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The Birth of an Obsession

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I can remember my CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) day quite well; it was in the middle of a chilly winter in December. Most of the morning was spent freezing my bollocks off listening to an instructor waffle between drags on his cigarette – he seemed to be immune to the cold, smug pillock.

Riding the Honda CG125 was a challenge. Starting and stopping was fine, but when it came to changing up to second, changing down again before turning around (u-turn fashion) and repeating in the other direction, all within the confines of a tennis court, motorcycling wasn’t exactly fun thus far. The end of the off road session loomed and it was time to hit the road. Lunchtime traffic in South West London was as chaotic as expected, so it was a combination of excitement and fear when I accelerated to thirty miles per hour. Excited about the (relative) sense of speed and clicking into third gear for the first time, yet fear about the upcoming set of traffic lights and the traffic orgy I was about to nervously enter – numb penis and all.

The day on the whole, while not glowing ray of light into the awesomeness that is motorcycling, was enough for me to want to progress and sign up for DAS (Direct Access Scheme). One of the perks of being older than I feel I am (read: over twenty one), if you pass the test on a 500cc motorbike you are granted a full unrestricted motorbike licence! Jesus fucking Christ, there is a god! Given that New Zealand does not have an equivalent scheme and that a UK motorbike licence entitlement can be transferred to a New Zealand licence two years after passing the test, this was a no brainer as it fit in nicely with our ‘return to NZ soon’ plan.

DAS was a whole lot more fun. The first day was great – we had a good instructor who knew how to take the stress out of each situation and focus us on the basics. It was again extremely cold, with snow in the afternoon, though not enough to stop us. Unfortunately the rest of the course was postponed as the snow came in thick and fast that night.

Rescheduled for a month later, the morning of day two of the course was spent on the CG125, but in the afternoon we got a taster of the Honda CBF500. Far easier to control and more stable due to the extra weight and wider tyres, plus the feeling of comfort and safety you get when riding a larger bike with a bit more presence over the 125. This is what it’s all about – the next three days were going to be a riot.

Our group had a different instructor for each day of the course – I do not know if this was deliberate. At the time I wasn’t happy, but in hindsight, getting used to riding to the requirements of different instructors was great practice for the test. The day I remember the most was spent with an ex-Police motorbike rider with most of the day spent on country lanes, open road or forty mile an hour roads with plenty of roundabouts around Epsom, stopping for a hot cuppa overlooking the race course and fields. This was the most confidence inspiring day of all; we were told to relax and not worry too much about what we had been taught in the last few days – today was purely to get us used to riding the bikes and understand and enjoy what motorcycling is all about.

The one thing I that was not mentioned on the course was counter-steering. I was struggling with corners and unsure of how to make the bike take a corner, almost to the extent that I would go so slow that I could steer the bike around the corner in terms of conventional cornering – that is, turn to the right, go to the right, rather than push the bar to the right, to go right (which I was told by a friend at a later stage well after I had finished the course). There is a lot to take in during the course, but I feel I would have benefited knowing about counter-steering.

All in all, DAS was a success – I passed the test with more minors than I’d hoped, but to be honest the ride didn’t feel great so I wasn’t expecting to receive a pass. The examiner had one hell of a poker face, I think he secretly loves making the candidates sweat, although what he gets up to out-of-hours is none of my business (business time). I was (and still am) over the moon, although having to catch three buses home from the training centre was an anti-climax!

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