ENOUGH time has now passed for most of us to give up on the many regular New Year resolutions.
Those aiming to lose weight or quit the ciggies have no doubt already succumbed to temptation, so rather than dwell on the things you want to cut out in life, why not concentrate on the things you should have a go at in 2012?
By this of course I mean riding a motorbike.
You should always push yourself in life to learn something new and challenge yourself to the next level of life’s experiences – and this is exactly what I did last Thursday when I headed to David Jones Newtown Ltd to trade in my reliable set of four wheels for a precarious set of two.
David Jones Newtown Ltd has been selling motorcycles and quads in Mid Wales since 1976, but despite having driven past their Pool Road base on many occasions, how many of you knew you they also employ qualified motorcycle instructors that will get you though your CBT so you can ride a 125cc on L plates?
The CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) is what you must do before you ride a powered two wheeler on the road. Since being introduced in 1990 it has helped reduce the number of accidents involving novice riders by 70 per cent.
My journey towards getting my CBT – which is valid for two years – started at 9am when I was introduced to the chap who’d be teaching me for the day, a nice man called Nigel Cockayne, who runs his own training school on the Severn Farm Industrial Estate in Welshpool.
Myself, along with an 18-year-old lad looking to get his first set of wheels, were sat down and talked through some of the safety aspects of motorcycle riding, from how to look after the all-important safety helmet, to the sensible gear to wear, to road-sense.
This part of the day, understandably, was not quite as thrilling as the rest of it, but there was some important stuff in there, and it was good psychological preparation for what had become a somewhat nervous brain.
Once the talk was over, my driving licence had been checked and I’d proved I could read a number plate from 20 metres away, we were finally introduced to our bikes for some practical on-site training.
But before jumping on the saddle we were talked through the bike controls and how to carry out basic machine checks. If you’re not aware of how a motorbike works, then it seems absolutely bonkers and backwards at first to the ignorant car driver. Your clutch is transposed from your left foot to what is your back brake on a bicycle, the throttle is opened through a very sensitive twist of your right handgrip, the back brake is at your right foot, and the gear lever at your left.
Much like when one first learns how to drive a car, as soon as a beginner tries to get a grip with these various controls, they seem completely alien at first.
But any anxieties I had soon left when I got on the bike and first start crawling forwards.
The first couple of times I got going were a bit nervy but I was amazed at how quickly these jerky, wobbly movements were soon ironed out under Nigel’s patient tuition.
As I started rolling around the yard in a circle, Nigel would call over to me: “keep your head up, look at me... if you look at where you want to go, that’s the direction the bike will go in.”
Sure enough, the words of the experienced biker were borne out – at first, my time was spent looking at the cones and what my hands were doing, but by concentrating on where I was going, I found that getting the bike to go in the direction I intended was a hundred times easier.
Next, it was time to operate the indicators... not too bad, but after that came the emergency stops. When you stamp your foot on the middle pedal in a car a valve will ensure about 70 per cent of the pressure goes to the front disks and the rest to the back, but on a bike you have to do it all yourself (using both your right hand and your right foot!).
Even when riding at low speeds it is quite scary using the front brake at first for fear of flying over the handlebars, but, again under Nigel’s tuition, I soon got the feel of it and was able to bring the bike to a controlled standstill without skidding or stalling.
Nigel then took me through a few exercises to improve the co-ordination I’d need to head out on the real road with real cars, and worked on my ‘lifesavers’, the essential observations that riders must carry out to make up for the severely limited peripheral vision that comes as a result of wearing a great big helmet.
Having been a car driver for more than 10 years I was not daunted by the open road (especially as I was in constant radio communication with Nigel via an earpiece), but the same could not be said for the mystery of the gears.
Operating the gears on a motorbike is an entirely different challenge and not one you can do in the car park. For those who don’t know, there is a lever at your left foot that you have to get your foot under and click up into place to move up a gear, and you press down on the pedal to move down one.
But as my confidence grew, the more I was able to enjoy the experience, and despite the fact I was only travelling at 30 miles per hour, I couldn’t help but imagine myself as a young Steve McQueen ready to jump over a fence like he (his stunt double Bud Ekins) did in The Great Escape.
The effect was so pronounced, that when my eight-hour session was up and I had been given my CBT certificate, I returned to my car with a certain amount of sadness.
Not sad to be going home, as I was completely worn out by this point, but sad because as I effortlessly rolled along the A483 on my journey home, with the sound of the radio and the car’s fan heaters in my ears, I couldn't help but feel that it just wasn’t as much fun.
Will I go on to take my full test? Only time will tell, but I do recommend others take their CBT.
Even if it is not the thrill of the open road that interests you then consider the savings you will make.
Learning to drive a car costs the average person £1,077 while you could be on the road with a 125cc motorbike for just £170.
Road tax costs just £16 and insurance is also cheaper than a car.
On top of this, most 125cc bikes will do more than 100 miles to the gallon!
To book a CBT at David Jones Newtown Ltd call 01686 625 010.