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Testing times for rookie rider

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Jennie Gow | 15:16 UK time, Sunday, 25 July 2010

I think it's safe to say that Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi and the MotoGP gang won't be losing sleep when they find out I've passed my Compulsory Basic Training (CBT).

OK, I'm not ready to take out an M1 - Yamaha's MotoGP machine - quite yet but after a day in leathers on a bike I can honestly say it was one of the best days ever!

It's all part of the Get On campaign, which aims to get more people out of their cars and onto two wheels.
I didn't have to be asked twice to take part in the scheme, which also helps those who haven't been out on their bikes in a while to dust off the mothballs and give it another go.

CBT was first introduced in 1990 to try and cut down the amount of accidents involving bikes and since then it has been illegal to take a proper motorbike out on the roads.

stoner_blog.jpgCasey Stoner of Australia races during practice laps at Laguna Seca - photo: AP

Your CBT lasts for two years and ideally, before it runs out, you'll have taken your Direct Access - that's your proper bike test - and be off on the roads on the bike of your dreams.

So what's involved?

It's a full day of training and it was a little daunting to be back in a classroom environment but my instructor, William, put my mind at ease and explained there were five main sections, each one to be completed successfully before you can move on to the next.

We started with an introduction to the course and all the legal bits about riding on roads, from helmets and gloves to leathers and footwear. It was all quite civilised as we chatted and sipped a cup of tea and I listened to tales of William and the many, many people he'd helped to pass.

Section one completed we moved on to practical on-site training, the bit I'd been waiting to do for ages - to actually get my hands on a bike. William introduced me to my trusty steed for the day, a sleek black Honda 125 GR, and talked me through the controls and some of the basic checks you have to do before you set off and then it was time to fire her up.

I had a big smile on my face and my heart was racing as I turned the key of my first proper motorbike. It was exhilarating - a scooter just doesn't give you the same feeling!

Then it was time for the real fun to begin as I hopped onto the bike and in the disused car park of a local leisure centre, I rode up and down learning the basic controls and functions.

Next, it was time to master some moves and get to grips with 'slow control' - which basically means doing U-turns and figure-of-eights. It was a bit like being asked to rub your head and pat your tummy at the same time, but after a couple of attempts I had it sussed.

Basically, it's all about looking where you want to go and sure enough the bike will follow. So, if you look at the curb, the bike will head straight into the curb - don't do that!!

Emergency stops were next on the list - the MotoGP boys don't have too much call for those but out on the roads it's a pretty crucial part of the training.

After a quick pit stop for a spot of lunch sitting on a hillock talking about MotoGP, government safety schemes and sheepskin seat covers (I didn't bring that one up!) it was back to the classroom for a bit more theory.

I was back learning my highway code - talking speed control, road signs and how to stay safe on the road. I was listening really carefully by now because I knew very soon I wouldn't be in the safety of the classroom or car park - I would be on the road.

To complete your CBT you have to ride for at least two hours on the open road. William would be on his bike behind me, giving me instructions through my ear piece (not so different from a race weekend really).

And then we were off. William's reassuring voice talking to me all the way as I took a right turn onto the open road. I'm not going to lie, it was daunting and my heart was going like the clappers but as I released the clutch and got up to speed (30mph on a motorbike feels a lot faster than 30mph in a car) I felt a freedom and excitement that I have never felt on four wheels!

As we rode through the country lanes of Caversham and Henley I began to grow in confidence and after two hours on the bike we were happily riding through the centre of Reading in rush hour.

It really was an amazing couple of hours and by the time we got back to the test centre, I really felt I had a better understanding of what the MotoGP guys put themselves through every week.

Sure it's not like I could leg it around Silverstone now or take on 'the corkscrew' at any great speed but whether you're riding at 30mph or 200mph, the basics are the same - and I can now say I'm officially trained to do them.

Last weekend I was speaking to Alvaro Bautista at a Suzuki dinner and, having once given me a scooter masterclass, he asked me how my riding was coming along. When I told him I had just done my CBT he looked dead chuffed, as if he had had a little part to play in my learning to ride - and he did!

In fact, all the MotoGP guys have because when you've spent even a small amount of time with them or watching them you want to understand what they do more, what makes them tick. Their energy and passion is contagious and that's one of the things I love most about the sport.

As I said at the beginning I'm not going to be rivalling any of the MotoGP guys quite yet but at least I know if one of them ever wants to go for a spin I can say yes and not just have to ride pillion.

And the next step for me? I really want to do my full licence and after I've got a bit more experience on a bike that's exactly what I plan to do. I'm completely hooked and can't wait to put some serious hours in on the road.

Only one thing left to do now, choose a bike.

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