After a day of messing around on a baby bike in order to pass the CBT, the next step for a wannabe ‘Easy Rider’ is to move up to the big boys’ toys – a 500cc machine and the Module One off-road manoeuvres test.
This was it – this was what my fellow trainees and I had been waiting for, the chance to get on a bike that has a bit more fire in its belly.
First up was a quick refresher through the controls, with a warning that everything would be a bit more responsive compared to the bikes on which we’d done our CBTs.
And to prove the point, Martin Nurton, my instructor and owner of Horizon Rider Training in Milton Keynes (01908 694333, www.horizonridertraining.co.uk) asked me to sit on the bike while he pushed me along, before asking me to squeeze the front brake. The speed at which I stopped, even at such a gentle pace, was almost enough to throw me over the handlebars. Lesson learned – don’t ever snatch at the brakes!
Next on the agenda – get used to the way it feels. Being based at the National Bowl, Horizon have far more space to play with than other schools when it comes to training ground practice, so it was round and round the Bowl until we were comfortable on the machines.
It was all leading up to another mammoth six-hour lesson to prepare us for the first of two tests you need to pass before getting your full category A motorcycle licence.
Module 1 is an off-road manoeuvres test comprising a series of skills deemed necessary for everyday road use. So why it’s held off-road is a mystery to me – although it has recently been announced that by the end of this year the test will revert to just the one on-road test.
For the six-hour lesson held the day before our Module 1 test, practice was the name of the game. A stretch of the Bowl was set up with cones to replicate exactly what we would find at the test centre.
Five, six, seven, eight times, however many attempts we needed to get to grips with each individual part of the test, that’s what we did. And as the day wore on, pretty much each section became second nature and Marcus, our Module 1 instructor, finally allowed us to go home, give our cramping clutch hands a break and get a good night’s rest for the test proper the next day.
Bright and early the next morning (7am on a Sunday to be precise – a time I didn’t realise existed) it was back to the Bowl to pick up the bikes and ride over to the test centre in Leighton Buzzard.
After a tense few minutes watching the first candidate pass and pile the pressure on me (Horizon had a 100 per cent pass rate in the month I took my Module 1 test) I was finally out doing mine.
First, take the bike off its stand and wheel it backwards from one bay to another.
Then it was slalom through the cones using the clutch control mastered the day previously before performing at least two figure-of-eights around the last two cones. No putting your feet down, no stalling the engine. I went a little too wide for Martin’s liking but I still got round with no problems.
Next was a circuit ride before building the speed up to a minimum 31mph through the speed detection device and swerving around the cone. I rode through the speed device at just over 32mph at my first attempt (if you fail to get up to the required speed the examiner will give you a second opportunity) before bringing the machine to a controlled stop.
Then it was the U-turn – this had been a real bugbear for me the previous day, constantly failing to get my revs up, find the biting point and to make the turn in one go without putting my foot down. It was the one part of the test I was dreading having been so rubbish at it the day before.
A quick lifesaver glance over my right shoulder (even in the controlled environment we were testing in), then turn the head to look where I wanted the bike to go and I was off – round at a good speed, with good revs and good clutch control. What was I so worried about? That was easy!
Next up, the slow ride, designed to replicate moving in slow-moving traffic. Revs up, clutch out to the biting point and follow behind the examiner for ten yards or so, without passing his outstretched clipboard.
Finally, another circuit before passing through the speed detector at a minimum of 31mph again before carrying out an emergency stop. I later found out that I had almost given Martin a heart attack because of the speed I was going. Turned out it was 39mph – a good 7mph over the requirement. Still – I stopped it safely and under control, and that’s the main thing!
A little under ten minutes after I started I was back in the examiner’s office to be told I’d passed with not a single minor fault recorded – and I was handed the Module 1 certificate I would need to allow me to take Module 2.
That fully licensed life on two wheels gets ever closer!
More information on getting on two wheels is available from the motorcycle industry’s campaign aimed at recruiting more new riders. Full details, including how to claim an hour’s free ride to see if you like it, are available on the website at www.geton.co.uk