Several driving lessons ago, an issue started to itch me. The clutch. More specifically: the bite point. And now, that itch has turned into a full on curse. I’m stuck in a stagnant stalling rut, which many other learner drivers might be in too! Here’s what I’m doing to try and cure it.
In the court of King Clutch
I had gone my first several lessons without a single stall, I thought I was a miracle worker… but then it happened. And now it just won’t stop. Stalling is very much like yawning, once is enough to have the contagion going around for months. My bite point has become such a routine problem that I now head towards each driving lesson with jelly legs; I don’t get this nervous even before my drama exams. Performing a monologue in front of a staring audience is nothing compared to the nerves of getting in my instructor’s car. I shouldn’t be feeling this anxious – but I can’t seem to help it.
Every time I get into the car I vow to be as cool as a cucumber and like a suave James Bond, pull away and drive like a professional. It’s not very realistic, I know – but I can dream! That is until I actually get behind the wheel and before I can take a deep, calming breath I have stalled. How!? My cool cucumber becomes a red-hot poker that keeps on stalling again and again. This cannot be natural! How can I be getting this so wrong?
Some learners can find that biting point every time. “It’s just there”, or so they say – “like throwing a bullseye”. But for me, it’s like I’ve been blindfolded, spun around until I’m dizzy and then told to cast my dart. No surprise I keep missing is it? It may sound like an exaggeration but I’m serious; finding my bite point is the needle in the haystack dilemma, no matter how meticulously I search.
They say practice makes perfect- but I am starting to doubt that. Something supposedly so simple as bringing up that clutch has completely overridden everything else. Doesn’t it make you feel foolish? It’s like the elephant being scared by the mouse; this one tiny thing is causing everything around it to tremble, a chain reaction of failure from the simplest thing.
Putting one foot in front of the other
Of course, my driving instructor has been trying to help me remedy this curse. We have spent a lot of time pulled up at the roadside with me lifting the clutch up, stalling, and then disappointedly pushing it back down. I hear the car lurch and grumble – that’s it there! – but my foot completely ignores my brain’s jubilation and rips right through the bite.
One plan of action that worked well was changing the way I lift my foot. Usually, I bevel my foot on my heel, but using my heel as a hinge is not precise or easy to control. So, my instructor suggested I actually lift my whole leg: thigh, knee, ankle and foot. This was working well, but yet again was hard to control. I’ve been sticking with my bevel method, as it does work on most occasions. What I think is the real source of the issue is my haste to pull off.
When the traffic light goes green, or I see the coast is clear, or I’m trying to get rolling; I am so determined to not be holding up the impatient vehicle behind me that I am trying to find my bite point at break-neck speed. Even if there isn’t another car behind, the thought of pulling away at a snail’s pace makes me shudder. I am no Lewis Hamilton, and my instructor’s car is no Formula 1 jet-racer, so my attempts at breaking the land speed record are probably inadvisable.
The last piece of the driving jigsaw
Once I have mastered this clutch craze, I’m sure everything will fall into place. I am confident in all other areas of my driving and am desperate to conquer my manoeuvres. I know that if that bite point came to me as easily as my nerves, then I would be skipping to my lessons with excitement, rather than anxiously dragging myself there. A bit of patience and a lot of gentle footwork will go a long way. My instructor put it best when he said to me, “you’ve just got to keep trying harder.” All I can do is keep on trying – it’s what I must do - if I am to have success on my driving journey.