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Getting my first taste of biking with a Get On taster session

Our rider with the bike that would be his first experience of riding
Our rider with the bike that would be his first experience of riding
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Tuesday, 26, Feb 2013 02:42

by Ben Wilby

I'll hold my hands up and admit it. I have never ridden a motorbike before.

I love them and have always enjoyed reading about the latest bikes and races but I have never had the chance to get on them and ride with a variety of circumstances getting in the way, until now.

I recently got the chance and decided to go for it, with help from Motag motorcycle training, who offer free taster sessions through the Get On scheme.

Motag runs a variety of training centres across the UK and I chose the Crystal Palace centre - arriving outside the Crystal Palace FC stadium for the course, which was scheduled to take place just in front of the ticket offices.

As a football fan I was most impressed by their offices which were actually inside the ground and through what looked like a press area.

I wasn't there for a tour of a football stadium however and was eager to get behind the handlebars for the first time; thankfully I was not waiting long.

The trainer arrived on a Honda CBF500 and my hopes were initially raised that this would be my ride.

Sadly he seemed to baulk at the thought of allowing a novice to ride his prized ride and he parked it up, before heading into a container to get a bike more suited to a novice.

The bike and learning to ride

As he got out the bike I would actually be riding, I got geared up - fitting my helmet into place and putting on the gloves that would protect my hands and ensure I didn't freeze completely.

I was not nervous about falling off, instead I was eager to get on a bike and try it for myself, with my thoughts turning to the exotic bikes I hoped I would be about to ride on, thinking of getting on an Aprilia RSV4 or a Kawasaki Ninja and speeding away from the test centre.

I came out of the office and beheld an old Suzuki GS125 (Modern equivalent pictured right) which would be my motorcycle for the ride, it might not have been an Aprilia but it was certainly good enough for a first time rider.

A relatively large manual, five-geared bike that was well over ten years old - it seemed like the perfect choice for my first ride. It was a bit battered which put to rest my worries over ruining the paintwork.

Messing up and getting the hang of gears

When learning to drive a car my problem was always the clutch, stalls were common as was the clunking noise associated with taking your foot off the clutch too quickly.

But I had learnt the lessons then and would surely not have similar problems with a bike - as my trainer informed me it was exactly the same controls as a car and I had gotten the hang of driving a car (eventually).

Unfortunately all my old mistakes began cropping up straight away as I kept releasing the clutch far too quickly, stalling the bike on numerous occasions to my own annoyance, as the bike rolled pathetically forward and the engine died.

This reached a nadir as I got to about 10 miles per hour, went to stop and released the clutch at the wrong moment. Immediately I knew I had messed up as the bike flew out from under me, rolling forward and crashing to the floor.

Embarrassment and shame ran through me as the bike rested, less than peacefully, on its side and I feared a premature end to the session as the trainer delicately picked up the motorcycle and observed the damage I had caused.

It coughed and spluttered as he restarted the engine, and the lights and wing mirrors were definitely not as they had been before, but it was still ok to ride and that was what mattered.

Managing to ride

After this, things improved as I focused on riding and managed to get up some speed going up and down the tarmacked area.

The feeling of riding was excellent and as I moved off without making the bike lurch forward angrily I smiled and got used to how it feels to actually be travelling on two wheels.

I learned to corner which was relatively easy, as I began to lean and steer the bike at the same time and always focusing on where I wanted to go - receiving a stern telling off whenever my eyes wandered down to the bike.

One thing that surprised me was how much harder it was to control at slow speeds than when travelling at over 15mph.

Due to the tight conditions I practised in I could not speed along, the difference in speeds was very noticeable and it felt a hell of a lot more comfortable riding over ten mph with the bike finding a natural balance.

This was never clearer than when travelling around a tight cone circuit, where low speeds, breaking and gentle control of the clutch all combined to make the task of driving a bike around a set of cones a lot harder than I thought it would be.

After a few trial runs, getting used to being able to rev the engine and not get any difference in speed I felt a lot more comfortable and had few problems weaving in and out of the cones.

After this my hour was done and I reluctantly brought the bike to a stop, ready to rush out and do my CBT.

Overall

One of the things that surprised me was just how cold it was. It was a fairly chilly day but even so getting on a motorcycle and riding soon brought the temperature in my hands down significantly and I wished I had a warm textile suit on.

Cornering was probably my favourite part of the ride and I noticed myself turning around at greater and greater speeds, leaning in more confidently with each turn.

The ride was great and if you've ridden a push-bike before it's not really that different - except of course you don't have to pedal.

The instructor was particularly helpful and there is no way I would have been able to do it without him patiently explaining everything as I continually messed up something as relatively simple as changing gears.

Other than the gears, the most difficult thing was probably getting the hang of the throttle. It seems easy enough, but the delicacy that it needs to be handled with surprised me and the mere millimetres of difference required to change speed took a lot of getting used to.

The most disappointing thing about the testing session was that it was closed off and one thing that I missed was being able to try my skills in a real-world scenario, something that would have to wait until my CBT.

If you're just starting out and are unsure whether riding a motorcycle is for you, the hour-long Get On sections are a great and interesting way of getting your first experience with a bike for free.

Comments - What do you think?

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