One of the frequent calls for help comes from a relatively newly qualified female rider who’s taken a 125 test, either because it’s a bit cheaper or they’re under 21. Sometimes it’s because they tried a DAS bike and couldn’t ride it well enough at the basic training school, and were advised to take the test on a 125.
Leaving aside my thoughts that in the last case the basic school should take the time and make the effort to make the rider competent on the bigger machine, the upshot is that they then get onto a bigger machine and can struggle for a number of reasons, not least because the 125 was physically small and light, and unthreatening in terms of performance.
Last year I had Charlie out, a very nice young lady who’d gone the 125 route and struggled with the bigger bike to the point of giving up. Her father contacted me direct, and managed to persuade her to do a day’s training. As she waas so nervous, I trekked over to her location near Farnborough to start the training from her garage.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this. Obviously the trainee doesn’t have to ride anywhere on their own to reach my normal locations in Maidstone or Oxford, but the downside is that I don’t know the roads so well, although after 16 years despatching and around half a million miles covered in that job there aren’t that many areas in the South and Midlands that I don’t know at least in passing! A particular problem that I usually struggle to find somewhere to practice slow control, which is often an area where new riders on the bigger bikes have an issue.
In Charlie’s case, the big problem was bends, with a side order of poor slow control! She just didn’t like doing them at any kind of speed, decelerating far too early, creeping into them virtually upright, and hugging the kerb on left handers and the white line (scary!) on right handers.
So we started out on fairly straightforward roads, working on basic positioning in the middle of the lane, and blending smooth braking and throttle control with steering, and by the end of the day she was tacking reasonably testing roads successfully – not quickly, but fast enough not to be a mobile chicane in front of impatient traffic. Just being able to go with the flow is a huge confidence boost – and MUCH safer!
Slow control was a little more difficult to tackle without access to my usual empty carparks, but we managed to find some quiet housing estate roads, and worked on the techniques there. Not ideal, but it did the trick for her, the quiet roads allowing me to offer explanations and demonstrations, and then she could practice in relative safety.
“Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. Just wanted to say thank you for all of your help. I did not feel so different about my riding when we got back to mine that day, but when I went out again later that evening I noticed how I was a lot more comfortable with my bike 🙂
“I’m still working on my cornering; practicing braking when I need to before the bend and trying to keep myself positioned in the centre of the road as I go round it. I’m also leaning a lot more into the bends that I know now which has allowed me to increase my speed a little, not so much that Im scaring myself silly you understand but just enough so that Im not holding up the traffic, lol 🙂
“I’m more willing to attempt slow control turns now as I’m getting used to the idea of what I need to be doing in order to make sure my bike stays on both wheels, lol 🙂 My stopping is a lot more controlled now as well 🙂
“My friends have noticed the change in my riding and they say my confidence has grown which is always nice to hear 🙂 I feel different – I’m not shaking with nerves whenever I go anywhere near my bike now 😉
“Thank you again for all of your help – the advice that you gave me provided me with the push that I needed to start working on the parts of my riding that I was really sketchy about and would rather ignore or avoid if I could, lol. There is still much room for improvement but I’m starting to accept that we all have to start somewhere – the only way that confidence is gained is through plenty of practice :)”