Well, I’ll be damned, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.
It’s a muggy day. Hot, humid and oppressive, the day promises a storm. I’m early. Again. I take the thermal lining out of my jacket, and change from grandma to biker chick. The instructor comes out to meet me. My companion for the day is Alison.
Alison, is also a nervy CBT passer in need of more experience. She’s chatty and colourful, and keeps roadkill for pets.
I’ll explain later.
Me and Suzu part company as Alison wants her more than me. I’m introduced to Suzu no.2. She’s jazzy with orange stickers, as if she’s trying to con the boy racers into thinking she’s a sporty number. She isn’t.
I start her up, remembered to kick up the stand (it’s dangerous if you don’t) and as we pull forwards, I learn that Clutch behaves differently.
I learn that she might not be sporty, but she’s got personality. Clutch bites quicker and brakes need more than a gentle touch. We get on well and I soon have the upper hand: no judders, jutters nor jitters today.
Myself and Alison set the pace of the day – she needs regular eCig breaks, and I need regular tea – it works out well. Instructor Pete enjoys the breaks as he gets to talk about his time in Australia. Alison gets to tell us her story about the pet hedgehog.
I look forward to going out on the road. We decide it’s prudent to do the CBT route again, with a couple of extra twists to challenge us. I’m happy with my control of the bike and realise I’m smiling. Until I stall on a junction and I’m in a bad position on the road. Luckily it’s quiet and I don’t trigger any road rage. I take my time and we’re settling back into a comfortable place.
We lose Alison and she’s out of communication range. Pete goes back to check she’s safe. It’s not long before they’re tootling around the bend and I breathe a sigh of relief.
Drivers are taking their chances in front of us from junctions. We are instructed on the need to be move with the flow of traffic. In the conditions we’re in, that means 30 mph.
What? That’s FAST!
We work on pulling out of junctions, picking up speed more quickly and positioning ourselves more boldly. It works and awareness is increasing. I slow in good time for a heavy goods vehicle out of a blind junction, safely stop a manoeuvre as an emergency vehicle speeds over a hill and notice that cyclist who isn’t noticing anything. I realise I’m calmer and I’m not swearing so much today.
The school run begins and I’m not liking it one bit. Traffic piles on to the road like all the cars have just been dumped from a refuse truck and rolling into MY road. I’m tiring, getting a little nervy and the mistakes creep in. Alison feels it too. I’m concentrating hard on the vehicles around me, planning my moves. But there is an aspect of my observation I’ve still to work on. Probably something I should have thought of earlier. You know – like signs and traffic lights.
We’re on a busy junction, pulling right. We’re given instructions. I’m in position ready to go. Lifesaver check, I pull out smoothly, almost congratulate myself, but as I go, I notice a red light in the periphery of my vision.
S*** – I’ve broken a red light.
The path is very clear for me. It’s like I’d been given the red carpet and all eyes are on me. I hold my breath, pleading with Suzu to get us around before the light change that could kill us both.
I am writing and able to tell the tale.
The gaffer asked how things went.
Pete beams, “It’s been a good day.”
“Apart from the last bit,” says Alison. She’d had troubles too. I nod in agreement.
We chat about next steps: I know what I need to work on most and feel that with one more session I should feel confident enough to do it on my own. The conversation turns to the weather and banter.
“You know that Alison has a hedgehog?” Pete declares to the gaffer.
The gaffer looks at Alison quizzically, “Are you collecting roadkill already?”