I've been riding the BMW F700GS all week now, and got through my mod one test on Wednesday. Now on to module two - the road ride.
On the 'Mod Two' test you're followed by the examiner (who can be either in a car or on a bike), who give instructions via radio. When we arrived at the test centre Ian introduced me to my examiner Andy and we went through all the paperwork. Andy gave me my radio and asked me a few questions about my bike, like how to use the horn and check the oil level. Thankfully Ian and I had gone through this, so I was able to answer them okay.
We then set off, with Andy in a car following behind. I was to go straight ahead unless he told me otherwise. It was a bit weird as until now I'd always had an instructor riding immediately behind me and fir the first time I felt like I was on my own, but Andy's instructions were clear and he was always right behind me, so I just concentrated on the riding.
Several times during the course of the test Andy asked me to pull over to the side of the road, or behind a parked car, and then to move away again. Ian had warned me he’d ask me to do this, but it still felt a bit odd. I guess he was checking my observation and bike control skills.
After a few miles, Andy said I was entering the 'independent riding' section of the test and that I should follow the signs to Cambridge until he said to pull over. It's so that the examiner can check that you're able to navigate at the same time as controlling the bike and coping with the traffic. It was going okay until I came to a roundabout. The sign showing the layout of the roundabout was obscured by a double decker bus that had stopped at a bus stop. When I arrived at the roundabout, I found a two lanes entry and five exits. I tok a 50/50 gamble on needing the left-hand lane as I hoped I'd need to go straight ahead - but of course it was the blasted fourth exit! Being a small roundabout and with no other traffic on there , I did a couple of lifesaver checks then continued round.
Back at the test centre Andy told me I hadn’t passed. I was gutted. He explained that in that situation I should have carried on straight and pulled over – it turns out you can’t fail for getting lost or taking the wrong turning, but you will fail for using the wrong lane.
I tell you something; I remember that roundabout in infinite detail. So when I came to retake my test and I found myself on exactly the same route, I couldn't believe my luck. This time, my new examiner Stuart, was following on a bike and as we rode down the road I thought, ‘Here comes that bloody roundabout again…’ This time I was determined to not mess it up.
Despite getting several minor marks (you can collect up to 15 minor marks and still pass, but just one major mark causes a fail) I passed my Mod Two exam. I was so pleased that I'd passed, I can’t even remember what the minors were for - a couple for lack of observation I think - I wasn’t really listening!
The ride back to the training centre was ace. Ian was chatting away on the radio and I was nodding or laughing at him. There are some really nice S-bends somewhere between Bedford
and Sandy, and I could concentrate on the corner instead of worrying about which observations to do, so I just dropped my shoulder and leaned the bike in – it felt incredible.
An experienced instructor like Ian is a godsend. He knows how to tailor his training to best suit his pupil. I'll be honest, I'm not the best at being told what to do and I like a good debate about most things, before I fall in line. Ian quickly understood that and gave me the space (and tea-breaks) I needed to over-analyse like only a girl can.
From the moment you get your pass certificate you are a fully signed-up motorcyclist – although you must send your certificate off to DVLA to update your licence and, until you get that back, you cannot carry pillion passengers.
Has it all been worth it? Definitely. You learn so much about riding, but also about yourself. There is a lot to learn, but its brilliant fun, especially if you;re lucky enough to have instructors like Ian and his team - I can’t thank them enough.
I'd really like to rush straight out and buy a bike, like a true gemini I'm trying to do everything at the same time including some big work projects, learning Italian and buying a house. So despite being surrounded by them every day at work which fuels my envy, I'm afraid buying a bike will have to wait a little while. But it'll happen and whatever it is, it'll have to be able to lean!
Thanks to Ian Biederman and all at BMW Rider Training, Royston – see www.bmwridertraining.net