Direct Access – Taking the bike test – Part 2 | FEATURE
In part one we saw how easily confidence in a novice can be knocked. We also saw how terrified my partner, Linsey was before each lesson and how the thought of riding her own scooters filled her with dread. She gave up her lessons after a while and it looked like the scooters might be sold. In this part we delve a bit further into how her mindset changes.
You can recap on part one here: Direct Access taking the test where Linsey takes the plunge to start training, albeit with a little bit of drama along the way.
To be honest it’s hard to put into words just how much of a personal mountain Linsey had to climb to regain her severely damaged confidence. Even so she wouldn’t give in to it. She forced herself to ride to rallies, even though it would cause her (and me) sleepless nights beforehand. On the morning of a rally she’d panic about everything, ‘What if I can’t kick it up?’ ‘What if everybody is judging my riding?’ and countless other thoughts.
Riding to rallies had a knock on effect as well, suddenly her luggage began to shrink after years of taking everything but the kitchen sink when she was on the back of me. Now she was carrying her own luggage those extra shoes, hairdryers, and needless girlie things weren’t quite as critical…
At the start of 2016 her Lambretta was finally on the road and ready to ride, she quickly took to that and preferred it to her Vespa. If you’ve ridden both you’ll know a Lammy is much easier to get on with, a Vespa (particularly her Sprint) feels a bit twitchy and takes some getting used to. On one particular journey to an LCGB event in Derby she rode down the busy A38 at 28mph, she’d lost her confidence and was scared to death of riding any faster, despite me beckoning her on (in vain) to open the throttle. She was ready to kill me when she arrived at the rally.
Having ridden the Italjet Dragster for a while, then the Vespa, her Lambretta soon took over as the chosen favourite scooter. The Dragster was relegated to the subs bench, only gears will do for this girl. As you probably know, a vintage scooter can have the odd problem or two, as Linsey would find out on a little ride to France for the Borders rally. We’ll let Linsey continue with the trials and tribulations of learning to ride.
Just before starting my training (for the second time) in 2016 I decided that I wanted to ride my Lambretta to a rally in France with 50 other scooters. In the weeks leading up to it I kept changing my mind, could I? Couldn’t I? Would I be able to ride it on to the ferry across those slippery metal ramps that I’d been warned about? Would I hold everybody up on the road? These were just some of the thoughts running through my mind.
The day came and we set off to Hull for the ferry, a shortish 80-mile ride. We’d arranged to meet the majority of scoots at the ferry port so that I could settle into riding a bit. It was just going to be me, Iggy & another lad who was two’s up. Iggy was in front of me on his Lambretta, leading the way, which meant that route finding was one less thing for me worry about. Snooty was running in, so sat behind me. As we got to the A1, I almost stopped grimacing at one stage but I relaxed a little bit too early. Doing around 65mph the scooter seized, instinctively I pulled the clutch in as it locked up and coasted to a halt.
I was so thankful that I was just coming up to a slip road so could pull over safely. Iggy came back to see what was wrong and he kicked the scooter up. It’d ONLY ‘nipped up’, (I was getting into this breaking down talk now) so we just carried on. It seized again just before Hull but with no time to spare we just fired it back up and carried on. I arrived safely to meet up with a pub full of scooter friends, telling them stories of my eventful journey. I managed to ride on to the ferry with no problems, what had I been worrying about?
The next morning the scooter seized another three times whilst riding through Belgium and on the final seizure we decided I’d run out of luck, so it went in the back up van just 12 miles from the rally. Even though I didn’t quite make it there I still felt like I’d done myself proud and had crossed off a few more fears. Mentally I could feel myself slowly starting to get back to how I’d felt in the beginning and was enjoying riding.
Scary bits along the way
Just before we get back in to that ‘scary’ bike training part, here are a few incidents that were part of my steep learning curve. These incidents and experiences are part of learning a new skill and thankfully I got away without harm, other than frayed nerves. As I tell my car pupils, as long as you learn from your mistakes it’s ok so don’t beat yourself up about them.
Two blown engines and a crash – in one day
My first go at riding to a rally was Bridlington 2014 before I’d even started working with my first trainer. I was really excited before this trip, no nerves at all and I couldn’t wait to get going. The fun didn’t last long though. After blowing up my first orange Dragster within three miles (big end whatever that is?) we went home to get another scoot, as you do.
We’d just bought another Dragster a few days before and didn’t really know too much about it and I’d not ridden it but I really wanted to ride to Brid.
Iggy had taken this black Dragster down the road and mentioned that the front end felt a little wobbly (a worn steering arm as I later found out) so suggested that I rode it to the petrol station a quarter of a mile away from our house to fill it up and see what I thought of it.
I could feel what he meant about the wobble but thought it’d be fine. We set off for the second time, with Iggy in front and Alister behind me. We live in an area with lots of twisty country roads and I’m familiar with them, both on the scooter & in the car. As we approached the first right hand bend, I was looking ahead, I slowed down quite a bit more than Iggy and tried to lean into the bend… the Dragster didn’t respond and I was heading for my first crash! As this was happening Iggy looked over his shoulder to see me heading for the barrier, seemingly out of control. I instinctively put out my left leg and kicked myself away from the crash barrier. Somehow I managed to stay on the bike but had collected a lot of grass and mud as I narrowly avoided disaster. We quickly took the scooter back home again and I jumped on the back of Iggy’s PX, a bit deflated about not riding myself but not at all put off or scared.
Despite blowing one scooter up earlier that day, having a near death experience and then being on the back of Iggy’s 210 (blowing a piston 40 miles from Brid), plus spending four hours sat at the side of the M62, and having finally got a recovery ride back home (rather than to Brid due to the stupid AA rules) we arrived in Bridlington 12 hours later and got in the pub at 9pm – still laughing. It was all good fun and I was loving riding at that time, this was before I’d had any riding lessons with the first instructor.
Scarborough 2015 – white lining
I had to wait until the following Easter before I could ride to another rally. Scarborough 2015. I was naïve enough to think that I could ride in a group of around 30 scooters, with most riders having 30-plus years of riding experience behind them. The weather was a bit damp & miserable. I held my own for the first part of the ride and was quite proud of myself. I was riding in the middle of the group and I’m not sure what, or why the following happened but we were coming up to a right hand bend with a dyke to the left of us. My front wheel touched the slippery solid white line on the left side of the road. My scooter started to wobble and I remember thinking that this was going to be so embarrassing when I crashed into the dyke.
How I managed to stay on the bike, I’ll never know but I looked over my shoulder and nodded to the lads behind, I (and they) knew how lucky I’d been. If I’d have been brave enough, I’d have taken my hands off the handlebars and punched the air but I felt like I’d just nearly died. I had to keep riding for quite a few miles and when we got to the petrol station I’m not sure if I’d have ever ridden again if there’d have been anybody free to ride my bike. This one really scared me.
My best & worst ever ride was Llandudno 2015. We set off in glorious sunshine on Friday, me on my tuned Dragster, Iggy on his Lammy. I loved every mile of our three and a half hour journey and knew this was how it should feel. We had a fantastic weekend with like-minded friends and then woke up to the vilest conditions ever. It was the most miserable, grey, wettest Sunday ever known to man (or woman). It felt like I was riding through a swimming pool, I had a dark visor on as well, so couldn’t see very well but I didn’t care anymore, I just knew I had to keep that throttle open.
I was soaked to the skin and very scared but other than a minor breakdown (mechanical and mental) and losing the rear end on a roundabout I got home safely around seven long, wet hours later. Again, I vowed that I was never riding again. Then when I’d had a few days to dry off and reflect, I thought if I can ride in that, what more could I need to experience? My riding continued…
Back to training…
During this time I’d met another bike trainer whilst I’d been working at Midland Scooter Centre. Dave ran a local one man band training school; called DRS on Facebook, you can also find their website at DRS Motorcycle Training. he seemed laid back and easy going. More importantly the customers who went to him for training all seemed to sing his praises, perfect for a nervous learner. I told him about my ‘problem’ partner and how afraid she’d been. I also told Linsey about him and planted the seed that he’d be good for her. Eventually after a few months of subtle hints she finally felt brave one day and arranged to meet Dave “Just to see if I can touch the floor on his bike.” Dave wasn’t letting her off that easily though and booked her in for a two-hour lesson. This was a pivotal moment in her training and also in her confidence building. We’ll let Linsey take up the story, hopefully the warts ‘n all view will encourage others to forget their fears and just get on and do it…
If at first
I must have been feeling quite confident one day because I asked Iggy to arrange for me to meet a bike trainer that he’d spoken about. I only wanted to try his bike for size and to see if I would feel any more confident on it. A date was set!
A few days later, I was on my way to meet Dave at DRS… my anxiety levels were rising as I drove to our arranged meeting point on an industrial estate in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. I saw his van parked up and the bikes were ready for me. He was casually sat perched on the back of his van and Dave invited me to sit and tell him about my experiences.
My mouth was dry because I was so scared but his friendly manner soon had me telling him where I was at with my riding & training. He seemed to understand me and didn’t think I was stupid.
He suggested sitting on the 600cc Honda just to see how it felt. He had a lowered seat for smaller pupils, which meant that my feet touched the floor. This made me happier but in no way confident. He then suggested having a ride on the 125 and doing left & right circuits on the training pad (this was a loaned car park with skips, parked vehicles, pot holes etc). Right circuits I was quite comfortable with but I was always scared of doing lefts. The bike never seemed to go where I was looking. As my training progressed, it turns out that I was holding on too tightly with my left arm, so no amount of looking where I wanted to go would help the handlebars move because I was as stiff as a board.
Dave suggested practicing left circuits on my mountain bike to help conquer my fixation with “I can’t turn left”. This helped a little but my head was still my biggest problem at this stage. Even so, I booked a two-hour lesson for the following week! I was really pleased with myself for getting back to bike lessons.
My second lesson with Dave started with me using the 125 and doing left & right circuits in the loaned car park but it quickly progressed to me getting onto the bigger bike and doing the same thing. I felt a great sense of achievement.
Out on the road
It was time to get a headset on and venture out onto the industrial estate to do a few circuits with Dave taking the lead and talking me through what he wanted from me. Being a driving instructor, I’m very familiar with the standards necessary for test so I didn’t find this part too difficult, it was my mental state holding me back rather than a lack of ability. It was time for our first road ride together with Dave leading. I started to relax a bit and I think I would even say I might have enjoyed it, just a little bit.
Slowly does it
Dave’s teaching style was so much more how I needed to be taught. Rather than pushing me to do things I didn’t feel confident doing he let me warm up on the training ground for as long as I needed and let me dictate how much we did on a lesson. If I was feeling a bit nervous, we’d stay on the industrial estate and work on manoeuvres, this easy going, no pressure approach really worked for me and I booked regular two-hour lessons.
Three’s a crowd?
One week Dave asked if I was ok with a lady called Diane coming on lesson with us the following week. She had her own test approaching (she was doing her A2 auto licence on a Piaggio Beverly 350) and wanted to do a bit of work on her manoeuvres. I was a bit reluctant but this was actually a big turning point for me. It was Diane that identified my problem with turning left. She could see I was gripping on way too hard and as soon as she suggested relaxing my arm, bingo – I could turn left!
She helped to boost my confidence because she was observing my riding and telling me to believe in myself. She gave me her phone number and offered to come on my lessons at anytime if I wanted her support. We are now friends and I thank her dearly for that support.
As my manoeuvres started to get better, my confidence grew as well. Those left turns I’d always protested against started to get much easier. Try to turn left with your arm locked the next time you’re riding and you’ll see it’s nigh on impossible! Relaxing on the scooter is just as important as being able to work the controls or read the road.
I was still very nervous though, I’d often dread my lessons and riding my own scooters wasn’t feeling like it used to. I would question ‘why did I ever start lessons?’ I was determined to see this thing through though. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter if I never rode again after passing my test; I just needed to get that licence. My CBT and theory test were due to run out in September 2016 as well so I needed to crack on. It was time to book tests!
I was still riding the Vespa and Lambretta at home as well but as my lessons progressed I kept it to a minimum so that I didn’t get used to the scooters more than the bike. In August I finally felt brave enough to book my Mod 1 and Mod 2 Direct Access. In part three we’ll see how that went.
How to get on the road
Support SLUK by buying from our online shop