'Mum, Dad - I want to ride a motorbike'
Andy Morrison, former boss of Rapid Training, had a saying about new motorcycle riders: “You start out with a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the experience bag before you run out of luck.”
The good old Driving Standards Agency, bless ’em, aren’t really on the same page. Compulsory Basic Training (all you need to ride a 125 on the road) is a dismally low base. Even the full test leaves most of your braking and turning unexamined. When my son passed in 2014 he didn’t go over 45mph.
So let’s forget legal requirements, and concentrate instead on what your offspring really needs to operate a motorbike at a reasonably competent level from day one.
For car drivers it’s just Highway Code stuff: courtesy, roundabouts, junctions, road signs, etc. On a bike you need a little more: the ability to plan an overtake. To read a bend. To use the vanishing point.
2. Environmental awareness
Now it gets tricky. Wet leaves on the road. The whiff of diesel before a roundabout. Oncoming headlights in the dark. And on, and on. Either riders choose to see these clues, or they don’t. But it takes a rather special instructor to get a learner’s mind working on this level.
3. Machine control
The ability to turn your bike at the precise time and place you plan to. To brake hard in the wet without locking the wheel. To know what the right gear is, and the right revs. To take one line through a bend, rather than a fifty pence piece. In short, to ride in a fluid, confident way. You can let your child pick it up as he goes along if you like. But really?
Literally, the ability to apply all of the above for the duration of your journey. Long term riders don’t think about it. New riders are rapidly overwhelmed.If you’re a parent with a teenager starting out, you might want to check whether these four areas of competence are being installed. And if not, how they could be. I suggest the answer involves lots of dirtbike riding, and extra road training. I didn’t say it would be cheap.
Or you could just do what the Government recommends, and leave it up to luck.