Having passed our theory tests (and messed up doing both parts of our Practical tests prior to the rule change on 19th January) the only thing left to do was book ourselves in for some training on “big bikes”. We had by this point come to terms with the fact that we would not be doing our tests under the pre-19th January rules so we took ourselves over to [Cheshire Biker Training](http://www.cheshirebikertraining.co.uk/index.php) and booked an assessment day. While we were there we chatted about the new rules and what we’d have to do in order to take the big bike test. I wasn’t really thinking about it as the Direct Access Scheme (DAS) at this point but of course this is the route we are taking as we are starting the process before the rule change – after the rule change it’s only those of us lucky enough to be [over 24 who will have this option](http://www.bikelicence.co.uk/). Everyone else will have to go through staged access meaning that they have to be at least 21 before they will be able to gain an unrestricted category A licence.
Once we’d booked ourselves in and looked at the bikes (I left wishing I hadn’t) the temperature proceeded to spend the next few days plummeting even further than it previously had. The day we booked they had cancelled 12 bike tests due to ice apparently. A kindly friend told me winter riding would make me a better rider than I would otherwise be… I looked at the ice on the ground, went “no, I don’t think so”, holed myself up in my nice warm boat and only ventured out to walk the dog. So much for getting back on a motorbike before the assessment day. We watched the weather with a level of trepidation, neither of us was particularly keen on riding on ice unnecessarily however we also didn’t want to put off staring to work our way through any longer than we already had. Besides I have that Virago to think about.
In the event the weather broke on the day of our training so we traipsed down the hill in full motorbike gear in heavy rain. It would be cold and wet all day but at least it wasn’t icy. We spent the morning out on 125cc motorbikes. The first part of the assessment was a gentle ride out to see how we did on bikes. Apparently we did ok. It was cold and wet so we headed back to the centre for a cup of tea and to talk about areas that needed improvement. Having defrosted slightly we were back out on the 125s to practice control techniques. This meant a lot of turning corners and unlearning a bad habits (in my case), I’ve done a lot of mileage in a short space of time with very little training and, while I ride well (or at least well enough to be put on a 500cc bike) I do have some “interesting” ways of doing things which may, or may not be the correct way of doing them. Having spent a lot of time on a push bike prior to learning to ride a motorbike, I rely quite a lot on natural balance which is fine on a push bike or a 125 but not so good on a much heavier 500. It was on this second trip out on a 125 that the driver of a skip lorry decided to pull out on me without actually looking to see if there were any vehicles behind him. I got quite a lot of praise for the way I dealt with it, to be fair I was going very slowly at the time and it’s not the first time someone’s jumped out on me. Plus I managed to avoid swearing at him either verbally or via gesticulation.
Once we got back this time we talked through the requirements for going out on the 500s. Scary. We’d had two instructors at all times during the day, though three in total as they were doing PPD (personal and professional development), we didn’t mind as it meant we got a variety of teaching techniques over the course of the day. That first ride on a 500 was a bit scary. I loved it but it was still scary. I don’t like going fast and I left still a little scared that the bike would fall over if I wasn’t careful. We rode out to a village, had a hot chocolate and then rode back to the centre for a cup of tea and a debrief. [Skippy](http://skippy.org.uk) led on the way out, and I led on the way back (one of my major concerns for the day was that I would struggle to hear the radios as I had problems on my CBT (Compulsory Bike Training) understanding what the instructor was saying however this time there were no problems at all). At times I managed to relax and just ride but some of the time I was focusing too much on the fact that I was riding an unfamiliar bike and fretting about it all going wrong.
Once we were most of the way back to the centre it nearly did all go wrong. We were turning right at a cross junction with traffic lights. The traffic coming towards us was on the same phase as us. When the lights changed the car turning across in front of me and I moved at the same time, this was fine and perfectly legal, we were clearing the junction, in fact it wouldn’t be worthy of a mention at all had a car not popped out from the one in front of me, I saw it heading towards me and just for a second I was convinced I was going underneath it. Fortunately I had the confidence of my convictions and got myself off the junction leaving my instructors and Skippy caught in the middle of the junction. We were less than two minutes ride from the centre and as it was double yellows the whole way round I headed back to the centre happy that they would follow me as soon as they could.
Despite that moment I then spent the whole evening being utterly jazzed that I’d been out on a 500. It was a really good feeling and I never wanted it to end. (That said I did get back quite wet and cold.) We promptly booked ourselves in for another days training some of which would, hopefully, be spent on the Mod 1 course.