Well after a few months off the road I’ve finally got round to booking what will hopefully turn out to be my Direct Access route to a full motorcycle licence.
Over the next week, I will be sharing my highs and hopefully not so many lows of my training with the BSM motorcycle training school in Birmingham on the Suzuki six-day training course.
Having arrived in Birmingham the night before I was due to start I was lucky enough to only be getting up normal work time.
I had been sent instructions from BSM how to get to their Birmingham Centre, where I was to complete my six day DAS course, with the plan at the beginning to take my full test on the Friday.
There was a slight delay getting started as the two other people due to do the first day, which was also the normal Compulsory Basic Training, failed to show.
So at 10am Mark, my instructor, invited me to get kitted out so we could get started.
As I had already done my CBT with CAM Rider in Peterborough last year, I didn’t have the usual chat with the instructor about the importance of wearing safety clothing and helmets. Fortunately I was fully kitted out with my textile Frank Thomas Alicia two piece suit (£99.99 for the jacket and £79.99 for the trousers), gloves (£24.99) and Maria boots (£99.99) and my HJC helmet. I also had my Frank Thomas thermals on (long sleeve top £49.99 and Long Johns £39.99 plus inner socks £19.99), but it seems to be double the temperature it was over the Easter weekend so I soon lost the top.
We also skipped what was where on the motorcycles and procedures you’re meant to go through monthly, weekly, daily etc as I had learnt all this last time round.
And so I was introduced to my Suzuki Van Van I would use for the at least today. I was really chuffed as Suzuki loaned me a Van Van for a while last summer so I knew we were going to get on fine – famous last words!
To begin with Mark got me riding around a diamond configuration to see how well I could ride. He told me about spotting the next cone ahead of the one I was at so the motorcycle would turn.
This was fine and I couldn’t believe how well it was going.
From here I had to play around some more cones, weaving in and out a line before going back and starting the loop again.
It was obvious I had work to do on slow riding and breaking slightly less joltily, but I managed the cones no probs.
Then for the dreaded figure of eight! I managed it before last year so I’ll manage it again – you must be joking! Mark was so patient – I could never do their jobs – he stood in between the two cones telling me where to look.
Another instructor from the centre, Chris, turned up and so Mark left me to keep trying the figure of eights using slow riding with clutch control, back brake, and far more revs than my brain is used to hearing.
But the inevitable happened and as soon as I was on my own I got the balance all wrong and finished up standing with the bike against my thigh with my back to Mark and Chris.
After a minute or so I couldn’t keep hold of the Van Van any longer and so managed to gently place it on the floor – where all the fuel started spilling out. Oh holy shit!
I started to run across the pad (training area) but they soon realised what was happening and came to rescue the Van Van.
Ok, let’s start again with Van Van number two, which I have named Kay (it’s reg is KY07 NNM). We got along much better and I told it how nice I was going to be.
I soon realised I was not alone on the pad, and another trainee was with me. He had been on the CBT last week but needed to complete the on-road element.
It was then time to change gears. Having ridden on the road for a few weeks last year, albeit mainly back roads, I at least was fine with gear changing doing a circle around the diamonds in first, then second, then first again before braking in time for a set line. No problem – just need to remember MCN photographer Ian Jubb’s advice again of ‘never grab a handful.
Then it was time for the U-turns. I had had some issues with this last year on my CBT, but managed to do it sufficiently to pass. Good job I’ve got the certificate as I made a total balls up!
After a short lunch break and the pre-road talk about road signs, being wary other roads users and junctions it was time to practice some junctions before being allowed on the open road.
Now I have never been to inner city Birmingham and may be I wasn’t actually right in the heart of it, but, when you put a bloody great cinema and a few humongous mosques in sight, it’s bound to have a bit of an eye catching element.
Must look at road not star attractions of Brum!
We headed to an industrial estate, which was quiet as it was Sunday to practice more U-turns and emergency stops. Emergency stops were no problem and whereas I thought I was going to end up over the handle bars, I was really confident. Hooray, she’s found something she’s good at. So as we’re doing emergency stops the plan was to then do a U-turn and ride up the road in order to U-turn again and come back and do another one.
I finally get a couple of U-turns under my belt and then try another and have yet another Van Van attached to my thigh! This time I do a great job in the laying down process and see off the L-Plate. Cavalry Mark arrives on the Suzuki V-Strom and produces another L-Plate from the handy panniers he’s got. ‘I’m going to have to carry lots of spares with you this week aren’t I?’ Gulp and a pitiful ‘Sorry’ comes back from me.
So back out on the roads and the other trainee and me take it in turns to be the front rider and I have to say I loved being back out on the road again. I know I’ve got lots to work on with manoeuvres, but after a good six months or more off the saddle I was happy.
And on returning to base even Mark said it had been a good day and lots of positives had come that he now knew things like indicating, shoulder checks, gears and acceleration were all good so we will be spending tomorrow basically going Uey with lots of U-turns and slow riding on the agenda.
If I’m going for the full DAS, I need to be on a bigger bike by Tuesday, day three, and my choices are a V-Strom, SV650 or a Bandit. Personally I fancy the Bandit, but my main aim is to get passed on something this week, so if it’s only a 125 then so be it. I’d rather be safe than sorry as they say.
BSM also now have the choice of a Suzuki GS500, but this wasn't there when I was.
The course takes six days and you take your test on the final day. As you start on the Sunday and take your test on Friday, you go to Lichfield as this is the only test centre running motorcycle tests on a Friday, they have some kit available at Birmingham.
Happy riding, I’ll be back tomorrow.
To find out more about Suzuki's course with BSM call 0870 010 0057.