OneGirlTwoWheels

Tapping out

Not gonna lie, I 100% wanted Danny to ride my new bike home from the shop. Don’t get me wrong, I was uber excited about getting my bike, I just had it in my head that this would be the best plan. After all, I’d not ridden a bike since my CBT in July 2014 and it was now April 2015.  As you can imagine, I had a mega dose of the heebies. We chatted about it loads and he said over and over that it would be best if I just bite the bullet and ride it back myself. He was totally right, tut.

Two weeks zoomed by and before I knew it, it was bank holiday and I was on the back of the Street Triple on the way to Hunts. If you’ve read my first CBT post you’ll know how nervous I get about things. It’s safe to say that nerves on this day were CBT x 1,000,000.

What if I bin it in the car park? What if I stall every time I stop? What if I just cry like a big girl?

All of these thoughts were whirring around my head. I had excitement in my belly and fear in my brain. Oh God.

When we got to the shop my little white mini beast was sitting there outside the shop ready to come home with us. Everything was so shiny and pretty badass and mean, it looked ace and I was already so pleased with it!

After admiring the bike for a bit, reality set back in and I wobbled into the shop and sat at the desk. I actually hoped the paperwork would take so long everyone else in the shop would push off home and not watch me ride away. Unlucky for me, everything was done and dusted in a few minutes and it was handover time. My wobbly legs carried me back out of the shop and we went through the basics of how to start, stop, switch on the lights etc. I hope I looked like I was listening because what I was really thinking about was the mega junction right outside the shop. Literally, a potential death risk in the first 6 seconds of leaving the shop. Oh God.

After not really listening for what seemed like forever the guy handed me the keys and the bike was officially mine. It was such a mix of emotions! Danny immediately set to making sure I was alright and felt ready to get cracking. I think he probably had more heebies than I did at this point. It was SO REAL and for the first time he could see how nervous I really was. He suggested I ride up and down the side street first which I did, in a fashion. I don’t think I made it past seven miles an hour. Plus it was a dead end and after u-turngate, I would stop at the end of the road and push myself with my feet (think a toddler on a balance bike) until I was pointing in the other direction. Oh the lols. This went on for a while but eventually, it was time for home.

Jesus wept i’ve never, ever, papped myself as much as I did in that moment.

We readied ourselves for the off but I couldn’t set off. I’m out, I thought. Danny knew it was now or never and tried everything he could to get me to go. I was completely on the verge of tapping out. I just kept saying “ok, i’m going” into my helmet and not actually going anywhere.  “Where do I need to get to again?”, I squeeked into my communicator* “Just those traffic lights there honey and then stop”. Poor Danny. Looking back, I’m almost 100% sure the guys in the shop had a tenner bet on what time i’d give the keys back.

Then, somehow and to the utter relief of Danny and probably the guys in the shop, I just shot off. I don’t think either of us knew how it was happening but it was. I’m almost 100% sure I rode through that junction with my eyes closed. But that doesn’t matter because I was doing it!

The whole ride home was no easy feat seeing as we live in the city centre but it’s safe to say by some miracle and with only a few hiccups to note, we made it! When we did arrive back we pulled into a side street and I was so happy and relieved and so full of adrenaline I clambered off and lay on the pavement for a little minute. Happily laying there, glad to be alive.

I’m usually a proper little giver-upper but that day I went from zero wheels to two and I smashed it.

*We use the Sena SMH5 communicators and they’re mega. Blog post to follow…

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Wait, what’s that now?

I’d never heard of a Honda Mini Street X-treme before or MSX for short, but as soon as I saw the little thing I was smitten. It looked like a big bike but with tiny proportions. At last, something for me!

Based on the original 70’s monkey bike, the MSX seemed to be taking the bike world by storm not only with new riders like me, but with seasoned bikers too. A little 125cc offering great performance, good looks and fun times, what was not to like?

The MSX or Grom as it’s known in the US, was getting more and more rave reviews so we went back to Hunts to take a look at one in the flesh (it was Hunts we visited when viewing the Van Van).

There’s no point in beating around the bush, as soon as I saw the little thing I wanted it. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The styling, the weight, just the sheer cheekiness of it…it was just perfect. Dan could see how delighted my cockles were, so in one swift move he whipped out his wallet and paid a deposit there and then. I danced in my seat as we crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is with Damien, the sales guy (who also owned an MSX as it turned out). It didn’t take long before everything was in order and my bike was officially on order. My bike. On order. MINE. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Suzuki Van Van

Decisions – Suzuki Van Van

Every time I googled ‘small bikes’ or ‘bikes for learners’ the Suzuki Van Van would come up. It caught my attention because I thought it looked chunky and fun and with it’s big balloon tyres it was quite quirky too. I really liked the retro colours and you could get a second hand one for a good price. But most of all it was small. It seemed to tick all of my boxes.

A bit of digging turned up some mixed reviews for the Van Van. Some complained about the instability due to the fat tyres and other said it was clunky and slow. Royal Jordanian rode one into London and he thought it was pretty cool for a 125.

Hmm.

I continued the search and spotted a red one for sale at Hunts so we went to have a look. To be honest it wasn’t great in the flesh. I was disappointed again because I’d convinced myself it would be really good and the perfect height for me. In reality it was MUCH bigger than it looked online and quite cumbersome with it’s ultra wide handle bars and wide, flat seat. Oh well!

I still like the Van Van and some of the customised ones i’ve seen since look absolutely ace, it just wasn’t the right bike for me at the time.  I think if you live on a beach and carry a surfboard you’d love this bike.

 

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Decisions – KTM Duke 125cc

I had one thing in mind after passing my CBT and that was to buy a bike. I wanted to learn at my own pace, on my own bike and thought everything would be dandy. Danny (the other half) thought it would be better to go back to Moto-technique and have some lessons but I was a bit reluctant (after u-turngate) and thought I knew better.

A few weeks passed and then a couple of months and I still hadn’t sorted anything out. Time was ticking and confidence was waining. Trouble was, I couldn’t find a bike I liked and I wanted to LOVE it or else I wouldn’t ride it. We were going round and round in circles trying to find a bike that fit with my ideals…not too big, not too sporty, not too old, not too expensive….needless to say it was a bit impossible.

Then the KTM Duke 125 caught my eye. At first I thought it was a ‘bit orange’ but after a while I really started to love it. Especially when I saw it wrapped in the ‘funky’ graphics kit (featured in the image above). We did loads of research on it and even a guy at work had a nephew who had one and he said he loved it. I was sold – it was The One.

One weekend we had a drive out to the Rocket Centre in Lancashire to go look at one in the flesh. It’s worth saying that the Rocket Centre’s great! They carry loads of stock including bikes, clothing and parts and the staff are really helpful too. Anyway, they got a Duke 125 out for me and I got on…just. It was too big. Gah. I’m only 5’2″ and I was on my very very tippy toes. I just didn’t feel balanced at all. I was properly disappointed. Had I had more confidence, it probably would’ve been ok but it was too soon.

Over the next few days and weeks we talked about buying one and getting it lowered a few mills. That might have been okay but the nail in the coffin was when I did the maths with purchase price and insurance*. Over £1000 to get insured on a £4000 bike. It was too risky. What if I hated it? What if I couldn’t ride it? It was back to the drawing board.

*This was back in 2014, right now you can buy a 2014 KTM Duke 125 from the Rocket Centre for £3999 at 0% APR and 1 years free insurance. Lucky you!

 

Rain

CBT – Nature’s Natural Laxative (Part Two)

Continued from here

After wishing the guys good luck I left Moto-technique and dashed off to ring my partner in crime. I was excited to tell him that i’d ridden a bike all by myself and hadn’t shot off and ended up in a hedge. He sounded relieved and happy and told me a zillion times he was proud of me.  He understood when I said I felt disappointed with myself but he talked me through it and continued to offer his unwavering encouragement anyway. That evening I spent the whole time jabbering about the day and grilled him about all the things I forgot/didn’t want to ask Chris and Hi Vis Brian*. I’m thankful for that debrief.

I booked my second CBT on a Saturday and as it turned out, it was one of the wettest days imaginable. With the exact same nerves as last time, the boyfriend waved me off with crossed fingers and I trooped off to the centre in the rain. Surely it’ll be cancelled? NOPE. Damn it.

This time there were five lads and little old me. Everyone seemed quite confident and most had ridden before. Damn it! After the safety briefing, we hopped into the car to zoom up to the Etihad stadium. There was some nice chit chat in the car which eased the awkwardness of touching thighs with two complete strangers. I offered up “has anyone ever fallen off on their CBT Mark?” to which the answer was, “No, not on my watch haha”. Haha indeed…

The bikes were unloaded and we got straight to it in the pissing down rain. Because it was my second time Mark took me to one side and said I could start riding up and down the carpark whilst the others practiced finding their bite point. This instantly gave me ‘The Fear’ and I asked him if I could have five minutes doing the same as the others, just to make sure I knew what I was doing. He was just lovely, he completely ‘got’ how I was feeling and I think he knew instantly what kind of day he was about to have. From that moment on he kind of took me under his wing.

In no time we were all riding up and down the carpark, I’d said ‘sorreh’ one million times and at least three of us had already rung out our leather gloves. It was a soggy morning, I still had a few issues with ‘looking up’ but it was fun! I was by no means the worst one there and without sounding mean, this kind of gave me a confidence boost. Riding is hard and everybody has their own issues with it but I was doing ok. Happy days.

Then one guy fell off.

I didn’t see it, I was off taking a corner like a gorp elsewhere but one of the other lads told me. He said he took a corner too fast and skidded off. Wow that sucks I thought, then realised he was Mark’s first faller. Wow that reeeeally sucks.

At the end of the morning session we all gathered round literally dripping wet and were told who would be going out in the afternoon. Out of the six of us one of the lads was told he’d have to come back, he wasn’t happy at all. To be honest we were surprised too as he seemed better than another chap there. So that left five. The guy we all thought would be sent home would be going out one to one, and I was going with the guy who fell off with Mark as our instructor. The other two were going out as confident riders with minimal support. Yey go us!

Whilst we had our second safety briefing of the day we ate lunch from the Pop-Up Bike Shop (blog post to follow) but I couldn’t really eat mine because of nerves. We changed into some dryer kit and then made our way to the bikes. Mark got us ready and the three of us left the centre on six wheels. OH GOD.

Being on the road was a really weird sensation. It was a zillion miles away from the safety of the carpark I’d got used to and suddenly it was really bloody real. OH GOD. We took it in turns to lead and I was glad that my fellow rider went first. Mark was in our ear pieces and for the first 10 minutes just constantly told us to “speed up” and “make progress”…..18…..24……WHOAAA 30MPH?! It all felt really fast and I felt really exposed. Thinking about it, I’m so glad I didn’t have a two-way mic because I don’t think his ears could of handled the simultaneous swearing and squealing I was doing.

Everything was going great but then I stalled at a major junction and the cars behind me started to beep. Mark was really calming though and everything was fine. I faffed about for a sec and then got going again. Phew! We then made our way onto a quiet road and it was time for u-turns.

Jeeze, I’m embarrassed even starting to type this but there’s no point in me leaving this bit out, 1: I said I wanted to tell people what a CBT was really like and 2: Well, it’s just funny.

So there we both are, parked up on opposite sides of the road and Mark gets the other guy to go first. Bear in mind this is the dude who fell off in the car park – off he goes…..turn, turn, turn….smashes his u-turn like a boss.

Ok Vicky, don’t forget to control your speed with the clutch and use your back brake, not the front. Ok off you go.” 

And then I set off.

I set off confidently but then seemed to be heading straight for the curb. Wobble. OH GOD. “Vicky, look UP!” I hear in my ear. I look up and try to make the turn tighter. Wobble.  OH GOD FRONT BRAKE! THUD.

“You’re okay, you’re okay” I hear in my ear while Mark runs over to hoist both the bike and then me off the floor. “Are you hurt?” I shook my head and brushed the wet dirt off my knee along with my pride. “I pulled the front brake”, I said. “You sure did, could see it coming a mile away”, said Mark.

Oh the LOLZ.

Honestly, how embarrassing is that?! Still, kudos to him, he made me get straight back on and have another go. The next attempt wasn’t much better because I had ‘The Fear’ times a zillion but at least I didn’t hit the deck.

Surprisingly, the rest of the ride was fine and I even enjoyed it! We made our way back to the centre and we got changed out of our wet kit. All of the other lads were there when we got back. The two most experienced guys obviously passed but the lad who went out on his own got told to come back again because he didn’t have a grasp of the highway code. Harsh but essential.

Mark took me to one side and said  that putting aside the tumble (still can’t believe he went from zero to two tumbles in a day) I’d passed and he was really happy with my progress. I was so chuffed! It really did feel like i’d achieved something.

So there you have it – two days, one tumble and a very big chuffty badge for me for passing my CBT. Sounds like i’m making a meal of it i’m sure but honestly, if you knew me you’d know this was a big deal. Not everyone on two wheel starts off like Valentino Rossi and i’m learning that that’s ok. I couldn’t have done it without the support from my other half, friends and the instructors at Moto-technique, so here’s to you and to my life on two wheels!

*Still can’t remember his name.

 

On your marks! Get set! Oh.

Miss meWell. That was a bit of a faltering start to the blog wasn’t it? I bet you’re thinking i’m a right two post wonder and I don’t really blame you.

So where have I been then?

Nowhere! I’ve not been able to give OGTW my full attention recently because the day job has been a right little whiney attention seeker. I know, how rude! Anyhow, fret not, the seas have calmed a bit now so i’m back. *Touchwood*

I’d like to say a big massive thanks to everyone who read the first couple of posts. I’ve had some awesome feedback about them and about the blog as a whole. Ta, it really means a lot.

Tara for now and May the 4th be with you.*

*Sorrrrrrry, couldn’t resist.

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CBT – Nature’s Natural Laxative (Part 1)

The CBT. ‘Compulsory Basic Training’ or ‘Can’t Bloody Turn’ as it will be forever known to me.

I guess most people see their CBT as a means to an end, an inconvenient hurdle they have to jump over in order to ride their bike on the road. Just something they have to do. For me it was like a Red Letter Day of terror.

Now, I know you’re thinking, ‘Jesus woman get a grip, it’s just your CBT’ and I totally agree.

You see i’m not like most bikers, i’m not a traditional thrill seeker. Nor am I a natural when it comes to picking things up. I’m a bit of a dilly dallier and a bit of a fanny really.

But I am EAGER and God loves a trier.

Rewind to last year when I decided to book my CBT after riding pillion a few times on the back of a Triumph Street Triple R. For years i’d muttered, ‘pfft! You’d never get me in the back of a bike…’ but after actually trying it, I knew riding was something I really wanted to do myself.  It made me giddy and I started looking at bikes i’d like to buy one day. I had a romantic view of the CBT and had even passed my CAT A in my head. I rang Moto Technique, spoke to Andy and booked the course. Good. Booked. Awesome.

And then The Fear started to creep in.

What if I can’t do it? I drive an automatic car, what’s a clutch?! How do I change gears? What if i’m the only girl and they laugh at me?

I booked the day off work and pooped my pants all the way to the bike centre. I arrived but I wasn’t the only girl, so I needn’t have worried about that. There was actually three of us and two fellas. One lady was a yoga teacher and so laid back I wasn’t sure how she was actually going to stay upright on two wheels, the other was a loud Russian who was one of the ‘inconvenient hurdle’ gang. She was feisty and I liked her a lot. The dudes, well one was about seven feet tall and one average height. They both seemed pleasant but to be honest, Feisty didn’t really let them get a word in, so I couldn’t really tell.

We sat patiently as Chris the instructor for the day gave us our safety briefing and I listened to EVERY SINGLE THING. He went round the room and asked if we’d ridden before. Feisty had, obviously. Yoga had been on a scooter but not ridden gears before. Then it was me. Ridden a bike? Nope. But can drive a car? Yep. Manual? Nope. But you passed your test in a manual, right? Nope. Oh.

THE FEAR x 1,000,000,000.

So all kitted up we trooped out to the waiting car. I sat in the back sandwiched between Feisty and the tall dude. All in bike gear and carrying helmets. Yoga was loving the reclining action of the front seat. Needless to say we didn’t think that bit through.

When we arrived at the Etihad stadium Chris and another guy (whose name I can’t remember for the life of me but let’s call him Hi Vis Brian* for the sake of this post) unloaded the bikes. Five Silver Honda CG 125s. I really started to pap myself at this point.

Chris did a walk around the bike talking about the breaks, lights and other bike things, but all I could think about was having to ride the bike in front of these guys. I didn’t want to be crap.

Right, time to saddle up. Pleeeeease let me be good.

Chris and Hi Vis Brian showed us how to find the bite point and inch forward a few feet. That wasn’t too bad – oh look I survived! In no time I was tentatively riding up and down the carpark trying to make my hands and feet work independently from one another. That didn’t come naturally to me and neither did the clutch…STALL. I kept forgetting to roll off the throttle whilst pulling the brake and I ran onto the gravel more than once. I was told to ‘look up’ 79,000 times, which sounds easy but felt impossible. My eyes were glued to the floor two feet in front of the bike. Needless to say me and the Silver Bullet didn’t make it round quite a few of the early corners.

The morning absolutely whizzed by and before I knew it, it was time to retreat to the car. I’d enjoyed the morning but I didn’t feel confident in my abilities to go out on the road. Feisty was raring to go, Yoga was up for it and the guys seemed good to go. Hi Vis Brian loaded the bikes onto the van whilst Chris took us to one side and told each of us whether we were OK to go out on the road in the afternoon. I was absolutely convinced I’d have to come back for another training session. It turned out that it wasn’t me who got knocked back it was the average height guy. Whoa what?! Did they see me riding round that carpark?! Average height guy was WELL cheesed off.

We made our way back to the bike centre but The Fear just wouldn’t leave me. So after some thought I took Chris to one side and told him I didn’t want to go out on the road. We talked it through and he didn’t try to persuade me. I was glad about that, he was a good guy. Hi Vis Brian asked me to stay for the afternoon briefing and then make my mind up, which I did but the answer was still no.

I skulked over to Andy sat behind the desk and booked in for my second day. He was just lovely though. He said that plenty of people take two sessions to pass the CBT. I prayed it wouldn’t take me three…

 

*The real Hi Vis Brian works for Revzilla