I’ve just done my CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) so I can now officially ride any 2 wheeled motorised vehicle with an engine up to 125cc. It was possibly the single most terrifying experience of my life to date.
We (my husband and I) took the CBT with Mark of Tommy Bee’s Biker Training, at their location in Rawdon near Leeds and Bradford Airport. This information is important because that means it’s high up and thus incredibly windy. The day started early, 8:45am - it was very cold, very windy and rained on and off all day, (not the best conditions for dicking about on bikes). We’d decided to train on 125cc geared LML Star scooters, basically Vespa PXs but made in India. We got started on the bikes pretty much straight away, no better way to learn really. The lad training with us was the first to start, it took him a few attempts but he was soon off on his way. Then it was Adam’s turn - it took longer for him to get going, pretty much stalling every time he tried to start; this isn’t a criticism, there’s a real knack to starting a scooter, it takes practice and this was our first time. When he was going he was fine, steady and in control, but getting it started again proved increasingly more difficult. He rode straight into a fence because the thing got away from him, then he fell off and landed in a puddle, and then he flew off the back as the scooter reared like a horse - looked fucking cool though. We were both very glad we’d paid the extra £15 to cover for such accidents! That’s when Mark suggested Adam try an automatic, and instantly we knew it was the right decision; they’re a doddle to ride.
Then it was my turn to have a go. After watching Adam’s accidents I could’ve been put off, but because he didn’t hurt himself too badly I just thought it was incredibly funny - especially him driving into the fence, it still makes me laugh thinking about it! I wasn’t doing too bad, starting pretty much first time every time without stalling. I had control and felt comfortable, whizzing around the training ground happy as Larry. But when it came to changing up a gear, that’s when my problems started. I just couldn’t do it quick enough, or I’d slip it into neutral rather than second or pull it too far and go into third, jerking all over the place. I wasn’t happy as that’s the same problem I had when driving a car, and why I stopped because I was frightened of causing an accident. So I spoke with Mark and said I wouldn’t feel comfortable on the road with a geared machine, and he agreed it was probably best if I too switch to an automatic. Best choice ever - I fell in love instantly; it’s like a push bike with an engine, so much fun to ride! I knew I’d be much happier, and safer, on the road with one of these little beasts.
I won’t bore you with rest of the training, it’s stopping, turning corners and shit like that. No further falls or injuries were had. We’ll jump straight to the road ride. It was frightening and exciting all at once. We’d had it drummed into us that cars will pull out of nowhere on us, won’t see us when they’re turning, parked cars will have their doors flung open; basically, we were near death at all times and we just had to stay alive as long as we could. Obviously that’s not what he said, but it’s how I felt, constantly scanning the side roads, keeping a look out for crazy old people wandering into the road, making sure cars weren’t sat on my tail… It made me very aware of what other people were doing which is the point I guess, I can only look out for myself and if other people are knob heads I just have to make sure I’m not. The wind was very strong, especially on the country roads with no shelter. Being buffeted going round a corner on a bike at 30mph is scary as shit! I was holding on to that bike for dear life, every muscle in my body tense and screaming.
It was a relief to head into a housing estate to do our emergency stop and U-turn “test”. My stop went well first time, no skidding. My U-turn however went really badly. Well, not the U-turn itself - trying to turn away from the curb went badly, instead of pulling the front brake I pulled my palm back slightly, which revved the engine so it jumped the curb and hit a brick wall and sent me flying. Luckily it wasn’t at speed so it was mostly my pride that got hurt (or so I thought at the time), I’ve fallen harder on skates doing controlled falls so wasn’t a big deal, it was just frustrating. Again, glad we took the insurance!
We drove around for another couple hours, re-did the U-turn perfectly, and thus ended our day at 7pm with a fresh certificate in our hands and the freedom to ride anything up to a 125cc. We were told that we need to go a bit faster so we’re not holding up traffic, but it’s difficult to make a 50cc scooter get past 30mph on a good day, let alone with strong cross winds and a silently screaming novice at the helm. When we got home it felt like we’d been in a boxing ring, every inch ached from the cold and wind and tension, bruises appearing out of nowhere - I’ve now got a huge bruise on my shin/knee where the bike fell on me and it hurts even to have my jeans rest on it! But I’m now excited, and slightly terrified, at the prospect of getting my own machine and getting back out there and tearing up the tarmac… cautiously, of course!