First steps back to Motorbike training

You may have read in previous postings that I recently acquired a motorbike. For those of you that don’t know, I passed my bike test almost a decade ago when I was single, and a shade off the age of 25. I did have a bike of my own for a little while, purchased to help me pass my bike test. It was a Honda MTX 125 which was legal for licence I had and tall enough for me to be comfortable riding the small machine.

I duly passed my test on that, and having moved near to Livingston sat in my garage for a wee while until I sold it through Autotrader. Since then I’ve thought about it, but not bought a bike. I simply had other, better, things to spend my money on.

With that long absence, I promised myself that I would invest in training when and if the event happened, and to that end met up with the chaps at Lothian Motorcycle Training this afternoon. Joe Duffin runs their outfit from a small office in a trading estate near Bathgate, not far from the local Tesco and along the road from the Volkswagen Garage. He and Andy were in waiting for their trainee for the afternoon, so while they were waiting we had a chat about what LMT could offer and my own particular requirements. Its a while since I’ve had any form of driving or riding training, and I must admit I was a good bit nervous. I went down on the bike, which appeared to surprise Joe a bit, but I suppose with the temperatures hovering just above zero, I was a bit surprised myself.

Motorcycling is a bit of a serious subject these days, the boom in the leisure sector has bought with it an increase in the number of riders and unfortunately corresponding injuries and fatalities. And its evident that both Joe and Andy have a serious message to deliver, safety is paramount and frankly, for many it is ego and arrogance that prevent them listening to the message they can deliver. Of course, being male and coming packaged with a good bit of ego sprinkled with a bit of arrogance myself, I’m really setting myself up in doing this. Sadly they’ve seen a variety of folks that are a danger to themselves, whether it is the novice completing their training and thinking they know it all, or the middle age guys who passed their test and have gone back to biking. The common factor is lack of up to date experience, new bikes and over confidence.

To help me along with the idea of continuing to learn, they recounted a bit of their recent experiences on their ROSPA bike retest. When you sit your advanced motorcycle test with ROSPA, their grade only lasts three years and then you have to resit. Taken with a serving motorcycle police officer, the test evaluates the rider against the “system” as described in Motorcycle Roadcraft, the police rider’s manual. As Joe Pointed out, his ride was assessed and analysed, pointing out what he could do to sharpen up his riding. From his experience, even with the number of years he has held the gold certificate and he has the instructor’s diploma too, every time they still manage to give pointers for improvement. I guess I should be ok in the thought that there is always something that can be learned in one’s riding, whether new or old, or highly trained or otherwise.

So I wouldn’t count myself as middle aged, but I do have a big gap in my experience. Gulp. So I’m booked up for a couple of hours on the morning of the 28th December to get followed around by Joe on his Honda Pan European, then he’ll be telling me what I need to sort in my riding. I’m hoping we at least manage to travel the two miles in to Bathgate from their premises before he has to stop and tell me what I’m doing wrong. I had the nightmare of having to ride out of the carpark when they were getting the bikes ready, and Andy managed to spot stuff for me straight away. To get me off to a good start, I have to remember not to start the engine before I back the bike out of a space, and to cover a brake while stationary. Good on Andy, these guys are well trained to spot things both from on foot and on a bike when they follow you. Mind you, two learning points and I hadn’t even left the carpark. And a little note to myself, don’t mention BMW to Andy.