Sideburn has, I mean had, a learner rider on its staff. Andy Garside is our art editor. He lives in a Mercedes Sprinter, with his partner and their two dogs (full-time for the last four years). You can read the previous post here.
Now time for Andy's latest update, explaining what UK riders have to go through to get their licence.
With CBT (compulsory basic training) and motorcycle theory test under my belt it was time to get on with obtaining a full bike licence. The whole process has changed considerably from when I was a youngster, and now there are two tests to take before you’re on-the-road-legal: Modules 1 and 2. Mod 1 is around cones in a controlled environment (the test centre), and Mod 2 is an accompanied road ride.
My reasons for taking my test are detailed here, but however ‘individual’ I thought I was it turns out I’m a cliché of a mid-life-crisis. Almost everyone I met during my training was a man-of-a-certain-age coping with the boredom of living through a global pandemic. Waiting times on booking lessons and tests were longer than ever last year, so it was never going to be all over in a couple of weeks, as I had initially thought. But, not to worry, I was just glad to be eventually getting around to it.
The day for the CBT certificate was spent on a Kawasaki Z125, but the Mod 1 and 2 tests need to be taken on larger machines – at least 595cc and providing a power output of 50kW (67bhp in old money) or higher. Keeping with Kawasaki we were using Z650s (below) for the next stages of training.
The Mod 1 is all about the manoeuvres: figure of eights, slaloms, u-turns, and emergency stops are all carried out around a series of measured out cones in a car park. The usual space used by ProBike MCT had been commandeered as a vaccination centre, so the car park in question is now an undercover one of a theatre. This came in handy as Wales gave its best impression of summer and rained to biblical levels for most of August and September.
Having spent my youth riding trials bikes up and down near vertical banks, through streams and over fallen trees I went into the whole bike test thing quietly confident. A standard trials bike weighs about 70kg, a Z650 chunks in at 188kg… that’s quite a bit of difference and seemed pretty big at first, but once I got it rolling it all made sense and felt a million miles away from the rattly little 125 of the CBT training. Also, standing up on the foot pegs is frowned upon in the road riding world. Pah! Despite all this I found the Mod 1 training straightforward enough and a good way to reacquaint myself with the subtler side of bike control.
Mod 1 test day comes around and the weather forecast isn’t good. The forecast is right, and we make our way to the test centre in high winds and torrential rain. We arrive to hear that the two tests before us had been cancelled because of the conditions. There’s a 30-minute wait until my test and a tiny patch of blue sky heading our way. I’m in luck, my test goes ahead and I pass with (almost) a clean sheet. One minor – I only hit 49kph instead of 50 in my emergency stop. I’m happy with that. Now onto Mod 2!
Two riders at a time, with an instructor in tow, Mod 2 training takes us out onto the open road. An intercom earpiece keeps the instructor in touch with us and makes sure we keep in line. This was the part I was a little more concerned about. I needn’t have worried at all, once I got to grips with correct positioning it was all common sense. At this point I have to give a huge shout out to the great people at Mutt Motorcycles who very generously loaned me a Razorback 125 for a couple of months. This helped me build up some vital road hours that boosted my confidence no end.
For the Mod 2 test an examiner takes you out for a 40-minute road ride taking in all the standard conditions: town riding, country lanes and a high-speed section. Weather is much more favourable this time and we head off on our run. We get back to the test centre and I’m told, “Unfortunately Mr Garside…”. Turns out I only hit 60mph on a dual carriageway section instead of the national speed limit of 70. Failed. Gutted, but I book straight into the next available test slot in a few weeks’ time.
There are two test stations local to me and all my training had been based around one of these. Because of the long wait times the next available test was for the other centre, so I spent an afternoon out with an instructor the day before to familiarise myself with the possible test route.
I’m determined to pass this time. I really, really want this. I ride as though I’m just, well, just out on a ride, and I definitely make sure I’m hitting every speed limit spot on and as quickly as possible. As we’re heading back to the test centre I notice we’ve only been out 30 minutes. This must be a bad sign, we’re due another 10 at least. Has the examiner got bored of me making mistakes? Does he want me off the road for the safety of everyone involved? We park up and I take off my lid. “Excellent Mr Garside, you’ve passed. I even took you on a longer route and we got around in really good time.”
That’s it, I’m now a fully-fledged legal motorcyclist. It took a little longer than I had imagined, no thanks to covid, and wasn’t cheap (nearly a grand*), but there’s a lot of training in with all of that, it was a hell of a lot of fun, I really enjoyed the whole process, met some lovely people and felt like I had really accomplished something at the end. Here’s to life on two wheels. See you all out on the road.
Theory Test – £26
CBT: one full day – £175
Mod1: three half-days and test – £400
Mod2: three half-days and test – £375