Date reviewed: May 2017 | Tested by: Simon Hancocks | Price: £749 | http://www.hondamotorcycletrainingderby.co.uk/courses/step-up
As somebody who has grown up around motorcycles, motorcycle racing and kitchen rebuilds, being a 35-year-old without a full motorcycle licence is a bit of a bummer! It’s not that I haven’t tried in the past, it’s just that my preparation was never that great; the first time I went for my test I did my CBT – no problem – then had two lessons and went for my Mod One. I failed. I dabbed a foot on my U-Turn and that was that – test over.
Fast forward four years and I’m stood on the vast expanse of Tarmac behind Redgate corner at Donington Park. This time, I came prepared! I’ve been riding on a CBT and provisional for four years, commuting every day to work, all year round and in all weathers. I clock up 7000+ miles a year on my trusty 125, and am hoping that this will have given me the confidence and skills I need to finally get my Full UK Motorcycle Licence.
Honda School of Motorcycling have a training centre based at Donington Park racing circuit. The course I selected was the Step Up course which is designed for people already riding on a provisional licence and CBT. The training takes place over four days and will take you through Module One Training, Module One Test, Module Two Training and Module Two Test. The first part is the Module One test taken off road on a closed Tarmac area. The Module Two test is taken on road, with you riding while following instructions from the examiner. They will follow you on another motorcycle or in a car.
As I’d ridden from Coventry to the Donington-based Honda School of Motorcycling on my bike, Neil Brown (centre manager at Donington) observed me riding to the Tarmac Lake. So for me it was straight into Module One training. If you are completely new to riding they will start you off on a 125cc bike and move up gradually. The Module One Practical Motorcycle Test is a mixture of slow and high-speed manoeuvres that are designed to test your control of the bike, balance, clutch control and rear brake control.
These should be taken in first gear and only use the back brake; using the front brake might upset the bike and cause you to dab a foot on the floor. Act like you’re on the road – mirror, mirror, shoulder check before the bike moves.
This part sounds easy and actually it is, we do it every time we go for a ride after all! The trick is to park your bike in the left hand bay at the test centre, nose first. Then wheel the bike backwards and in an arc with the left handle bar into the tank. Take small steps and don’t forget your observations before you move. Put the bike on the stand and wait for the next instruction.
Next is a two-part exercise – a slalom around cones finished off by two full figure of eights around some different coloured cones. The key to the slalom is the clutch and rear brake working in harmony; keep the revs up and slip the clutch, hold the bike back on the rear break and bingo! Don’t make the turns too tight, keep the bike moving but remember, it is a skills test so not to go too wide. Use your head – literally – if you turn your head to where you want to go the bike will follow.
Slow riding is about maintaining a balance between the clutch and the rear brake and is pretty easy to do; just take your time. The U-Turn… well, looking back I don’t know what I was so worried about. The first one I completed was done without a problem, and I finished up about one foot away from the imaginary kerb.
The bike you’re doing the test on is a big part of the assessment; if it isn’t fit for purpose you stand a chance of failing, so do your research and don’t be afraid to ask if there’s another bike available, of you don’t get on with the one you’re given. The Honda CB650F I rode was perfect – a really light clutch, good turning circle and plenty of feel through the brakes – exactly what you need.
Before the high-speed manoeuvres we headed back to the office for a cuppa and a debrief. One of the most refreshing things about the Honda School of Motorcycling is the way in which the material is delivered to you. Some rider training schools I’ve used in the past fill your head with so much information that it’s hard to retain it all, let alone recall it when you need it. Throughout the training Neil would leave you to it, but when he saw something wrong he would let you know – it was refreshing not to have somebody giving me a running commentary on the things I need to do to pass my test. It also meant that Neil could educate us on being better riders once we’d passed.
By now, you should be using first and second gear, and the braking is done with both the front and rear brakes. Again, act like you’re on the road – mirror, mirror, shoulder check, before the bike moves an inch
First you’ll be asked to ride a curved route around some cones; either left or right. You then go through a timing beam that’ll measure your speed and come to a stop between some blue cones. While the controlled stop is not speed recorded it is an opportunity to get the cornering and speed correct and also to ensure that you can stop safely under control in a defined area. So ask the examiner how fast you went, that way you know for the next two manoeuvres what you need to aim for.
Ride a circuit, break the timing beam at 32mph and when the examiner raises their hand, stop the bike in a controlled manner. Don’t worry if you stall and don’t lock the brakes or skid. This is not the time to show the examiner how good you are at stoppies… If you are a few MPH under you will get a rider fault but if significantly under speed you will get the opportunity to have another go, make sure you ask what speed was recorded. You need to ensure observations are made to both sides of the bike before moving off again.
This is the tricky one. You ride the same circuit as the emergency stop but now you must swerve after the timing beam and avoid an imaginary hazard like a car pulling out. The reason it’s hard is that you can put too much of your focus on the cones you’re going to swerve through. Neil’s advice worked for me: get to the required speed, then as soon as you hit the timing beam shut the throttle, navigate the cones and bring the bike to a controlled stop in the designated area.
Congratulations! You have just passed your Module One motorcycle test. Nearly. You’re still under test conditions until the bike is on its stand, so no celebratory wheelies and don’t forget your observations as you leave.
With the Honda School of Motorcycling, the Mod Two training starts on the way home from the Module One test. You would not want to do back to back Module one and Two tests. A couple more days training is the minimum I would advise before attempting Module Two.
As you ride along, Neil gives pointers as to what he’s looking for on the road – a car waiting to pull out or a pedestrian on their phone – have they seen or heard you coming?
He’ll also give a rundown of the test and the things the examiner will ask you to do. We ran dummy tests almost as soon as the Mod One was finished, and these are a great way of preparing. It means when you do the test for real it doesn’t feel so daunting.
Before you get on the bike there is an eyesight test, make sure you have your glasses if you wear them and read out the registration number of the vehicle that the examiner points out. There will also be a series of show me tell me questions. These could be; ‘Show me how you would check the engine oil level on this bike’ or ‘Tell me what advice you would give to a pillion passenger if you were going to carry one?’. Neil will provide you with a full list of the questions the examiner could ask, read it and memorise it. You don’t want to go into the practical part of the test with rider faults already.
When you leave the test centre the examiner will advise you that you must follow the signs to a location. If you’re familiar with its whereabouts, this is a big help. I wasn’t, so Neil ensured that we rode roads around the test centre to ensure that we were aware of speed limits, road markings and certain junctions and roundabouts. The trick to this is to stay calm and remember that this is not a navigation test, if you take a wrong turn, that’s fine as long as you do it safely; indicate in good time and as always, make observations when you should. Keep to the speed limit and ultimately ride for yourself. Don’t worry about leaving the examiner behind – they will catch up.
During the test the examiner will ask you to find a safe place to stop at the side of the road. They’ll then pull up behind and a few seconds later ask you to pull away from there when it’s safe to do so. When stopping, you need to make your observations, indicate in good time and pull over in a controlled manner. Flick the bike into neutral and wait.
Pulling off, remember your mirror observations to check the coast is clear, indicate, and give a final shoulder check before you pull off. I thought I’d failed on this one as I didn’t pull over when I was asked. The simple fact is that you need to find somewhere that you deem safe to stop, so don’t worry if you can’t find one; ride on and the examiner will come back to it. Its important when you do find somewhere to stop you don’t stop on double yellow lines, bus stops, people’s drives or close to a junction.
Preparation is key here. The examiner will say “pull up behind that blue car” for instance: mirror check, indicate and shoulder check before you pull in but, now position the bike at an angle to the kerb. If you can make your exit from behind the car as smooth as possible, you remove the risk of wobbling and putting down a foot. Leave at least a bike length between you and the car – you don’t want to be too close.
Back to the test centre and you’ll not be able to understand where the last 45 minutes has gone; it’s like a blur! The examiner will then take you back into the test centre to deliver the news. I was extremely nervous heading back in – the not stopping when asked was really playing on my mind – but I’d passed it, with no rider faults whatsoever!
Your Module two test should be a mix of urban, rural and dual carriageway riding. I can’t stress enough how helpful it was to have a test centre based around twenty minutes from my training centre – the local knowledge you can build up in a few days is surprising, and it really does help. I was thoroughly impressed with the training I received – you only have to look at the Honda School of Motorcycling Facebook page; almost daily updates of riders passing their Mod One and Mod Two tests, most with very few or – even better – no rider faults.
The Rules around motorcycle licences are complicated and confusing!
|Licence category||Vehicles you can ride||Requirements for licence||Minimum age|
|AM||Mopeds with speed range of 25 km/h to 45 km/h - No more than 50cc||Compulsory basic training (CBT), theory test, practical test on all powered 2-wheeled moped||16|
|A1||Light motorcycle up to 11kW(and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.1kWper kg) and 125 cc||CBT, theory test, practical test||17|
|A2||Standard motorcycle up to 35kW - 47bhp (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.2kWper kg), bike mustn’t be derived from vehicle more than twice its power||Direct access route - theory and practical
Progressive access route - 2 years experience on A1 motorbike and a further practical test
|A||Unrestricted motorcycles in size/power, with or without a sidecar, and motor tricycles with power output over 15kW||Direct access route -CBTtheory and practical (you must be at least 24)
Progressive access route - held an A2 licence for a minimum of 2 years - practical test (21 or over)
|24 (direct) or 21 (progressive access)|