Born again Motorist Pt2

Published: 04 October 2007

How? The CBT Now totally committed , I had the bike coming, a helmet sat in my bedroom and the so called summer (now in 2007) coming to an end. The CBT course took place in September, so between placing the order for the bike, and the CBT, I was looking through the internet for insurance and clothing. Firstly the insurance. I dabbled with various criteria, playing around with voluntary excess, and potential security addenda, and then found the cheapest quote of a nudge under £90. I wouldn’t have got that low, not ten years ago at least! And then there was the clothing. Ebay was the department store of choice. There I managed to get a pair of gloves, a pair of boots (and a Tank protector).

I’m going to have to wait for some more finances before I go for the jacket and jeans. I know you can’t put a price on personal safety, but how much do you have to spend before you are considered safe? CBT day came around, and I was excited, not nervous at all. I arrived at C J Ball and went to the desk. A gentleman called Richard was sat behind the desk, “Mr Bevan?”, “that’s me” I replied. I enquired if I was the only one, to which Richard said that there was one other. As a joke, I retorted “No! I think you’ll find that I am the only Mr Bevan here” and I stood there grinning , as if I were just trying to break the ice and not appear too serious at all. Anyway, not thinking that he understood what direction I was coming from, my self and the ‘one other’ (who shall now be know as Alistair, since I can’t remember his actual name) proceeded up to the training/ waiting/ changing room. Once there, there was a further trainee who was taking his CBT that day too and we all had a chat. It transpired that this guy who was there before us has had significant experience on 125s before as he had lived and worked in Greece for 5 years and used a 125 over there.

Alistair had absolutely no experience on a bike at all and I however, rode a friends pizza bike once…….. Suffice to say myself and Alistair were to be taken to an airfield whilst the other guy got to go straight out on to the road. We tried on some armoured trousers and jackets, although, I had a large chunk of wood fall on my shoulder the previous day where the shoulder armour rested, it was quite uncomfortable. While the others were trying on helmets, I pulled mine out of its draw string pouch and proceeded to model it, “you might want to take the sticker off first if you’re going to use that!” Richard said, referring to the blatantly large warning/ instruction sticker across the visor. This was met with a few sniggers from the other trainees.

This didn’t bother me, I now knew where I stood, and the day was about to get interesting! We exited out of the building and were stopped by Richard, our instructor, and asked to read out the number plate of the only white van in the car park. “Which white van?” squinting my eyes and pulling up my glasses. I looked over for his approval looked back to the van and promptly read out the number plate. This is going to be fun!!!

Our trip to the airfield was filled with interesting information about how to and how not to ride a motorcycle. Richards similes between bikes and birds (women I mean, the two words just lend themselves to each other), was infallible. Just be smooth, never push beyond the limits, treat it with respect and you can’t go far wrong! I turns out that Richard was a lot older than his demeanour suggested, his tin top transport was a 2CV, he liked rock climbing, and used to do motocross.

He still had his hair (longer than most) and to see him in the street, you’d expect him to get out a set of juggling clubs, throw a hat on the floor and expect you to part with your hard earned. So it seemed a little unnerving to think that this guy was going to tell me what’s what about staying alive on two wheels. We finally reached the airfield, parked up, and the van was unloaded. Out popped two CG125’s. We - myself and Alistair - were given a run down on various features of the bike. Important things like the accelerator and brakes (they have two, one at either end!!). First off, we had to learn how to get it off and on to the centre stand. Now, without being a show-off, I did it first time. Just push down on the stand gently, make sure that both feet (of the stand) are in contact with the ground, put your weight on your foot and lift the back end by the grab rail, et voila!! It also helped that I worked for Halfords for a while when they sold scooters. Alistair on the other hand, was having difficulty, so while Richard went over to help him, I did a few more practise mounts and dismounts. Richard then went on to show us how to push a bike around in a figure of eight. Well I’ll tell you, if I had to push a bike before I could even ride it, I’d take it straight back to the person I bought it from!! I digress, there were no problems there, at least not from me, although, before the exercise, I couldn’t workout in my head that if you’re standing on the left of the bike and you want to push it around a right hand radius, don’t you have to lean the bike into the corner. BUT, in practice, I didn’t show myself up and had the bike leaning in my direction in both left and right hand turns.

We then made our way over to a cordoned off part of a runway and were taught on how to change gear, brake etc. And under instruction, not to go above second gear, we rode around a large square piece of airfield, praying to god the no aircraft want to land today! It wasn’t long before my confidence grew and I was ‘cracking’ open the throttle on the straights, and making a coy attempt at hanging my knee out round the bends, and then second gear wasn’t enough, ‘click’ into third. But that was about as much as space would allow. The next exercise was the most important lesson. Emergency braking. Using predominantly the hand brake (uh! Int’ that for going ‘round corners chav style) or otherwise known as the front brake, and in part using the rear brake, and getting the balance right depending on weather conditions. Me first then. I

 bang through the gears (don’t I sound experienced now?) to get up to a realistic speed and poor old Richard, stood in my trajectory, put his hand up to signal me to perform my emergency stop. SSHHHHHIIITTTTTT!!!!, I grab a huge handful of brake, too much as it happens and the front starts doing its own thing as it slides. Richard, with the fear of god in him and life flashing before his eyes, does his impressive matador impression, as I release the brake and have a second attempt at stopping. Fortunately I had scrubbed off enough speed to grab a second handful of brake and stop without further incident. Richard came over not to see if I was alright, (I was as I was smiling, not because I nearly killed him, but because I had survived) but to inform me to use less front brake next time. DUH!! I think I know that….now!

I later learn that Richard is leaving at the end of the month (after 16 years of training - you think he wouldn‘t need any more!), and he hasn’t had a fatality yet! We have a few more attempts, me getting in double practice on the return run to the top, before we started on the low speed manoeuvres. Four cones were placed in a large rectangle, or, for the sake of this piece, a pair of cones running parallel with each other. With the back wheel of the bike touching one cone, we had to perform a ‘U’ turn. Now the instruction was “give it LOTS of noise and gently slip the clutch (the lever on the left) and trail the rear/ foot brake to keep the bike steady.

Now, I’ve had a little experience in car mechanics, you’d know that if you had read part 1, and slipping the clutch as well as trailing the rear brake is as bad, in my mind, as driving with your foot resting on the clutch while the hand brake’s on, either way, that’s not good. But this is expected when you’re on a bike, but what does help is that the clutch is a wet clutch and is designed to take this sort of abuse for short periods of time. So I had a go, problem was, I turned too tight, and ended up next to rather that between the line of cones. I say it was a problem, but it wasn’t really, I’d prefer to be able to turn too tight and loosen off, rather than being too loose and having to tighten up.

Alistair meanwhile had his own rectangle to play in, so while he played in his pen I kept practising in mine. The thing is, I had looked up many blogs and internet sites, and the main thing that people came a cropper on, was the U-turn, so I was making damn sure that this wasn’t going to be one of my failings. The next low speed manoeuvre exercise was driving through a slalom. Alistair went first, which enabled me to see what obvious mistakes I could avoid doing, as it turns out, Alistair did very well, he went wide a couple of times but it gave me a benchmark. So with the throttle and clutch nicely balanced I weaved in and out, nice and tight to the cones, got to the end and Richard pulled me up “There wasn’t enough noise going on! I want more noise!” F’cryingoutloud, I was just trying to prove to myself that I had command over my vehicle, and a ‘deft’ touch. I didn’t really want to rev the tits off of the poor machine, what about mechanical sympathy? What about the environment? If he wants more noise, just give me a saw and I’ll hack off the exhaust, better still, buy him a ticket to Houston, Texas and see a shuttle launch. Pah! Finally, a ‘riding in traffic without the traffic’ exercise!

Basically, we had to ride down the run way and approach a ‘pretend’ junction. We had to look over our shoulder before we indicated, look over again and either stop at the junction, or slow down but continue through the junction. But looking over my shoulder wearing pumpkin on my head proved not only difficult in doing, but also proved difficult to see anything more than what the mirrors showed, but I guess it was to a) show that you have an intention on moving, and b) that second look might pick up on something you missed in the mirrors, so a habit definitely worth remembering after the doing the DAS.

So then, back to HQ for lunch and a discussion on road safety. Most of the discussion is something I like to think I use on a regular basis, but in particular, the safety gap. A little rhyme that I remember from years back is: Only a fool breaks the two second rule! And when asked, by Richard, if there was any more to that: And when it pours, make it four! But apparently not. The second half of the verse goes something like: Less than that, and you’re a twat! Class! Back on the bike, and now on the road, I was surprised how slow the bike was.

I was working my way through the gears and Richard piped through on the radio (we now had ear pieces so we could hear Richards ramblings, oh, and important instructions), “come on Chris, pick up the pace!”. I looked down at the speedo, I was only doing 20mph, so I wound open the throttle with more verve. It was Alistair that started ahead, followed by me and the obviously Richard, which bode well for me, as I was watching for Alistair’s positioning and body language and he was good enough to be doing things correctly, things that I had already forgotten to do, like looking over my shoulder to pull out for parked cars. Both Alistair and I repeatedly forgot to cancel our indicators (bastard things don’t self cancel……stupid idea), and were slow getting up to speed, but that’s the point of training, make your mistakes now , before you need a policeman, or a mortician, to tell you otherwise! We stop off in a quiet residential street and have a quick chat about looking ahead, using examples like if you were looking at the back of the car in front, how much could you see in your peripheral vision compared to if you were looking at, for example, a set of traffic lights further down the road.

Point taken. We did a fair bit of road riding, taking it in turns to lead, listening to Richard make derogatory comments about various members of the public and members of our finest ‘persons in blue’. We ended up near Norwich airfield where we stopped on a quiet road. Here we were to re-enact the emergency stop and the U turn. So since I was in a good enough position, I went first, with Richard stood well away from the road. Over the radio ’STOP!’ and I came to a smooth, well controlled, perfectly executed, professionally styled, non dramatic, accident free stop. One that I repeated two more times. Phew! Next up was the U turn. I was lined up alongside the curb, and Alistair was behind me.

So I started off and ended up level with the curb opposite. A manoeuvre I did again and pulled up behind Alistair. And then I waited a while until he decided to make his move. Off he went and I rode a little further up the road. I wanted to practice this as much as possible, and no disrespect, I didn’t want to be hanging around for ‘my turn’. So I did a few more U turns and looked back to see Alistair still in position on the other side of the road, clearly low speed manoeuvring was not one of his strong points. I then proceeded to ride in circles, not to show off, but to make sure that I had this thing licked, but I was being conscious of Alistair making sure he didn’t clock me.

If he was facing me, I would be doing U turns, If he was facing away, circles. Alistair, Richard and I then headed back to C J Ball and parked up our bikes. We went to the training room, off loaded our gear and sat to wait for our results. Suffice to say, both Alistair and I got our certificates. On leaving, I asked if there was anything I could improve on, smarten or tighten up. Richard said no, I’ll do fine on the DAS!