For years, I’ve promised myself two things: 1. Become an actual racing driver, and 2. Get a motorbike license. The first thing I achieved recently after CT Editor Matt and I completed our first pint-sized EnduroKa race, and now, I’m pleased to say that my journey on two wheels has kicked off nicely, too.
That’s because - thanks to the Honda School of Motorcyling - I’m now a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) holder, able and allowed to ride motorbikes up to 125cc. I’m excited to get plenty of experience under my belt, and here’s why…
Damn, I went there, but unlike driving most cars, riding any motorbike takes skill and concentration. For starters, you need to engage your entire body to get riding right; left hand does the clutch, right hand does the throttle and front brake, left foot does the gears (down for first, up for second, third etc), while right foot does the rear brake.
And on top of all that, you need to lean into corners to assist the motorbike’s movement - it’s proper, physical ‘driving’. That’s exactly why - and feel free to back me up here - riding a motorbike is more rewarding than driving most cars.
The sense of accomplishment I got after the road riding route of the CBT was also mega; not only did I not fall off - I mean that as a joke because at no point did I feel unsafe - but I’d just read the road and other drivers’ next moves more than I had in any car.
This included preempting an Audi’s sudden lane change (the model designation I’m unsure of because they all look the same to me) and an XC90’s refusal to yield, as well as monitoring road surfaces for potholes, dampness and slippery manhole covers.
Riding a motorbike, then, demands a level of awareness not necessarily needed to drive a car, and for that I believe that the lessons learned on two wheels will make me more competent on four.
CT HQ is situated in central London. I live eight miles away, and yet it takes me three trains, 15 minutes of walking and over an hour to get here. When I leave to go home, trains are often so packed with commuters that the station closes its doors to ‘regulate the service’.
Per day, I also spend over £8 on travel, and the Central Line especially is bloody grim when the temperature rises. So yes, getting to and from CT HQ is often the kind of ball ache that makes you drop to the ground, cross your eyes and wish you’d already done the babies thing because no way will they ever produce the goods again.
That’s why a motorbike appeals so much. On something like a Honda Grom or the oh-so-awesome Monkey, I’ll get close to 200mpg, will get to work in 30 minutes, and won’t be at the mercy of delays, expense and frustration. Better yet, I’ll have fun commuting, which is currently the one part of my day that I don’t enjoy.
What if I fall off? What if he doesn’t see me? These are the questions that have put me off riding a motorbike for years. Then there are the comments from others, including the one I’ve heard most: ‘it’s not you I worry about, it’s other people’. And sure, these are all valid points, but after having completed my CBT, I’m annoyed at myself for having wasted so many years thinking the worst.
And that’s because Compulsory Basic Training teaches you a lot more than just how to ride. It helps heighten all your senses, unlocks a newfound respect for the road, and teaches you to read people’s body language and movements.
Like I also mentioned, at no point did I feel unsafe, despite rain, wind, 60mph country lanes and drivers who hadn’t seen me. The reason for my sense of safety was simple: the training teaches you to always put yourself in the shoes of the driver or the hazard ahead, meaning that you’ve already backed off the throttle before they’ve even had a chance to stop at their junction and think about what they’ll have for dinner.
Before embarking on my two-wheeled journey, I spoke to CT and personal friend Rory Reid. He’s pretty big in the bike scene after passing his motorbike license last year. Here’s what he had to say:
“The biggest barriers to entry into the world of bikes are money, time and fear. Those factors, in addition to the simple fact that getting on two wheels usually isn’t even necessary, means there’s always an excuse not to do it, or at least to stop at the CBT level. But if you can get past those reasons, riding a proper motorbike is one of the most rewarding and exhilarating things anyone can do.
One of the best and most surprising things about riding a big bike is how quickly you rediscover the thrill of speed. So many cars numb the sensation of travelling fast, but on a bike even 70mph can feel like like 170mph, as you’re so exposed and so dependent on your own ability. Even the most mundane journeys become fun again.
I’ve become a much better driver as a result of passing my bike test. I’m so much more aware of my surroundings and so much more in tune with my machine, that I pick up on even the slightest changes in conditions, whether that be the road surface, wind, or other traffic.
Obviously the scariest part of riding is how fast things can go wrong. Some of the stories I hear are terrifying. But that fear in itself has taught me to be disciplined and safe. I tend to ride super-defensively on the road, saving the fast stuff for track days, where I can develop my skill on the bike.
It’s not for everyone, but if you take the plunge and take it seriously, it’s massively rewarding.”
To conclude, then, I’m very excited. I’m excited to have fun, I’m excited to save time and money and I’m excited to be a better and more accomplished rider and driver.
If I could have my way, I’d make it compulsory for everyone to get their motorbike licenses too because I’d guarantee that the skills and respect from all road users would outweigh society’s need for driverless cars.
And now over to you…what advice do the bikers among us have to anyone thinking about getting a CBT or levelling up to a full license? I’d love to know your thoughts!