Easter came and went. By now my CBT and theory test certificate were on their final 6 months. I arranged 3 days training. I hoped this would be enough. I did a Friday, Saturday and module 1 test on Monday. Being cautious, I opted for separate test days. If I failed mod 1 I would lose mod 2 test payment. At £75 it wasn’t worth the risk.
I was a lot more relaxed this time. I had invested in my own gloves and the weather was good to start with. They had new bikes too, Kawasaki E6’s. I was a bit rusty to begin with but motivated by Bat out of Hell still ringing in my ears from the drive to the training centre I managed to get into the swing of things quite quickly. The morning was a ride around, getting back in to it and the afternoon was slower practise. This was my first ride in the rain. I like to ride with the visor up. I don’t know why but I do. When it rained the visor gets a wet and visibility is reduced. The rain also hit my glasses so I was doubly impaired. I quickly learnt the art of getting the visor in the position I needed to be able to see. That, and ‘If you stop for a cuppa, take a serviette from the cafe to dry your specs and visor’ for today’s learning points. The clutch issue remained unresolved on day 1 (or 4) and the new bikes we were on slowed rapidly as soon as the throttle is closed.
Day 2 (5) was mainly for mod 1 test practise. It went ok. A couple of minor faults each time but nothing that would fail me… except the time I couldn’t start the bike. A learning point here; always put the side stand up when you sit on the bike!!
I knew the mod 1 routine by heart, had seen the videos on YouTube and read about it on the Gov.uk website. My top tip here is know what you are expected to do. As we say in the RAF, the 7 P’s. P**s poor preparation produces P**s poor performance. (HELEN, THIS CAN BE REDUCED TO 5 Ps)
Day 3 (6) Mod 1 test day. A day of a ride, test and ride. I could do the drills in my sleep (and had!). I was as prepared as I could be. The ride was fine, usual errors – that bloody clutch! My timing on roundabouts could have been better (luckily the brakes work!). It was an earlyish test, 10.30. The chap before me failed by not looking over his shoulder before the U-turn- he did it as he started. I wouldn’t make that mistake (again- I did on the practice tests). Nor would I stop with the wheel over the line on the controlled stop like he did.
My turn for the test. I wasn’t really nervous- just nervous. The examiner knew me as an instructor. Whether that was a good thing or not I don’t know. It wouldn’t hold any favours for me that’s for sure and I wouldn’t it too. Licence checked, CBT checked, helmet on and off we go. Remember that we are ‘to treat the area as if on a normal road’. Shoulder checks, light throttle and glide into the compound. Manual handling- nice and simple. I opted for the ‘W shape’ rather than the ‘wheel it around’ method. That went well. Next, the slalom and figure of 8. Easy on the clutch, a little bit of throttle. Phew managed that ok. On the practice I had gone a little too far out. Actually, I went way too far out. U-turn next. SHOULDER CHECK!! Easy around, whoops too much brake, foot down quickly. I think he heard my frustration, I think anyone would have! Carry on. If I’ve failed I still want to complete the test and get my money’s worth. Next up was the controlled stop. Decent speed, apply the brake, stop BEFORE the line. Happy with that one. Emergency stop. This was an issue for before. I can get well over the speed or not fast enough. 50kmh needed. That’s 5000 revs, second gear. 65 KMH measured!! It sounded awful too. I hit the brake and rather than gripping it and squeezing, I moved my wrist and opened the throttle. I had two attempts at the hazard avoidance. Attempt 1 was only 47 KPH- one below the minimum. Attempt 2 was spot on 50. SHOULDER CHECKS before pulling away to leave the test area. I had hoped for 0 faults, but that’s how I am. Four faults. Still a pass- very disappointing but a pass. Better than a fail. Mod 2 next.
I rode for the rest of the day with my mod 1 pass certificate in my pocket and a slight grin on my face. I wouldn’t book both modules on the same day. I still think that was right. The rest of the day was enjoyed by me sitting at the back listening to the new boy being guided by the instructor. Mod 2 was next, it just needed booking.
August 17, 14.30. Dressed in my own new jacket and biker trousers (gloves left on the kitchen table!), the day was spent getting anything that could go wrong, wrong. Too fast on the approach, too slow on the approach, stopping too far over the line, stopping too far before the line. Where that car came from on the roundabout I’ll never know!
At the test centre, I had a different examiner. Again, I was known. The comms unit was fitted, tested and so the test began. I always tell my pupils to not worry if they make a mistake. I realise what rubbish this is! The hill start was smooth, my commentary to myself was typical of me. As it happens, we did the roads on the route earlier that day. I knew where the roadworks were, which leg to put down at the awkward junctions and possible mishap places. Confidence was high but certainly not too high. At one set of lights, my front wheel was half over the line. I was convinced I’d failed. I over observe. It has been commented upon a few times that I look too early (part of the job- but this isn’t my job, it’s a test). I look again as if I’m looking behind the pupil (again a daily occurrence in the job). When I’m in an articulated lorry following a bend to the left, I check the left mirror to see what’s behind and check the kerb has been cleared. After 30 years on and off it’s a hard habit to break. On the bike I’m like a scared rabbit, head twitching, looking for the bloody nutters (BMW for short).
It was just like a practise ride but I seemed to notice every error. I was aware of every bump, pothole, motorist and traffic light on the route. I gave myself a commentary, forgot about the examiner behind me until we stopped and he appeared from nowhere dressed in fluorescent on a fluorescent bike. Convinced I’d failed, I entered the test centre to be greeted by my instructor seated on the floor. I shook my head preparing him for the inevitable. Stand down, engine off. Brace for the words “That’s the end of the test Mike and I’m sorry…”
“It’s a pass Mike, well done. Come in and we’ll do the paperwork”
****!!! Two rider errors. One was the traffic lights line. The other was use of the throttle (bloody clutch thing again!). I’m not sure what was said really I know he said something; I just don’t know or care what it was. I was pleased I’d passed and now have every entitlement on my licence. Nothing else mattered.
With my certificate safely secured in my new jacket, I asked if I needed the ear piece in.
“No. You are a full licence holder now mate. See you back at the training school”
The ride back was awesome!! Try smiling when you are riding. It really helps. The A38 slip road was hit with Bat out of Hell in my head and leaving my mouth at volume 25! With the test done and dusted I had a new confidence in myself.
Now, a few weeks on, I still get a thrill at telling people I have a bike licence. I look at bike websites and have narrowed down my selection of bike to around two thousand. I’m not in a rush. We had summer last week so hopefully, prices will drop as the colder weather comes in.
That’s it, my journey from thought to test. It’s been exciting, interesting and frustrating. It’s been annoying and exhilarating all in one day. I’ve learned a lot…
- There is no website that gives a simple step by step guide to obtaining a licence. There should be.
- In my opinion, the CBT is too short. Much more time should be given to on the road training.
- The theory test should, in my opinion, be taken before the CBT training.
For those of you who are thinking about taking the test here is my advice…
- Find the best trainer you can. Ask around, use social media.
- Learn the Highway Code. Take your theory test before training.
- Buy your own gloves.
- Enjoy the experience.
- Ensure you are aware of what is expected of you.
- Be prepared to take further training.
- Enjoy the experience, it’s awesome!