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Some tips for Basic Training! Part 3

Today, in part three of the major series of new posts from Survival Skills helping the beginning or novice rider, we’re looking some tips to help you with CBT’s practical off-road training. In mid-March, when I’m back from New Zealand, I’ll look at how to ‘convert’ to the big bike for Direct Access training and then take you through some practical on-road riding skills and knowledge that work for CBT and DAS


  1. Firstly, there’s a lot to take in over the next few hours and it’s vital to get things right. So listen to your instructor. Most trainers have years of experience, they know exactly which areas cause problems and what advice to give to solve them.

  2. Secondly, ASK QUESTIONS! The only stupid question is the one that doesn’t get asked. If you don’t understand something that’s been said, or you think something that you need to know hasn’t been mentioned, ASK!

  3. And finally, I’m not going to cover the first element of CBT which involves telling you about protective clothing and helmets. Nor am I going to cover the familiarisation with the machine you’ll be using – your instructor will cover both topics. Instead I’m going to skip straight to the riding but even then I’m only going to cover a few topics – we’d be here all day.

  4. POSTURE: it’s the start of everything else. You’ll probably be told to keep your elbows loose and your feet up, but the way to do this is by gripping the tank with your knees. It’s tiring but it stops you from leaning onto the handlebars and hanging on for dear life or wobbling around like a jelly on top of the bike. You and the machine become one unit.

  5. BRAKING: of course, when trainees finally get to the bike, they want to go riding, but there’s something else to learn first – how to stop. Think about it.

  6. The first thing you need to know is where your brakes are – and the answer is different depending on whether you’re taking CBT on a motorcycle or an automatic scooter. On manual motorcycles, the brake lever on the right handlebar operates the front brake, and the foot lever operates the rear brake. But automatic scooters don’t use conventional brakes. The front brake is on the right handlebar, but the rear brake on an automatic is on the left handlebar. Make sure you understand exactly how the brakes on your machine operate when::: starting :: stopping :: parking

You’ll be shown how to use them for gentle applications as well as emergency stops. When you are confident with the brakes, you’ll be able to deal with hazards more effectively.

  1. On a conventional motorcycle, balanced braking will demand the use of both front and rear brakes together, with the front being applied first and doing most of the work. Try to apply them progressively. When you’ve lost enough speed, ease the brakes gently off again – that way the bike will stay more stable on the suspension. Try not to ‘snap’ them on and off.

  2. You may hear the instructor mention the ’75:25 rule’ to show that when braking we use the front more than the rear, but be careful – try this on a lightweight step-through or small scooter, and you may well lock the front wheel.

  3. And in the wet, we need to reduce our braking effort at the front. Instead of 50:50, it’s more like 25:25 – much less front brake and no more rear!

  4. But don’t be afraid of the front – it won’t “have you over the bars” as I heard one experienced rider tell a new rider a few years ago. Except when riding slowly, using the rear alone to slow from speed is ineffective (which means it takes much longer to stop) and often causes the rear wheel to lock up.

  5. SLOW CONTROL: unlike a car that’s balanced on four wheels, riding a bike slowly depends entirely on our ability to ride slowly under full control. The tricky bit to understand is that because a motorcycle relies on movement to balance, the slower we ride, the less stability the bike has. And this means that when making a tight turn – as you need to for the cone exercise, the answer is to lean angle and NOT less speed! And this is why I mentioned practising riding in Figure Eights on a bicycle – it really help with getting comfortable with the feel of ‘leaning’.

  6. Here’s a tip to turning tight. From a standstill, keep the bars straight so the bike’s first movement is straight ahead, get your balance and THEN start turning.

  7. And if you want to slow down when riding slowly? Then the best brake to use is the rear brake, especially if you are turning. Get your foot in position before you start to steer – if you don’t and find yourself going too fast, you’re likely to jab suddenly and brake too hard.

  8. And remember – DON’T touch the front brake unless you have turned the bars straight and the machine upright.

  9. LOOKING WHERE YOU WANT TO GO: You may be told (and you’ll undoubtedly hear sooner or later) that “you go where you look” but there is no magic law of physics. The real fact is that it’s extremely difficult to aim the bike in one direction when we’re looking somewhere else. What pulls our attention is ALWAYS what’s on the OUTSIDE of the turn, where we’ll run out of space if we don’t get it right. So when turning in a tight space, it’s natural to look at the kerb or some other obstruction such as a parked car…

  10. …and then we find ourselves heading straight for it. So DON’T look where you don’t WANT to go. Instead, look for ‘markers’ you can use on the inside of the turn and try to turn AROUND them rather than turn to avoid obstructions. Where you have cones to guide you, look at the cones on the INSIDE. And then look for the next – don’t look down at the cone you’re just passing.

Final point… these are all tips to help you get the most from your training based on how I train and explain. Not everyone teaches the same way so please don’t tell your instructor “but this bloke on the internet says…”. Listen to what you’re told and you’ll most likely find we’re saying the same thing in slightly different ways.

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 start looking at how to deal with specific problem areas on the road. And if you have any questions on anything above, just ask!

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. 

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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