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I want to Ride a Motorbike

Tell me more about CBT?


I have explained 'What is CBT?' in Article, How do I get a Licence?. But in Brief:

CBT is Compulsory Basic Training.
TRAINING, it is not, repeat, NOT a 'Test'.

Its a 'course' designed for a complete and utter 'beginner', presuming NO prior knowledge or experience, and teach them 'The Basics' to be REASONABLY safe on a motorbike, in 'roughly' a day.

There is no 'Pass' or 'Fail', its NOT a 'Test', and you don't have to KNOW anything or PRACTICE anything before you turn up, all you have to know is that you will be tough everything you need to know! You often DON'T even need to have a motorbike, or even a crash-helmet! Its a chance to go 'Have a Go' get a bit clued up, and find out what's what, and get the DL196 form to Validate your provisional 'Learner-Licence' if you want to take it any further and ACTUALLY 'Learn-To Ride'....

CBT will NOT make you a skilled competent rider in JUST one day! It is ONLY the 'start', an introductory course to GET YOU STARTED.


Why do we have CBT?

To give you SOME sort of ' START doing stuff RIGHT, RIGHT at the START of your riding career!

To promote Training & to get people 'doing' CBT and encouraged to go back and do FURTHER TRAINING to help them prepare for tests... and get FULLY qualified.

Long, long ago, in the dim and distant past, ........ we had a rather more 'relaxed' Driving-Licence system in the UK, but during the 1960's, as motor-transport became more popular, and vehicles much faster, so newer, tighter regulation started to be enforced, and I will start in the late 1960's, when you could hold a Motorcycle-Licence at 16 years old, but 'provisional' licence holders were restricted to machines of less than 250cc.

This is a BSA C15. My Dad had one of these. It was red too, and an inspiration to me as a 3-year old toddler! I had one when I was 15.... HORRIBLE ruddy thing! BUT, this was the 'sort' of bike they imagined when they introduced the 250 'Learner-Law'.

Before that, you could ride pretty much ANYTHING, on a 'Provisional-Licence' and as you could hold a provisional for life, many never bothered getting a 'full' licence. BUT, as bikes like the Triumph 'Bonneville' started offering 'ton-up' performance at prices 'kids' could afford, they decided it was time to tighten up.

250's were usually low-powered commuter bikes, like the C15, with just 15bhp, because people that wanted more performance simply bought bigger bikes, so at the time it was a 'reasonable' 'restriction' to impose, and 'naturally' enforced the sort of 'performance' limits as the 'modern' ''Learner-Legal' standards.

However; the legislators didn't really consider more 'exotic' high performance 250cc machines. There were many Hi-Po 250s being made by 'foreign' manufacturers, most notably in Italy, but these were few and expensive, and for a long while didn't cause MUCH of a problem. But, in the late 1960's and early 1970's the Japanese manufacturers started making big inroads into the UK market with ever more powerful 250cc bikes, with performance that challenged those of bikes twice their capacity.

This Kawasaki 250 'Samurai' made in 1972, offered 30bhp, as much or more than many British 500's, even some of the twins that had one cylinder less, and were probably cheaper to buy! And BRIEFLY it might have been ridden by a 16 year old on L-Plates!

But in 1973, another round of restrictions was introduced, limiting 16 year-olds to 50cc mopeds, and raising the age for a motorcycle licence to 17 years old.

And, with the demise of the British motorcycle industry, these High-Performance 250's ceased being the 'rare' anomaly, and started to become the norm, and the motorcycle accident rate, started to significantly escalate, and NEW 'Learner-Restrictions' were needed, to stop people killing themselves basically!

A number of 'problems' were identified with the 'Learner' scheme, and the first was that the 250cc capacity limit, wasn't doing the job of denying unqualified riders access to very high performance machines. Second, was that the scheme did nothing to encourage riders from becoming qualified. You could ride a 250cc machine like this, indefinitely on L-Plates, and with the performance they offered a match in many cases for much larger machines, WHY do you need to take a test?

Originally, it was suggested that they simply BAN learners from riding a bike, unsupervised until they HAD passed a test and got a full licence... a notion which has returned! See 3rd Directive Licence Laws / Impending Licence Changes. But at the time, that was impractical, and would not give learners the 'opportunity' to serve their 'motorcycling apprenticeship' getting some useful early miles experience on a lower powered, lightweight machine. See Time On A Tiddler Is Rarely Wasted!

What was needed was a new 'standard' to define a 'Learner-Bike', to something 'like' the performance of the old BSA C15, but tighter, so that it COULDN'T be 'cheated' by high-performance 'tiddlers'. 'Something' was also needed to encourage people to 'progress' and take their tests to become qualified motorcycle riders, AND 'something' to encourage people to take Formal Training

In 1982, new learner-laws were introduced, and reduced the 250cc Learner limit to the current 125cc upper capacity; BUT they also imposed a 12.5bhp upper power limit AND a maximum power to weight ratio! That PRETTY much nailed down the permitted performance you could have on a learner-licence! They have, through the Euro-Harmonisation scheme raised the power limit slightly to 14.5bhp, but otherwise THAT is still much the definition of the modern 'Learner-Legal' motorcycle, and back to what they imagined, that of an old BSA C15 'commuter'!

Stopping 'perpetual-L-Platers' was slightly harder. BUT, they tried to encourage people to pass tests by putting a two year limit on the validity of provisional motorcycle entitlement.  If you didn't pass your test within two years, your entitlement ran out, and you had to wait a full year before you could re-apply for it again. However, they provided some loop-holes, and the two-year limit of provisional entitlement only applied to provisional-licences. If you had a Full UK driving licence, having passed say your Car driving test, or even that for an agricultural tractor... provisional motorcycle entitlement was awarded for the full duration of the licence, which was, and remains until your 70'th birthday!

In 1988, I actually 'strategically' did my car driving lessons, and took my car test, and got my full car licence within two months of my 17th birthday, EXPLICITLY so that the provisional motorcycle entitlement I had was open ended!

WHY? Why not take the bike tests? Well, at the TIME, I didn't have a Learner-Legal motorbike! Didn't have a car either.... BUT I could take Driving Lessons, and use a Driving School Ford Fiesta to take my test in, and get a licence. I COULDN'T get 'Motorbike' lessons, and do the same thing!

This was five years after the 1982 125 Learner-Laws, and they had WANTED to do 'something' to encourage people to get Formal Training like most people did to drive a car. Trouble was, there were almost NO 'Bike-Schools'!

Car-Driving-Schools had sprung up 'organically' during the 1960's & 70's and were well established. Instructors provided a car, and would give lessons, and take you to the test centre to do the test. But motorbikes were the 'poor-mans' motor-vehicle, and you didn't NEED to take a test, before you could ride one...

You just bought a bike, and worked it out for yourself!

This is the School of hard-knocks. Learning by your mistakes. WHICH on a motorbike, usually means falling off. You don't so much learn the 'right' way to do stuff, merely NOT to do the 'wrong' stuff!

And with the 1970's seeing road-traffic more than double, AND the performance of bikes escalating the way they did... no surprise Learners got KILLED, really!

SO! Within the 1982 Learner-Laws they WANTED to introduce SOME sort of 'compulsory' training. Trouble was, they were in a chicken & egg situation. Without Bike-Schools to OFFER training, they couldn't make it compulsory, but without making it compulsory, no one would start offering any!

What they DID, was introduce the 'Part One' Motorcycle Test, which from 1982 until 1990 was the 'fore-runner' of the modern CBT. It wasn't a formal training course as CBT is now, it WAS merely a 'Test' much like the current Mod-1 'off-road' practical, wobbling around cones in a car-park. And you HAD to pass the 'Part 1' before you could apply to sit the 'Practical' Motorcycle Test.

You STILL didn't have to take any formal training, and certainly not before you first wobbled out on the road, BUT it is the ONLY Government Recognised 'Driving Test' that has EVER been conducted by any-one other than Government Employed Driving Examiners, because, to encourage people to set up 'Bike Schools', they 'devolved' the Part-1 test to 'approved' Training Schemes.

You could still 'just' get a 'Learner-Legal' and go figure it out for yourself, BUT, you only had two years to pass some sort of driving test, and IF you wanted to get the full motorbike licence, you HAD to go to a Bike-School to get your 'Part-1', and that usually meant doing their 'course'.

But, it was 'slow' going, and it took a long time for bike-schools to become common, and for them to get as 'professional' as they are now; and back in the 1980's, many DIDN'T even have bikes for you to use! It was expected that you would buy a bike, and a mate or the bloke you bought the bike from, maybe if you were lucky some-one more clued up than another Learner, would show you how to ride it and give you SOME pointers. But in the late 1980's they were planning yet another round of 'changes'!

I actually did my 'Part-1' test with a Bike-School in Birmingham, in spring 1988, called 'Star-Rider', who were originally a voluntary training scheme, run by some Brummie Police Bikers in their spare time, but who eventually became a commercial operation, and were one of the main 'consultants' for the 1990 Licence Changes.

Star-Rider, shared a shed, and a bit of waste-land on Armoury Road, in Small-Heath. The old BSA Motorcycle-Factory! And Vale-Onslow, a Birmingham Motorcycle dealer, and trials fanatic, had convinced Birmingham City Council to set up a 'Youth - Offender' program on the site, getting louts interested in bikes and in particular motorbike trials, fixing up old trials bikes to rent, for nominal fee to other bored 'kids' to hack about a course he set up on the waste-ground by the canal!

That was where I went to learn to trails ride, so that was where I went to learn to road-ride! Said, I didn't have a Learner-Legal bike; no, I had a couple of 250's! Start Rider were on of the few schools in the country with a fleet of Learner-Legal bikes to hire, so seemed sensible to me, to do one of their courses, use their bike to get me test done, and 'skip' the 125 'thing' altogether, and ride one of my 250's on the road! Didn't go exactly to plan, and ultimately 2-years later I bought a Kawasaki AR125, and 'served my time', and I HAVE to say that it really IS worth while; Time On A Tiddler Is Rarely Wasted!

However, they were planning to do away with the 'Part-1' test and introduce CBT, the other was they were abolishing the 'round the block' Motorcycle test, with an examiner on the pavement, watching you ride, and introducing the modern 'pursuit' test, with the examiner following you on another motorbike. I was, actually a guinea-pig on my road-training with 'Star-Rider' for radio-supervised training, something that was 'key' to the introduction of the pursuit test, two years later.

But, in 1988, there was an incentive to try and get your licence before new laws, because CBT was NOT well organised or widely available, and the 'Pursuit-Test' was utter CHAOS! They simply didn't have enough Examiners who rode motorbikes to follow candidates, and even when they launched it STILL didn't, and for almost three years, test waiting lists were huge!

BUT, 1990, we got the 'Compulsory-Basic-Training' as a mandatory precursor to being able to legally ride on the public road.

the intent being to ensure that ALL new riders got at least the BARE MINIMUM of formal training, before being let loose on their own, and so stood SOME chance of learning to do stuff RIGHT, RIGHT at the START.

It also promoted Training and Bike Schools, and the idea was that with people 'doing' CBT they would be encouraged to go back and do FURTHER TRAINING to help them prepare for tests...

And on the whole, the scheme has been deemed a success, in as much as the accident rate amongst Learner-Riders HAS fallen a little. Though it has probably been some-what disappointing that the 'take-up' rate of follow-on training for tests has not been anywhere near as high as hoped, except in the case of DAS students, which is another matter.

The course itself, though IS 'good', and it does exactly what was intended, and give the modern 'learner' that 'head-start' AND make it accessible, where in years past, it was all a bit hit and miss, more often 'hit' than miss!

Where Do I go to 'Do' CBT?

Compulsory Basic Training Courses are offered by Motorbike Schools

or accurately 'Approved Training Bodies'. These are 'schools' approved by the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) to offer them, and award the DL196 'Completion' Certificate.

The DSA are a Government Department, and are responsible for organising and administering the Driving Test System, and empowered to 'approve' driving & motorcycle instructors.

Approved Training Bodies are the actual people who 'teach' you to ride or drive.

It will be a DSA 'Examiner' though, who will conduct your motorcycle tests.

That's the way it works, and worth making clear from the start. You will go to a 'Bike-School' to get your CBT and any 'further' training; you will then go to a DSA 'Test-Centre' to do your tests.

(Note: often asked if the 'Test-Centre' will provide a bike for a test. NO. You provide the bike, your own or one rented, commonly from a bike School. Other 'silly mistake', happens a lot, Test Candidate books a 'test' then goes to their 'bike school', expecting it to be done there! No, examiners 'live' at the DSA Test Centre, THAT is where they will expect you to go for your test... and have a bike to do it on!)

CBT is a Training Course run by a school, so it will be on their own 'training ground' that you will do most of the CBT course. Remember it is a TRAINING course, there's no 'test' in it, so it is conducted ENTIRELY by an 'Instructor'.

There are hundreds of Bike-Schools up and down the country, these days, usually at least one in every town, so you shouldn't have to go very far to find one. You are on the web, so use your search engine, and look for 'Motorcycle Training' in your area.

How Should I Choose a Bike-School?

The FIRST thing you need to ensure is that the bike-school you choose IS Driving Standards Agency approved FOR motorcycle training AND to conduct CBT's.

After that? Well it depends what you want really? There are 'commercial' schools and 'non-commercial' ones. Commercial Schools, obviously are businesses, and they are in business to make a profit. Then there are 'Non-Commercial' schools, often run by fellow motorcycle enthusiasts who volunteer their time, pretty much for the fun of it. And its all pretty muddled, as to how 'professional' or 'informal' their approach may be, or what their focus or goals are.

Many 'Volunteer' Schools can be VERY 'professional' in their organisation; while some commercial schools, maybe run by one, semi-retired 'enthusiast' can be much more informal and relaxed.

For CBT, the Syllabus is fixed by the DSA, but how the course is organised depends on the School. Some, smaller schools, may be just you and one other student, and the same instructor all day. Others, larger schools, could be 30 students and a dozen instructors, and groups changing as people progress through different elements.

Main thing is to pick a school that offers what you want; A course that is convenient for you, in terms of when and where it is. And then a school that offer anything else you need, like bike-hire or lunch facilities. And finally, one that has the 'approach' you prefer; busy, quiet, formal, informal. But most importantly, one you can have CONFIDENCE in.

When you call to enquire and maybe book, ASK questions, and get a 'warm' feeling about them.

What Do I need to Have before CBT?


What you 'Need' to have, before you go for your CBT course, will depend on what is or isn't provided by the school in their course price. To 'Do' a CBT course, you will need 'Provisional' Motorcycle Licence Entitlement; a bike, a helmet, Hi-Vis bib, and some 'sensible' riding wear. School may provide all or none of this. You NEED to ask.

My BASIC advice is don't buy ANYTHING you don't have to until you have done your CBT course.

See:-  How do I get a Licence? For how to apply for a UK Provisional Licence, or to check if you all-ready have Provisional Motorcycle Entitlement provided by a Full Driving licence for other 'groups' such as a car.

See: - Should I use a School-Bike or My Own?, to answer that question. You don't HAVE to have your own bike, and even if you do, often easier to use a School-Bike for the course.

As for Helmet, gloves, and other riding wear, there is advice on the Directgov, Web-Site about:- Safety helmets and protective clothing for motorcyclists, and there is a 'Rider-Wear' guide in the DSA Test-Booking system, on what is 'appropriate' riding apparel, for CBT and tests.

Only bit of kit that's almost guaranteed to be issued to you, is a high-visibility vest or bib. See: - What IS Hi-Vis & do I need it? It's a requirement placed on Approved Riding Schools to ensure Students Under Training are so equipped.

During your CBT course, though, there is a whole section devoted to discussing Safety, Safety Wear, and Riding Apparel, and lots of advice offered on how to choose good riding kit.

It is quite disheartening as an instructor to be sat giving that 'lesson', to a class-room of students, half of them sat in a Rhino or Akito Brand 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit'.... on whom the lesson is mostly wasted.

See: -  Do I Need a FULL Riding Outfit?

Because the short answer is NO, you DON'T need to have 'ALL' the gear, and while the protection offered by a 'Budget' riding outfit, is probably more than 'adequate' for the riding you will do on CBT & in your early miles... its often NOT great value for money.

The 'key' bits of kit, boots and gloves are often very poor, and frequently don't 'last'. Irrespective of any question of whether of not they provide the level of 'protection' you might hope for!

You can get a 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit'; Helmet, gloves, boots, jacket, and trousers, often 'all in' for under 250.

BUT, 40 boots, that only last six months, are NOT great value compared to 150 boots that last six years, AND are likely to offer REAL useful protection, when you need it.

And, you can get 'as much' practical protection, a lot more economically, being 'strategic' in your spend, and 'improvising' a little, with stuff you probably already have in your wardrobe... or Dads, or some-one else's!

So, you are going to do the CBT course, and you WILL get offered a lot of advice on the topic, so DON'T buy anything until you HAVE HAD that advice and opportunity to discuss the best 'kit' to get, with folk that know!

For the CBT itself, the school MAY provide 'key' bits of kit; but you may PREFER to buy your OWN Helmet, gloves, boots and maybe water-proof over suit, before hand. However, I don't recommend spending a LOT of money on any kit you DO get. And what I suggest, get 'Cheap' but useful gear, that you can treat as 'disposable' and upgrade as and when at a later date.

See advice: - Do I need a Crash-Helmet?; Do I need Gloves?; Do I need a Boots?; Do I need Water-Proofs?

Do I need a Crash-Helmet?


It is a Legal Requirement to Wear an 'approved' helmet whenever riding on the public road. Part of your CBT will be conducted o the public road, so you MUST wear one. But you will be required to wear your helmet WHENEVER you are on the motorcycle during the course. So, Yes, you NEED a Helmet to do your CBT Course, and the School MAY provide one. BUT, with crash-helmets 'Fit' is important, and its not 'nice' wearing a hat some-one else's greasy hair has been inside. Its often 'nicer' and useful to buy your own before CBT.

My BASIC advice is don't buy ANYTHING you don't have to until you have done your CBT course.

But in the case of the Crash-Helmet, I suggest that you buy a 'Cheap' one, if only JUST for the course!

See: What Do I need to Know about Crash Helmets? But for now....

This is an 'Traditional' Open face Crash-Helmet. You can buy these from between 20 & 30, sometimes cheaper off e-bay!

One pictured is an Arashi, and I have one just like it. 20 or so, is pennies on the price of the CBT course, and you could buy one, and treat it as 'Disposable' JUST for the CBT course.

They provide 'adequate' protection; certainly for the sort of low speed tumble you may have during a CBT course. And without a visor or face enclosure, they don't close you in, and make you feel claustrophobic, and you don't have to keep taking them on and off to talk to your instructor, and there is no potentially fiddly visor or vents to steam up, or give you anything else to worry about.

Simple, functional, USEFUL and 'CHEAP'. Throw it away after you have done your CBT, if you want to 'upgrade' to something fancier when you start riding on your own.

Only thing you may want to think about is adding 'eye-protection' and some open face helmets do have drop down visors, that are not as fiddly or prone to steaming up as those on full-face helmets, or you can use traditional riding goggles.

This is the more usual 'Full-Face' crash helmet, with face enclosure and flip down visor.

Most riders these days wear Full-Face helmets, and they have an integral visor.

As said though, these can be more 'problematic' steaming up, or the visor mechanism or venting being 'awkward' to use, particularly on 'cheaper' examples.

Again, prices start from around 30-50 for 'budget' helmets, and for CBT, you could buy one and treat it as disposable.

DURING your Course you WILL be given a talk ALL about crash-helmets, which will include the 'Standards & Approvals' that they have to meet to be sold as a 'Road-Helmet'.

This is the ONLY thing you really need to be aware of if buying before your CBT, and that is to ensure that the hat you buy DOES meet the standards for road-use.

I suggest going to a shop & trying them on and making sure you get a snug fit, before you buy, and ASK and make SURE that the helmet IS an 'approved' motorcycle helmet. (It would be unusual if it wasn't though!)

But DO read: What Do I need to Know about Crash Helmets? before you go shopping or get carried away on e-bay!

Do I need Gloves?


It is NOT a legal requirement to wear gloves when riding a motorbike; but it is in the DSA Guidelines that students SHOULD wear gloves during training, and most schools WILL insist you wear them. And again, the School MAY or may not provide gloves for your use during the course. But again, you are likely to prefer your own, to something other folk have had their sweaty mitts in!

My BASIC advice is don't buy ANYTHING you don't have to until you have done your CBT course.

But in the case of gloves, I recommend THESE, quite highly. They are Sammy-Miller-Products 'Trials' Gloves.

They are a 'short' glove that only extends as far as the wrist, and they are VERY thin, and VERY light-weight, and also pretty cheap. 10 for the last pair I bought.

They are NOT the 'most' protective glove in existence, they are intended for competition trials riding 'off-road' not for falling off from high-speed on tarmac like a 'road-race' glove. HOWEVER, Trials is all about precision and control, and that requires riders to have a lot of 'feel' through their gloves, and THIS these gloves offer an awful lot of, and for a Newbie, on CBT, that is VERY useful. Its enough to be getting used to the controls of a motorbike, without big thick gloves limiting the amount of feel you have for them!

And with suede palms and reasonably 'tough' backing construction, these gloves DO offer 'adequate' palm protection for the sort of low-speed tumble you are likely to have during CBT and early miles riding. They aren't water-proof, however, nor very warm, and at some-point, you will probably want to 'upgrade'. BUT as said, these are very useful 'just' for your CBT course.

More conventional motorbike gloves come in a huge variety of styles, from armoured race gloves, like these, through to thick heavy winter 'gauntlets that come half way up your arm, and are very thick and warm.

If you go to a motorcycle shop, they often have gloves in a 'Bargain-Basket'; usually last seasons designs of the less common larger and small sizes. These can be quite useful if you find something useable in there.

Otherwise, Motorcycle gloves CAN be a bit expensive, and even cheap ones more expensive than cheap helmets! (one of the things that makes the Sammy-Miller Trials Glove good VFM)

They ARE worth it though, because WHEN you fall off, you 'Surrender to the floor'... like a soldier surrendering to the enemy, first thing you do is stick your hands up, palms out... and THEY, more often than your head (in your crash hat!), are what hits the tarmac!

Some people often try and  economise on gloves, and ask if they can use 'string-back' driving gloves, or gardening gloves or even builders gloves. I DON'T want to tell you NOT to 'Improvise', BUT...

Many 'leather' gloves sold for other purposes aren't leather, they are leatherette 'vinyl'. This does NOT offer much if any abrasion resistance like leather. This discounts most 'fashion' gloves as unsuitable.

Likewise 'woolly' winter gloves. They may keep your hands warm, but they don't offer any protection. (If you see riders in woolly gloves; could be that like me, they wear them over the top of 'thin' summer or racing gloves for warmth, without loosing feel! There's a tip in there, BTW)

Gardening gloves or Heavy Duty Builder's gloves, provided they aren't rubber, may be more suitable, BUT it depends on construction; rubber or PVC is prone to tearing, or worse, 'melting' under heat from friction.

If you DO decide to buy 'better' gloves straight away, as part of a strategic 'plan'; then I would recommend 'medium' weight 'All-Season' gloves, as a good compromise for feel, protection and warmth, and I am still unconvinced about the merits of plastic 'armour'. This can often constrict hand movement and reduce feel for added 'protection' of questionable merit. Its on the back of the hand, and its usually your palms that touch down.

Do I need a Boots?


It is NOT a legal requirement to wear boots when riding a motorbike; but it is in the DSA Guidelines that students SHOULD wear 'appropriate footwear' and say trainers or sandals are NOT appropriate footwear.

My BASIC advice is don't buy ANYTHING you don't have to until you have done your CBT course.

But in the case of Boots? I do NOT suggest buying 'Cheap' motorcycle boots!

See: Tell me About Boots? But for now....

This is an 'Traditional' Motorcycle boot, or 'Touring' boot. Basic, rugged & durable, these tend not to be very cheap, and prices start from around 80, but 'better' boots are more likely to be in the 120 region.

They are leather, and will come a fair way up your calf to provide good ankle support. They will also tend to have buckle fastenings, so there are no 'loose' laces that may flap or snag or get tangled on anything, and a 'sturdy' sole with good grip for when you put your foot down to prop the bike up.

Though there are many variations on the design, and 'sports' boots will often be shorter, and often have lots of 'armour' on them, and 'off-road' boots that are often taller and offer a lot more calf and ankle support, but are usually 'stiffer'.

The 'Shorty' or 'paddock' boot is a popular style these days, and is rather like a hi-tech trainer or 'base-ball-boot', offering some more protection and ankle support.

However, in the budget price range, sub 50, I find it VERY hard to recommend them. I have seen far too many pairs that have 'fallen to bits' in 'normal wear' like a pair of cheap sneakers, for me to have very much confidence in their 'integrity' in an accident.

Certainly offer 'more' protection than a pair of cheap trainers, and for CBT & early 'riding' that ought to be more than 'adequate'; but 40 or 50 for footwear that is only 'as' durable as a pair of 10 or 20 shoes, and which DOESN'T offer that large measure of extra protection you might expect of a 'motorcycle' boot, I really DON'T think that they are good value.

A 'good' pair of boots, costing 80 or so, is much better value, they DO tend to last and last well, and DO tend to offer much 'better' accident protection for your money.

So for CBT and early miles riding, if you CANT afford 'good' motorcycle boots, my advice is don't bother!

The Army Surplus 'Para-Boot' or 'Catapillar' Work or 'Trucker' boot, is a GOOD substitute!

These have a usually fairly sturdy sole, and strong leather upper, with good ankle support, and can be pretty water-proof. And you MAY even have something like them already in your wardrobe! If not, then brand new army or work boots can be bought from reputable suppliers for around 50, and in MY opinion offer a LOT more protection, and are far more durable than 'cheap' motorcycle boots. Shop around and you can often find Army-Surplus boots, or unbranded versions, in shops or on market stalls for as little as 20-25.

TIP: Laces can flap and trap or tangle on 'stuff'. Don't leave the laces hanging 'long' do a 'wrap' around the top of the boot to shorten the free length to be tied if you can. Tuck any excess length of lace under the other laces. LONG SOCKS. Out the top of the boot, when tied, fold the top of the sock over the top of the boot AND the laces to keep them tidy and avoid anything 'snagging'

DO NOT: Wear Steel-Toe-Cap Safety Boots on a motorbike!

Much disputed on the forums; and there is a school who suggest that a steel-toe-cap safety boot MUST offer an awful lot of crash protection, then there is another camp that suggest that in an accident a 'crushed' steel toe-cap can do more damage than it saves, and the two camps have been arguing their respective cases longer than I have been riding motorbikes..... so a LONG time then.... STILL to no conclusive answer!

I SAY, don't wear them for a simple reason. 'Ultimate' crash protection is irrelevant. Crashing hurts, I try not to do it! And difference a steel toe-cap may or may NOT make in a severe accident, is something I really DON'T think is going to make much difference to me, in a 'life or death' situation!

What IS important is being able to work the ruddy bike! And a steel toe-boot, you can't feel the gear lever through!

Had a couple of CBT students wear them on training, and lifting the gear-lever with their toe, 'struggled'. They couldn't feel the lever through the boot, and one thought he was changing gear, only to realise he was simply lifting the toe-cap INSIDE his boot, not the lever!

Do I need Water-Proofs?

Check the Weather Forecast ........ and ASK THE SCHOOL!

As its more likely to rain, than it is you'll crash, while probably not THE most important bit of kit, water-proofs certainly ARE important, and definitely high on the list of stuff to get!

My BASIC advice is don't buy ANYTHING you don't have to until you have done your CBT course.

But in the case of Water-Proofs? Well, I wont say they are 'critical', but.... I DO rate them highly!

Helmet; Gloves; Boots; I have discussed, and all in relation to 'crash-protection'.

Water-Proofs DON'T offer much if ANY 'crash-Protection, BUT...

I find it RAINS in this country, more often than I CRASH!

But then I have only fallen off in (during road riding) a hand-full of times in twenty five years! And most of those times 'silly' little spills before I passed my test!

As a newbie Learner-Rider, you may be more likely to fall off than me, but I would still HOPE it rains more often!

And staying DRY is ACTUALLY a good way to stay 'safe'. Said before 'Safety-Wear' is only the last line of defence when all else has failed; wont STOP you getting hurt, just limit how much you might be hurt. Staying warm and dry, so you can concentrate on the job of riding, then CAN help you NOT fall off, so it IS 'safety' wear to some degree, and it is still 'protective'. Protects against the weather!

Dedicated Over-Suits also often come in 'bright' conspicuous colours and frequently incorporate Hi-Vis reflective strips of panels, that give them an added 'usefulness'. See:- What IS Hi-Vis & do I need it?

Pictured is a relatively up-market one-piece water-proof over-suit. This one I think retails for about 70-80, and boasts a lot of features that make it easier to use, like straps around the ankle and knees to allow it to be drawn in and stop it 'billowing' in the wind, whilst still being loose enough to pull on and off over bulky riding wear. Probably also screws up to fit in its own little belt pouch like a pak-a-mak of old, so if its not raining, you can wear it on a belt or easily attach it to the bike, in case it does start raining.

But, you can get 'budget' versions from about 20 up. Donna bought hers from Liddl on one of their regular 'one time-offers' for that, and I was most impressed by it, and there are frequently 'similar' bargain over-suits constantly on offer for similar money on e-bay.

UNLESS you are doing your CBT in the middle of a heat-wave in August... even then.... I would say buy one! I don't trust the weather men, and been stood out on CBT play-ground in T-Shirt, wishing for my water-proof and rally-hat FAR too many times!

BUT, for the Newbie, and the newbie following advice SO far, and not buying much if ANY dedicated riding kit, and improvising from wardrobe...... THIS is the 'motorcycle' COVERALL!

Stick it on whether its raining or not, you 'look the part' and it keeps the wind from cutting through jeans, and stops baggy jumpers flapping around and anything like that, as WELL as keeps you dry and warm, and stops your street-cloths beneath getting bug-splatted or grimed with diesel fumes!

With 'budget' motorcycle over-suits selling SO cheaply these days, I'm tempted to say its probably NOT worth bothering to 'improvise', but if you are REALLY on a tight budget? Well....

My first 'water-proof' over-suit was a bright orange North-Sea Oil Rig workers water-proof, given to me by an oil-rig worker! Figured if it could stand a Force Five North Sea Gale, would be pretty 'OK' on a motorbike! Was too, bit 'flappy' though. Much better than the separate walkers over-trousers and 'caggool' I had used before. Only 'problem' was that driving rain could get inside and then it peddled round my privates!

For CBT & early riding, yes, old walkers over trousers and anorak, maybe fisherman's water-proofs, or some sort of industrial 'chemical' suit... if its for free, HAS to be good value! BUT we are only talking 20 here! And I have to say when I bought my first 'dedicated' motorcycle over-suit, when they first became 'available' in the early 90's it was an AWFUL lot nicer!

What IS Hi-Vis & do I need it?

Your School OUGHT to issue with a Hi-Vis 'Bib'

It is NOT a legal requirement to wear any Hi-Visibility 'clothing' when riding a motorbike, however it IS a DSA requirement on Approved Bike-Schools to ensure ALL students wear a Hi-Vis vest while under training. Hence they will almost certainly issue you with one, probably with the School Name on the back.

My BASIC advice is don't buy ANYTHING you don't have to until you have done your CBT course.

For early riding after CBT? Well, during the talks you will get one specifically ON 'Conspicuity' which is what Hi-Vis wear is for, so discuss in that section of the course.

It takes various forms though, from bright colours to high-reflective materials, which can be incorporated into garments that are designed for motorcycle wear, such as water-proofs or riding jacket, or may be a separate garment, commonly a bright yellow or orange sleeveless vest or 'bib', with high-reflective strips sewn on, worn over outer garments.

Picture, above, shows Donna & her Test Examiner, modelling a variety of Hi-Vis wear; Donna on left is wearing a Lidl water-proof over-suit, that incorporates silver hi-vis stripes to the arms & shoulders, and a yellow Sam-Brown belt for added conspicuity in day-light. Examiner, 'Right' has yellow 'Hi-Vis' panels in the sleeves of his riding jacket, and is wearing a yellow Hi-Vis vest, with high-reflective silver stripes around his torso and over the shoulders.

My 'preferred' Hi-Vis though is the 'Sam-Brown' Belt' the high waist and diagonal shoulder strap, which I believe is more often associated wit a 'motorcyclist', so other road users wont just 'see' you but be able to easily recognise what they 'see', where the yellow rectangle of a 'bib' is these days so over used, could be anything, and often SO bright as to dazzle, rather defeating the point.

Picture left, Donna & Sam model a Sam-Brown & a Bib 'after-dark'.

However, plenty of choices out there, and for early riding on your own, you can buy bibs of vests for 5 or 10 in many places, and they are so often issued as 'work-wear' for any-one from lorry-drivers to super-market trolley-boys, good chance you can obtain a 'hand-me-down, even if it has some one's company logo on it! Who cares if its free and it stops them knocking you off!

Going further into the topic of Hi-Vis and Conspicuity and how useful it may be; See: the INVISIBLE biker!

Should I use a School-Bike or My Own?

The machine you use for CBT MUST be fully ''Learner-Legal' as WELL as 'Road-Legal', and some schools, may NOT take students who wish to use their own bike.

This may be for many reasons, but their public-liability insurance is likely to be a significant one; 'lease' exclusions for their 'off-road' training facility, another, or it may simply be school policy.

But BIKE HIRE, is not always included in the course fees, so again check the details of what you are getting, and if you want or need bike hire, make sure that its included in the course you buy.

MOST people elect to use the School-Bikes to do their CBT on, and there are good reasons for doing this.

Its often not exorbitantly priced and often a useful 'convenience'. You CAN do a CBT course on your own machine; but obviously you cant legally RIDE that bike to and from the Bike-School, until after you have got your DL196 form... so how would you get it there, 'legally' and if you don't complete in the day, how would you get it home again after!

To be honest, for the complete beginner, CBT is a very good way to 'Try-Before-You-Buy' and see if you actually LIKE riding a motorbike, before investing a lot in your own machine. So, there is very little reason to make life hard for yourself trying to use your own bike. Its usually only 50 or so more to use a School-Bike for CBT, and even if you HAVE your own bike, it can still be worth it.

As said, it saves the 'hassle' of transporting a bike you cant legally ride, yet. And, if you fall off, which many students do... DON'T WORRY, few get hurt! But learning the basics, many people make daft mistakes and fall over, often resulting in levers being bent or snapped or the odd mirror being broken.

If its a School-Bike, good chance that the School have a few 'spares' for their bikes lying around for such eventualities, and most instructors are pretty deft at swapping brake or clutch levers! So needn't halt your day!

But if its your OWN bike, chances are that ay 'spares' they may have wont be compatible, and if your bike isn't road-worthy, even if its merely for a cracked indicator lens, you wont be able to complete the course, as the instructor is under a 'duty of care' when you are under training, and should not allow you to ride a vehicle that is 'defective' on the public road.

If you HAVE your own bike already, and the means to move it legally, there is some advantage to using your own bike, in that you start getting used to it straight away, and if it has any peculiarities or quirks, then instructors can offer more specific advice for you riding YOUR bike, rather than general advice about 'most' bikes.

So, really it is up to you, but, for most, using a School bike is the more convenient and 'better' choice.

What do you DO on CBT?

Right, well if you have read around the site a bit, you are off to a head start!

There is a lot of 'talking' in CBT, and I have already covered a lot of it, and will undoubtedly cover a lot more! However!

The CBT course is divided into five 'Elements' and I provide here, the 'itinerary' of the CBT as provided by HMSO published book:-

DSA - Official Motorcycling
CBT, Theory & Practical Test
everything you need to know

(the copy I have, 2001 third edition... may have been superseded by now, but ought not to have changed much)

This is a VERY good manual for a Learner-Rider, and if you are following 'The-Plan' and working towards your licence, worth getting, sooner rather than later. (There's probably a revised version available by now)

It DOES provide a very comprehensive guide of what is included in the CBT course, what the objectives are, what you will do, and warnings of what to avoid. So I'm not going to repeat it all, JUST say, 'Buy the Book'! I also don't want to bog you down in TOO much detail, right now, and the book is very detailed!

You don't NEED to KNOW everything BEFORE you go do the course, or what would be the point of the course?!?!? This is just a bit of a 'heads-up' so you can follow what's going on when you go, and you have some idea what to expect. BUT, just turn up, listen to your instructor, be FINE I tell you! FINE!

DON'T sweat the small-stuff!
Stop Thinking - Start RIDING!

Element A - 'Preliminaries'

When you arrive your instructor will, usually over a cup of coffee, explain the plan for the day, and talk you through everything you will be doing. A 'Pep' Talk basically, like wot I'm giving you 'ere!

There will be some 'business' to be done; the School will have to check your driving licence, and record your drivers number, and probably sort out any forms for your bike-hire for the day, or check legalities of your own bike, if you are using it, and 'stuff' like that.

They eye-sight test is pretty simple, the instructor will point at a car or motorbike about 20 paces away and ask you to read it to them. Its the same eye-sight test as on the practical motorcycle test, and stipulation is a 'Legal' standard number plate at a distance of 20.5m, WITH, if you need them, corrective glasses worn.

Then the instructor will go over 'equipment & clothing', usually as he checks you are 'equipped' for the day, either with your own 'gear' or issuing school equipment.

Said earlier, "During your CBT course, though, there is a whole section devoted to discussing Safety, Safety Wear, and Riding Apparel, and lots of advice offered on how to choose good riding kit."

It is quite disheartening as an instructor to be giving that 'lesson', to a class-room of students, half of them sat in a Rhino or Akito Brand 'My-First-Motorcycle-Outfit'.... on whom the lesson is mostly wasted. See: -  Do I Need a FULL Riding Outfit?  & What Do I need to Have before CBT? And the reason behind  My BASIC advice is don't buy ANYTHING you don't have to until you have done your CBT course.

This is WHY! You get a whole LESSON devoted to the topic DURING your Course! Don't make it a redundant one!

The 'equipment' talk will go much further than merely what you are LEGALLY required to wear, but also HOW to wear it; things like how to fasten your crash-helmet, as well as the Standards & Approvals they need to meet, and how to look after them, how long they last, and when to throw away 'old' worn out 'kit', AND how its not ALL just about 'crash-protection' but staying warm and dry and comfortable is important too!

Element B - 'Machine Familiarity'

Coffee finished, paperwork done, you get to get 'Hands-On' with a motorbike! DON'T get TOO exited... you aren't going to be allowed to RIDE it just yet.....

The instructor will point at 'things' and ask you if you know what they are, or tell you if you don't!

They will point out such features as the throttle; front & rear brakes; clutch, gear-lever, engine safety 'Kill' switch; ignition switch; the starter controls, be it a kick-start or more usually now, an electric self-starter button; the 'choke' if the bike has one; and the oft forgotten fuel tap, then the head-lamp and indicator switches.

This is all really BASIC stuff, as though you have never even SEEN a motorbike before!

Next you will cover basic 'safety checks'. Every Instructor will have their own special 'pneumonics' for these, to help you remember them all, but, the essential 'checks' that you are expected to learn in CBT are: Brakes; Steering; & Suspension; Oil & Fluids; Lights; Tyres & wheels, Chain & Sprockets; number-plate & mirrors.

Next, you are shown how to take the bike off the stand and wheel it around, backwards and forwards, in a straight line and around a corner, then put it on the stand again! And having been shown how to do that, you are allowed to get your hands on it and do the same!

SOUNDS ridiculously simple stuff, and it probably is, BUT, daftly this is where most people have 'little' accidents, simply wheeling a bike around, and this tells you how to do it properly, how to hold the bike, and how to keep it balanced & under control so it doesn't run away from you, and many experienced riders DON'T always do this basic 'stuff' the 'right' or best way!

Lastly, having shown you can walk the bike around, you'll be shown how to mount and dismount the machine, and probably taught what the 'safety-position' is, and then you'll be shown how to start the engine!

Don't get too exited, your not going to RIDE anywhere, JUST start the engine, then turn it off again! You get to do some riding in the next 'element'!

Element C - Riding: Off-Road Exercises

OK, that's the list of exercises, so that's what you 'do'!

Bit more to it than just getting on and 'doing' though, you will start, with how to 'sit' the bike at rest in the 'safety-position', propping the bike up with your left leg, covering the back brake with your right.

Then with an instructor along side you, they will explain 'the biting-point' where the clutch starts to transmit 'drive' to the wheel, and probably get you to 'play' for a while just learning to find that biting point, with the bike in gear. THEN they will get you to lift a foot up and start riding...

And I shall offer just ONE tip here 'NEAT FEET'...

When a Bike is moving, it holds itself up. When its not moving, without your foot or the stand down, they tend to fall over. But in that transition from stationary to moving SO many Newbies (and more than ought to know better, old hands if truth be told!) SIMPLY don't know what to do with their feet!


As SOON as the bike has 'drive' it will be balancing itself; you don't need to wave your legs around or 'hover' them over the floor, or WORSE, 'paddle' along as the bike picks up speed! If anything this will make you LESS balanced CAUSE you to wobble, and CAN cause injury!

Bikes don't fall over fast, you can lift your foot to the peg almost BEFORE you are moving and be moving before the bike will fall over, so:-

  • At Rest: 'Safety-Position' - Left Foot Down propping bike, right foot on peg covering back brake.

  • Moving: - NEAT - FEET' both feet up on the pegs, out the way, keeping everything still and balanced!

Once you are 'under steam' the rest follows! Its just steering left and right, or straight and stringing those three together! WITH a few observations and stops and starts chucked in!

ALL good fun! And you will more than likely be grinning like an idiot by the end of it!

Element D - Class-Room Discussion

Well, having let you pootle around the play-ground, time to get you off the bike, before you start getting 'cocky'! Time for lunch.... and back to the books for some 'Theory' discussion, so grab a coffee, unpack your sandwiches and... instructor MAY stick a DVD on for you to watch, all about 'safety' or something!

However, HAS to go through the subject list above, so he MAY put a DVD on, but you WILL be asked questions about it after, or depending on the instructor, during! So what are they going to be on about?

Well, Conspicuity is making yourself seen, not just Hi-Vis clothing, but road-positioning, using headlamps and 'stuff' to make other road-users aware of you. (See: the INVISIBLE biker!) Legal requirements is all about your licence entitlement; learner-legal 'restrictions' and that kind of thing, as well as ensuring your motorcycle is 'road-worthy'. Lots of stuff in that that's worth paying heed to. ESPECIALLY the bit about displaying L-Plates. They MUST be the right size and shape and displayed front AND back! NOT displaying 'Legal' L-Plates is actually 'quite' serious!

Vulnerability? Well, you are on a motorbike, with nothing between you and things that can hit you! So all about accidents and importance of NOT CRASHING and safety wear! Speed? Going to slow can be as hazardous as going too fast, and comment about paying attention to speed limits and leads into hazard awareness and highway code! With 'anticipation' and separation, or following distances and 'stuff'.

And I don't want to get bogged down in the detail, BUT if you want to do ANY kind of preparation for CBT, read the Highway Code, before you go!

Element E - Riding: On-Road Riding

SO, last part of the course, the 'home straight'.

There WILL be a 'judgement-call' before you are allowed out on the road, and this is where you MAY be referred back for further training IF your instructor doesn't think you are 'ready'.

This is for your OWN safety, don't take it as a 'fail' or start arguing the matter with your instructor if you think you ought to have completed in the day. If your not ready, your not ready.

Rushing is a FAST way to get hurt on a motorbike!

So don't get your hopes up TOO high, and if you have to come back; well, its 'more fun' to be had, isn't it! Playing with a bike in a play-ground where you cant be hurt IS fun... falling off on the road, believe me ISN'T!

BUT, if you are deemed ready, your instructor will 'wire' you for sound, giving you a walkie-talkie radio and an ear-piece so he can swear at you... give you 'instructions' over the radio, while you are on the road.

You will do a 'radio-check' to make sure he can shout at you... give you 'instructions', and some 'briefing' on what to do if the radio fails, as well as what you will be doing on the road.

THEN its out onto the MEAN STREETS!

But DON'T get OVER EXITED, and let it go to your head and FORGET everything you have learned earlier!

'TIP': On the 'Play-Ground' During the 'off-road' exercises, its often somewhat 'surreal' like 'role-play' and doing shoulder checks and observations & stuff, seems rather 'silly', and 'pretending' a bit of concrete banding is a 'give-way' line or a right or left junction... WELL, its only 'role-play'......

On the ROAD it's FOR REAL, with REAL hazards!

DON'T be daunted by it, but REMEMBER what you were taught in the earlier sessions, and IF you don't know what to do AT ANY TIME... find somewhere safe, pull-over and STOP and talk it through with your instructor!


Sounds 'silly', but soon as YOU ride off the 'imaginary' world of the play-ground onto REAL roads, car-driver conditioning, you will revert to instinctively doing what you do in a CAR when there parked cars, real road-markings and street-signs around! See:- I'm a car driver there's a whole plethora of common faults you are likely to make, and KEEP making, so DON'T think that your instructor is a 'nag' if he keeps telling you to do your shoulder checks and turn your indicators off!

LISTEN to your instructor, they will talk you through everything nicely, and a LOT of the manoeuvres you will have 'done' before you even realise it! You will also probably stop quite frequently to discuss what you have just done, and then go do a bit more.

DSA guide-lines stipulate that there should be at least two-hours of 'on-road' training, and you will be stunned at how long this is..... but also how fast it flies by!

THEN you will go back to the school for the 'moment of truth!'

There will be a de-briefing, the instructor will take your radio back off you, and talk you through the session, and THEN...

If you have made the grade, write out your DL196 'Completion' Certificate. And you have your

Ticket to RIDE

And THAT pretty much is IT!

Its a Day, 'playing' with motorbikes and listening to some old Joker like me try and make light of it all, and OUGHT to be 'Fun'.

TOMORROW? Now that is ANOTHER thing!

Tomorrow, after you have done it, and are still 'buzzing' with excitement at being able to go out on your own, probably rather full of trepidation...

YOU WILL BE STIFF and POSSIBLY a bit 'saddle sore'.

Lot of comments on newbie forums, about it after CBT, and new riders grumbling that they don't want to get a Yamaha YBR 'like' they rode on CBT because they felt all cramped up and uncomfortable.... its PROBABLY not the bikes fault!

CBT is a whole DAY, and you ought to get something like four or five hours SOLID saddle time in there. I can happily spend five or six hours in the saddle. Before now, 'touring' I have almost run out of petrol before I have thought to 'stop'... but a days 'ride-out' is NO-WHERE near as 'taxing' as a CBT course!

CBT? You are concentrating, and HARD, ALL the time. Its all 'new' and you give it all you have got. And there's LOTS and LOTS to do, ALL the time, its one exercise after another, all demanding thought and attention. You will NOT be so relaxed, you WILL be tense, and you will almost CERTAINLY be hanging onto the bike for grim-death!

And THAT will give you aches and sores, and test muscles that you have probably never exercised in the same way, particularly your 'brain'! So don't make plans for 'after'! When you get home, ZONK OUT! Have a hot bath, listen to some relaxing music! DON'T go racing out for a 'celebration' or anything you will probably be KNACKERED!

But  DON'T let it colour your ideas about every-day riding TOO much. It will get a LOT easier and be a LOT less demanding of you AS you 'find your seat' in the saddle, build your confidence, relax and find the 'fun' in riding.

Just remember, this is ONLY the beginning!


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