passed the 50mph mark for the very first time.
This has to be one of the best feelings in the world!
But I've got carried away haven't I - let me take you back to the beginning, which is in my kitchen on a bright and what looks like it's going to be a boiling hot Tuesday in July.
I can't eat because I'm nervous but I know I have a long and tiring day ahead of me so I force down some toast and marmite and head to the car with a mixture of apprehension and excitement.
The day of the CBT is finally here. Compulsory Basic Training is the first step on the path to learning to ride a motorbike and I'm booked in for a one day course at Lightening training in Reading.
It's worth telling you my credentials at this point in time because let's face it - there is normally a reason why people want to learn to ride a motorbike!
For me, I've been watching them since I was just out of school but I've never had the time to actually learn how to safely jump on the back of one but it's something that I've wanted to do for ages.
I remember walking into my first biking event, I was presenting the Speedway in Bridgwater, Somerset.
At first it was a tricky thing to do, learning all the points systems and rules, team and riders, but within a couple of months I loved it as if I had been doing it my whole life!
Since those early days of Speedway I have gone on to present Longtrack, Motocross, beach racing and now, MotoGP but to be able to climb onto one of the those machines, well that was an opportunity I wouldn't turn down for anyone.
So back to the CBT. I arrive in Reading full of nerves and excitement but there was no time for any of that stuff! It was straight into the classroom to learn about safety.
First up with helmets, then leathers and gloves, high-vis clothing and all the equipment you need to make yourself as safe as possible on the roads.
Then, the time had come - the time for me to meet my trusty steed for the day. I have to admit it was a little different from my first push bike - a bright yellow BMX with spokey dokey's everywhere - but as I walked around it I was immediately smitten for my new bike - a Honda GR 125 - sleek and black and full of potential!
After a safety briefing and a talk about how to look after a bike, with weekly and daily checks, it was time to 'Get On'. Throwing my leg over 'Harry' (just between you and me - the name I gave to my bike for the day) I was like a kid in a sweet shop at Christmas.
I turned the key in the ignition, pressed the button to start the engine and gave me throttle a couple of twists, just to make sure it was all working well and the lights were out on my first lesson - close control!
All of a sudden a couple of cones in the middle of a car park were a little daunting, but actually within a couple of goes I was traversing them with as much aplomb as Eddie the Eagle Edwards on a ski-slope!
Next job was to master the gears!
I've ridden mopeds in the past but never a motorbike with gears so all of a sudden my brain was actually having to do something and try and co-ordinate all these different things at the same time (a little like rubbing your tummy and head in opposite directions)
After a short time I was changing up and down gears without a problem and my instructor was looking at me as if he knew that it was only a matter of time before we would be on the open roads! Yep, I think that's a mixture of pride and fear!!
There was some more theory first, with lifesavers one of the most important things you can learn.
You see for a vulnerable motorcyclist it's all about pre-empting what others on the road are going to be doing and making sure that you are never exposing yourself to more danger than you have to be.
I remember when I learnt to drive a car, sure I had lessons but actual driving time was limited - it was all about theory and manoeuvres.
That's the thing I like about the bike test - it's all about giving you the tools to be able to ride well and that means you have to complete at least two hours on the open roads - if all drivers had to do that in their test I think it would make for safer roads.
And the next thing - we were off! Riding along the Thames, changing gear, tackling twists and turns and getting up to the speed limit whilst doing my observations and making sure I was safe and comfortable.
I'm not going to lie - I stalled Harry a couple of times and on one occasion, probably after the honeymoon period was over, that we had a little disagreement as I tried do a U-turn and Harry decided the pavement looked like a much nicer place to be than the road (OK - it might actually have been me looking at the pavement more than the road at that moment but I'm not taking the blame).
In general though, I was amazed at how easy and enjoyable riding a bike was!
On the very same day I had started my lessons I was (with my lovely instructor, William, in my ear all the time) on the open road fulfilling all those dreams and ambitions I had for so many years.
I've always loved driving but being on a bike riding down a hill with the wind lapping around me was one of the most amazing moments of my life.
I felt more alive and freer than I have ever felt stuck in my car, even with the sunroof open!
And the first time I passed a static queue of traffic waiting at a traffic lights if I hadn't have been concentrating so much on cancelling my indicator I might have actually have broken into a massive smile!
To many the image of bikers is still skin heads and leather clad beard clad men straddling Harley's and cruising around, or else kids riding wasp-like mopeds disturbing the Sunday afternoon melancholy .
But I tell you what - riding a bike is completely liberating and I think most people have come to terms with the fact that all sorts of people from all walks of life now like to 'Get On' their bikes and go for a spin.
As I rode back into the learning centre I felt closer to Harry than any car I have ever had and I was a little sad to let him go back to the practice compound but I was ready to collect my certificate and become and true, genuine biker (not just a presenter of all things bike!)
Harry and I parted like old friends would safe in the knowledge that we would be reunited at a later date when I am able to take the extra days I need to do my full test, which I hope will be someday soon.
In the meantime I am free to jump on any 125 or limited bike and ride around to my heart's content.
If like me, you've never ridden a motorbike but feel the call of leathers might be something you're interested in, then there is no time like the present to think about doing your CBT, or maybe your Direct Access or even just a taster session.
And if you just happen to be in Reading doing a course then say hi to William for me - my trusty, and patient instructor, and of course Harry, my trusty bike!
- Get a friend into biking and win £10000 for you, and £5000 for them with the MCN 1000