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!


    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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Get On Training with Ace Motorcycles, Bristol

February 17, 2012 / My category, Training / 0 Comments /

Clare Tweeting, Nervously Excited!

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.

Clare Preparing for her Get On 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).

First time on a bike alone! Whee!

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!

Clare and Neil... Caption Competition!

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!

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