Direct Access – Taking the bike test – Part 3 | FEATURE
As Linsey’s bike lessons progressed you could see that (even though she won’t admit it) she was, in a perverse kind of way, beginning to gain confidence and almost enjoyed learning her new skills.
That’s not to say her sleepless nights, panicking and general riding anxiety had disappeared completely. It just became more manageable. To be honest she had more lessons than she really needed to get herself through the test but for her own peace of mind she needed to be the absolute best she could be and not settle for ‘just’ a pass.
As with any rider/driver training you shouldn’t just be looking to get rid of those ‘L’ plates. You need to realise that these skills will help you to survive.
If you missed the first two parts of this story you can catch up here…
The pressure is on
Let’s see how Linsey fared once the test was finally booked…
I booked both mod 1 and 2 on the same day. They were going to be 15 days apart, which meant the pressure was on to pass mod 1. You have to present both theory certificate and mod 1 pass certificate before you can do your mod 2…
Thanks to my job and years on the road (both in cars and on scooters) I had no problem passing the theory test but it was due to run out a few weeks after my test date, along with my CBT. If I didn’t pass my test first time I’d have to do both again before I could retake my test. Failure was not an option.
I had been learning and practicing the manoeuvres on lessons ready for test so I knew I was capable of passing, if I stayed calm.
The day arrived and it was a wet and gloomy September morning. The thought of having to get the big Honda over 31mph and then performing an emergency stop kept my bowels well occupied before I left home.
I’d arranged to meet my trainer at the test centre and only managed 15 minutes on the bike, just to warm up. My nerves were dreadful, visibility wasn’t very good and my glasses kept steaming up. I would have preferred to do anything other than do that test.
It was time to go and wait in the test centre! The examiner came out of the office and called my name. I produced the relevant documents and he explained how the test would take place. The module 1 test is the off road part, which lasts around 20 minutes and is conducted in a specific training area.
I was instructed to ride my bike into the training area and park up facing forwards in a parking bay and stand next to it. My first manoeuvre was to manually wheel the motorbike out of the bay and reverse it into another bay, keeping control and making effective observation. I don’t weigh very much and the bike is quite a heavy bit of kit so I was worried about dropping it. My arms were shaking and I was sweating but I managed it.
The next part was to slalom around some coloured cones, then ride a figure of 8 around the last two cones until instructed to stop. Yes, I did it.
Next it was the slow ride. I had to ride at walking pace with the examiner walking behind me and stop with my front wheel in a specific area. Phew, I did that as well.
The next part was to ride around the training area, whichever way the examiner asks you to. This is to demonstrate cornering. It has cones to mark the area that you are to use and then you are asked to do a controlled stop again, with your front wheel in a specific area. I nailed it.
The last two parts were the ones I was dreading. These were the swerve test and the emergency stop. To pass both of these parts of the test, your speed is measured and you have to reach a minimum of 31mph before you can perform either of these manoeuvres. You’re allowed two attempts at both of these, if you don’t reach the minimum speed then it would be a fail. I didn’t want to have to attempt either one twice. I was determined to make progress and do them first time.
Big girls pants
The weather was making me feel vulnerable because it was raining but I had to put my big girls pants on and ‘man up’ as my trainer, Dave would have said.
I was instructed to ride around the training area and ride through some cones with the minimum speed and wait for the examiner to raise his hand before I did the emergency stop. Adrenaline was pumping. As I came around the last right hand corner, I opened up the throttle, looked straight ahead and I really meant every bit of speed. He raised his hand, I stopped under control. Oh my goodness, I was shaking. I’d done it, now ‘just’ the swerve test.
The swerve test in my opinion is the most challenging part of the whole test. Again, I had to reach a minimum of 31mph through the cones, then swerve the bike to ride through another lot of offset cones and stop under control. I did it. I passed my mod 1 first time, with just two driver faults. The elation I felt was unbelievable. I was so proud.
This feeling lasted for the rest of the day but then the realisation of doing my on road test started to make me more nervous than ever…
The final lesson – of doom
It was arranged that I would only see my trainer once more before my mod 2 test. The only time we could get together was a Friday, after a full day at work. I met him at our usual meeting point in Ilkeston at 5.30pm. It was the end of September, the weather again was wet and miserable and we had rush hour traffic through Nottingham to contend with. I had never even been to the area where I was going to be doing my on road test, this was to be my first time. I knew I had to focus. This turned out to be my longest ever lesson. We rode for what seemed like nine hours on unlit, wet, winding roads. Visibility was dreadful; I really didn’t want to keep riding. Over three long miserable hours later, we got back to our original meeting place. I didn’t feel at all ready for test. I felt more vulnerable than ever. I couldn’t do a test feeling like this!
Dave had lessons booked for early the next morning and he suggested that I met him first thing in the morning to use his bike to ride around independently and practice whatever I felt I needed to do so that mentally I was ready for Tuesday. I was relieved to have been offered another riding opportunity and snapped up the chance.
Saturday morning came round and I’d not slept very well after the previous nights lesson, I set off to meet him feeling like I wasn’t capable of passing test in three days. I got on the bike and it just felt so different. The challenging ride the night before had made a man out of me. I now knew I could ride the bike!
Test day came and the weather was lovely. The sun was shining; I had bluebirds tweeting around my head. My whole mind set was different.
I met my trainer at the test centre with just enough time to have a few minutes on the bike beforehand. Mod 2 lasts around 40 minutes and includes an eyesight check, vehicle safety questions, road riding on a variety of different roads and a 10 minute spell of independent riding, consisting of following road signs or simple instructions.
It was time to go into the test centre. I met the examiner and he explained the test, kitted me up with an earpiece and told me to do my own ride and that it was his responsibility to stay with me. He was going to follow me in a car (as they do on some bike tests). Test started. I felt quite calm. I kind of knew that I could do it. Before I knew it, we were heading back to the test centre, the time passed so quickly. It was over… I passed first time with zero rider faults.
Passing my test and doing direct access has helped me to believe in myself a little bit more. I still get ‘pooh pains’ at the thought of getting on the scoot, especially over winter when I hadn’t been out for a few weeks but when I’m on it, I love it and I can only hope that my confidence will grow with experience.
This year I’m planning to ride to all the rallies and I’ll also be riding to Vespa World Days in Germany. I’m hoping that my confidence grows as the miles increase. Time will tell…
Forget the excuses – get it booked
Long time riders use every excuse in the book not to get a full bike licence. Middle-aged men are the worst culprits, yes you may have been riding scooters all your life but stop kidding yourself. You’re still riding illegally with your tuned up scooter registered as a 125. No ‘L’ plates on it because they’re not ‘cool’. Invalid insurance because of the extra horses under your shiny panels. In many cases you’ve not even bothered renewing your CBT once it’s expired for the umpteenth time.
They’ll spend hundreds on a new exhaust or thousands on a spray job but won’t bother to pass a test.
Riding on a CBT forever limits you to what and where you can ride (legally) and there’s every chance that the CBT system will be changing in the very near future, see our story on the consultation period. If you want to have your say about bike training you can get involved before February 16th by following that link.
Cost of a car licence?
Getting a full bike licence isn’t quite as straightforward as passing a car test but in reality it doesn’t cost as much as a full car licence and the rewards are worth it.
The DVSA recommend an average of 45 hours paid tuition to get to test standard in a car, an hours tuition costs £20-£25. That works out at around £1000 in lessons to get you to car test standard.
Cost of a bike licence?
In comparison, (depending on the individual) you could half that and get a full bike licence. Bike lessons cost around £30, Linsey had 18 hours of tuition, that’s £540, plus the cost of the tests. If you’re not as nervous as her and your skills live up to your expectations you could potentially half that. People are often under the misconception that they have to pay for a crash course, actually doing ‘pay as you go’ per lesson can work out cheaper if you’re a quick learner.
Remember, this is a skill for life. You’re naturally more vulnerable on two wheels (after all you can’t fall off a car) and getting the best training is one way of keeping you safe. The top and bottom of it is that most learner riders are scared to take a test on a bike. They only want to ride a scooter, so why should they learn how to ride a bike? The law may well be against you but there’s not a great lot you can do to change things, so suck it up buttercup and just go with it. You never know you might just come out of it with a newfound respect for all things on two wheels, as well as your shiny new full licence. Despite all the nerves and protestations Linsey will freely admit she enjoyed getting to grips with the bike and the experience has done her the world of good.
DRS Motorcycle training
Linsey passed her test with Dave at DRS in Ilkeston, highly recommended if you’re in the area. Otherwise Google your local training schools and ask around for recommendations.
A quick guide to the minimum requirements for a test machine
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