Big Bike Licence: Part 4 – Module Two

Having passed my Mod 1 test I was back at the unit the following day to be “tortured” by Nick.

Day 1

It was another clear(ish), icy day with just a hint of fog thus taking the temperature down from a comfortable 1 deg C to a somewhat uncomfortable -1 deg C. We ran out of milk in the morning and I nearly froze walking the dog (she wasn’t that impressed by the whole idea either). I ended up grabbing breakfast from the corner shop on the way down the hill (way to be healthy) and making tea/coffee for Nick and Toby when I got in.

There were two very friendly gentlemen in the unit when I arrived being taken through their compulsory bike training by Mark while I shivered, made coffee and fretted about my Module Two test.

First task of the day (the tea making doesn’t really qualify) was to write a list of the things the examiner would be looking for on the board. While there’s a lot of individual tasks that make up the answer (and no the answer isn’t everything it fundamentally boils down to the following four aspects.

Your riding should be:

  • Safe: basically that all your checks are in place, that you are travelling at an appropriate speed for the road/conditions, that you’re in control of the bike, you know all the normal stuff.
  • in control so no unnecessary wobbling, no dragging your foot, no skidding and above all, no dropping the bike
  • don’t impact anybody you don’t pull out on anyone and make them slam their brakes on or take evasive action, you don’t indicate that you’re turning when you’re not, or not indicate when you are etc.
  • If you have done all of the above you will blend with the traffic

After it had warmed up a bit we went out for a ride. It wasn’t my greatest ride ever and certainly wasn’t helped by the fog we were plunged into which froze my hands and caused me to lose concentration while riding. Not great. I eventually pulled over and warmed my hands on Nick’s heated grips (I should have done it sooner).

Nick then spent the next bit of the ride breaking my ability to do junctions by picking up on all my faults and making me think about why I was making them. By the time we headed back to the unit for lunch I was thinking so much about how to do a junction I forgot about how to ride a bike…

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Ah warmth

While we were having some food and a warm up Nick ran through the stages of learning with me – it’s not a necessary part of the training but it was an interesting thing to do and I did feel a whole lot better about it for thinking things through in a variety of ways.

So the stages of learning:

  1. unconscious incompetence: you’ve never done it before therefore you can’t do it and you don’t know why you can’t do it
  2. conscious incompetence: you’re learning how to do it, you know you can’t do it and you know why
  3. conscious competence: you’re getting the hang of doing it but it’s taking a lot of thought and concentration to get it right.
  4. unconscious competence: you know how to do it and you don’t have to think about doing it right thus leaving your brain free to think about other things – like road signs and whether you left the kettle on. This doesn’t mean that you’re riding dangerously it just means you’re so used to it that you don’t have to focus so much on what you’re doing.

At lunch time I was very firmly in the conscious competence range with occasional dips into conscious incompetence. I knew what I was doing and I knew how to do it but I couldn’t necessarily do everything that was required of me all at the same time.

We went back out again after lunch and during the afternoon I moved further up the scale and managed to make it from conscious competence to moments of unconscious competence. Result, but not good enough for my test on Saturday so it’s back in for another half day possibly days training to take me up to a test standard.

Day 2

This morning I was joined by a guy who had passed his Mod 1 the same day as me and had managed to arrange his Mod 2 test for the following Monday. He’d booked the test himself in St Helens and despite doing his Mod 1 on a test centre bike had chosen to do his Mod 2 on his own bike. He’d booked in for half a days training and was using his own bike for this as well.

When we got on the bikes it became clear that he didn’t have any wing mirrors (I’m not sure if this proved to be a problem on test day or not) but it did mean that his checks were very important.

We spent the morning going through everything that we would be expected to do on the Mod 2 (with the codicil that I would be expected to get up to 60-65mph on the dual carriageway on my test whereas Toby kept us at about 50mph as there was a fair chance the 125 wouldn’t get that fast. When we stopped for a debrief the complaints started coming.

I had been leading for most of the morning and apparently I was using my breaks too much when I stopped at junctions and traffic lights. My response to this was that I probably wasn’t putting it on as hard as he thought I was and that possibly he should watch the gap rather than my break light. Apparently he was watching the gap. I know that the break light is extremely sensitive on the bike I was using as I had had to change my riding position because riding covering the break occasionally meant that my foot would catch the pedal and I’d put the break light on even though I wasn’t actually breaking.

I suggested he go in front for the rest of the ride and he pointed out to me that he didn’t have as much acceleration as I did therefore I wasn’t to complain when it took us a while to get up to speed – wasn’t planning on it. I’ve ridden a 125 for the last year and quite a lot of miles – I know what they can and can’t do.

We also practiced hill starts – the hill we were taken to for this excursive is supremely difficult particularly on a heavy, high bike that I’m not particularly used to. Doing it on a 125 would have been very easy but sadly I don’t have that option on my test. Toby pointed out that if I could do that one I would have no problems on my test as they wouldn’t pick anything that hard – but that there would be a hill start at some point.

I left the day – not exactly feeling confident that I would pass but knowing that I had done as much as I possibly could.

Test Day

The test was in St Helens which meant the three of us getting there early, the bikes being loaded into the van along with two of the students, and my being loaded onto the back of Degs bike. (Two instructors, three students and the van only has three seats.)

About 5 miles down the road I realised I’d forgotten my driving licence – this is a bit of a problem when it comes to doing a bike test. At the first available set of traffic lights I let Degs know and we pulled over so I could ring Skippy and get him to come to St Helens with it – cause you know, there’s nothing like getting the day off to a good start.

I then spent the rest of the ride consciously relaxing, moving with the bike and focusing on the fact that everything was as it would be by this point.

We arrived at the test centre an hour early, Skippy and my driving licence arrived about 10 minutes later.

The problem with waiting around is that it increases the chances of getting stressed so by the time I was actually due to go out on my test I was extremely wound up.

The test itself seemed to last no time at all. I got back to the test centre utterly convinced I’d failed, but I hadn’t – I’d passed. I’m still not sure how.

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