Pass The Bike Test Chapter 1

Pass The Bike Test Chapter 1
pass the
bike test
C h a p t e r
welcome to
This is going to be more fun than you imagined
pass the bike test l beforeyou start
Before you start
If you’re anything like most aspiring riders,
you’ve been thinking of riding a bike for some
time now. The final push might have been yet
another traffic jam, a friend’s enthusiasm, or the
dawning realisation that you have a bit more
leisure time these days. Whatever it was, none of it
matters now. You need to get down to the nitty
gritty of actually doing it!
This book is here to help you. It will guide you
through every stage of your journey to become
a full licence holder, and answer virtually any
question you might have along the way. On top
of that, it will do something no other beginner’s
book has done: give you the skill and knowledge
to ride any motorcycle competently and safely.
At Circuit Based Training we have helped
thousands of people just like you to gain their full
motorcycle licence. We know all the pitfalls and
problems new riders encounter. For more than a
decade our courses have gone beyond the legal
minimum to offer what we believe is the best
possible CBT and Direct Access training.
Although we like to think we’re pioneers, we’re
certainly not the only bike school to operate in this
way. And if you only read one more sentence in
this book, it’s this: find yourself a riding school with
similar standards.
The reason is simple: we want you to pass your
test and enjoy your bike for years to come.
The law for new riders
The route you choose depends on your age and what you want to ride.
You can start the process shown here from your 17th birthday onwards
Under 21
Over 21
You can ride a
14bhp 125 on L
plates for two
Take test on a
75-125cc bike to
get an A1 licence
The bike test process
Legally speaking there are five stages:
1. Theory test
2. Compulsory Basic Training
3. Pre-test training – either Standard
(under 21s) or Direct Access (over 21s)
4. Module 1 (off road test)
5. Module 2 (on road test)
Take test on a
120-125cc bike to
get an A licence
1.Theory test
This is a multi-choice Highway Code test with a
few bike-related questions thrown in. If you fail it,
you shouldn’t even be driving a car! There are test
centres throughout the UK, not to be confused
with the practical test centres.
Along with the theory test is the hazard
perception video, where you click a mouse when
you consider a hazard to be relevant. It’s easy.
2. Compulsory Basic Training
CBT is your practical riding starting point and, as
the name suggests, it’s compulsory. Many schools
try and rush you through in a day, but there’s no
time limit. Once you have your CBT certificate
You can ride a bike
up to 125cc and
The small print
For two years
you’re limited
to 33bhp and
14bhp means a fairly lowpowered 125, or a restricted
sports model.
Few middleweight bikes meet
these conditions. Even Suzuki’s
old GS500 commuter needs
an A licence restrictor kit.
If you have an A licence and
turn 21 before your two years
are up, you can get a full
licence as long as you pass
another test on a 47bhp bike.
Take test on a bike
of at least 47bhp
(Direct Access)
You can ride
any bike
After CBT 16 year-olds can ride
a moped: 50cc, 30mph.
New licence laws come into
force in 2013
pass the bike test l beforeyou start
you can ride a 125cc bike on the road (or 50cc if
you’re 16). If you don’t go on to pass your bike
test in two years you’ll have to retake your CBT.
Budget on £120-£150.
Many training schools do an excellent job
in meeting or exceeding the minimum legal
requirements for CBT, but there is also a minority
that hands out certificates when riders don’t
deserve them. Many clients tell us how they
passed their CBT after only 20-40 minutes of road
riding (the legal minimum is two hours!).
The truth is, they have been shortchanged.
Too many schools compete on price, charging as
little as £80 for what could be a two-day course.
Saddle yourself with an outfit that cuts corners like
this and all too often it’s first gear, second gear,
STOP!!! (before you hit the tennis nets) – then out
onto the road, before you are really ready, often
with illegal numbers of fellow trainees, and little or
no classroom learning. When CBT is conducted
like this people get hurt. And no wonder.
This could
be you soon.
Especially if you
pay attention
to this book
3. Pre-test training
Direct Access (over 21s)
The popular choice for older riders. You’ll gain lots
of experience on larger bikes, typically 500cc –
650cc. Once you’ve passed you can ride anything
you like. If this freedom doesn’t appeal, you can
do the same as the under 21s – take your test on a
125 and stay limited to 33bhp.
Going from rank beginner to to test-ready rider
in a few days sounds fine, but there is no official
2011 BMW R1200GS
Standard Training (under 21s)
Done on a 125, which is all learners can ride at this
age. Expect to cover many road miles in a variety
of situations to prepare for the test. When you
pass you’re restricted to 33bhp for two years. That
gives you a good choice of bikes; dealers can fit
restrictors to many models. You’ll still get up the
the speed limit – it’ll just take you a little longer.
syllabus or regulation. Yes, you read that right. In
other words, a Direct Access/Standard Training
course is as good (or as bad) as the trainer you put
your trust in – a crazy situation.
4.Test Module 1
Introduced in April 2009, Mod 1 is a series of
exercises on a pad away from the road, designed
to ensure you can handle the bike in various
situations: U-turn, slalom, emergency braking,
cornering, jinking round a hazard, and so on.
Pre-test training: block course or hourly lessons?
A good school should offer either, with block
courses ranging from three to seven days,
depending on their philosophy, facilities – and
you! Many people find the block option is
less expensive in the long run, with five days
being typical for someone with no previous
experience; four days is possible if you’re
confident. Seven days might sound excessive,
but remember: this is a dangerous pastime,
not to be treated lightly. If block courses don’t
suit you, ask for individual hourly lessons and
tailor these over the weeks or months to suit
your schedule. Talk to your school to find out
what they can offer (p???). Above all, don’t
imagine you can rush it. This often leads to
bad experiences, coupled with test failures and
roadside incidents. Expect to pay £700-£1200
for a course, or from £50 per hour.
pass the bike test l before you start
5.Test Module 2
Riding a bike well gives you
the most amazing sense of
freedom. But to get to that
point, you first need to find
yourself the most amazing
This involves about 40 minutes of largely urban
riding followed by an examiner checking that
you are confident in (or away from) traffic at a
variety of speeds, and able to navigate.
So, where do I start?
2011 Honda CBR1000RR
Hold on just a little bit longer. Perhaps the
biggest issue with Mod 1 and 2 is whether to
take them separately or on the same day. Same
day sounds sensible – less time off work, lower
trainer fees – but if you fail Mod 1 you’ll be
barred from taking Mod 2, and forfeit your slot
and test fee.
Separate booking is less risky, because if
you fail Mod 1 you simply retake it at the next
available slot a week or so later. It does mean,
however, that your training is going to take
longer, and therefore cost more.
To most of our clients the thought of going
through the whole nerve-jangling experience on
separate days is too much to bear. Certainly you
can do both Mods in a day if you’ve been well
trained. You’ll already have ridden an average
of 50 miles to get there, so you know you can
conduct yourself on public roads!
Be careful about booking a Mod 1 test on
your own. Unless you’ve been riding bikes off
road since you were a kid you are, at the very
least, going to need plenty of riding before
the test. Turning up in your car to meet your
‘instructor’ at the test centre, then getting on a
strange bike with no practice and hoping you
can wing it, is no way to go about learning to
ride. Motorcycling is fantastic fun, but it’s also a
serious business, and the idea that ‘first you pass
your test and then you learn’ is totally wrong. A
good many trainers still believe it, though.
So before you even think about taking your
test, you have a job to do: find yourself a decent
training school.
pass the bike test l beforeyou start
1.The bikes
For most folk, Google is a good starting point. But nothing beats word of mouth
How to choose the
right training school
There are around 670 DSA-approved training
schools in the UK, most of them offering the full
menu of CBT, 125cc and Direct Access courses.
Many beginners imagine (why shouldn’t they?)
that all schools offer the same course. In fact,
standards vary from excellent to dangerous.
Picking the right school for your needs is the
biggest decision you can take in learning to ride.
There’s a syllabus for Compulsory Basic Training
laid down by the Driving Standards Agency (the
Government body responsible) which every
training company is aware of, and should adhere
to. In reality a significant number of schools
don’t bother, or fall well short of best practice. As
your training is a one-off purchase about which
you know little, we’ve put together 15 crucial
questions (p??) to help you make the right choice.
But you should also trust your own instincts – ask
yourself how you would like to be treated, and
what the ideal training environment would be.
Don’t, whatever you do, choose on price alone.
You get what you pay for, and many new riders
have found out that what appears to be the
cheapest option turns out to be anything but in
the long run.
For example, in 2008 I saw a young learner
rider in a group of four at a petrol station in
Nottingham. The lad was plainly uncomfortable
with the fact that his bike didn’t have a front brake
lever. So I asked his instructor about it. ‘Yeah, he
dropped it this morning doing a U-turn. We’ll
keep him in the middle, he’s got a back brake –
he’ll be all right. Besides, we’ll just stay in town’.
The poor kid sensed he was in danger, but he
and the others were too afraid to say anything to
interrupt the day.
Another classic situation is finding yourself
starting a CBT course with up to a dozen others,
of varying ages and ability. If the manpower
is there to instruct and keep you safe then no
problem – but when you realise there’s only one
instructor to try and keep everyone happy it soon
becomes apparent why the course cost £80 for
the whole day.
If you’ve signed up for Direct Access and are
looking to ride a big bike you don’t want to be
bundled together with four or five 16 year-olds
on 50cc scooters. This is a regular shock to many
new riders who find that their experience doesn’t
match what they signed up to.
So, onto the three biggest areas of complaint
with any school:
Training school bikes have a hard life. But they
should still be reliable, of good quality, and
come with a reasonable spares backup in the
event of a drop. Many riders who’ve come to
us from other schools have told us they’ve lost
valuable time during a course because of a
breakdown, and no spare bikes were
available. So ask if the school carries spare
levers and indicators, how many spare bikes
there are, and what happens if mechanical
problems occur.
We’ve often heard of Direct Access trainees
having to start on a 125cc machine, even if
they are six foot two, and then doing one or
two days on this before they are allowed to
move up to a bigger bike. This is nonsense – if
you’re paying for Direct Access you should
be on a big bike straight away. A more likely
explanation for confining you to a 125 is
that the school doesn’t have a bigger bike
available until much later. This can prove very
frustrating when your test is looming.
Check the selection of bikes. If they’re
all the same make of 500, that will not
suit everyone. It’s best to go with a school
that has a selection of different bikes, with
various engine sizes, twins and four cylinder
machines, with and without fairings. You
should get a chance to ride different ones to
see which you like the most. Not only does
this improve your chances in the test, it gives
you a better idea of what bike you could buy
once you’ve passed.
Three 650cc fours (faired
and unfaired), plus a 650cc
V-twin – a decent selection
pass the bike test l beforeyou start
2.The instructor
Good instructors are like sports coaches, giving
excellent advice in a style that focuses your
awareness and responsibility, and builds up your
confidence. Find such a person and you’ll be
glad you did. To help you decide, get
testimonials from previous clients.
You can recognise a bad instructor – and they
do exist – in two ways. First, your instinct tells
you something’s wrong. Second, they behave
like a complete arse, constantly shouting and
belittling each client.
You are looking to put your life in this person’s
hands, and it’s a decision you must make for
yourself, whether that takes a phone call or a
face-to-face meeting. Do you like them? Do
you trust them? Would you genuinely work well
One of the
good guys:
Dave at CBT
Humour, plus a tendency to
celebrate each moment of
success, are very good signs
An in-helmet
radio: it has to
work perfectly
3.The radios
Training needs good quality in-helmet radios,
and we hear more complaints about these
than anything else. Inaudible instructions are
a distraction you could do without. Get an
assurance that your training school’s radios work
well. Better still, try them out before you commit.
I took Direct Access in 2001 and jumped on my 1997 CRB600F. I went out
riding on my own, in groups and with my girlfriend on the back. I covered
15,000 miles in the first year. How I survived is still a mystery.
After the first year, one riding buddy said to me that I may need to brush up on my road position,
cornering technique, braking and observations – though he did say that I was really good at gassing
it. So, I was crap. He booked us in for a three-day with Paul Cheshire in North Wales which taught
me techniques that I continue use in my day-to-day riding.
Looking back, the idea that someone can do what I did and jump on any bike is ridiculous. My
mate, an experienced and competent car driver, passed his test and came out for a ride with me on
the same afternoon. I watched in horror as he nearly killed himself on the approach to a
roundabout, flew past cars and then finally sobered up as he put it into a ditch.
Ben Woolveridge
The instructor was a sullen exNaval NCO. By the end of day
two I’d had about enough of the
patronising tone of voice in the one-way ear
piece: ‘You did that again, didn’t you Sarah.’
‘No, no, no, pull over.’ ‘I thought you
already HAD a bike.’ And so on. I got back
to the office thoroughly stressed and upset.
Whilst it was pretty clear I was
doing it wrong, I hadn’t a clue
why or how.
Sarah Maguire
I came back to biking after a 20
year absence. I passed in 1979,
but the entitlement disappeared
from my licence, so I had to take CBT and
DAS. The CBT was at least training, but very
basic. The DAS was designed solely for me
to pass the test. The fastest emergency stop
I did was from 20mph. Countersteering was
never mentioned. I was truly astonished to
find that no one tried to teach
me how to ride a motorcycle.
Richard Slimming
pass the bike test l beforeyou start
15 crucial questions
to ask before you book
If you’re a beginner, these questions arm you
with the knowledge you need but don’t yet have.
Ask them when you ring up a training school, or
better still try them on any former clients. You’re
looking for an outfit that delivers what you want. If
you have to travel, that’s what you have to do.
1.What is your
instructor/pupil ratio?
The maximum allowed on the road is two pupils
to one instructor.
2. Can I start on a
500cc+ straight away?
If you’re doing Direct Access you should be able
to. Refusal may be a ploy to extend the amount of
time you spend with them, or to link you up with
people on small bike/scooter courses.
3. Can I move onto
a 600cc+ machine
during the course?
Many schools just provide the minimum Direct
Access requirement of 47bhp. It helps if you can
match (or at least approach) the power of the bike
you are likely to buy.
4. Are there bikes with
and without fairings?
Trying both helps you find what suits you, and
gives you a steer towards choosing your first bike.
5.What daily client
progress records are
kept, and can I see any?
If you have the chance to write down how you’ve
progressed after each day, you remain in control.
See Appendix 2 for examples.
6. Is there room to get
out of second gear on
the training area?
You’ve got six gears. You need to find out what
third, fourth and fifth are like before going out on
public roads. The training area needs to be big
enough to replicate the Module 1 course too.
7.What cornering
techniques do you
Planning, road positioning, making the bike lean,
driving out – they’re all vital. Countersteering is
often brushed aside as being too complicated to
explain at this stage. Choose a school that
recognizes its importance, and can teach it.
8. Do you practice
emergency stops at
realistic speeds?
There’s no point practising at 20mph when real
incidents occur at 50-70 mph. The bike test
requires a stop from at least 31mph, so it’s best to
be able to get well above this.
9. Do you practice
emergency mid-corner
It’s not what anyone plans to do on a bike, but in
the interests of safety you simply have to know
how to do it. Which means being taught it.
Preferably at 45-70mph.
opinion that if you’ve managed to ride to the test
centre from a training school 30-50 miles away,
then you can obviously handle your bike.
14. Do you pre-book
your tests in advance?
10. How fast can I ride
before going onto
public roads?
Good training schools pre-book tests two or three
months in advance, giving you a range of options
which will avoid long delays. Other schools may
ask you to arrange your own test which is a hassle
you can do without. Besides, the time you get will
not always fit the school’s schedule.
Too many new riders report that their off-road
training up to a maximum of, say, 20mph left
them with no experience of how fast they could
accelerate or brake. This is not ideal preparation for
joining traffic at up to 70mph.
15.What further
training is available
after my test?
11.Who decides when
I’m safe to go onto
public roads?
It can only be you. Many new riders benefit from
an extra day’s practice off road. It should be
possible. Make sure you remain in control: you are
the best judge of whether you are safe or not.
12. How long do I spend
on public roads?
By law a CBT certificate can only be issued after at
least two hours of successful road riding.
13. How far away is the
nearest test centre?
As long as you can get there in an hour or less
you’ll be fine on test day. Many riders find that a
good long ride like this helps them get focused
and ready for the test. Examiners often form the
The only way to ride a motorcycle well is to stay up
to scratch. So how good is the training school for
post-test riders? A strong reputation here is a good
indicator of their overall approach to training.
I took my Direct Access with Bryan’s
in Stoke. They were simply fantastic
throughout. CBT was shorter than
I expected but they were aware I would be
going full strength immediately. In those
later lessons they taught me braking at high
speed, and if Neil tried to get countersteering
into my head any more I think he would have
wrapped his ZX-10R round my neck!
If you’re only doing your CBT to get on
the road then I think you should have at least
ten road hours. But if, like me, you’re using it
simply as a stepping stone, you just need to
make sure your instructors are spot
on like mine were.
Gav Wilding
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