PH BLOG: HARRIS LEARNS BIKING, PART ONE
It's CBT time for Monkey, who's on a mission to find out more about biking
So on Saturday and Sunday I did my CBT with BMW (one of the advantages of being an established car brand is that newbie Billies like me will instinctively trust you), as a part of a direct-access course over the coming weeks. It was extremely thought-provoking and mostly enjoyable.
I held a CBT about seven years ago - it took a day of wobbling about on a scabby 125 and some road riding. At the end of it I couldn't believe that I was legally allowed to use the public highway. The whole thing was slapdash and insufficient. That CBT lapsed after two years. The BMW CBT, as a part of the Direct Access Course, takes two days and involves more of everything. Lacking any talent on two wheels, I found this reassuring. The weather forecast wasn't.
I passed my driving test in 1992, so cannot comment on the current test or teaching procedures, but it's quite clear that learning to ride a bike with BMW contains a level of contextual, non-practical teaching that far outweighs anything I've experienced in the car world. You're immediately made to feel you are embarking on a fun process, but one which can have serious consequences if not approached seriously. You are entering a club.
The two days is as much about the culture of motorcycling, the bending of the human brain to operating on two wheels in a predominantly four-wheeled world, as it is to physically riding a bike.
It's this relationship between cars and bikes that I want to investigate during the Direct Access process. From the very beginning you are taught that, as a motorcyclist, the motor car is something to be wary of.
For me, this is the most divisive aspect of the CBT course: the message that by default a motorcyclist has to assume that every other vehicle is a potential threat. Of course, it's the only sensible way to approach a situation where a human body is protected by nothing more than clothing when surrounded by tonnes of metal, but as human beings we naturally amplify emotions and what begins as a perceived threat quickly becomes The Enemy.
Summary thoughts on this first, most basic part of the training? You can't fail to be impressed at how rounded the process is: instructor Ian Biederman spends hours talking with you, helping you learn the passive, but positive mindset required to ride safely in the UK. I really enjoyed the amount of thinking required to read the road and the peripheral surroundings.
The CBT confirms what we already know: that nothing fosters sympathy for fellow road users like cross-pollination. Hire a van for a weekend's house-moving and the next time you encounter some poor sod limping past an HGV in a Mercedes Sprinter, you will be less hasty to take issue with his middle-lane occupancy.
I'm looking forward to the next stages, and maybe doing something I didn't manage in a motor car: passing my test first time. With a 60 per cent pass rate, I'm not holding my breath.