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Get On: How not to get started on a bike

There is probably a track on the other side of the visor
There is probably a track on the other side of the visor
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Wednesday, 18, Sep 2013 12:32

by Damien Sharkov

When it comes to being on two wheels there is hardly a bigger greenhorn here at the office than yours truly.

I do not understand how it could all have gone so very wrong as I grew up on Biker Mice from Mars, making the natural transition to worshipping the McQueens and James Deans of the world.

Somehow I never ended up behind the handlebars. 'Enough was enough', I thought and having spent a month researching, watching and writing about bikes I signed up for my free 'Get On' session, to truly earn my stripes as a gearhead.

What not to wear

Two days prior to my highly anticipated trip to Motorcycle City I received a friendly reminder from Get On, listing where my session would take place as well as the appropriate attire I should wear.

Brimming with confidence I gave it but a brief look. I had the outfit element of the experience already covered, as I thrilled at the chance of brandishing my aviator shades and Harrington jacket.

I would not let actual bikers tell me how to dress like one and certainly not during London Fashion Week. After I had finished making myself over as a village person I turned up for my half day at the office.

"Wear comfortable but durable jeans and a sturdy pair of shoes or over the ankle boots," was advice I should have heeded.

I learned that as soon as the pointy, hipster monstrosities I call shoes dug into my instructor's legs as he gave me lift on his bike to the small track nearby.

The first curveball of my experience would be the rain. Handling would all be more difficult and I would soon discover the great disadvantage of a vehicle with no roof on an overcast day.

While I was making my way to my first ever bike ride in what was probably only mild rain, but my memory maintains was as a monsoon, my friend Myron's words rang in my head: "It's a baptism of fire isn't it?"

Putting my legs around the drenched Piaggio scooter Get On had picked for me and I realised how ironic that statement was.

How not to ride

I soon discovered I was seemingly incapable to look where I was going as I tested the poor scooter's tyres and ability off-road, spending a third of my day in the grass. With every failed turn, however I was having more fun.

With a more temperamental and responsive acceleration than a motorcycle, the scooter was prone to jump starts.

Soon I had at least gotten the hang of gradual braking. My instructor no longer had to wince in apprehension each time I passed the corner where his own ride was parked.

Finally I felt my skills progressing. Within the hour I could almost complete two consecutive circles, without great calamity.

I wondered how others do on their first go and could not help but feel as though I finally had the substance to my biker style.

"Do you want my honest opinion?" my instructor asked on our way back. I nodded. "Bikes are not for you. We usually have people riding fully round in 10 minutes."

I was livid, ready to cut him off, before he explained he did not mean to sound so grave.

"Get back on a push bike, get some confidence with steering and come back in two weeks," he added, realising I had enjoyed myself far too much not to return.

On my way to the tube station I walked past a row of Boris bikes and swallowed hard. Two weeks it was.

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