Well I’ve had a good week so far. Been off work for the last week with Jake, my partner who is off post op still. Also still on a bit of a high after my lessons on the Gladius and to top it all off going down to Donnington for British super bikes on the Sunday which I’ve never done before and also the launch of Girl Torque on the Monday.
When I woke up this morning I felt terrible. For some reason I have an irrational fear of tests nowadays which I have never had before. Not sure if it’s the clip board that the examiner holds or something else but I was eventually shoe horned out the door and in to the car just before 8am. The ‘new’ test system we now have to do consists of the off road test (mod 1) demonstrating basic control of the bike before we are let loose on the public roads with an examiner. The mod 1 is done in a large test site which is enclosed by a good 6/7 ft high fence and is surfaced with shell grip (apparently this has very good grip). It consists of a manual handling exercise which is just pushing the bike in to a set of cones then out in to another. A slalom between cones then in to a figure of 8. Followed by riding down a straight line at slow speed and stopping in between 4 cones before executing a u-turn. Then comes the ‘high’ speed runs.
The first of these is just following the circuit around and again stopping in the same four cones as before as if approaching a junction. Then again around this same circuit only this time my speed is taken by the speed trap which has to be above 50km/h just over 30 mph I believe. When the examiner (or Ian in my case today) holds up their hand then its an emergency stop. Last run is the same scenario, through the speed trap and straight in to the swerve test and stopping in the vicinity of the four cones. Overall the test does not take long (approx 7mins) but today each person had a half hour of practicing on the actual test site.
Unfortunately Dumfries does not have this facility so for this test I have to travel to Carlisle. Myself and another man who is also learning with right rider arrived for the practice so Ian talked us through the site to begin with and the test layout. I was volunteered to go first by the typical ladies first scenario which I reluctantly accepted. I was feeling incredibly nervous, not to mention nauseous and shaky. However the majority of the practice test went well. I was most worried about the manual handling exercise as I thought I might find the heavier bike more difficult to push around but this was surprisingly not as difficult as I expected. Yes on a warm day this is not comfortable as I was wearing full bike gear including helmet and gloves. How many people push their bike around wearing full bike gear in warm weather? The slalom, figure of 8, slow speed ride and u-turn all went well. The other learner who was waiting his turn and watching me said I was making it look easy. To be honest it was easy. I had no problems with these at all. If anything it is much easier in this controlled environment as it is all flat. I spent more time during this practice session practicing the high speed runs, particularly the swerve test as this is not something we can practice on the roads. These again all went well. They are not difficult manoeuvres but I will admit that I found it bizarre having to get up to a certain speed before stopping which took a few tries to get a feel for. There are two circuit’s a left hand circuit and a right.
After several shots on the right hand circuit I had a shot at the left. This all went well and my speeds were coming back fine. So one last run doing an emergency stop then I would be done. Off I go round the left hand circuit, through the speed trap and brake. Only this time Ian had suggested I try and cut down my stopping distance a little. Unfortunately on this last run I pulled the front brake a little too hard and apparently locked the front wheel, skidding. I released this immediately and the bike righted itself but I was still hurtling towards the fence so on with both brakes and slid again, released and last time on with brakes only this time the bike went down and both me and the bike went catapulting towards the fence. I could see the fence coming towards me as I was rolling across the ground and thought it might stop me. It did to a point. I stopped half way through the fence and got stuck under it. Not being able to free myself the security guard, Ian and the lovely gentleman who was waiting for his turn lifted the fence off to let me out. As I was getting to my feet my first thought was ‘Where’s the bike? Is it ok? It had a bit more momentum and hadn’t stopped at the fence but went straight through and across the grass. The protective clothing had done it’s job well- thank you Suzuki! Two piece held up well although my trousers are torn where I slid along the ground and my helmet had some plastic broken off. However I was absolutely fine. I wanted to get back on the bike and get back in the site to have another go. The site manager appeared and as I asked Ian looked to her for an answer but she refused. She insisted I went inside for a seat despite my protesting that I was fine. I wasn’t even allowed to check if the bike was ok. After being escorted inside and finally convincing the officials that I was not in shock I could go out but the bike was already loaded in to the van and all that was left was a hole in the fence and some missing grass. Apparently the damage was minimal- a broken indicator, clutch lever and minor scratching. I felt terrible about the damage and also the test site had to be closed due to the damage there so the other learners did not get their practice. I did apologise an awful lot in the time after the accident.
I found it very beneficial to practice on the actual test site as it has taken away the unknown. I know exactly what is expected of me now when it comes to my test. The down side is the accident wasn’t a good end to my week. I would have been much happier if I could have jumped back on the bike straight away. Next best thing is that I can come back down in a weeks time for another practice before my real test. I also now know what it is like to fall off and according to the spectators I fell off very spectacularly which would have made a great video for this site if anyone had anticipated it enough to point the camera…..