A few weeks ago, I acquired my motorbike license thanks to the Honda School Of Motorcycling.
For those of you who don’t know the format, passing the license comprises four parts: the theory, then the CBT (aka Compulsory Basic Training that means you can ride bikes up to 125cc), which is followed by a low-speed test (Mod 1) to ensure you can U-Turn, avoid obstacles and emergency brake. After this, test number four (Mod 2) takes you out on the road, where an examiner watches your every move to make sure you’re competent in real-world conditions. Convince him, and you’re all set!
Getting a full motorbike license, then, demands a lot of time, dedication and money, which is why biker numbers are declining and why the average age of a rider is over 50.
Which is disappointing but not surprising; after all, people these days are lazier than ever, insurance, tax and fuel prices are exorbitant, and with Uber et al meaning that we can move around most cities relatively cheaply, who really needs personal transportation?
To that I say it’s not about need, then, rather more about want. I don’t need a V6 for my MX-5, I wanted one, just like I didn’t really need a motorbike. But now that I have one - this stunning Honda CB650R - my life has become far more streamlined, a lot less frustrating and hugely more enjoyable.
So after only a few weeks as a bona fide biker, here are a few of the things I love and hate about life on two wheels…
I’ve spoken before about all the time I save commuting on two wheels, and the figure still stands at 11 full days a year versus buses and trains.
What’s more, I get to ride on proper, three-lane motorways now (the CBT that gets you on bikes and mopeds up to 125cc doesn’t allow this), meaning that the potential time savings are even greater, especially on the delight that is the M25.
For me, though, one of the biggest pluses about riding is that it’s a lot of fun. Accelerating up to speed on my CB650R is always a blast, and the engine and exhaust noise never fail to make me smile.
Being new to biking, I’m still getting my head around the fact that many car drivers see motorbike riders as a completely different species. And because they’ve probably never been on a bike, they have zero empathy for riders while tailgating three inches from your rear wheel.
So as a reminder to all car drivers: please give motorbike riders a little more consideration, because trust me when I say it gets scary when room for error is snatched away.
This one’s a small one, but I got my first nod from a fellow big biker the other day, and I can’t tell you how happy that made me.
So to the man on the A404 Westway heading out of London recently, thank you for nodding at the short bloke with the Anime-inspired helmet. Your little gesture gave me a massive sense of acceptance and made my day!
If you thought you saw a lot of people on their mobile phones while driving a car, you won’t believe how many I see on a motorbike. On any given day, I spot more than 20 distracted drivers while filtering through slow-moving traffic and general riding. In fact, I’m considering a career change to become a motorbike cop with a ticketing machine, because I reckon I’d be able to retire after 20 minutes.
On top of mobile phone usage, the other thing that I never knew was so prevalent was smoking weed behind the wheel. Seriously, I smell it all the time, so again, motorbike cops must have a field day with idiots like these.
Yup, the CB650R I’ve been loaned by Honda for a few months has the option of heated grips, something I never knew was a thing on motorbikes; simply push a button on the handlebar and the grips heat up in seconds, saving your hands (albeit only one side of them) from freezing over in the winter.
I’m unsure if anyone’s noticed, but I’m actually quite short. In fact, I’m five foot seven inches (1.7m) first thing in the morning which, in real-world terms, is a blessing and a curse.
I say blessing because it means that I can fit into any car I like, and I get to shop at GapKids, while the disadvantages include growing up with trousers that were always cut at the bottom and sewn up by my mum to make them look OEM.
In the biking world, short legs mean I’m unable to ‘flat foot’ which is the ability to put your feet flat on the ground when stationary. Because of this, I lose around 50 per cent of surface area with the ground, which reduces grip and makes it easier for me to slip and drop the bike.
If high heels for men ever become fashionable, count me in!
I know I’m only a few weeks into ‘proper’ riding, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the CB650R, have loved getting more stuck into the biking world (I even went to a Triumph UK launch the other day), and can’t wait to go on some proper adventures.
And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, anyone toying with the idea of getting on two wheels, I say go for it. Acquiring my license is the best decision I made this year, and I’m confident you’ll love it too.
Especially if you’re taller than a child…