I’ve been pining for my own shiny set of wheels since, quite possibly, the day I was born. Now, me being an easy-going type, I wasn’t too fussed how many: two, four, maybe even a Robin Reliant and go for three? At fifteen years old, I settled on two. I was going to be a biker, decked out in leather and metal and cruising down the mean streets of Leicestershire on a Harley. My grandfather was the one who sparked my interest in the roaring glitz and glamour of biking – he had always owned a bike in some form, from vintage Vespas to high-powered Heralds. Since I could hold my own head up I had been on the back of his bike wherever he went, from Morrisons to the local Massive events - I loved the (excuse the awful cliché) wind in my hair and sun on my face. We made quite the pair – the Hairy Biker and his cutesy little granddaughter.
I got the bike of my dreams… sort of
My dreams of being a glamorous biker chick came true in the form of a turbo-engined, high-horsepower, 1300cc superbike which I revved up and down the country at top speed…yeah right. I bought a clunky little 50cc Peugeot V-Clic with a leaky exhaust which got me to the shops and back at the daring top speed of 28mph. I was the coolest kid on the block, even if the poor thing could barely manage to splutter its way up a hill.
As a learner biker, you can ride provisionally on either a Category AM or A1 license without supervision, so long as you pass a CBT (compulsory basic training) course. At 16, I took one (they usually last about 6-8 hours) which would cover me for two years, riding my 50cc moped until I could upgrade to a 125cc at age 17. For comparison, most cars like a Toyota Yaris and Citroen C1 are a 1L or 1000cc engine – so I had one-twentieth of that power. Even so, it’s a dangerous and vulnerable place to be on the road – fresh out of the training ground with no experience and no metal cage for backup, going it alone. Most people never take their full license tests unless they want to ride bigger bikes, but for those that do there are three (yes, three!) parts: the theory test, and Module 1 and 2 of the practical riding test. So for the more observant amongst you, bikers have to go through the torturous driving test twice – and we are only allowed 5 minors on the Module 1 test! I did take the theory test, but more to force myself to brush up on my Highway Code skills than anything else.
Ok... I need 4 wheels!
January, February, then March rolled around – a couple of months before my 17th birthday. The infamous Beast from the East hit, leaving my wonderful little moped totally snowed in for a few weeks – roadworthy as it was, it wasn’t built for Arctic conditions and my fingers were going blue from the bitter, biting cold. I loved my independence so losing it just because of the weather irritated me greatly. In the (lack of) heat of the moment, I lost it and declared I was going to learn to drive a car – the luxuries of heating and, well, not actually hurtling directly through the air were oh-so-appealing.
By having a year’s road experience under my belt, I was already miles ahead of other learners by the time I even stepped into a car. My instructor noted this from the off and I sailed through my theory test and booked my first practical. For those who have read my first blog, you’ll know it wasn’t quite so simple from that point, but eventually, I passed my test second time with 2 minors after 2 months of learning. My ability to learn quickly I attribute to my previous road experience and the patience of my instructor and my poor mum who supervised my private practice.
The perks of the motorcycle
Now I have my full car (Category B) license, and because I had a valid CBT when I took my practical driving test I also got a buy-one-get-one-free deal in the form of a Category AM moped licence. This is great for me because now I can ride my moped without L plates and take passengers (a gift in this beautiful summer heat!) and also hire mopeds abroad when I go on holiday with friends.
Overall, being a motorcyclist for a year is something I’ll never forget – I still do my “lifesaver” shoulder checks while driving in my car and I’m extra careful around vulnerable bikers. It’s made me a better driver for sure!