It was the one year anniversary of my DAS recently and I thought I should write a bit about what it’s been like riding a motorbike ever since. I’ve done pretty much exactly 5,000 miles on the Yamaha XJ6. Though wind, rain and snow I’ve ridden it, and truth be told I’ve loved nearly every second of it.
I’ve always been huge into cars. I spent untold thousands on my old 200SX making it a mean beast of a car, but riding a bike has really changed my perspective of them. I still love cars, but have a different appreciation for them now. Even on my bike with it’s measly 75BHP, open the throttle wide and it’s the most incredible sensation of speed that no car (that I’ve driven at least) can compare to. Experiencing that has shifted my perspective of cars to being less about raw speed to being more about what they are and stand for.
Thankfully I have had no accidents. The closest being a woman who pulled out and just clipped my leg and the other being when I stalled moving out of a parking bay and dropping it. I’m not ATGATT, but I wear a helmet 100% time; jacket, boots and gloves 99% of the time, but normally just jeans. If I know I’ll be on the motorway or fast moving roads I’ll kit up in the leg department.
Running costs have been pretty good. I manage about 110 miles out of a full tank. This time last year filling up cost around £15, but now seems to be more around £20. Tax is around £30 for six months. It just had its annual service which turned out to be more expensive then I anticipated as it needed new tyres. The final bill was £550 (£250 for tyres and £150 labour). In the last year I’ve also had heated grips and a tail tidy fitted which has added a bit to the total cost. A big expense has also been gear. You need gear for winter and gear for summer. You can skimp, but how good will cheap stuff perform when it comes to protecting you?
The majority of my miles have been in and around London. I haven’t gone out for a countryside blast as much I would have liked, mostly because there haven’t been any weekends nice enough to tempt me out. I’ve only done one really long motorway journey (up to Telford for i46) and that had to be the most mind numbing and boring experience ever, it didn’t help that it was freezing and raining too. Getting around London is great though, you can get pretty much anywhere in no time, without traffic and parking being an issue.
Random thoughts: Heated grips are a must, it can get blisteringly cold. Riding in the rain is nowhere near as bad as you think it would be. 70mph is comfortable, 80mph is not, there is a huge difference between the two. You will come across idiots intent on killing you every day. Bikers love to aknowledge each other, it’s like being in an exclusive gang. Scooter riders are to be looked down upon. You will miss second gear plenty of times and will feel like a fool when you do. It’s extremely easy to break the speed limit. Bikes and shopping do not mix. Riding a bike instantly makes you a badass and a hit with the ladies.
See Part 1, 2 and 3 here: On Your Bike Pt. 1 On Your Bike Pt. 2 On Your Bike Pt. 3
The final step of getting my bike licence finally arrived. The Mod 2 is a 30 minute ride on normal roads where you’re followed by an examiner who is in touch with you via radio. You’re expected to do some independent riding where the examiner will ask you to follow the signs towards a specific location, to see how well you pay attention to your surroundings and road signs. After that the examiner will take over and give you instructions on where to go so that they can see how your react to various situations, like junctions, hazards etc. You’re marked on things like observation, so forgetting to do your shoulder checks can result in a minor mark and if forget enough times you’ll get a major mark, which is an instant fail.
As my test was at 2:40pm I was able to get a good amount of riding time in before we had to make our way to the test centre. I hadn’t been able to sleep properly the night before and waking up to rain dampened my mood slightly. But the anxiousness/excitement kept me alert and to make life easier, the sun eventually came out. I knew that my riding was fine and that the only reason I might fail would be because I let nerves get the better of me. My instructor said that as long as I rode like I had been that same morning, I should pass fine. Finally test time came around and I was feeling pretty nervous, but next thing I know, I’m on the bike heading out. Disaster struck as soon we came out the test centre. I suddenly found myself behind a learner driver, and with the examiner right up behind me I had the difficult task of taking the first junction extremely slowly while attempting to not hit the learner or examiner. Still behind the driver as we completed the turn the examiner told me to overtake them. I was worried that I had probably failed at that point as the examiner shouldn’t be telling me to overtake, that should be my decision. With that in mind I thought that if I had already failed, I’d just treat the rest of the test like a relaxed ride around town. It helped that the first part was the independent riding section as I was just left alone to calm down and make my own way onwards. So it was much to my surprise that at the end of my 30 minute ride I was told I passed with a clean sheet. No minor marks at all. I was ecstatic and so relieved that it was finally over. After a lot of stress and worrying I finally had my motorbike licence.
It’s been quite a long journey to getting my licence, considering I booked it all the way back at the start of July. I wouldn’t have done as well as I did if I didn’t have experience riding motorbikes/mopeds in the Philippines and Thailand as well as having ridden a bike around London since I was kid, not to mention driving consistently for the past 14 years. So I had a lot in my favour going into this. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for people doing a 5/6 day DAS with no bike experience at all. Couple that with the stress and anxiety of taking the tests and going in green must be extremely difficult, not to say that it’s impossible to do.
I was going to write my advice on how to get through your DAS, but this post is long enough so I will leave that for another time. I’ll write out some thoughts and advice that helped me get through it all as I’m sure that will be useful to many new riders out there. Special thanks to everyone at Off The Kerb Motorcycle Training in White City for getting me through my DAS. I can’t recommend them enough if you’re looking for training!
See Part 1 and 2 here: On Your Bike Pt. 1 On Your Bike Pt. 2
After a couple of days out on the bigger 600cc bikes it was time to take the first half of my full bike licence test, otherwise known as Mod 1. This part is made to test your ability to control the bike in slow situations as well as dealing with hazards. It’s a reasonably quick test (usually under ten minutes) and consists of 9 set exercises: Manual handling (moving a bike by hand), slalom, figure of eight, slow ride, u-turn, cornering, controlled stop, emergency braking and hazard avoidance.
All of these take place within an enclosed area. The test itself isn’t particularly difficult, but it’s extremely easy to let nerves get to you and cause you to make a mistake. If put a foot down or clip a cone it’s an instant fail. you’re expected to treat it like a proper road, so you must do all of your shoulder checks before proceeding to do any of the manoeuvres and you must perform certain exercises at a specific speed. Failure to check over your shoulder is a minor mark, and if you do it enough times that’s a fail. Some common mistakes are not starting off with enough speed when approaching the slalom so come the second/third cone you’re in big trouble as well as crossing the marked lines on your u-turn. The girl who did her test before me clipped a cone on the final hazard avoidance test which meant she failed. It’s not un-common at all to fail the mod 1 test. I received one minor mark for going through the speed trap on the hazard avoidance one kmph below the set speed of 50kmph. If you go 48 or 49 they will pass you with a minor mark, anything less and you’re given one more go to reach the required speed. I rolled off the throttle a little too soon, unlike on my emergency stop where I went a marked 55kmph through the speed trap (well above the required speed). It’s perhaps better to go a little faster than required. Don’t look at your speedo, get a feel for what your bike sounds like at 50kmph while in second and use that to judge approach. I heard of one person going over 70 through the trap, in the pouring rain for their emergency stop, they nearly ended up in the hedge and sadly didn’t pass.
A week until the second half which is a 30-40 minute ride on the road. I’m more confident about that, hopefully nerves won’t get the better of me.
See Part 1 here: On Your Bike Pt. 1
The first part of getting your licence is getting your CBT (Compulsory Basic Training). The CBT allows you to ride a moped up to 125CC (with L plates) and which lasts you two years unless you go on to take your full test within that time. The day is split up into two parts. The first half of the day goes over the basics of the motorbike/moped and involves slow speed manoeuvres in a carpark. You do basic things like U-turns, figures of eight, emergency stops and left/right turnings. Once the instructor is happy with your performance you’ll head out onto the road for the second half of the day, where you’ll really just pootle around town and demonstrate that you know basically what you’re doing and won’t be a major danger to yourself and other road users.
I hadn’t expected to go out on the road, so being able to ride around was a nice surprise and really made me feel like I had made the right decision to persue my DAS. I didn’t think it was possible to “fail” a CBT but one of the riders was really struggling to get to grips with the clutch and gears on his bike. He’d never ridden a geared bike before, so I can only imagine how hard it is to try and take all that in at the same time as concentrating on navigating the course. I’ve ridden loads of miles on a moped and geared bike so the CBT was a total breeze. If you’ve never ridden a bike before, just do it on a moped and don’t go for a geared bike. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and frustration. If you’re plan is to just commute around town, then you’re probably better off with a moped over motorbike.
As I did really well on my CBT I was allowed straight onto the 600CC bikes for my second day instead of being restricted to one of the 125s. One of the first things which struck me was just how much heavier the bike bikes are. I can’t believe that people actually manage to manoeuvre them around traffic in London. I think it’ll take me a long time to get to a point where I would feel comfortable filtering and weaving through stuck traffic. Getting up to 70 on the dual carriageway was a bit scary, but felt great once settled in. We rode for ages and ended up way out of London. I was actually really surprised how quickly we got outside of the M25. I can’t wait to have a bike of my own. The problem is deciding what bike. Suzuki SV650? Suzuki Bandit? Honda Hornet? Yamaha Fazer? Yamaha ER6N? Too many too chose from and not enough money to afford the ones I really want ;)
After years and years of talking about wanting to ride a motorbike, I’ve finally taken the plunge and started on the road to getting my licence. For those of you not from the UK, getting your licence over here is pretty in-depth. There are essentially four tests you need to take before you’re allowed to ride anything you want, and there are also a few different routes you can take to get there. To start with you’ll need to take a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) course which will allow you to ride a moped up to 125CC. To ride anything with more power you’ll need to take a series of further tests. First you’ll need to take your theory test, followed by the module 1 test which is held in an empty carpark, then the module 2 which involves practical street riding. The DSA release their pass rate statistics and it seems that for the theory and practical tests, the pass rate hovers around the 70% mark, which is pretty good considering the car test pass rate is 45%. I would assume that the majority of people taking the motorcycle test have a fair bit of road experience from driving, making it easier to pass.
I passed my theory test on Friday. The test is made up of 50 multiple choice questions and a hazard perception test which requires you to watch a video and click on potential hazards. The multiple choice section was pretty easy as really it’s just common sense. I do feel however that some questions are slightly misleading, marking a particular answer as “incorrect” when personally I would consider it to be a legitimate answer and not technically incorrect. The hazard perception test was okay. My only gripe with it is that it’s hard to know if you’re being under/over perceptive and clicking more than you should be. You’re not given a real opportunity to try the system and to see if you are doing it correctly. You’re shown a sample video and when you should click, but it would be better to give you a good practice run with hints.
Next up is my CBT which sadly is not until the 12th of August, then I have my module 1 on the 17th and module 2 on the 24th. With it being summer, places for tests are severely limited as everyone is dreaming of hitting the open road on two wheels. I really should have booked this all in sooner, but I honestly thought I could call up and practically take my tests the week after. I’ve learnt my lesson and will do my research a little sooner in future.