Monday 14 November 2011

So to the tests.

I made the decision to sit my full licence in May 2011 and immediately set about trying to find a motorcycle school that could give me the easiest passage through the tests. Ok... so the criteria: not much traffic, in an area I know, and close to the "lady/partner/girl friend's house" (what do you call the person you share a bed with when you have reached a certain age?!!)

As ever, taking what seemed to be the path of least resistance proved to have many hidden and overlooked challenges.

I really honestly thought this would be a piece of cake. That was until I tried my online mock theory tests. . On my first attempt I scored 35 out of 50, a fail. I then spent the next two weeks sporadically working out what to do when approaching Toucan Crossing roads, old ladies on Zebras and what lights a Pelican waves at you when you scream up to them in a cloud of rubber smoke.

Ignoring the fact that some UK road makers have an exotic animal fetish, in turns out that the test is now less about road safety knowledge and actually more like a reading test. I now also understand the constant complaints from the oldies on why A-Levels are now easy. This test is not about driving but about how well you can pass it; it's simply 'exam technique'.

This is especially true of the “hazard perception test” which is a new addition to the whole process. So in a room full of spotty teenagers none of whom you would let near mummy’s “Beemer” or third hand Fiesta, I exercised my new-found knowledge on how to pass a modern test. Stepping out of the theoretical test centre and into the sun drenched Georgian Edinburgh streets, the score was, Me-1, EU test motorcycle test- 0.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Bafta Scotland for the Great Climb

A slight diversion from bikes for the moment. A BBC program I worked on as a commentator and sport expert has just won a BAFTA Scotland. We done to the team.

In the beginning there was a 125 a mountain and a trail

I am surrounded by a pile of books and DVLA DVDs and in the presence of these official publications, I feel guilty. It's a bit like when you're little and you're sitting in a classroom full of kids and the pickpocket is asked to come forward. Even though you're totally innocent you feel the pang of some deep seated culpability. It’s the humiliation of the L Plate and I have not felt this for over 30 years. It’s a rare meeting between state and confirmed individualist. I'm not sure I truly belong as I have to admit that I find myself here more by accident than design. A few years ago, I moved to the French Alps to a village where every third person seems to own a Trials bike. The hills in the off-season echo to the sounds of two stoke growling and gunfire and are shared between the wild boar hunters and the riders of the single cylinder blue smoke thumpers.

Opting to join the Gas Gas culture rather than the gun culture, the dividing line between an early morning Pastis or a petit cafĂ©, is an exciting revelation for a once confirmed mountain bike rider and downhiller. But six months into this journey, the 125cc I have been riding is beginning to die under my weight, its high pitching whining (a sound often ignored in other aspects of my life) has to be respected. The owner of a local bar, having chucked himself down a ravine attached to his 300cc machine has decided discretion "is the better part" of something...... His pride and joy, so easily given up, now sits in my shed. It waits for me to be able to (legally) ride across the short stretch of hardtop that annoyingly stands between my house and the mountain trails. Basically anything over 125cc requires me to hold a full motorcycle licence. What started as a simple fulfilment of legal requirements to cross a 200m stretch of frost cracked tar has ended up leading me into the realm of GS’s and GPS's, and onwards into the brave new world of Adventure bike riding.