Christ on a bike I think she’s got it!

That’s right people hold onto your helmets because this bird can now set off, stop and change gear like a proper ridey rider bikey bike person!

Hallelujah

Hallelujah indeed. Honestly, I know how basic that sounds but I really did find it tricky for a good few weeks. I knew exactly what I needed to do, but tryin’ to get my limbs to listen to my brain was a feat and a half. Other than confidence my biggest problem was the clutch. That God damn clutch! I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve stalled that bike. A comedy amount of times. The phrase ‘dumping the clutch’ should be changed to ‘doing a Birchfield’. I’m not even joking. It really was frustrating. One day I’d be fine and the next I’d be all over the place with my gear changes. They were NOT smooth to say the least. I just couldn’t seem to get the timing right. It’s fair to say there’s definitely been a lot bit of whinging and tanting on my part.

As you know I’m not actually having lessons at the moment, I’m riding along with Dan, my other half. During all of this he’s been fab and I can’t recommend enough having someone to ride with whilst you’re learning. For me, it’s not just about having a mentor, it’s more about knowing that he’s got my back. I’m not gonna lie, there’s been one or two hairy moments but it worked out fine, mainly because he seems to have eyes in the back of his head and can read situations before they even happen. Maybe i’ll be able to do that one day? It’s okay, you can lower your eyebrows now. Truthfully though, I’d have probably given up by now had it not been for him. It’s lovely to have someone mentoring you and it’s bloody awesome having someone patting you on the back and saying well done you.

So in addition to now being AWESOME (humour me people), you’ll also be pleased to know that there’s other stuff I’ve mastered. My biking CV is shaping up quite nicely. Check this out:

  • I can move the bike around whilst not on it. The overwhelming mild peril whilst trying not to drop it on the floor. Killer.
  • I can undo my lock. It’s really only a simple case of lining up all the pins before sticking the key in. Honestly, I’ve lost minutes. MANY MINUTES of my life trying to undo my lock. I think I must suffer from Dyslocklia.
  • I’ll remember to lift the side stand BEFORE trying to set off. Because the bike will cut out and you will get bored of that. That one took a while.
  • I’ll remember to take the keys with me when I leave the bike. Important one this one. Happened more than once. I know, right.
  • I can ride without knocking the bike into neutral. Nope who am I kidding, this is still work in progress.
  • I can actually find neutral when looking for it intentionally. In under an hour.
  • I can turn my indicator on without sounding my horn. Left. BEEP. Damn it. Right. BEEP. I give up.
  • I can remember to turn my indicator off. Well, almost all of the time. I like to keep people guessing.

So as you can see from that extensive list, it’s all been worth it! It’s taken a bit of time and a lot of hard work and perseverance and we’ve spent a few hours on a few car parks with very kind security guards who have turned a blind eye to us.

Good that innit. ūüôā

So, thanks to Dan, thanks to the security guard and thanks to everybody else who has told me to stick with it and have faith in ‘muscle memory’. And thanks to you for reading so far. Ta.

Next on the list – solo riding. LOL.

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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…

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!

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.

 

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!