Module 2 Exam – Day Out Training

March 19, 2012 / My category, Training / 0 Comments /

I still am adjusting to this early morning malarky, the bed has me and will not give me up without a fight.  Clare on the other hand is up and bouncing, this has a two fold effect, one it wakes me up, and secondly it makes me grumpy. Now I am normally a rather jovial chap, but I do have to build up to that state of mind which involves a cup of tea.  I saw no tea……

By the time I had got to the stage of an actual verbal exchange which didn’t include grunts, we had already entered the slip road for the M5 and well on our way to green, green grass of home A.K.A Wales (well done boys on the Grand Slam!).

Testing!As usual our time keeping has a lot to be desired (this time I was on time, but Clare had a handbag malfunction), and this was echoed by the dulcite tones of Chris as we got out of the car at SMART training center.  We both looked down at our shoes and walked the walk of shame up into the office, only to be greeted by the Ianto leaning on the counter with his usual grin.  After donning on the hi vis jackets we were ready for a day of riding, with no rain and the sun poking its sorely missed head out from the clouds  we went down stairs to jump onto our bikes for the day.  My loyal steed was a kawasaki Versys and Clares was a rather tasty looking Kawaski ER-6n which I have to say she looked rather fetching on!  Clares hesitation on the kawaski was that it was a V twin engine and was rather on and off compared to the honda CB500.  So Ianto got clare to have a bimble around the yard, and as usual clare picked it up instantly and was slow riding around.  What can I say the girl is a natural!

 


 

So the one way radios were put on, Ianto swears they are one way so he doesn’t have to listen to clare chat away and make bike noises! We left the yard excited at the ride ahead and looking forward to getting some great tuition.  Clare was out in front so I got to see how much she had progressed, needless to say Clare excelled which is slightly disappointing as there is no real juicy news to tell.  I do know that her sense of direction even when directed is bloody atrocious.  Now this does not bode well for the trip as I only managed the last one because I was heading west andI only knew I was heading the right way due to the sun being in my eyes, but I guess thats why they call it an adventure.

Ianto and Sam - Cuppa

So during the mammoth lesson of about 4 hrs (much appreciated to the guys for the time they took out to do that!) we had our ups and downs literally.  Ianto took us all around the various routes we could be taken, and show us a few sneaky tricks the examiner might pull out if he thought we were getting a bit cocky!  Damn their tricksy ways, one was a straight road with a no entry at the end.  Now if you weren’t on a test you wouldn’t think twice about this, but when the examiner says to carry straight ahead unless told to, you tend to question your rational to take the turning before the no entry.  This was quite disconcerting and rather unnatural for myself as I have been riding for quite a while now and dont tend to question myself when riding.

So after gaining loads more insights into the minds of the examiners and the DSA we made our way back to the yard, not realising how tired we would be.  A throughly enjoyable and insightful day of training was had by both of us and if we thought it couldn’t get any better we ended the day with a lovely roast dinner at the folks house.

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Module 1 Test… Eak!

March 13, 2012 / My category, Training / 0 Comments /

What a day! This morning we found ourselves rumbling on our way again through the fog to the Swansea DVLA test centre. I have to say it’s a rarity for me to fall quiet in life… often those around only experience such moments of bliss during the likes of Christmas morning when the excitement is too much and I feel quite quiffy. But this morning was one of those quiet days… partly due to the misty morning sleepiness but mainly due to nerves.

It was, however, approximately an hour into our journey when realisation suddenly dawned that I was in fact being stupid daft to be so nervous. In 30mins time I was going to be whizzing about round cones and through speed traps on a motorcycle… something I absolutely adore and love doing! It doesn’t really matter that it’s a test… I will be pootling about again on a bike! I imparted this knowledge on Sam with a big grin and the silence that had been was suddenly broken and I was excited!

Arriving at the test centre we were greeted by the ever smiling and Welsh softie Instructor that is Ianto which instantly drew big smiles across our faces, diminishing our nerves momentarily. Whilst waiting to be called up we took some time to relax and chat with a couple of fellow students at the school – one having just passed (congrats mate! Here’s to Module 2!) and one having unfortunately failed due to clipping a cone with her right foot (next time Amanda! Rear obs rear obs! You can dooo itt!!). Eventually I was called forth by Examiner Mike and after the odd exchange of paper work and the poor man having to endure my pre-test babble, I was then off on the bike ready to start module 1!

After a slightly jerky start of trying to establish exactly where the biting point was (the clutch was not something I desired to be fighting with whilst slaloming cones under the close attention of Mike-the-examiner… one slight leap forward caused a muttering of various curse words as I edged rather too close to a cone) I ended up smiling and relaxing.

 

 

Mike gave clear and precise directions and having had the pre-training with Chris at Smart Motorcycle Training a week and a half before, I felt confident and progressed through each section calmly and focused. After the Emergency Stop and having only the impending swerve test left, I glanced over to the nervously mumbling Sam and the Smart Motorcycle group onlookers to see that they were all waving at me! How lovely I thought! …Little did I know they were all frantically trying to tell me to change down a gear as I had just pulled off (perfectly so!) in second! Muppet! Hahaha! As I lined up for the swerve test though I automatically changed down and felt the nerves building. Tossing my head in true fashion to shampoo adverts so to over exaggerate my rear observation checks, I set off focused and controlled. Building my speed up out of the turn I heard myself say “feel the force Clare” and… as with all the times I didn’t throw myself off the bike… I swooped perfectly past the offset cone! Whoop whoop! When Mike showed me the speed of 50kph, I celebrated with an air punch and laugh… but still under exam conditions settled down to a grin and made my way to the exit.

 

 

Parking up and tootling into the office I was then informed I had passed… with no minors! WEH HEY! I celebrated with Ianto doing a little jig in the foyer before realising Mike-the-examiner was observing patiently, waiting to fill out the necessary forms! Whoops! Done and dusted though… it was time for Sam to test!

With slightly more pressure now I had passed and with a growing audience of test riders, Sam jumped on the bike and proceeded anxiously into the test centre with Mike. 

 

 

Despite a little confusion when walking the bike out of the bay to another one (he apparently forgot where he was going… I think we’ll take the sat nav round the world!), he completed the slalom and figure of eight in a super controlled manner but as tight as a ducks bum, causing Ianto to bite his nails and verbalise his nerves!

 

 

This was followed by the slow ride test and from the side lines we all turned a shade of grey with Sam completing it at what looked like half a mile an hour! He was in fact going so slow… he was given a minor for for it!! After though he glided effortlessly and with precision through the rest of the tests – no rear wheel lock in the emergency stop! Result! It was quite evident Ianto was super proud when he pointed out to the other school:

“He’s a good rider that one isn’t he. Yeh. He’s like one of my students don’t you know!”

It made me laugh! Sam finished up and was greeted by a beaming, proud and relieved me! We had both passed! Woo hoo! To say we were relieved would be an understatement… the whole build up and test left us exhausted!

 

 

We really have a big THANK YOU to say to the wonderful duo that is Chris and Ianto! Without their guidance, brilliant training and help at Smart Motorcycle training we wouldn’t be where we are now! You guys are mega!

Now ahead of us we have a Sunday bike ride planned and then Monday we will be off to do our Module 2 exam! Here’s to the weekend!

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Procrastination = Tanks

March 12, 2012 / My category, Training / 0 Comments /

So the past week has been one of work or sheer procrastination so to avoid over dwelling on the rebooked Module 1 test!  After it’s cancellation on the Tuesday due to gusty winds (note, we consumed curry after so no blame for us! ;) nerves have been getting the best of us and sleepless nights have frequented the household.  Sam has been feeling the mounting pressure of people being confident he will pass with all his previous riding and since throwing myself round the swerve test on my derriere, my slightly duffed up knee has been a constant reminder of a major fluff up!

Luckily for us, we have been extremely busy! Working through the nights on various projects and constantly on phone calls during the day making various arrangements for the trip, we have successfully filled our time with plenty of distractions! On our day off we whisked ourselves away from the inevitable clicking-through-Module-1-test-tips-online and drifted down to Glastonbury to fill our senses with one of the most fragrant, obscurest and diversely filled high streets you will ever have the pleasure to stumble across. With my folks pooch on tow we took time out to visit their local reclamation yard (a frequent stomping ground of mine) where alongside fireplaces, tiles and doors you can aimlessly meander around missile launchers and tanks, much to Sams pleasure!

Sam considers an alternative mode of transport for the trip!

"Kapow kapow!"

Just off out to pick up some tiles, a door, a bird bath, a missile, a bench and a... what the monkeys?! A missile?!

 

Time… has thus flown and before we’ve realised, it’s the eve of the impending Module 1 test! Knowing our inability to function normally in the early hours of the morning, we’ve just spent the last hour sorting out what we need and making sure it’s all at the door so we can grab and stumble out first thing.

So… nuh night all and fingers crossed for the morning!

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SMART Training – Mod 1 Practice Day – March 04th 2012

March 5, 2012 / My category, Training / 0 Comments /

Sam Ready to Go!So today Sam and I made our way to the test centre for a half day of practice doing the Motorcycle Module 1 Test. Slightly drizzly but with the odd dash of sun we met Smart Motorcycle Training Instructor, Chris, at the centre along with Mick who was also training with us today! Mick was a lovely chap – been riding for 30 odd years on a 125cc and now looking to make the step up to a 500cc!

Chris gave us a prep talk and then led us into the test centre, walking us through each section you have to do on the Module 1 test.

    1. Ride the bike into the bay. Simple enough… it’s a case of doing the standard vehicle checks, hopping on the bike, kicking back the stand, starting her up and then (after checking both shoulders… something which is instantly drummed into us) pulling off in a steady controlled manner and parking up in a coned off area. You’re then asked to turn the bike off, set the stand down and dismount.
    2. Walking the bike. Once again, relatively easy although being a girl and not having been keeping up my upper body training I am slightly wussy and slow with the manoeuvring – unlike strong man Sam! All you have to do is push the bike out of the bay, hook it round and then reverse it into another bay.  NOTE!! You have to remember to check over your shoulders every time you move off… that’s even when you stop to move the bike in another direction!
    3. Slalom and Figure of 8. Back on the bike again and starting her up, you have to do a slow slalom then two figures of 8s around some cones. They’re not too tight and it’s all in the clutch control!
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    5. Slow Ride. Following the instructor in a slow controlled manner in a straight line until they request you to stop.
    6. Ride the corner. The instructor asks you to ride down to a corner at the end of the centre and ride round it at approximately 20mph. Upon returning he requests you to stop in a coned area.
    7. U-turn. You have to do a controlled U-turn between two lines which you have to treat as curbs (so no touching!) Feet must remain up at all times and before riding off (as with ALL of the tests) you must do the shoulder checks, do ANOTHER shoulder check in the direction you’re turning BEFORE turning and then turn, pulling up at the “curb” and stopping on the other side. Chris hinted it was always a good thing to ride forward a touch when bringing it round as it’s been known someone being failed at stopping by the white line but not fully completing a U turn.
    8. Emergency Stop. You’re asked to ride round the corner again and then upon exiting the corner line up through some cones (and a speed trap) where you have to accelerate to 30mph. As soon as the instructor raises their arm you have to break in a controlled manner using both front and back brake (although Chris advises to avoid over usage of back brake. Brake controlled with the front and then kiss the back break at the end to prevent wheel locking as this will be a fail!). There’s no set stopping distance (well… within reason not the whole test centre yard!), just as long as it’s controlled!
    9. Swerve Test. Once again, around the corner you go and then you have to get up to 30mph through some cones and then swerve to avoid another set of cones after the speed trap and park up in the bay.

     
    All in all we did really well. Sam initially forgot the odd shoulder checks before moving off (or rather they were too subtle for the trainer to see… you really need to toss your head like you’re in some kind of shampoo advert!) and I only stomped my foot down once on the U turn! I was dragging the clutch in too much which in essence gave the bike no power and *flop* it meant I had to put my foot down! Needless to say once that was pointed out I had no troubles.

     

     

    On all the slow riding Sam rode perfectly and thus received an encore and applause from Mick and I! The only problem he encountered was with the emergency stop and this was due to his rally boots and being used to riding with offroading tyres. When performing the emergency stop the angle of his boot and a higher back brake lever than what he was used to meant he put a little bit too much pressure on the back brake causing the wheel to lock. Once he realised this, there were no problems!

    I did pretty mega too… up until the swerve test. The first few attempts went perfectly fine although just that wee bit too slow. The next attempt I made, Chris reassured me I was doing grand and advised me to release the throttle once through the speed trap and then aim for the outer cone again. Upon looping the corner, my thoughts went something like this:

    *Right… accelerate accelerate quick check 28mph speed trap… need to slow down? Cones ahead? Oooh too fast! Going-to-hit-them-best-brake-wheeeeeeee I’m flying!!*

    My concentration fell too heavily on the getting-up-to-speed and for some reason I knew I had to slow down (or rather release the throttle) but my brain just didn’t seem to process it fully at the time and thus I ended up panicking, braking and then taking the swerve on my bum! A bit bruised, I was fine but gutted I had fluffed up the headlamp of the bike. Chris was mega, helping me to my feet, checking me over and getting me chilled out with the smirking Sam and compassionate Mick. I took time to watch Mick practice (he did them peeerfectly smooth! Amazing!) and then I hopped on again. Despite being nervous I managed to do the swerve test fine after a couple of loops to build back up confidence and speed.

    I have to admit, I’m glad I’ve catapulted myself off a bike in a controlled area so a) I can learn what I did wrong and how I could have controlled it without having the involvement of vehicles and others about and b) I could also feel what it was like to bosh down on tarmac at 30. Sounds odd… but it reinforced the fact that concentration is everything on a bike and the correct clothing and helmets are so important. Due to not having proper trousers yet, my knee has come off the worse with a burn and bruise but the rest of me (other than pride) is fine.

    Overall, a good day with some important lessons! We did find though that it is very very easy to fail on the smallest of things (namely not over exaggerating shoulder checks and also by not quite getting up to speed through the traps by a mph). Naturally, I don’t think throwing oneself off a bike would give for a pass either so I will try to avoid that one on the big day… which is Wednesday! Fingers crossed by then I won’t feel such of a numpty and will have the confidence to do it as I was on my last attempts! Here’s to a good Wednesday for Sam and I!

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SMART Training – Sunny Day in Wales – 02nd March 2012

March 3, 2012 / My category, Training / 0 Comments /

After a rather long disturbed night involving hours of foxes barking mating calls through the window, I groggily arose from the warm folds of the duvet and sleepy arms of the foetal positioned Sam. Stumbling jerkily over to the window I drew back the curtain to observe what the day would hold weather wise. All bleary eyed and with Sam now stirring and groaning what only could be objections to the unearthly hour, I paused and momentarily consider whether at some point during the night there had been some kind of crazy zombie apocalypse as the view I was greeted with was a thick white fog with silhouettes of eerie tree branches quivering away. I certainly felt zombified.

Clare: “It looks like something from Silent Hill outside..”
Sam: “Ughghrmufgar..whatimeissit?…mehbedsleepnomm… silenthill?Zombies?sleep?mergh”

After a builders style cuppa tea both of us were up and running… as usual the standard mayhem of “Have you got this?” “Where’s that?” “Have you seen my hat?!” “You’re wearing it!” pursued… but within half an hour we were out on the foggy roads heading towards Smart Motorcycling Training in Swansea! Today would be a day of getting used to the 500cc bikes we would be using in our Module 1 and 2 tests… which was exciting to me having only really experienced a 125cc. Not only that but we had also planned a visit to the Wales Air Ambulance to fully introduce ourselves and meet the Charity Fund Raising Team! Despite the usual old man grumblings from Sam about his discontentment in having to hand over £6.00 to enter his homeland over the French built bridge… the sun was breaking through and we were both excited… today was going to be great!

A journey of chinwagging ensued and a number of traffic jams later we rocked up at Smart Motorcycles to be lovingly greeted by Dexter the pooch of stupendous fluffiness and magnitude, which without fail turns Sam into mush!

Sam: “Can we get one? I want one! I want Dexter! We can take it round the world! If we break down then it can pull us!”

BackwardsI laugh and we agree it’s a beastie we shall have when we return from the journey! We wave a quick hello to Chris who, like a true showman, is in the middle of displaying the various helmets you can wear whilst riding. Returning the gesture he then continues his CBT introduction with three fellas around him smiling. Promptly falling outside geared up and finally awake, we are ready to face the now gorgeously sunny day. Ianto introduces me to my bike for the day, a Honda CB500 and Sam has the Kawasaki ER-6N. Whilst kitting me up with the comms set, Ianto reminds me that, despite being a bit heavier and having a wee bit more power, it’s the same as the 125cc and won’t do anything unless I ask it to! I hop on and start off round the yard looping about and getting used to braking and the biteyness of the power, Sam in tail and already both of us grinning.

After a few little hints and tips from Ianto (counting 1million – pull in the clutch and change gear – 2million – slow release clutch), he jumps on his Kawasaki and we’re off out onto the roads for a few hours of puttering about round various estates, carriage ways and country lanes. The sun is now beaming out a warming touch – what a difference a couple of hours makes. Taking the lead I bop through villages with Ianto as usual giving us great directions and observations for riding as well as the odd quip that makes us crack up!

Ianto: “Blooming heck, are you seeing the kind of folk around here!?! It’s like being surrounded by people from the Cantina Bar in Star Wars! Hurry up Clare, Sam and I don’t want to stick around!”

Brum brum!As it goes, I was doing rather well for a second ride. Other than my puzzlement as to why I was going no where on a hill start despite having the biting point… (forgot to take my foot off the brake didn’t I! What a muppet!)… my changes were much smoother, Ianto wasn’t having to remind me “Winker winker!” to turn off my indication and I was really enjoying the sunshine and sights of the day! Granted, I was still riding slow and talking like an insane person to myself when doing turns and lane changes just to make sure I remembered the relevant checks and processes, but an hour into it and things were coming naturally and I was loving it! Sam too was enjoying the day, also getting used to riding his bike too. Being much lower and with different suspension to his megatron-sized KTM 990 adventure S he found the odd unavoidable pot hole to be more of a thunk than usual and had to remind himself to remain seated when pootling over sleeping Policemen! He wasn’t in the deserts of Dubai… he was in the sunny lands of Wales!

After an hour and a half, I swapped to the back giving Sam a bit more a chance to ride at a slightly less snail pace that I had set for the morning. Being at the back meant having to fend for myself and on the odd occasion with the busy roads I inevitably was momentarily left behind. Although I felt nervous… it was only due to my poor sense of direction and having no idea where I was! Due to the misfortune of a red traffic light and busy roundabout both Ianto and Sam were out of sight for a number of minutes. Having heard no turning instruction for a while it did cross my mind “What if my headset is broken and I have lost them? I have absolutely no idea where I am and I have no phone! Imagine if I get lost in Wales… what am I going to be like round the world!?” I laughed but continued straight for a few minutes knowing no instructions… meant go straight. A few minutes later I heard a turn instruction and caught a glimpse of them up ahead… but because I was busy calling out “Mirror mirror manoeuvre 1-million-clutch-gear-2-million-clutch-out” I neglected to compute the direction and ended up taking a completely wrong turn. Ianto, being the super human detective that he is instantly knew I was being a numpty and had me pull over whilst he about turned and came and fetched me giggling at the side of the road! What can I say – typical woman with directions!

Sunshine SmilesBack at the yard we stop for lunch, sourcing some tasty hummus and crusty rolls and relaxed in the sun, both Sam and I grinning about our morning so far. This was the life! Shortly after and with bellies full, Ianto starts walking us through what the Module 1 test will involve and we start practicing pulling up, walking the bike into position, doing slaloms, figures of eights and U turns. A couple of times I lose my balance and end up boshing my foot down and stand there a little confused… this had never happened before… what was I doing wrong? Sam and Ianto soon point out that I had picked up the habit of looking downwards when turning, which meant I naturally leaned and thus lost my balance. Plonker! I decided to break a moment and Sam jumps on, doing everything perfectly (and super slow… the show off!)! I think “well if he can do it I can!” Back on and looping about, I am much better this time although I am glad we have a full practice day on Sunday at the test centre! A few times I miss a cone and laugh out loud only to hear Sam calling out “Stop your cackling else we will swap your bike for a broom!”! All in all it’s a fun afternoon!

 


 
Without realising it, it’s now 15:30 and we have to head off to the Wales Air Ambulance! We de-gear ourselves, say our tally-hos (which include big slobbers from the pooch) and make off into the afternoon sun.

Once again, a stupendous day of training. There were some nuggets of learning which will prove to be so useful in the future. Iantos Police experience was particularly evident today – always looking into the distance putting his perspective on potential hazards in a clear and calming manner whilst generating a view of how the road is shaping by observing the terrain and surrounding details. His friendly yet informative approach is ever welcoming… we really feel like we’re being trained by the best of eyes and experience. We’re both looking forward to spending some time with Chris on Sunday (Ianto jokingly states it’s a Good Cop Bad Cop experience to be had!) The team is great – thanks guys if you’re reading this we’re so happy to have you as our Jedi-like-mentors!! Sunday… here we come and then Mod 1 AHOY!

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