This is something a little different from the race reports I usually waffle about so hang in there…
I am currently learning to ride… a motorbike. Having always been around motorbikes, whether it’s racing or travelling as pillion, learning to ride is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve had a few obstacles in the way, but I’m ready to tick this off my bucket list. Let’s face it, I live on the Isle of Man… there’s no excuse not to get it done!
I passed my car test at 16 and yes, that is legal on the Isle of Man. I think everyone believes that because you are aware of the rules of the road that side of things shouldn’t be difficult. Okay, in some respects I believe that, but in others… not so much! I honestly think it makes you believe you should pass your motorbike test in a blink of an eye because you’ve practically done it before. Nope, wrong, false. It’s completely different and sometimes I envy those who did their bike test before learning to drive a car. I’m already thinking I should have done it that way round!
Let’s start from the beginning. Your CBT (Compulsory Basic Training.) I passed my first CBT when I was 19. Loved every minute of it even though it lashed it down. I then didn’t take my test. At 24 I decided to do my CBT again. When I did my re-CBT, the instructor said in the car park ‘are you sure you’ve done your CBT before?’ Oh eff off, yes I am sure! I’d never felt so embarrassed or put down. Yes, it had been a while since I’d been on two wheels. I’d been open and honest about that as well as the fact I’d lost all my confidence. It probably also didn’t help it was SO fucking hot the sweat was running into my eyes. It was madness, but the moment I started to ride on an actual road rather than a bloody playground, it all came flooding back. The life savers, mirror and head check…. I felt like I was spending more time looking backwards just as I did before. And, before anyone says it, yes I’m fully aware they are very necessary thank you. They take you over part of the TT course, through estates, along the prom and them dreaded horse tram lines. Potentially you pass the grandstand at a phenomenal 30mph (because that’s the speed limit folks…!) and then it’s done and dusted. You can ride legally on the road on your own on your own motorcycle as long as it’s no more than 125cc. Let the panic begin.
It is terrifying. The first time I put my gear on and sat on Nelli ready to go out on her I was nervous… of course. I was on a brand new bike for the very first time and I’d only just passed my CBT. Now, yes I’m a woman, maybe a man or another woman may find learning to ride a motorbike differently to how I did, but there are reasons why. Fortunately, riding a motorcycle kind of came easy to me, but I can see how it doesn’t for so many people. The amount of times I’ve sat there about to set off and I’m constantly thinking ‘shit, I’ve forgotten how to do this,’ ‘1 down 4 up,’ ‘fuck where’s my brakes.’ As soon as you get going it’s absolutely fine and you forget about all the crap you were thinking 5 seconds before you let the clutch out. As much as I enjoyed being on two-wheels, the fear of falling off or whatever else could happen ruined it for me at the beginning. I have now, however, found the reason why I was so worried!
Being only 5’2″, it’s been a slight struggle finding a motorbike I can actually reach the floor on as long as trousers that fit, etc, etc. (Thankfully I found MotoGirl who’s kevlar legging type trousers are DIVINE. I will do a little gear list eventually on here.) After I passed my CBT the first time my Dad helped me buy a KTM Duke 125. She was a bloody beauty and I loved her, but I’m pretty sure I rode that bike on pure adrenaline. I couldn’t reach the floor very well at all and without the experience and confidence behind you, there is just no way you can deal with that as a learner. I lost all my confidence. I didn’t want to go out on it and instead she sat dormant in the garage for 2 years. I loved the idea of a Honda Grom, but didn’t like them to look at… They look fun-sized, but without looking too ridiculous. The amount of grown 6’4” men riding round on them at TT last year was obscene, but they all looked like they were having the time of their life! Anyway, my partner had spotted a different motorbike which was similar looking to the Grom… that’s when we took a drive up to Dedman’s Performance in Ramsey. Little Nelli was sat outside and I fell in love. Probably two weeks later I’d ordered my brand new Benelli TNT 125 and booked my CBT. I part-exed my KTM for Nelli, Paul Dedman came to drop it off and pick the KTM up and that was that. Don’t buy a bike that you don’t feel comfortable with. I learnt the hard way and now I’m starting all over again!
My little Benelli TNT 125 – I absolutely love her. The OTR prices are considerably lower (potentially £2k less) than a Honda MSX 125 and in my opinion I think the Benelli have got the design of it on point. I’ve had a few comments now asking what it is, how smart it looks, how fast does it go and they all end with ‘I want one!’ If you are looking for a little 125 to bob around on, I can highly recommend this:
As you have probably guessed, I did pass my re-CBT and here we are. Riding on the roads solo. Well, not technically. I think my mother would probably kill me if I decided to go out on my own, but also my little comfort is having Chris ride with me. Trust me, that poor ZX-7 is fed up of my 50mph riding and Chris is too…
Talking of 50mph, that’s the learner limit here in derestricted zones. If you’re not familiar with derestricted zones, it basically means if in doubt flat about because there is no limit. If I’m honest, I’m quite content at that speed right now. The thought of going any faster currently makes me want to vomit, but I’m sure in time that will pass. Now, in a car, I’d happily do *insert high number here* mph, but I probably wasn’t happy doing that when I was learning to drive or just passed. It’s come with time, practice and experience. After all, that was almost 10 years ago. *feeling old*
The other week I got overtaken by some crazy woman in a clapped out Nissan Micra. Was I upset? A little. Chris was even more infuriated because she then persisted on tailgating him allllllll the way through Ballaugh’s 30mph zone. Prick. Anyway, let not forget I am riding on the Isle of Man TT course and I am most definitely not a TT racer. Usually they’re in the range of 150mph+, not under 50mph, so I’ll keep motoring along at my own speed for now. I got frustrated, but there was no point because Nelli probably only does a max of 60mph bless. Also, legally 50mph is my limit and in all honesty it is where I’m comfortable at the minute. Yeah, yeah, take the piss. Everyone has to start somewhere. Whatever, overtake me. See what I care. I’m learning to ride a motorbike and that’s not something everyone does in their life, so give me an effing break.
This little blog was inspired by that shitty Nissan Micra woman, so thanks to her you got this little insight into my brain whilst learning to ride a motorbike. 10% of the time I’m shitting myself. 85% of the time I’m loving life and probably ‘whoop whooping’ in my helmet, and the other 5% I’m raging at a shitty car driver for not understanding that I’m a learner and people have to learn.
I am currently loving and living for every minute on two wheels. It rained the other morning, the sun shined at lunchtime and I’m asking work colleagues ‘IS THE ROAD DRY?! DID YOU NOTICE?!’ Going out in the wet isn’t at the top of my list just yet, but I’ll do it eventually. Aside from letting Chris take the ZX-7 out for a blast, I’m trying to sieze every little moment on Nelli because quite honestly, at the moment, it’s the best little stress reliever going. I would 100% recommend to a friend. Just do it.
I’ve still got a lot of learning to do, lots to experience and a test to pass, but I’m enjoying being back on two wheels especially on such a beautiful island where motorcycles are a way of life.
Updates to follow…