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Get On experience: riding a scooter for the first time

Our rider with the Get On scooter
Our rider with the Get On scooter
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Thursday, 28, Feb 2013 04:03

by Emmy Griffiths

Apart from the time I borrowed my cousin's helmet, complete with stick on cat ears and tail, and had a lift on the back of my uncle's motorbike at the age of 12, I have never ridden anything more exciting than a bicycle before.

Since not knowing how to ride even a scooter is sacrilege in the MotorbikeTimes office, I leapt at the chance of having a free hour of tuition courtesy of Get On, a nationwide scheme which offers those considering taking their CBT a taster session in a safe and friendly environment.

Being a bit ditzy and a terrible driver, I was a little more nervous than excited for my first ever lesson, and made my first impression by arriving late full of high-pitched apologies.

A couple of bemused Metropolis Motorcycles employees greeted me, obviously took in my woolly gloves and inappropriate jacket, and (slightly pityingly) handed me a padded jacket and some leather gloves, before my instructor for the hour, Anne, introduced herself.

A couple of minutes later and all social taboos are off as I am clinging to her whilst she drives us to the tarmacked area where I will have my lesson.

Only on this ride does it really dawn on me how exposed and vulnerable motorcyclists truly are.

After only riding for a couple of minutes a car pulls out in front of us, apparently not noticing the motorbike - and I'm shown just how easily an accident can happen.

Once we arrive in the closed off area where I will be learning, Anne brought out a Piaggio Typhoon 50 scooter.

Although I stated 'no preference' on the form as to whether I'd want to ride a manual or automatic, she explained that I'd get off the ground much quicker than with a manual, and since I was wearing suede pointy boots - not exactly the attire of champions - I decided not to argue.

Get On the horse

Perhaps sensing that I wasn't much of an Evel Knievel, Anne proceeded to explain to me, using plenty of analogies, exactly how to use the brakes and the accelerator, leading to an awkward simpleton moment:

    Anne: Can you drive?

    Me: Well, I failed my last test, but I know how to drive.

    Anne: So you know how to use a car. What's the first thing you do to slow down?

    Me: Brake

    Anne: No, before that?

    Me: ...Put your foot on the clutch?

    Anne: Before that!

    Me: [Starting to panic] Erm.

    Anne: Take your foot off the accelerator?

    Me: Oh.

With Anne's expectations nice and high, she started me off just moving and learning to use the brakes properly with my feet on either side of the bike ready to plant onto the safe ground at any point.

After a couple of times, although I was supposed to be going in another straight line, I kept going and went around a couple of corners, and was actually pleasantly surprised by how easy I found it. I even put my feet onto the scooter's footrest.

Anne then put out some cones for me to ride around, and after a few laps I came to a stop, as she put the cones closer together and gave me the next round of advice and instruction.

    Anne: Right, do you play sports?

    Me: ...No

    Anne: (Slightly exasperated) Did you play sports?

    Me: I suppose I used to play rounders?

    Anne: Right, in rounders when you were batting, did you watch the bat or the ball?

    Me: The ball.

    Anne: Ok, so when you're on the road, you shouldn't look at your vehicle but at the horizon, you keep your balance that way and can watch the road. Keep your chin up.

This time Anne set me the task of weaving in and out of the cones, controlling the acceleration and braking, which I proceeded with a few times, feeling supremely pleased before reminding myself that this was literally the simplest thing a learner could do.

My final task was to make a figure of eight through blue cones whilst avoiding the red, which meant turning my head and carefully controlling my acceleration.

Although I had no problems initially, my wrist began to lock on its own accord, so I would go forwards faster than I had planned and would ultimately go too wide which was irritating.

To all the real bikers out there, I'd love to know: how do you stop your wrist from just moving involuntarily?

Will there be a next time?

At the end of the lesson, chatting merrily to Anne about how long she'd been riding (20 years for your information), she asked whether I would want to do my CBT and although I had initially just wanted to give it a try, I responded in the positive.

It was a fun experience, and an exhilarating one, quite unlike learning to drive a car. The lesson was over far too quickly and I would have loved to have really built up some speed in a bigger area.

That said, I am a very cautious person, and the undeniable dangers of riding a bike on the open road gave pause to the idea.

My ideal riding experience would be to do some back lane scratching on an empty country road, rather than riding in the city.

But from my experience I realised why people love motorcycling so much as a hobby, and hope it won't be the last time I try it out.

If you haven't ridden before and want to try it out, check out the Get On website for more information. They will find the centre closest to you and you can organise a session for whenever you like. I would strongly recommend it.

Let us know what your first bike experience was like in the comments below.

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