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Starting to ride: doing my CBT... on video!

Published: 14 May 2019

This week's video update sees Gareth take his CBT at Wheels in Peterborough. Special thanks to instructor Matt Hardwick from Shires Motorcycle Training.

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Second update: my first motorbike insurance policy

Now, I’m booked to do a CBT next week, which I’m very much looking forward to, but first I’ve been having a look at a little matter called motorcycle insurance. We all need it if we’re going to ride on the road, and that’s what I’ll be doing on the second part of my CBT, assuming all goes according to plan.

To find out how much I’d be stung for, I fired up MCN Compare’s comparison tool and went to work inputting my details. Other companies are available, of course.

My rough profile is as follows:

  • Age and marital status: 35, married
  • Postcode: PE8
  • Work: editor in publishing
  • Type of licence: provisional, car licence held since 2001
  • Annual mileage: 5999 (wishful thinking..?!)
  • Bike usage: social, domestic and pleasure, including commuting. Kept on driveway locked with alarmed disc lock
  • Voluntary excess: £300

The best quote came back at £318.06 for the year, courtesy of MCE. The lump sum could be split into a £50.71 deposit and eight instalments of £43.95. I’ve no idea why eight payments, but that’s what it said!

Oh, I'd need to tax the bike too - VED costs £20 a year for bikes under 150cc, or £21 if you split it over 12 months. Things aren't quite that tight, thankfully.

Now that's all sorted, I'm ready for my CBT. Keep an eye out for the video diary over the coming days...

First update: all the gear and no idea...

All the gear and no idea

It was around 2am when I shot bolt upright in bed. No, not what you’re thinking – it was the realisation that it’s time to learn to ride a motorbike.

I’d been keen on bikes for years, but only from a distance, because until very recently I was in the car industry and so that’s where most of my attentions faced. A new job away from cars was all the inspiration I needed to make the leap, so I’m going to document my journey here. Hopefully it’ll give you something to send to any budding bikers out there to inspire them to do similar…

As a little background on me, I’m 35-years-old, have held a full UK car licence since I was 17, am a keen motorsport enthusiast and love all kinds of engineering. My riding experience is little more than buzzing around on a 50cc twist-and-go for a brief period when I was 16, however. I’ve got basically no idea how to operate a bike with gears!

Step one: choosing rider training and a bike

Once I knew I wanted to try motorcycling, the first thing I did was Google motorbike licences. This brought me to MCN’s new Advice section, where I found two articles in particular that were to prove incredibly useful: How to Ride a Motorbike, and How to pass your full UK motorbike licence.

Now, I had to decide what to do first. From the above articles it’s clear you can achieve very little on the road in Britain without a CBT – Compulsory Basic Training – so that quickly went to the top of my to-do list. I quickly located the nearest school with a good reputation (it’d be with Shires, who are based out of Wheels in Peterborough), but in order to do that I needed a bike to do it on, and some kit in case it rains, or I’m particularly inept at riding once I’ve got going.

The bike turned out to be the easy bit. I’m keen to do this properly, so it had to be a geared 125 – the largest-capacity engine you can use without taking more intensive biking tests.

A chat over a beer with MCN’s youngest expert bike reviewer Dan Sutherland at the Carole Nash MCN London show threw up some interesting options, but he absolutely raved about Suzuki’s GSX-S 125, telling me it’s approachable and safe but loads of fun at the same time. He’d covered the launch of the bike for MCN and I fully trust his opinion. The Suzuki sounded good to me!

It might be a while until Gareth can ride the Suzuki GSX-S 125 this enthusiastically...

The one I’ve ended up with isn’t new. It’s got 1300 miles under its belt already, and I’m told that means it’s just about run in. Hopefully I can avoid any teething issues with the bike, because there are bound to be loads with me and my riding!

Step two: kitting out with bike clothing

Now on to the kit. I knew I didn’t want anything too… let’s say, 'racy'. I know my capabilities are lightyears from lighting up the rear tyre on a lap of the TT. In fact, flying under the radar is more my preference, but that’s not always a good thing, as I was to find out in my CBT course later on. I should have borrowed some kit until I’d done that, if I’m being completely honest.

So I went for a matte black helmet from Icon. This polycarbonate full-face lid, according to the specs, is called Airform Rubatone and comes with an integrated sun visor and a moisture wicking removable interior. They both sound like useful features. You're also able to customise it thanks to the removable spoiler at the back, which plays to my desire to tinker with everything I own. Maybe in a few weeks.

I tried a few on around the same pricepoint and this one seemed to fit my head best. It’s priced at £136.00 at time of writing, which didn’t sound too bad to me.

Slightly more visible is the Alpinestars T-GP Plus R V2 jacket, which costs £199.99. While I may not have picked this particular colour scheme, I was amazed at how well this fitted my torso. I’m not sure I’ve got a jacket that’s more snug yet liberating – it’s very breathable, has loads of vents, proper CE Level 2 protection for elbows and shoulders, VELCRO fastenings and loads of pockets. Quite a spec! My only concern was the main zip, which felt a touch flimsier than a lot of the other kit I’d tried and harder to locate when zipping the jacket up. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, though. 

Fashion meets function

The two-layer black Hein Gericke trousers I'd found went off sale a long time ago and weren't particularly comfortable, taking me ages to get into them as I learnt how all the kit went together. But then someone in the office asked me whether I'd be wearing some "riding jeans". I'd not considered this was even possible, but it turns out my favourite legwear is also available with the kevlar protection required to be legal and safe for riding a bike.

There are actually countless designs on the market, but after a bit of investigation I settled on a pair of denim-look Furygan Steeds. I was surprised to note they're not too much more expensive than my regular jeans, weighing in at £159.99. They're new for this year, and my first impressions when I unpacked them and tried them on were good - they're comfy, despite the extra padding in crucial places. It took five minutes to work out how to sit down without pinching a little, but now that's done I feel like I could wear them all day. I suppose that's sort of the point...

For the extremities I went for some RST Raid multipurpose gloves – black, comfortable and protected across the knuckles, but also usefully dextrous enough to allow me to take my lid on and off without removing the RSTs first. That could be useful at a petrol station.

The Forma Majestic boots (£129) don’t rewrite any sort of fashion rules either, but all the right ingredients are included: waterproof, robust-feeling zip, sturdy protection around foot and ankle. It’ll be interesting to see how they loosen up as I start to clock up some miles.

So now I had all (well, most) of the gear, but still hardly any idea. Time to change that, and on to my CBT in the next update. Stay tuned for the video blog…

Want to know more? Buy Just Ride magazine for everything you need to know about learning to ride

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Gareth's Suzuki GSX-S 125 ready to get going

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