The new hazard for motorcycle riding: skin seeping, soul merging, blood freezing cold.
Now, it’s not that I’m soft or anything, I’m a bit of an outdoor gal, but even with four layers under an all weather suit with thermal inner, that cold bites. And I’ve not been on the bike if it goes under 3°C, mostly as there has been black ice lingering locally. First it starts in the finger tips, then it creeps up the arms and slowly down to the knees. There’s a tolerance point whereby it can be ignored, but then it sets in and freezes the mind too – the danger point. For some reason, the lower extremities don’t become affected, my feet stay snug and warm.
Road Test, Take Two, is imminent. I’ve spent as many days as I have been able, between unsavoury weather conditions, riding over to the test centre and exploring its environs so that I don’t meet any unexpected surprises. For example, like single lanes that suddenly break into two filter lanes with the only warning being directions painted on the road, hidden from view by cars stopped at traffic lights, something which caught me out in Take One.
Mostly the riding is going well, but there’s a couple of things I still find very difficult: making a decision about what lane to be in when following road signs and reading roundabouts quickly enough to respond without piddling off the person behind me. With the break from lessons, I’ve made myself do all those nightmarish roads I’ve been avoiding.
Leeds on Boxing Day
Leeds is accessible from where I live mainly by motorway. The first challenge is to avoid that route. I memorise the numbers of the A roads I want to follow, but the second challenge is to recognise that closer to Leeds, two of the A roads turn into A(M) i.e. motorway. I set myself the task of trying to get through Leeds to the York road without ending up on any of the motorways. I got to Leeds, but lost the route. Verd took over and led us home again. All I can say is, I wouldn’t like to be in Leeds on a busy day!
Bradford in January
Not so long ago, if I found myself in the wrong lane, I’d panic as wouldn’t know where I’d end up. The problem is putting yourself in danger trying to get in the right lane. I’ve since learned that sometimes it is safe to do so, in which case, switch, but often it isn’t. Today is one of those days. I need the Wakefield road, but don’t know that yet. Instead I find myself in a lane for the centre of Bradford, looking lovingly at the road I really want to be on, but can’t be. Bradford is notorious, so that decorative language to which I’ve now become habituated spits from my lips. I follow the road and the traffic through the city and realise the road is going somewhere that would bring me home, but I’m in a right hand lane, and need to be on the left. Cars are jostling for position, I judge it safer to stay put. I’ve learned my lesson after Take One. So around Bradford we go, and as the road opens up before me, I see cars almost doing three point turns to get into the right lane. I think I’m in the right lane, but it turns out I’m not. We’re going back to the city. So around we go again, but now I know to follow signs for the ring road. Boy did I give it some welly when I was in the right lane going in the right direction.
I learned something though. It is alright to be on the wrong road. It might be a detour, but it is a mighty grand adventure to discover how you are going to get yourself back on track. I think I’m over the panic of going the wrong way and shan’t worry too much in the test if that happens. They can’t fail you for going the wrong way, only for trying to switch lanes when it isn’t safe to do so.
When I began this journey of facing what was essentially a road phobia in the worst way possible – on two wheels instead of in a tin can on four – I couldn’t even look at a map or put on my biker gear without having to run to the loo in terror. I soon realised I’d conditioned a fear response to anything to do with the bike. I can’t say that I’m now desensitised completely, but I am out of the terror zone, and more just beyond my comfort zone, and that is only because I’m taking on bigger challenges. I’ve realised that rather than this being the worst time of the year to learn, I have had to deal with poor visibility, wet roads, visors without windscreen wipers, wind, low sun glare and cold, it has prepared me for all kinds of conditions that I’ll meet in the future. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, even if it did take me longer than most.
Oh, I almost forgot: dealing with the cold. Pull up the bike and do a dance to get the blood flowing again!
Leeds Inner Ring Road MTaylor848
Bradford City Tim Green