"pics Michael Fordham/Influx We stumbled upon this cool little shop recently specialising in pimped Monkey Bikes. Spymonkey is a one man operation run by Hiro-san in Shizuoka, just outside Tokyo. Hiro's idea is simple. Take a Monkey Bike and "
The Motorbike Test
It might have taken me until the age of 32, but I finally proved the Doctors wrong and passed my motorbike test
Growing up, I was surrounded by motorbikes all the time and from a very young age; my Mum would take me to local egg runs where there’d be convoys of biker after biker all donning their leather waistcoats and big motors.
My first experience on the back of a bike was when I was 8-years old; a red Suzuki Bandit. My Mum went first, then me and after my brother who was waiting with my Grandma until he was picked up. One by one we were ferried to the local farm on the back of the Bandit. It was only a few miles, but I loved it. So, to be told following a car accident at 18-years old, in which I broke my back (L5 vertebrate), that I probably wouldn’t ride a motorbike was pretty devastating. I was walking across the road when a lady more interested in her phone hit me left side on. Much physio and rehabilitation followed the accident and despite being able to walk fine it wasn’t without pain. A dull ache I’ve simply gotten used to over the years.
So, if it was so important to me why wait so long I hear you ask. Well, being completely honest, it was fear, along with that permanent dull backache I was living with. This wasn’t my first attempt at going for my licence, by the way. I did my CBT back in 2015 and borrowed a Honda CBR125 from Honda Bikes to see how I fared. Well, it was fine until I had an issue at a junction that completely put me off. I was waiting to turn right and the bike slid beneath me into an angle that I just couldn’t recover by myself. A kind white van man helped me to get it back upright. Naturally, this shook me and resulted in me making the decision that it wasn’t the right time.
About a year ago, however, I joined the gym. Working out six days a week, building strength with weights and working on mobility started to make a huge difference. I went from being very weak on one side to having a more balanced strength and deadlifting almost double my bodyweight with relative ease. And so the itch came back. The itch to give it another go. My new-found strength and balance coupled with 2019 marking 15 years of me driving a car, I hoped would stand me in good stead for passing my bike licence. And, needless to say, I was right.
I got in touch with a local one-man-band ADS Motorcycle Training and booked my CBT for a second time. I took to it like a fly on sh*t. It was nothing like my first attempt, I wasn’t struggling with the weight of the bike nor the awkwardness of my imbalance, it just seemed to come naturally. The only issue being forgetting to switch my indicator off. An easy mistake to make, but a dangerous one depending on the situation.
So, following getting my CBT certificate – it’s training, not a test. I went straight back to Honda Bikes to see if they had anything I could get a few days’ practise on. And what did they offer me?! A Monkey. I’m sure you’re laughing and so did I when I turned up and realised how small it was, but, and this is very important, you don’t realise how much you learn being thrown in the deep end and the Monkey was just that.
I rode it back from Corby to my home in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, in the worst rain conditions ever; I was freezing, I was stiff, but I still had the biggest smile on my face. The Monkey was difficult to ride, taking more concentration at higher speeds – especially when lorries are passing, but it all fared me well! The Kawasaki 650 ER-6n that I passed on feeling easier to ride. I practised my low-speed stuff on the Monkey, ready for the Mod1, while I awaited my Theory Test appointment. I didn’t study for the Theory Test, but I wish I had! I didn’t bother because I thought it would be general Highway Code and the majority of it was, along with hazard perception which I’ve done every day for more than a decade. However, there were bike-specific questions and, despite me passing the theory test fine, there were a couple that stumped me so do bear this in mind if you’re planning on doing it.
Theory test pass letter and CBT certificate in hand, it was time to attempt the Mod1. Having arrived at Cardington Test Centre nice and early, the nerves had plenty of time to set in. And set in they did! I was shaking like a leaf; every aspect of the Mod1 I’d done and practised to perfection every time. And the miserable examiner really didn’t help. Reverse into bay; fine, slalom; perfect, figure of 8; better than ever… then it was time for the emergency stop. I’d panicked and focused so much on getting my speed up to the required 32mph that I didn’t notice the examiner’s arm reaching for the sky. No minors, but one major, equalling one major fail for me.
Mod1 take two. This time it was at the Cambridge Test Centre. And this time the examiner was lovely – a complete U-turn from the first one. I was still stupidly nervous, but I got through it with flying colours. I knew exactly what I needed to do and I didn’t look at the speedo once through the emergency stop or the avoidance test. Remember that you get another go at it if you don’t hit the required speed, anyway! Provided it was done safely, of course.
Mod1 in the bag, it was time to practice for the Mod2. Due to time restriction, as we went for the very next available appointment, I had just three hours of bike time between tests, with all said three hours being the morning of test day. So, naturally, I was quite nervous about it. As I don’t own a 125, I wasn’t able to go out and practice. However, the three hours of practice pre-test went very well, with the only real issue being veering a tad wide when corning on a hill. I was giving it more throttle than needed, trying to compensate for the incline. Once this was flagged, though, I quickly addressed it. All set up at Cardington Test Centre and hoping it wouldn’t be another re-take of the first Mod1, I was test ready. Well, as ready as I’d ever be. The examiner started off by asking me some questions about the bike; questions that my trainer and I had already gone through that morning, such as show me where you’d check oil levels or tell me how you’d check the brake lights are working etc. Passed that part without an issue – this section is made to sound scarier than it is; it’s really not that technical and it’s general things you should probably know when owning a bike – for your own safety, as well as others. Out on the road, I started to relax into it. The first part of the on-road test was the examiner directing me where to go, with very specific instructions, and later he left me to follow signs for Cambridge so he could watch me without instruction. Easy. There were a couple of minors accumulated. Funnily enough, I’d counted the minors as I went, so I wasn’t shocked when he told me of the couple I had. One being that I was too close to the car in front in slow-moving traffic and another where I left my indicator on for a little too long – an issue that didn’t pose a problem due to there being no roads or turnings. If, however, there had have been a junction, I would have failed immediately with a major, due to this being misleading to other drivers. And based on the latter minor I got back to the test centre convinced I’d failed, but I hadn’t. I’d bloody passed! With the indicator issue put down as a minor.
In total, I’d had around an hour of riding the Monkey (bike) each day for around 7 days and took up around 8 hours of training with Stuart at ADS Motorcycle Training and he was absolutely brilliant throughout; he took a personal approach and I really felt like he was going through it with me. Pass certificate now safely under my belt and thanks to my age – one of the very few benefits of being a bit older – I have no restrictions in terms of engine size. Although, despite sitting on a 1299 Ducati Panigale last weekend and falling a little bit in love, I think I’m going to go with the 800cc Scrambler, do some customisation bits to it and generally enjoy motorbike ownership.
I’m afraid to say, though, I’ll be joining the fair weather rider club, as I have a nice warm car for in the winter – much respect to the die-hards out there, though!
I’d really love to hear your test stories, so tweet me at @dannibagnall.
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