Success?

It’s the day of the Mod 1 test.

A mod 1 test is the first of two that a motorcyclist does to obtain their full license.  It involves a series of off-road exercises on a football-pitch-sized pad.  The bike has to be of a minimum specification.  I’m on a Suzuki Gladius (650cc).  There’s a sequence of manoeuvres every candidate goes through in a particular order.  You first have to park your bike so that you’d have to reverse to get out of the bay again.  You get off the bike and manually steer it into an adjacent parking bay.  There’s a bit of a technique to this, so that you’re not carrying its weight.  I’m successful at this, however, I remember that I didn’t do any observations.  You are told to treat the pad as if it’s a public road.  That’s a minor fault and I’m allowed 5.  To avoid the mistake again, I imagine a small group of kids playing football in the street that I have to watch out for all the time.  It’s a silly idea, but it works for me, otherwise, I only feel the need to observe where the examiner is.

Once complete, you are sat in front of a line of cones in yellow, followed by two blue.  You slalom through the yellow then perform two figures of eight around the blue, and when they are complete he calls you over and sets you up for riding at walking pace until you reach a designated stopping point.  After this you complete a U-turn between two lines.

I’m starting to feel I could pass the test.  I haven’t faltered yet.   I’m smiling and breathe a sigh of relief.  The examiner smiles too.  Such small gestures take on so much importance in unfamiliar circumstances, whether intentional or not.  Only three exercises to go.

The first is to round a bend at a reasonable pace and come to controlled stop in a designated area as if you were approaching red traffic lights.  That goes well and I almost cry out a yahoo when I look down to see my front wheel bang in the centre of where it is supposed to be.

The last couple of weeks have been quite stressful.  I’d spent three sessions on the 125cc improving my road craft, then two relaxed sessions getting used to handling a bigger bike. However, to make the sessions on time meant morning rush hour traffic through one of the most notorious cities in the country for traffic safety.  Good for slow control practice, but not good for a feeling of relaxed riding.  As the third week of training started, it took me 80 minutes to complete a 30 minute journey.  I even considered inter-lane weaving to get out of the jam, but on seeing a lot of lane change jostling down the road, I decided against it.  That day, I didn’t make the transition from one machine to the next and it was like I was starting again.   We called it quits and I came back the day before the test.  The session started later and I enjoyed the traffic-light journey.  Being more relaxed, things went reasonably well.  I was introduced to the speed manoeuvres required for the test.

It’s probably not a good idea to learn something for the first time the day before your test. However, the first speed exercise is an emergency stop and this had been well-practised in 125 training.  The difference this time is that you’ve got to reach 50kph (30mph) before you stop.  This doesn’t sound hard, this is the speed I usually have to travel at due to the number of residential areas and road restrictions I pass through on most journeys.  But I’d usually ride at this speed in third and fourth gear, depending on conditions.  In this exercise, you have to round a bend in 2nd gear, straighten up and in about 50m reach the speed.   My 125 can’t do it – I’d tried many times on the straight, but the 650 is an altogether different machine.  She can do it.

I round that bend, see the radar and rev her up to make her wheeze. I’m sure I hit it.  The examiners hand goes up and I stop.  I look at the examiner hopefully.  I didn’t lock up the wheels on the stop and I didn’t stall.  I didn’t travel too much on the stop.  I’ve nailed the emergency landing, but did I hit the speed?

He shows me the monitor.  Damn – only 41 kph.

You do get a second chance on the speed exercises.  I’m determined, I try to pick up a bit of speed out of the bend and I make Suzi roar a bit louder.  I didn’t like my stop this time, but I didn’t do anything that would have failed me, I knew that.  But had I hit the speed?  I hold my breath.

43kph!

Second to last exercise, and it’s over.

You get a debrief after and I’m told:

“I’m sorry, on this occasion you have not passed.”

Both the examiner and instructor are impressed with my slow control, but they don’t need to tell me I’m not going fast enough when it’s needed.  I feel pleased with myself and gain more confidence from the experience.    I know now I can do it.  My instructor tells me I don’t need any more training for this test, but I do need to work on speed generally as it’ll be vital for the Mod 2 and final lap of this journey to full license.

My task going back to the school is to ensure I ride to all speed limits when safe to do so.  His idea of safe is slightly different to mine, but who am I to argue?  There’s a couple of 60mph stretches that are fun and I enjoy the power of the bike I’m riding.  My homework is to ride my little bike “like I’ve stolen her”.

I’ve a week of reprieve and a chance to focus on the joy of riding for its own sake.  I’ve learned that I’m not confident in working down from the higher gears for stopping, bends and hills, so avoid using them.  I determine to work on that.  I’m also very tense when on roads I don’t know and if I become unsure of where I’m going.  This week I’ll vary my trips to get used to all manner of conditions.

The first is a trip north to a place called “Bolton Abbey”.  Verd is on his Beamer and wants to practise slow control as he has no problem with speed!  We have to find a happy medium.  I chose a route with both town traffic and open roads.

Bolton_Abbey_Sunset_(8421574588)-2.jpg
Bolton Abbey by Matt Smith (flickr.com)

It’s a pleasant trip on a nippy sunny day across the moors.  I have the chance to practise opening the throttle and using all the gears.  After Keighley, I’m on unfamiliar roads, but I’ve memorised the route.  We follow signs toward the end, but miss a turn, so Verd gets practise at U-turns.  We’re about 3 minutes from the abbey but don’t go to view it. Instead we discover a disused garage now converted into a cafe stop for bikers.  Verd makes friends with another Beamer owner and they make plans for a meet with the local BMW club.  My learner bike causes some amusement among the Kawasaki racers.  I have a mug of strong Yorkshire tea and talk to a Harley rider about the joys of early retirement.

On the return journey, I try to get the learner bike to go to 70mph, but at 9000 revs we’ve only made it to 60mph.  It’s windy, my helmet tugs at my head in the buffering and figure that’s the best we can do for today.  Instead I take in the views.  A reservoir below us, surrounded by walled fields of many colours, is strikingly beautiful in the lowering sunlight.

It was good to get a run without the stress of an instructor in my ear and the pressure of an impending test.  We stop on the way home to pick up some ingredients for my planned meals.   The farm shop is at the top of a hill with constant bracing winds.  The view across fields to the city is stunning and worth the stop.  Today’s meal is jewelled wild and red rice, tapenade and roast chicken breasts.  I recommend it, it makes your cooking taste like restaurant standard.

 

The recipe can be found here.  You’ll see that I amended the red mullet part of it.  Otherwise the same.

Settling down to watch Richard Curtis’s “About Time”, we snuggle up, tired, but happy.  It’s a great end to a refreshingly relaxed day.

 

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14 thoughts on “Success?

  1. This is a very cool line: “It’s probably not a good idea to learn something for the first time the day before your test.” I have wanted a bike since forever. I have even almost bought a couple, but when ever I go to buy it, I see someone crash right in front of me, one very seriously. And I figured “someone” was trying to tell me something, and I ended up not buying the bike I was at those moments going to buy. I absolutely love riding the motorbikes in Bali, though. It’s fun. And dangerous. But a 650 anything?….I’m not sure I want to go that route. But I applaud your guts. And I understand your “slow” stuff going on!! Would it be better to simply attach a sidecar? 🙂

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    1. I think if I’d been given those kind of messages, I’d have heeded too. However, for me it’s a little milder. The accident messages were not to ride a brand new bike straight out of the shop. I have a thing about white cars too.
      Sidecars are cool. My parents used to have one. For me, I feel the need to be in control of the situation in some way. Hence why. We’ll be able to carry more gear too, and if something happens to one of us or the bikes – the other has a means of transport to get help. Another reason, is that some of the places we might want to visit are not so tarmac accessible, so we’ve bought bikes to cope with that as well as good on the road. Strangely, I feel a little more safe on the bigger bike. It’s more stable, lower centre of gravity, easier to manoeuvre and has the benefit of power when you need it. Pulling away at junctions and getting up to speed with the traffic has such an ease to it that alone makes me feel better. It’s also possible to have a bike restricted, which I’m considering – but wondering if there’ll be a stage when I think – where’s the fun in that?!

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    1. I meant to say, too, that is a GORGEOUS picture. I’d love to see something like that when we come over next year… I want to see ruins and experience past lives and ghosts!!! 😀

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      1. We are lucky to be buried in history (and prehistory) I’m sure you’ll get to see some.
        You’ve reminded me of Stevie Nicks – Fleetwood Mac did a concert here last year and she spoke of how their tour bus bypassed this amazing ruin (Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds) and next time she returns she wants to visit it. Last time I did, my daughter agreed to model for me there, so I could practise some photography. I’ll email the favs.
        My favourite ruin is Fountains Abbey, which apart from its beauty and equally stunning setting, is the mother abbey of a Cistercian ruin I was a tour guide for in Ireland (Melifont Abbey) close to a prehistoric site – Newgrange (where I also gave tours). I think it’ll be a bit too long a journey for the 125, but it’ll be a fabulous bike ride once I get passed. We could even stop in Harrogate, which has wonderful Turkish baths – with a history of its own and we discovered a fabulous restaurant very close by.

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  2. Safar, what’s the deal here? By the sounds of things you’ve not even mastered your 125, what is in reality just over twice the power of a moped. And your talking about considering inter-lane weaving? You really couldn’t pick the worst bad bike riding habit if you tried. I’ve lost count on the number of crunches and jam spreads I’ve seen with that over years. Your new 650 as I’m sure you’ve realised is a different reality, it’s riding you and quite obviously a potential death trap. It’s not just some serious practice but some serious attitude adjustment as well.

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    1. Mastery? I’m not sure I’ve mastered anything at all in this life! And in this – I am definitely a very fearful learner. I refer you to the first of the granny on a bike posts and how my phobia of British roads came to be. I am crossing the abyss hoping there is enlightenment on the other side.

      Don’t you wish when you’re in a car that you could weave your way past the jam?

      After several mornings of seeing traffic jams as good clutch control practice (and getting close perhaps to mastery?) such wishes do enter even the mind of a non-masterful bike rider. It doesn’t mean they’ll carry them out.

      The ‘me riding the bike’ vs ‘the bike riding me’ is a difference I’m very familiar with. I do feel a sense of progress when it is the former. In some skills I’m riding the bike. Others I still have a lot to work on. My instructors are good, particularly when I can articulate exactly what I need help with. As with many new skills – on learning you know something isn’t right, but quite often can’t quite say what – but a teacher’s diagnosis usually kicks in, you can link what they say to what you experience and then a new stage of training commences.

      It is possible to go from not knowing how to punch without dislocating any knuckles to teaching an experienced wrestler and a group of bouncers how to punch without reabsorbing its power. I know, because I’ve done it, even though I gained quite a few bruises on the journey. I wouldn’t have someone spar without some rehearsed combinations and evasive moves practised first, and fortunately with motorcycling training being more rigorous than it was, it’s the same. More importantly, I’m feisty (and apparently rich) enough to say “no, I’m not ready to move on yet, can I have another session doing what we did today?”

      Now we’ve moved up to national speed limit roads rather than restricted, a lack of skill area was identified by my teacher, I was able to articulate more clearly the difficulty I was experiencing (it’s generally fear based – but I’m getting passed it) and now the focus has shifted.

      In short, I’m writing about an experience that hasn’t just taken me beyond my comfort zone, but into my terror zone. I am a learner under supervision but I do intend, one day, to be able to stand on my own two wheels!

      I hope I’ve addressed your concerns about my impending doom and that you’ll in future enjoy the story of my most difficult journey yet!

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      1. It’s still only all theory under very controlled circumstances. You know full well your biggest problems as well as your own handling ability are other drivers and road surface conditions. All I can think of here is all the guys I’ve known who lost their lives on bikes. School friends, friends’ brothers, employees, at least a dozen people.
        Each to his own but considering driving conditions today and particularly the numbers of and their ability – this would not be my choice of pursuit at your time of life.
        I did taekwondo for about 15 years. I wasn’t seriously into it, but enough to never have some bozo ned ever have the opportunity to have a pop at me. In theory I could kick someone in the head to bring them down, twice would be a definite. But on the street where floor conditions aren’t exactly that of the practice gymnasium it’s a different story and you have to be a bit more considerate about your moves.
        Theory and practice is all well and good but still a far cry from real time situations and on a big extremely powerful bike you have no second chances whatsoever.

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        1. I completely understand what you’re saying, and road conditions and other drivers are the source of my fear – I’ve since discovered poorly surfaced roads and paint.
          However, the reference to choice of pursuit at my time of life is an interesting one. From an existential perspective, I feel I’ve lived a good life, I’ve had the opportunity to engage in a highly worthwhile profession as an enabler of young people’s lives, decisions, learning and thinking processes and on occasion I learned that I have inspired. I have two children who have grown up to be responsible, thoughtful and incredible individuals, and while I didn’t always get my parenting right, they didn’t go wrong. What more could I ask of myself? I have done things I’m not proud of, but have come to terms with that and now have few regrets. But as I’m blessed with good health, fitness, energy I do have the opportunity to find ways to make a difference and this journey is part of that next stage.
          From the point of view of ageing, mind not being quite so sharp, slower healing processes physically, eye-sight degradation, slower reactions etc, you may have a point. The possibility of future dependency isn’t one that I’d like to face – but there are so many ways that could come about.
          I am never saying that anyone should do this too – but if you do – here’s what I experienced trying. Who can say whether a choice is good or bad?
          “There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?” (Milan Kundera).

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          1. Road death and injury statistics will tell you whether a choice is good or bad.
            As for Philosopher’s – really? The only things these people ever died from was alcoholism or failure to extract their heads out from their backsides.

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  3. Wow! I just got on my bike and drove! When I took my test I just drove round and a guy with a clip board made a few notes and watched for ten minutes.
    How I’d love a bike again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those were the days – but I guess proficiency is safety. It’s all linked to having a European universal standard. It’s a lot of hoops to jump through now. It’s actually like 5 tests. You can’t go on the road unless you have the CBT, then the theory and hazard perception tests, then Mod 1 off-road and Mod 2 on-road. Don’t get me started on how much I’ve spent (although I’m not the average cost).

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