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Some tips for Basic Training! Part 2

This morning, it’s time for part two of a major new series of posts helping the beginning or novice rider to make good choices. Last week I looked at the kind of decisions to make before booking a course, today we’re going to look at how to prepare for Compulsory Basic Training (or CBT). Next week, I’ll give you some tips for helping you deal with CBT’s practical off-road training. Still to come, practical on-road riding and tips for ‘big bike’ DAS training. 

In case you’re wondering, I spent over a decade working as a basic trainer and was one of the very first qualified DAS instructors in the country. In that time, as well as doing CBTs and 125 tests, I also put somewhere around 1200 riders through their bike test on the bigger DAS machines. So these tips are all based on my personal experience of training new riders. 


  1. Before you do anything else, make sure your driving license is in order. I’ve had people turn up with an expired provisional license – you’ll be sent home.

  2. Make sure your eye sight is up to scratch too. The test is to be able to read a standard CAR number plate at a minimum distance of 20 metres in daylight – if you’re struggling to make it out, get to the optician! If you DO need glasses or contact lenses to read the number plate, you MUST use them when riding. So it would be a good idea to ensure your glasses actually go under a helmet before you arrive at the CBT school. If you can’t read the number plate, you’ll be sent home.

  3. If you have a bicycle, practice riding it! You don’t have to do lots of miles, but it’s helpful just to get the feel for being balanced on two wheels. You’d be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t) of the number of teenagers who turn up expecting to be able to jump on a motorcycle or scooter when they have never slung a leg over a pushbike. Get used to the feel of it leaning over as you go round corners, and if you’ve got space, try cycling in a figure of eight – you’ll understand why when you get to the school.

  4. READ THE HIGHWAY CODE! “Boring” I hear you say. Well, better to be bored for a few hours than have an exciting few seconds when you discover that you don’t go round a roundabout anti-clockwise and meet a bus coming the other way. Yep, it’s happened. And if you’re a driver and think you know it already, here’s a question for you – how would you work out that you’re in a one-way street?

  5. If you’re 16 and it’s going to be your first experience of the road, try to find time to sit in the front seat of a car with an experienced driver. It will help you gain a feel for how the roads work which you can’t get from the Highway Code or using online tools.

  6. Try to get a good night’s sleep on the night before CBT – it’s a long and tiring day. There’s a good chance you’ll be up earlier than normal too so don’t plan on partying the night before. In the morning, have a decent breakfast too.

  7. When you book the course, find out what the lunch and drinks policy is. Many sites don’t have any facilities other than toilets so if you want a hot drink and food you may need to bring it along. It’s a good idea to have something like an energy bar or two with you to keep your blood sugar up anyway.

  8. Particularly in hot weather make sure you have plenty of FLUIDS! Even in cold weather, you’ll find yourself sweating under the riding kit and it’s incredibly easy to get dehydrated if you don’t drink enough. That means your attention span for the afternoon’s road ride will go right out of the window. Bring headache tablets too – the concentration can give you a nasty one.

  9. Find out what the school can loan you in the way of riding kit. Virtually all with have helmets, most offer jackets and gloves, a few will have waterproofs and virtually none will have boots. A pair of trainers are totally inadequate – they are about as protective as a pair of socks. Doc Martins or work boots aren’t ideal but they are better than trainers. Think about what you’re going to wear on the day and bear in mind the weather. I’m not just talking about bike gear here, but what you put underneath it. I’ve regularly had riders turn up to do a CBT in January, who get out of a nice warm car in a light sweater and jeans. If the weather’s cold, you’ll freeze even with a bike jacket loaned by the school over the top! Think about leggings under the jeans or even two pairs of jeans. It might rain too – some cheap windproof waterproof trousers will set you back a tenner, and will stop you getting totally soaked.

  10. On the day remember that CBT stands for Compulsory (you have to do it) Basic (it’s the absolute basics) Training (it’s not a test).

  11. CBT is important because it lays the foundations for everything else you’ll do on two wheels. Notice I said “on two wheels”. If you’ve prior experience on the roads or off-road riding, don’t think you won’t learn anything and that you can breeze through it. Motorcycling is very different to driving, and you will have to learn a whole new way of using the roads on two wheels. If you’ve ridden a field bike or done competition riding it’s a help, but there’s a lot to learn about being on the road. In either case, CBT is where this learning starts.

  12. If you’re taking CBT and planning to ride a 125 on L plates, make sure you’ll do your CBT on a geared machine. Rather bizarrely, the law allows (at the moment) for CBT to be completed on a ‘twist and go’ automatic moped, yet allow a learner to go on to ride a 125cc geared bike. Why do a few training schools offer ‘twist and go’ training even when the rider intends to ride a geared machine? Because it takes out the learning necessary to figure out the clutch and gears and makes it easier to get a complete novice through CBT in a day. Would I recommend this? I think you can work out the answer to that question without too much difficulty!

  13. Don’t expect everything to come together at once – give yourself time, don’t get disappointed or put yourself under pressure by saying “everyone else can do it, why can’t I?” We don’t all learn at the same rate – it took me two and a half days to stand up on a ski slope, and I still can’t hit a golf ball! So don’t panic!!! If people didn’t put themselves under pressure by thinking CBT is a one day course it would be easier for everyone. It isn’t, it’s training till you are safe to ride unaccompanied!

  14. And lastly for today, don’t get downhearted if you aren’t awarded your CBT certificate first time. Not everyone does – there’s a lot to take in on CBT. Remember, CBT is not a test. Although you have to meet the CBT standard, it IS training. It takes time to get used to two wheels, but once you do everything soon becomes second nature and in a surprisingly short time you’ll hop on board and perform the tasks you were struggling without thinking.

Here’s a short DVSA video which walks you though the key elements of CBT:

OK, that’s enough for today, next week I’ll be looking at tips and tricks to help you as you make your way through the various riding exercises that are performed off-road on CBT. And if you have any questions on anything above, just ask!

Although I don’t expect donations, if you feel the content has been useful, you can always buy me a coffee. I don’t have sponsors, the content is not behind a paywall and entirely free to access, nor do I skim revenue from advertising. Work on the blog is in my spare time. So coffee is much appreciated, keeps me awake and keeps me writing for you! Thank you.


Watch out for the next section – what to look out for on CBT!


Who am I? I’m Kevin Williams, a full-time BTEC qualified post-test instructor with experience at advanced and basic levels who is also an MSc in science and a qualified e-tutor with an NVQ in Distance Learning Techniques.

It often a big surprise just how much diagnosis and correction of riding issues it’s possible to do online. A lot of it is down to my experience – if there’s a riding problem, I’ve almost certainly seen it AND know how to fix it. If you’ve got a riding problem drop me a line direct for free advice. I can help with all aspects of riding from novice to experienced.


Why Survival Skills?

…because it’s a jungle out there

Since 1997, Kevin Williams MSc and Survival Skills Rider Training have led the way in making high quality rider training courses and advanced motorcycling skills accessible to all riders. The goal of Survival Skills has always been to help motorcyclists at all levels – newly-qualified, intermediate, and advanced – to develop skills and ride with more confidence and enjoyment, not just by offering practical training courses but by offering books, online advice and even working on numerous rider safety projects – often for free!

“Ordinary training? No, extra-ordinary training” Barbara Alam
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