Wales Air Ambulance – March 2012

March 30, 2012 / Press / 0 Comments /

The Wales Air Ambulance has just completed a stupendous press release for our around the world motorcycle trip for charity!  Thanks Joe and the team! You’re all mega and we’re super happy to be supporting such a fantastic cause!!


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Module 2 Exam – Featuring Misery Guts and Jigs

March 20, 2012 / My category, Training / 0 Comments /

Today has been a funny one! Before even commencing our module 2 exams I was causing trouble and received a telling off by the examiners!  Whoopsy!  Granted though, they were being miserable… do read on to find out more!…

Wakey Wakey Rise and Shine…

Despite both being utterly zonked after our day of training yester and an evening of us nodding in and out of a sleepy slumber whilst snuggled together on the sofa… when we eventually crumbled into bed we experienced the most restless night in recent history.  The morning arrived too quickly and I found myself having to perform a thorough excavation of sleepy dust before I could squintily roll over and stir the beast that led purring a soft snore next to me.

Sam: “Ughmuhhphughno no..mehtime? Ughgettingup..mehguhfgflufflemmm…hug-sleep-moremm? Test? Hmmughgettingupmugh.”

This… is a standard morning response which is most always followed by what looks like an excruciating yet satisfying stretch, a fluffle of covers and then a poor attempt to sit up which inevitably results in flopping back down and wriggling under the duvet for five more minutes.  As you’re probably gathering, we’re slow starters!  Eventually though we dragged ourselves out of bed, threw on clothes, grazed on a toasted bagel and jumped in the car ready to head to the yard all pensive about the up and coming test.

Enroute we took time to test each other on the types of questions we could be asked prior to the examined ride. With Smart Trainings Module 2 Test Tip Sheet we soon discovered the questions were all fairly simple things; how to check the oil, how to use the horn, demonstrate how to test the front/back brakes, what affects the bike when carrying a pillion etc.  Briefly interrupting our question testing we stopped off at the local Petrol Station to grab wonga, when Sam spotted an immaculate and most stunning Porsche Speedster 356.  It was a beauty!  So gorgeous in fact, Sam couldn’t resist popping over and having a quick chat with the owner.  Despite being bike fanatics, there’s some cars out there that certainly melt our hearts, especially this one when it growled gently pulling off into the sunny morning traffic.  Gorgeous.

Back on the road, we were half way there when we had a bit of a panic upon spotting our instructor, Ianto, bop past us in the opposite direction on his bike.  Had we got the time wrong?!  Were we late?  Surely he would have rung if we were late?  Bugger blast and fiddlesticks!  Five minutes later and panic struck we rocked up at Smart Motorcycles Yard only to be greeted by Mark (current bobby instructor) who explained Ianto was just dropping a student down to the test centre and would be back in a minute… Phew!

Getting Lost…

Paperwork At The Ready

Waiting for Ianto, Paperwork at the Ready!

Surely enough, Ianto returned moments later and before we knew it  we were kitted up and on the bikes ready for a short ride about the estate as a warm up before heading to the test centre.  With Sam up front, Ianto in the middle and I at the rear, I found myself not nervous but incredibly focused on my actions.

 Mumbling to myself in my helmet: “Mirror Mirror, indicate, maneuver, change to correct gear, check again, life saver look, softly pull away…babble babble babble”

It turned out that I was, in fact, so focused on my riding that upon getting stuck behind a bimbly driver and hearing an instruction by Ianto to turn left… I did so… but neglected to consider that Sam and Ianto were a good couple of roads ahead.  Lost and laughing, I meandered up a small steep road only to be greeted by a tight cul-de-sac at the end.  Dropping into first I started into a U turn whilst simultaneously listening to Ianto on the radio stating “I bet she’s turned off before we did… the dozy Dora… Clare stay where you are I’ll come find you!”.  Half way into the turn, however, I realised the camber of the road was actually ridiculously steep and the bike wasn’t quite going to make the turn… ended up hesitating… felt the bike tipping and even though I tried to correct it I realised I couldn’t really save it so lowered it slowly and carefully to the ground.  Standing to the side of the bike, I looked down at it carefully laid up and felt like a right muppet!  Sams test was due in… ooh 20mins… and I was lost and could hear Ianto trying to find me whilst my bike was carefully laid on the floor, way too heavy for me to pick up (after two or three attempts I was left laughing by its side… thank goodness we’re getting lighter bikes and I have a few months more of physical training!) Before long though, Ianto was riding up the quiet small road and I waved him down.  Calling me a ditsy dope, he hopped off and together we lugged the bike up and headed off to catch up with Sam!

Being Reprimanded…

Fortunately, we had left with plenty of time and made the test centre with ten minutes to spare.  After a few minutes of chatting, Sam was greeted by a rather straight faced looking examiner.  Being the polite boy Sam is, he extended his hand for a friendly handshake but it was quickly snubbed and, pulling a Gromit-style-gulp-face, Sam followed the cold fronted examiner into a side room for his documents to be checked.  Waiting indoors with Ianto, we then watched the nervous boy being led outside and interrogated about the bike.  At this point, watching Sam was quite amusing!  I couldn’t hear the conversation but there was a moment where I could see he had been asked a question and Sam just stared at the examiner dumbfounded… opened his mouth… closed it… looked at the bike frowning… opened his mouth again… closed it… and then pointed at the front of it whilst bumbling out some words with a confused look.  I later found out that, despite years of riding and tinkering with bikes and being completely aware of all the possible questions and answers he could be posed at that moment in time, his mind momentarily went blank when asked how he would check the front brake fluid!  There’s exam nerves for you!

Sam Preparing

Sam preparing for his Module 2

A few minutes passed and Ianto and I watched as the examiner and Sam fumbled with radios… it looked like there was some kind of problem.  At this point I plonked out my phone and took a couple of photos which was noticed by another zombified expressioned examiner entering the building.

Examiner of Zombie Expression: *interrupting Ianto who was on the phone* “Is that girl filming?!”
Ianto: “I have no idea! Ask her!” *continues his rudely interrupted phone conversation*

The examiner took one look at me and walked straight past!  How odd I thought!  Once Ianto had finished his phone conversation I asked him what that was all about and he told me he had no idea and not to worry.  A further 5minutes ensued watching Sam and the other miserable examiner fumbling with the radio until eventually the examiner made way for the centre.  Ianto and I nodded as he walked past but quickly scooted out to ask Sam what was the dealio.  It turned out the radio was duffed up…  surely they check their equipment prior to heading out to a test I question? Hmmm.

Miserable Examiner Returning: “Ianto… mind if I have a word?”
Ianto: “Sure sure…”
Sam and I exchange concerned looks nervous the test may be cancelled…
Miserable Examiner: “Was she filming me earlier?”
Ianto: *perplexed* “Eh? I have no idea! Ask her!!”
Miserable Examiner: “Excuse me, were you filming me earlier?”
Me: “Erm I took a couple of pictures but that’s only because during Module 1 I was told I could take photos and videos… Is this a problem?”
Miserable Examiner: “Yes, it’s against DSA rules, delete them straight away”

With the examiner looming over me I apologised and immediately deleted all the photos but at the same time thought “actually mate, I was taking photos of Sam not you and there’s no need to be so rude about it!” God knows why he nor the other zombie examiner spoke to me in the first place!  Nervous I had set Sam off on a bad foot, I watched as they mounted their bikes and headed off on to the roads, radios fixed.

Ianto and I then hopped on our bikes for a quick pootle around the back streets and thirty minutes later, we arrived back at the test centre to be greeted by a smiling Sam!  He had passed!  During his ride he had found that nerves did get the better of him causing him to be slightly over cautious at give ways and also riding the bike at 60mph on a dual carriageway as opposed to 70mph.  When he returned he was faced with the following conversation:

Examiner: *in a condescending manner* “So. Do you know the difference between a give way and stop line?”
Sam: “Erm… yes… the stop you have to stop at and the give way you can continue should the road be clear?”
Examiner: “Right. So why did you stop at the give way when it was clear?”
Sam: “Erm… I guess it’s partly to do with nerves and also not knowing where I was… I thought it would be better to stop, check and make sure it was safe as opposed to riding straight through…”
Examiner: “Hmmm” *knowing Sam was watching hovers his pen over the fail box…. presses pen down without marking… pauses… lifts pen back up…. then swipes it through the adjacent pass box*

What. A. Muppet.  Having passed, Sam was super happy not to have to say “See you next Tuesday” (the next test date to retake the exam) but at the same time a little sad he missed out on the opportunity of this remark too!  Celebrations gave way and not caring the examiner was watching we all looked like planks and performed a little jig laughing and jumping!  After the happy happy joy joy moment I then realised that the pressure was now on for me to pass…

My Turn with Mister Misery…


Mister Misery... Meet Jolly Clare! Mu ha ha!

After what seemed like a century of waiting, the miserable examiner emerged and drearily introduced himself.  “Right you bugger,” I thought “I’m gonna make you smile whether you like it or not and what’s more… I’m going to enjoy this ride even if it’s an exam and have to put up with your droneyness!”.  With Ianto and Sam rolling their eyes at me, I threw on a winning smile and bounded into the gloomy office behind Mister Misery and proceeded to make light conversation whilst my documents were filled out.  Unsuccessful in the smiling department, I was then taken out to the bike.

Examiner: “Right Clare, can you tell me what would be affected should you carry a pillion passenger on your bike?”
Me: “Ahahaha! I answered this earlier to Ianto when talking about a weighty passenger but couldn’t think of the word suspension… kept saying suspense… he laughed at me… I am poop with words I am… Ha! Suspense! Hahaha! What a muppet I am… Heh… ahem… yes erm… sorry what did you ask?!”
Examiner: *brief glimpse of a smile but then upon realisation of showing emotion snapped back to his sombre death gaze and repeated the question*

The blighter had smiled!  That… made me happy!  After answering his question I hopped on the bike and proceeded to listen carefully to his instructions, riding out of the test centre steadily.  Granted, I can be a bit cheeky off the bike… but as soon as I’m riding I kind of zone into bike-mode and am very focused.  Hopefully this is a good sign!  The whole ride went particularly smoothly with only one memorable mistake which found me cursing.  My stupid numb left thumb had caused me to haplessly fumble with the indicator which I struggled to turn off leaving it blinking a few car lengths into a turn.  At the time I knew it would result in at least a minor, perhaps even a major, but I did my best to ignore it and carried on as normal.  After a bimble about a village, along a dual carriageway, over a bridge and round a school, I returned unsure as to whether I had met the mark.  During the ride I had been concentrating so much I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be but what I found rather off putting was having the miserable examiner *right* up my bum throughout it all.  That had made me uncomfortable.  I discovered later also that, rumour has it, the same examiner rear ended a student only a few months ago.  This… does not surprise me.

Dismounting at the test centre I suddenly realised what I had just done and followed the examiner into the box room, nodding at a concerned looking Sam and Ianto on the way past.  Trying best to read the miserable sods face, I plonked myself down and after a long pause…

Me: “So… can I ask if I have passed or not?”
Examiner: “You can ask.”
Me: “ARGHRGHRGHGH YOU ABSOLUTE SMARMY KNOB”… okay okay I didn’t say that but it’s exactly what I thought! What I actually said… “Heh okay… erm… did I pass?”
Examiner: *pauses and without looking up from the form and completely devoid of emotion* “….. yep”
Me: “AHAHA. Ahem. Haha! Yay! Go me!” *beams* 

The documentation was completed, I politely thanked Mister Misery, about turned and joined Sam and Ianto with a big big grin!  After much dancing and hugging celebrations, we hopped on our bikes and with great relief made our way back to the yard!

And… that was that!  We are now fully fledged bike riders! What a relief!  We really wouldn’t have been able to have achieved what we have without the great help from Ianto and Chris at Smart Motorcycle Training in Swansea.  They have been an absolute joy to train with, constantly making us laugh yet imparting their wealth of knowledge with enthusiasm and creativity.  Thank you guys so much – your efforts have meant the world to us both!

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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!


    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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