PH takes on the CBT

I should have done my CBT yonks ago; when mates were doing it as they turned 16, when there was spare time and cash during university summers, when I started doing this job half a dozen years ago. And I didn't. Why? An assortment of reasons. While the idea of riding a bike has always intrigued, I've never yearned desperately to do it as I did with driving. As such, getting the CBT done, or saving money for a bike, was never prioritised, because cars were always number one. Plus there's the fact I was a bit scared: scared I wouldn't understand it, scared I'd fail.. just scared, to be frank.

Still, when the offer came - full disclosure and all that - from Honda to get a few car journalists behind the handlebars (I still have a lot of lingo to learn), it seemed like the ideal opportunity to scratch that two-wheeled itch. Or at least begin to, given there are still the A2 and A tests to do beyond the CBT. Here's what happened.

The CBT day began with the elementary stuff; this is Compulsory Basic Training, after all. So your vision is checked, as is your awareness of, y'know, wearing a helmet all the time and wearing flip flops none of the time. Once that's out of the way, the practical element can begin. In addition to getting familiar with which thing does what on a bike - like teaching the other guys in attendance to suck eggs, but useful when you really don't know - there's a lesson on daily and weekly bike maintenance. Again, it will seem painfully obvious to those in the know, but worthwhile to proper novices.

While it would be nice to tell a story of taking to a motorbike like a duck to water, the truth was anything but. Such was my chronic lack of experience (and, seemingly, aptitude), that I received one-on-one tuition while the other attendants made progress as a trio. Balance wasn't too tricky, given it is ultimately a bike, but combining that with my making hands and feet do things they've never really done before, while keeping myself from looking down at what they're doing, was really difficult. And that was just going in a straight line.

To say it clicked in the car park manoeuvring section would be exaggerating quite significantly, but things did gradually begin to make sense. In first gear, that is. Handily, some things were (and are) similar to learning to drive a car: keeping eyes up, making inputs smooth, thinking as far ahead as possible. Some of it, though, really took some concentration. Slipping the clutch to aid slow speed turns really makes no sense after a decade of driving, finding second at a stop happens as often as neutral and the initial first-to-second changes are jerky to say the least.

Just prior to lunch, though, when practising T-junctions, the whole process begins to flow a little, bringing together all that had been learnt in the morning about observation, pulling away, gearchanges and turns. But then everything seems easier in a controlled environment, right? After lunch is when it all becomes a lot more real, with a compulsory minimum of two hours riding on the road before qualification. Having not exactly mastered getting around cones in a car park, I was hardly brimming with confidence.

Especially after struggling with hill starts. (I promise some of the riding was good, honest.) But using the rear brake under my right foot as a handbrake while slipping the clutch in and adding the right amount of throttle felt like attempting keep-ups with a ping pong ball while juggling coconuts. And balancing a beanbag on your head. Perhaps that's an exaggeration. But be in no doubt that riding a motorbike isn't as simple as it might seem.

Bizarrely, when released from the confines of the car park and onto the open road, the process seemed a lot more logical. The gearchanges came together more cohesively, acceleration and deceleration was less jerky and - dare it be said - the whole experience was a lot more fun. Really, really good fun, actually. The sense of speed, immediacy and freedom was like nothing available on four wheels, even with just 125cc. Then it started to rain. Then it started to hail. Then riding a bike was less fun.

Still, despite some rather adverse conditions, some quite considerable panic at roundabouts and one or two iffy gearchanges, a solid chunk of the two hours on the road was immensely enjoyable; a realisation that the good bits of riding a bike were even better than hoped for. Oh, and I passed, by the way.

So yes, with presumably quite tedious predictability for those already on two wheels, the bike bug has bitten - I think it's great. There's everything you want in the best driving experiences, even while never going beyond 60mph: as a rider you're an integral part, the bike only as good as your inputs. In a lot of cars the driver can get away with being quite lazy; the demands of a bike mean that's never possible, but also that the rewards are on another level.

The next step is the theory test, then the two practicals; to say I'm enthusiastic would be accurate, certainly. For now, I'm all ears on any advice and tips that PHers may have, because goodness knows they're needed. More - hopefully - to follow soon!


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (95) Join the discussion on the forum

  • BFleming 07 May 2019

    This brings back happy memories of doing my CBT and test back in 2000. I did my CBT at some place in Vauxhall on a Saturday. It was comedy, as it was all on premises in a school playground back then, no on-road use. One lad kept falling off, so he failed. My subsequent training with with BMF in Bromley; dirt cheap way to learn, and great tuition. I passed on a CB125 which felt tiny. I did my test in Sidcup, and the only tricky part was the U-turn. But I honestly reckon doing my bike test made me a better car driver (more awareness of things around me). Passing on a 125 gave me an A2 licence for 2 years, so I was restricted to 25KW/34PS. I bought a BMW F650 (X262OEV) which Bracken on the Old Kent Road fitted the restrictor to. The restrictor was a funny old thing - basically a big block of rubber that restricted the air intake massively. I've read of people that removed the restrictor, cut out the restricting rubber with a stanley knife & reinstalled it (giving full power) but I doubt I ever did that. Definitely not. The restrictor block had writing on the edge of it, so an inspection would say it was definitely restricted.

    After my 2 year probation I bought a ZX6R G1 (R586VEY), then a SV1000S (HF03NVC) a couple of years after that. There hasn't been anything in the garage for many years now though, and I do miss bikes. I don't miss commuting on one, but I've recently considered a ZX10R for those sunny days. Maybe...

  • PistonBroker 07 May 2019

    Did mine in November 1994, having cycled a 12-mile round trip post GCSEs to my summer job 6 days a week to save the money. A lad used to pass me on his DT50 and it turned out to be the lad I bought mine off - he was doing them up and then selling them on to trade up.

    Turns out he wasn't doing them up well enough! I had to bow out of my first CBT attempt early as the indicators failed! Needless to say, having not long owned it and with the amount of spares he had in his garage, the lad I bought it off was my first port of call and I went back a week later to try again.

    This time I got the intercom and the lead. But the intercom was rubbish and being a silly 16yo I elected to say nothing and muddle through. Which didn't work.

    The instructor stopped the 3 of us at the end and asked the other 2 if they felt they were happy to ride home on their own - he was going to have to follow me home as there was no way he could give me my certificate. So off they went and the instructor and I set off on the 3-mile journey home. Which wasn't as alien to me as the council estate we'd been riding around earlier.

    Trust my Dad to choose this moment as the one to be ultra proud - he ran out onto the drive to see how I'd got on. Well, I don't know Dad, it didn't seem to be very positive a little while ago! Thankfully the instructor declared my riding to be transformed and I had passed my CBT. Phew!

  • EvoBarry 07 May 2019

    Matt gets it. Be like Matt.

    I started riding back when Part1&2 test were still around, and was a very early CBT participant (it overlapped Part1 at that point). I had a moped at 16 but by 17 I'd saved enough for a CB100N. The feeling of freedom and being part of the environment you're travelling through stays with me to this day, nearly 30years later. I ride to work most days, year round (where feasible), and still enjoy weekend/fun runs. Bikes rule.

    ps: I enjoy driving, and class myself as a motoring enthusiast, but cars aren't the same (not worse/better, just not the same over all satisfaction for me).

  • Mr Dendrite 07 May 2019

    17th Birthday, slap the L plates on a 250 and away I went. Rock up at the Test centre 6 weeks later. It was simple back then, but of course we all died in horrible accidents.

    I think the system is much better from a safety and training aspect but it does seem to discourage people from motorcycles.

  • Murphy16 07 May 2019

    I'm surprised more 'car people' aren't into bikes. They offer the analogue and engaging experience car enthusiasts seem to bemoan the loss of in modern cars, even at low speeds and small capacity bikes.

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