Direct Access – Taking the bike test | FEATURE
Are you one of those scooterists who find excuses as to why you ‘can’t’ or won’t take your bike test? Are you a serial CBT taker? Or scared to take your test because you either refuse to or don’t want to ride a bike? Well read on, this article is for you.
Ten years ago, Linsey (my other half) decided she’d like to start riding, so we got her a T5; she sat a CBT, did a few local miles and then got scared and decided to sell it. Speaking to lots of other female scooterists (and quite a few men) it’s quite common, either their mothering instinct kicks in and makes them assess the potential risks, or they just don’t give it a good enough go.
This is the story of Linsey’s battle to gain her full bike licence, against all the odds.
CBT – Completely Bloody Terrified
Back in 2006 I casually mentioned that I’d like to ride, as opposed to being a pillion. Iggy took this as a green light to secretly book me a CBT for my birthday and buy a Vespa T5.
When I opened my birthday card, my CBT voucher dropped out… I was instantly petrified. I had to ‘man up’ though so took and passed my CBT.
Gaining my CBT certificate didn’t help me to feel any more confident out on the road and it didn’t help that Iggy was taking me around some of his favourite twisties. I was frightened every time I went out. I was on roads unfamiliar to me, he was riding faster than I felt comfortable with but because it looked like I could ride Iggy probably thought I was loving it, thankfully for him we didn’t have intercoms then. I think he was forgetting that he’s been riding all his life and loves it.
He pushed me further than I was ready for and when he suggested that I ride to a local rally, I just had visions of me falling off on the gravel as I got to the campsite. I froze, got scared and put the T5 away. That was me done with riding, or so I thought. We sold the T5 soon after and I went back to riding pillion.
The desire to ride never really went away though and as time went on I felt like I was missing out. That yearning grew and secretly I decided that I needed a full licence before I hit 50. Time was ticking though and these things don’t just happen on their own. The law had changed by now so taking a full licence on a Vespa T5 was no longer an option (although I could do the A1 light motorcycle test on one if I only ever wanted to ride a 125).
In September 2014 I took the plunge and did another CBT and started riding an Italjet Dragster. Initially I was excited, I was up for riding it to Bridlington and set off quite happily. I only got three miles before the big end blew and we ended up going two up to the rally. I was gutted not to ride there but had suffered my first big breakdown; I doubted it would be the last….
I didn’t ride much over winter but decided to book in for some bike lessons early in 2015 at the same place that I’d done my last CBT.
That’s when things started to go wrong for me. I wanted to do DAS – Direct Access but like many scooter riders had never ridden a bike before. Also like many girls I’m not very tall, or strong so the thought of woman-handling a seemingly massive 650cc motorbike was quite daunting.
In March 2015, I turned up to meet my trainer for a one hour lesson to see how I got on with the gears. He got me straight on a 125cc bike, riding around the training pad, changing gear, slipping the clutch etc.
I felt really proud of myself. At the end of the hour, I booked in for a 2-hour lesson for the following week. As the next lesson drew closer, my anxiety levels & self doubt started to kick in. Would I remember what I’d done the week before, was I brave enough, was the weather going to be ok? I was making myself more and more nervous.
Sunday morning came around, time for my second lesson. I was straight on the 125 again, riding around the pad doing left circuits, then right circuits. I felt a little less anxious & must’ve looked alright because my trainer then said it was time to get out on the road! Argh… could I do this?? Of course I could.
Time now to move onto the 500cc (used for the A2 test). The 500 felt big but wasn’t too hard to ride, although initially I found it hard to push it around when doing some of the manoeuvres (reversing it out of one parking space into another etc.)
My trainer mistook my ability on the bike for confidence. I’ve had many years on the back of scooters and I work as a driving instructor so my road knowledge and hazard awareness were already very good (even if I didn’t believe it myself). My trainer pushed me harder than I felt ready for and took me on roads I didn’t feel confident on. Before long he was trying to make me ride at speeds I wasn’t comfortable with on roads I wasn’t familiar with and on a bike that I couldn’t touch the floor properly on.
There were a few incidents that helped to knock my already fragile confidence. First time out on the 500, I tried to move off from the first junction from the training school in second gear. I lost stability and my trainer told me over the intercom to let the bike go.
Another time, I was on the 650cc Suzuki Bandit. I didn’t feel at all comfortable and when we had to stop for fuel, I lost my footing as I was trying to put the bike on the stand and dropped the bike. I did get over this & went on to have a really good lesson. Afterwards though it played on my mind and knocked my confidence even further. I was left feeling guilty for dropping the bike. After 9 hours of tuition this was the beginning of the end for my lessons at that training school; it also had a knock on effect on riding my scooters for ‘pleasure’.
I did ride to a few rallies in 2015 but found myself dreading it. I’d panic & worry about every little thing on the road. I’d be scared to death of bends, hated turning left, (I got it into my head that I couldn’t do left turns), a ‘sharp deviation’ sign would be like a beacon spelling out impending doom. I also hated the thought of other friends judging me when I rode. I spent over a year trying to enjoy riding but my confidence had been zapped. I’d gone from being excited about riding to Bridlington on an unfamiliar Dragster to dreading the thought of ever riding again. Even so it was like unfinished business.
To be continued. Will Linsey conquer those nerves and gain a full licence? Find out next time…
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