As I shift up to fourth and release the clutch, the bike suddenly transforms. No longer is it the machine that I kept stalling in the empty parking lot, the machine that I found difficult to control at low speeds and grew angry with, but a machine that just feels awesome, the engine smooth and the gear changes perfect. As I cruise past the docks of Dundee, I come to realise that never has Dundee seemed so wonderful and exciting as it does on the saddle of a motorbike at forty miles per hour. Such is the mysterious nature of driving; it has the potential to transform an environment completely, and not a single machine conveys and lets you experience the thrill of driving better than a motorcycle. This is how I got hooked.
For anyone wishing to ride a motorcycle, the first thing they need to do is a Compulsory Basic Training Course (CBT). A CBT is usually a one or two day course, depending on the motoring schools. The aim of the course is to teach the basics of riding a motorcycle safely, how to handle the bike at low and high speeds, how to behave in traffic and how to conduct emergency manoeuvres safely. The aim of the CBT is not to prepare you for the Isle of Man TT, but rather, as the name suggest, teach you the compulsory basics. After passing the CBT, continuing to improve your riding through more advanced tiers should be the natural order of things.
I chose to do my CBT in the City of Discoveries, under the Scotriders riding school. A quiet Thursday morning in the lovely docking area of beautiful Dundee became the scene for my first experience behind the helm of these two wheeled beasts. The CBT consists of six parts, but they can be summed up in two; on-site training and on-road training. The on-site training is the first part of the CBT, which consists of learning the controls of the bike and how to handle the bike at low speeds and junctions. The on-site training was done in a closed tarmac area that had built in T-junctions and roundabouts ready to be tackled. My instructor Pete – a man with plenty of patience and a vivid story to accompany all things not to do on a bike – showed us how to control the bike at low speeds. This requires plenty of finesse from your left hand that controls the clutch. I was miserable at this. There was a point where I must have stalled the bike at least a half a dozen times in a row, but Pete and his nerves of steel managed to help me get to the bottom of the slow manoeuvring. The slow manoeuvring adjoined with the constant safety checks was frustrating, especially with me continuing to my stall my Lexmoto 125.
After a few hours of pretending to be on the road and swivelling about with the gears, Pete turned our attention to the actual road. We had a quick meet and discussed some of the traffic rules of the UK, since I was used to driving on the correct side (Finland, after all, adopted the use of logic after we were fed up fighting with horses and sticks in the sixteenth century and followed the norm established by the rest of the world), and after Pete was assured that I was not going to be driving on the right (correct) side of the road, we began our ascend into the afternoon traffic of Dundee. This was nerve racking at first, I was so worried about stalling the bike that I milked the clutch and the bike for the first hour of the on-road training. This made progress extremely slow and cumbersome, and soon I heard Pete’s voice in the radio telling me to pick things up.
The on-road training has to be conducted in no less than two hours, which meant that I got plenty of driving done. Soon I was carrying more speed on the roads, taking turns faster and getting more consistent with the clutch. When we first ventured into the friendly roads of Dundee, I was sceptical of my abilities to actually pass the CBT as my on-site abilities were not exactly impressive, but after an hour or so on the road I began to gain more confidence and began to implement all the things I learnt on the on-site part of the course. Traffic no longer queued behind me and operating the gears and clutch assumed a more natural process.
After a few hours had passed I was riding along at forty on the roads, Born to Be Free playing in my head, the sun out, and confidence sky high. The best part of the day was definitely when we were riding by Orchar Park and waiting for a train to pass by. A car in front hosted a young boy who upon the sound of me revving my engine turned his gaze to us. The eyes of envy kept staring at us for the minutes that passed by as we waited for the train to make its way to the station. Whenever the eyes of the young and naïve give you the nod of approval, it’s clear that you’ve made the right life choices. Motorcycles have and always will continue to intrigue anyone with love for speed and driving and the CBT is by far the best and most appropriate way to get started, it teaches you how to be safe on the road, but more importantly how to enjoy the bike and how to get started in the wonderful world of motorcycles.
Big thank you to Scotriders riding school in Dundee who were more than helpful and I fully encourage anyone wishing to obtain a CBT or a higher tier licence to give them a visit at www.scotriders.co.uk