These days, it’s pretty difficult to get street legal on a motorbike. If I had taken my test at 16 when I had a Raleigh moped, I’d have had a motorbike licence. In those days, all you had
to do was ride round the block while the examiner stood on the street corner. Today, you need to pass four tests. And there’s a certificate for each one.
First, you do Compulsory Basic Training on a125cc machine. Half a day in a practice yard, the other half on the road. There’s a lovely feeling of freedom as you go along familiar roads without a metal-and-glass box around you.
Then ‘Step-Up Day’ when you get to grips with a real motorbike. In my case, it was a four-cylinder, 600cc Honda CBF. This is a no-nonsense, precision-engineered speed machine. After a morning’s practice, I was out on the road doing 60 mph. A tiring, stressful but exilharating day.
The Theory Test is absolutely nuts. You go to an office and sit at a desktop computer and you’re given up to 57 minutes to answer some questions on the Highway Code. They are multiple choice, really easy and you can finish that part of the test in less than ten minutes. Then comes the Hazard Perception Test. Fourteen videos, each lasting one minute. The videos are taken from inside a moving car on various roads. You have to click the mouse when you notice a potential hazard and click again when one of them turns into an actual hazard. Click too early, no points. Click too late, reduced points. Click too many times, points taken away. It was sheer luck that I passed that one.
Module 1 – the motorcycle manoeuvering test. You’re in a big playground scattered with coloured cones. You have to make your powerful motorbike go very slowly and do ‘circus tricks’ such as slalom, figure-of-eight and U-turn. If you make one little mistake, such as put your foot on the ground to steady yourself, you fail. Then, at higher speed, there’s the emergency stop and the swerve. I failed this the first time. My first swerve was not fast enough so I was allowed a second go. I over-compensated, went faster than necessary and clipped the cone I was supposed to miss. Still, second time I was OK.
Here I am, with fellow student, Sean, who also passed his Mod 1 that day.
I could have taken the final test, Mod 2, on 4th April but my wife took me on a surprise trip to Switzerland. When I got back, I had a couple of hours refresher on the Honda. My instructor and I rode from Cardiff to Caerphilly through nigh-on apocalyptic weather at pretty high speed on the dual carriageway. Strong wind, heavy rain, poor visibility and freezing cold. That got me back into it.
And then came the magic day, 15th April 2013, the day I passed my motorbike test. This one is sensible and pretty much what you would expect. It’s on the road and an examiner rides behind you and informs you, by radio, what you are supposed to do. This test takes about half an hour. When we got back to the test centre, I heard him saying “passed the test” … “licence will be returned to you” … “you can ride straight away”.
And the very next day, I went and collected my Royal Enfield. More about that in the next blog.