So it was agreed that we would have to have an early start to get to Swansea for the start of our training, Clare knew Sams love of early mornings was rated from little to none, but both were pretty hyped to start the journey. As we all know that journey starts with a step in this case a small 125cc motorbike and a CBT certificate. Morning came, Sam was not amused by this but Clare was prepared, and a gentle tone and a cup of tea was just enough to entice him from his slumber!
Both Sam and Clare were not the best when it came to remembering things so upon leaving the house, Clare asked Sam whether he had everything, with much distain he told her that he couldn’t believe she was asking him that. Then once in the car, the question that put the nail in the coffin in regards to Sams just awful memory… “Do you have the driving licenses?”. Now I know there are a few of you with heart conditions so I won’t recount the expletives that were thrown around, but lets just say there was not enough soap to wash this mouth out!
It must be told that every journey to Wales that this couple take, which is numerous seeing as Sam is the Welsh national, is always, and I mean always rained out, almost like a punishment for leaving those green green hills to be with an English heathen. Today was no exception, as they drove up to the bridge the clouds gather ominously. Even this sign couldn’t dampen the excitement that was contained within that little Yaris. To pass the time this couple would play a meow game with others especially the toll booth operators, much to the amusement of Sam and Clare. Clare had not quite mastered the delicate subtleties of the game and shouting meow at the person is kind of missing the point! (The point being is saying meow without the other person realising what you are saying, and seeing how many times you can say it before the other person realises). After the games, and usual rant of Sam having to pay to get into his own country they settled down and drove the next hour in relative normality (apart from Clares singing, which anything but normal!).
The excitement built as Sam pulled into SMART motorcycle training, Clare bouncing around with the prospect of riding a bike, Sam on the other hand was quite composed, but just as excited. He thought he best not show it just in case Clare took it as a sign to implode in pure excitement. On entering the building they were both greeted with the hairiest instructor they had ever seen! Although hairy he was incredibly soft and had a tendency to lick the customers. Sam and Clare had never experience such a welcome, so after drying themselves off they were greeted by Ian, one part of the duo that make up the owners. He then told us that we had just met Chris’s man size Malamute pooch, Chris being the other part of SMART training. Sam had made a note that he had just found his new love and that after this journey he would get one… it would be like being wrestled by the honey monster… this somehow pleased him.
The team that have the envious task of teaching Sam, the rider with all the bad habits that Dubai driving could imbue and Clare with a penchant for speed and two wheels but no experience, were Ian and Chris. Both ex-police riders with over 30 years police riding experience between them… they were going to need every year of that for these two! Ian took Sam and Clare down to the office to go through some thorough lessons in what you should be wearing when riding, this included a run through of various helmets and the locking systems. All this may seem unnecessary but after the amount of things that Ian and Clare have seen in their time in the force, every bit of info on safety is a good thing. Sam and Clare also found out that Ian was a bit of a fashionista on the quiet when it came to suit up, let’s just say the man could pull the colour pink off rather well!
We go outside, and found that the weather had decided to get wetter and colder. Ian picked out a nice little 125 number for Clare, Clare hopped from foot to foot with anticipation… this is where she got to show off what she had learned in Bristol. Even so, Ian went through the basics again to remind Clare of where the handlebars were. While he was getting Clare comfortable with her new stead he told Sam to pick a bike from the 600cc’s. Hmmm choices, choices… after much debate he settled on a Verysys, a V twin so it was rather twitchy and fairly tall, just how he liked them… and the bike.
Clare settled down and focused on the task ahead. After revving the bike to an inch of its life she set off around the marked out area. Soon she realised that as she had a thumb that had no feeling in it, she could not tell if she was indicating, flashing her lights and honking the horn or maybe doing all three. This was a cause for much amusement as she drove pass flashing, honking and indicating, if she had a small jingle playing you would mistake her for an ice cream van. Now Sam got into the fray, even though he had ridden for quite a few years, he had no idea what habits good or bad he had picked up. Just the thought of having to think of things which were automatic to him made him more nervous, very similar to when you go through the nothing-to-declare aisle in the airport and you really have nothing to declare.
So there in a rainy Swansea was a novice and a fairly experienced rider together riding around cones, both wondering if it could get any better. Well it would… after a quick cuppa with Chris and Ian it was decided to take a little trip out into the big wide world of automobiles. So far the guys at SMART had been just terrific… friendly and very funny with a story for most occasions. SO radios attached we all went back out and prepared our bikes and with Ian at the front we set out through the gates onto real tarmac.
All was going well, we did a U-turn which Clare and her natural balance did effortlessly and then it was off to the very first roundabout. Due to it being lunchtime it was all rather hectic with cars whizzing round trying to get to Tesco’s before all the really bad sushi and microwavable kebabs had been sold. Ian pulls off, Clare pulls up to the line and readies herself doing all the mirror checks and lifesavers. She finds her gap and then guns it…. In this instance the gun was more of a wet fart… the bike shudders and lets out a rather pitiful phut and dies mid round about. Sam came up and sat behind her knowing what a draw those kebabs had on all these car drivers, but was still surprised at the lack of care and attention they had for two riders with high vis jackets proclaiming they were learners and L plates. You could see Clare getting upset with herself… why had she been so smooth in the center and now here on the roundabout it was going wrong. Calmly she pulled in the clutch and fired up the bike, found the biting point and let it out slowly, the bike reacted and slowly took off but within seconds it died with a gasp from the engine. All this time Ian was talking to Clare and telling her what she needed to do, this was essential to keeping her head clear. Third time lucky for Clare as she checked all the reasons why it was dying on her, it did not even enter her mind that it was the wrong gear. But just like in star wars, Ians voice came floating over the airwaves…. Use the gear’s clare, use the gears. With this in mind a quick tap down and a realisation of her folly she found the biting point and waiting for her opportunity to slip into the melee then off she rode. Sam on the other hand had a rather fun time trying to move from the middle of the roundabout as the cars decided that it would be easier to drive around than let him out. For the second time that day the air turned blue with words which Sam wished could slash tyres.
Clare now found her rhythm and the rest of the ride went smoothly, the highlight was entering the dual carriageway and hitting a mind numbing and a teeth shattering 50mph on a 125. Halfway through the journey Sams radio decided that it would rather squelch everytime Ian decided to talk, and Ian talked a lot. So when they pulled into the Morrisons car park for a warming Welsh cuppa, Ian decided to remove the radio. Sams ear thanks him! Now unknown to Sam, Ian had decided that Clares numb thumb was not performing the tasks it was meant to, so a humorous and friendly reminder to turn off the indicator was spoken every time Clare forgot. It went something like this….. “Winker, Clare…. Winker Clare….. Winker Clare…. Okay if you don’t shut it off I will be changing a vowel in a minute!”.
Once refreshed and warmed up we headed back out onto the Welsh roads. This time we spent a while riding through some great country roads and back towards the center. Heading back Sam and Clare had relaxed into the riding, as they sat at the lights Clare had noticed another rider in the distance coming at them along the central lines, the gentleman in question was testing the theory that the speed of light could be broken, but no one told him that Cern was based in Switzerland and not in LLansamlet, Swansea. He flew past Sam making him jolt and headed towards the unsuspecting Clare. Sam had wanted to tell him he forgot to put his pipe on the bike because Sam is now deaf in the right ear. He passed Clare and Ian in a similar fashion and for the third time the air turned blue, this time Sam had no hand in the expletives that filled the air, that honour would go to Ian.
They arrive back safely at the center, filled with excitement and the taste that riding gives you. Now all that was needed was the little sheet of paper which was the CBT to progress on to the next part of the journey. With a smile Ian gave his signature to each of our certificates, a dangerous thing in some peoples mind. The day had been a terrific learning experience and the most fun Sam and Clare could have with their clothes on! Both Ian and Chris had made what should have been a rather ordinary day of bike training into a memorable and fun first stage of acquiring a bike licence. Thank you SMART training and thank you Ian and Chris we could not be doing this without you guys.
What…a… day! My first attempt on a motorbike… and I can simply say it has been spiffing! We headed up to Ace Motorcycles, Bristol in the morning for the Get On free hours trial… Sam was driving and I as his passenger being as quietly excited as possible. I know what you’re thinking… Clare?! Quietly excited?! Never! You’re right… this was an ultimate fail on my behalf! I was like a bounding puppy dog out on its first ever walk! The journey consisted of me blabbering away to Sam, sneaking out all last bits of advice as possible and animatedly acting out the actions of riding a bike.
*with limbs flailing* Me: “So this one’s brake… as is this… how does the gears work again? How’d I get it back into neutral? What if I miss 2nd gear? When do I use the back brake? Where’s the indicator? Do you think I’ll be okay in these boots?”
Upon arriving my excitement soon dissolved to butterflies as I watched from the safety of my little car other learners bopping about on bikes, smoothly weaving in and out of cones and puttputtputting to and fro. That… was due to be me. The realisation then kicked in… we’ve come so far in planning this around the world trip on motorbikes… what if today proves I am utterly knickers at riding?! There’s only 6months to go… and I was only just starting riding a bike today! What if I hate it? What if I wheel spin off into a wall and make a complete donkey of myself?!
Eaaak! Launching out of the car with a wonky-nervous-cheshire cat sized smile I tried to compose myself by reminiscing of all the times I’ve clung onto a biker as a pillion, longing to ride myself… and today was the day! Sam was instantly at my side, reassuring me… that boy can read me like a book! As we gathered our bits and clambered up to the office my eyes remained firmly anchored on the learners in the car park. We were warmly greeted by the lovely Kelly who’s training to be an instructor with Ace Motorcycles. After some banter which I cannot recall (a combination of nerves and excitement meant I had verbal diarrhoea which wasn’t fully computing in my head…) and rushing off for my 10th wee of the morning… I return to be greeted by Neil my training instructor for the hour.
Helmets set (the XS Helmet was a wee bit wobbly so I voted for the XXS Helmet… cue chipmunk face), gloves ahoy and Sams’ KTM jacket… I plodded off outside, where Neil introduced me to my bike… a wee 125cc Honda. With clear and concise instructions, Neil carefully guided me through the bike and what all the knobs and blinkers and thingy-ma-bobs did, easing my nerves with the odd joke and encouraging smile. I tried to take it all in but my brain was awash with nerves! After all the checks and explanations, Neil asks me to throw my leg over (the bike), start her up and give her a little rev… BRUM BRUM! Cue a big filthy grin and loud belly laugh… with my nerves temporarily subsided I pondered happily “This was going to be a fun day!”! Neil tests my skills on clutch control and after achieving a few biting points I am told that either I’m lucky, a natural or he’s an awesome instructor! Whichever it was I was just glad I hadn’t stalled!
After running through various clutch control practices and edging forward a few metres at a time with Neil by my side on foot… he jogs on ahead and signals for me to follow him in a big semi circle. Okay. I may have been in first and I may have been going at a little above walking pace but I WAS MOVING with noOoOoo feet on the ground and I LOVED IT! Hehe! He then gets me doing loops in first, introduces me to gentle braking, then second gear, then third and before long I was looping round the car park, beaming ear to ear (though constantly yabbering instructions to myself and calling out gears in an insane Rain Main fashion so I could remember how to do what).
Upon puttputting past Neil and Sam whilst calling out “wheeeeeeeeeeeee” I could see eyes being rolled at my high pitch squeels but I have since been informed that Neil was actually saying he was impressed with my handling at slow speeds (Go me!) Throwing a few cones out, Neil upgrades me to figure of eights. Initially I was a tiddly bit squeewy but with a bit of practice and a demonstration from Neil about how to use the back brake effectively, I was off weaving my way round, once again beaming stupendous amounts. My main issue was being confused with what direction I had to go… but then I can blame that on being a lady (don’t you know)! Best invest in a Sat Nav for this whole world trip malarkey mind… hehe!
Neil then stops me and asks if I fancy a try on the 500cc… he thinks I can handle it. Awesome.. but erk! Neil tells me to “treat it the same as a 125 just it’s slightly heavier and tighter on the brakes… but easier with the slow turns”. Off I putt and loop round a few times until Neil signals to pull up and stop. As I slow up and try and find the gears whilst yabbering… “Third to second, second to second.. second to where’s the darn gear thing?! Brake brake clutch clutch… where’s the gear!!”… I pull up to stop and look down at my foot trying to find the gear paddle thingy… lean… and PLONK. The bike tumbles over! Laughing and with the help of Neil I picked it back up (heavy hunkachunk!). This happens twice buuut after being told to stop looking at my feet when stopping (feel the force Clare!!) I was off again and happy as Larry!
After a while of weaving about happily… my time learning at Ace Motorcycles with Neil sadly came to an end. Boo hiss! Neil gives me a run down of the Get On hour, letting me know he only ever lets 1 in 10 people get on a 500cc within the first hour… I am apparently a natural! Beaming, relieved, not wanting to leave and excited, I receive a lovely huge hug from Sam who tells me I was like a duck to water and that he is super proud!
This… was my first step to the 50,000 mile round the world trip which is now only 6months away. It was a stupendous hour and I cannot say enough how absolutely wonderful, lovely and fantastic Ace Motorcycles were to both Sam and I! What a stupendous bunch of people… the Get On hour is such a brilliant eye opener to motorbike riding! I would highly recommend anyone curious about riding to give it a go… it’s simple, fun, progressive and awesome!
Needless to say, I am now very excited but incredibly aware of how much I have to learn and how little time I have… Luckily I have a great fella by my side and a brilliant amount of support! I had best get on the phone and sort out the next stint of learning!
Yeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! And away she goes!Share this