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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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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