The teenager who is intent on joining his or her friends on the biking scene; the 20-something keen to buy a bike for a faster and more economical way of getting to work; or the 40-something who has finally persuaded their other half to let them get a bike. They all have one thing in common – a need for safety.
Riding a bike is not easy for the newcomer. Two wheels are less stable than four, and more susceptible to the elements. Other traffic presents a greater danger, especially when controlling a light but extremely fast vehicle that offers little protection in the event of a collision.
Whether you’re planning on getting a moped or motorbike, the first step is to obtain a provisional licence and complete a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) course.
A provisional driving licence is available when you’re 15 years and nine months old, and applies for both bikes and cars, although you cannot drive the latter until you are 17. The cost is £34 and you can apply online, using an identity document.
Once the provisional licence is in place, you can move on to the CBT training course, which teaches aspiring riders how to ride to a basic level.
It only takes a day and can be booked in numerous locations, comprising training on-site and off-site. Note that this is not a test – there’s no pass or fail. What there is, is a complete overview of the practical safety skills that you need when taking to the road on two wheels.
On successful completion of the course you’ll be able to ride a moped (if you’re 16 or over) and/or a motorcycle up to 125cc and with a power output of up to 11kW (17 or above).
You then have two years to complete your full test. While the CBT can be completed on an automatic or manual bike, you are legally allowed to ride both on a provisional licence, although it might not be advised to go straight onto the road if you have no idea about clutch or gear changes. You can either use your own bike, or one can be provided for you.
The CBT will teach you a number of things that might seem obvious when reading, but perhaps become less so when on the bike.
Many riding newcomers suffer from problems associated with target fixation – we go where we are looking, and it can sometimes be difficult for the rookie to notice anything other than that which is directly ahead.
Another consideration is your lack of size compared to cars, vans and other larger vehicles. Drivers of cars sometimes turn into a road or busy street anticipating cars around them, but not the agility and speed of a moped or bike.
The sooner you learn to anticipate potential danger to yourself, the better you’ll become at avoiding it.
You’ll also need to know how to maintain your bike, and carry out routine inspections. This is not a laborious job, since bikes are small and most of the elements of the engine are easy to examine, such as the chain.
As a final step, leathers aren’t just for show – they may save your life in the event of an accident. Be wise and wear the correct clothing when taking to the road.