My CBT experience

The next stage...

Posted: 28 January 2014
by Christopher Dodd
A scene from Chris' CBT experience. Possibly.

'Your CBT is easy can't even technically fail it' - the hollow words of friends and acquaintances rang in my ears like a bin lid dropped down a well.

Article originally posted November 2012, updated July 2013

As I sat astride the mighty Yamaha SR125, poised at the edge of a fast three lane roundabout, it seemed I had made a few errors of judgment (namely; underestimating the challenge presented by the CBT and severely overestimating my confidence and ability). A bead of sweat appeared at my brow. As I waited for a gap, I tried to remind myself of how to move off but as I did so the steps that had seemed so easy, such a short time ago, became garbled. What was I doing here? Who would I blame for dragooning me into this situation when I made my statement to the police?

Rewind 5 hours. I had arrived promptly at 8.15 that chilly morning, flushed with confidence in my Visordown-provided kit as I watched my young comrades shuffle in, bleary-eyed, tracksuited and counterpart license-less. I was absolutely itching to get on the bike.

After a reasonably lengthy kitting up/admin session, and some preliminary health and safety bits and pieces from the instructor, we were shown to our steeds for the day. I fell in love immediately with my retro Yamaha, charmed by its 'characterful' gaffer-taped look.

It became quickly apparent that I was the only person taking the CBT on a geared bike - a competitive instinct began to bubble inside me as I looked around at the scooter learners to the left and right of me. This was a vital moment. Concentrating hard, I set the throttle and eased the clutch out as instructed - I was off! To my blessed relief I began to rumble forward, coming to an easy rest at the feet of my instructor.

An hour later, I was flying. Breezily sweeping around cones in ever smaller circles, laughing hautily at the once elusive biting point and flamboyantly issuing lifesaver checks as if distributing kingly decrees, I thought I had it sussed. For a short time, in a managed, safe, sub-20mph environment - I did.

At about midday, the instructor took us inside the little hut on the edge of the carpark for a bit of a tutorial on the rules of the road - how to deal with roundabouts, junctions, passing parked cars. It was slightly disconcerting - there seemed to be a lot to remember and I didn't back myself to recall, in photographic detail, the little roundabout diagram he had drawn for us when I found myself actually bearing down on a 'road situation'. We'd be going out two at a time, riding two one hour sessions each.

And suddenly, terrifyingly, we were on the road.

It was as if the entire morning had never happened: I was absolutely rubbish. Pawing helplessly at the gear lever with what had apparently become some sort of hideous leather-clad hoof, shifting gears up and down seemingly at random, I lurched down the road with no regard at all for the concept of a gearbox (a jarring but effective lesson in the potency of engine-braking, at least). Staring fixedly at a point on the road about 8 feet in front of me, rigidly locked to the bike in dumb panic, approaching rudimentary features like junctions wide-eyed yet utterly oblivious - I was quite literally all over the shop.

Then came the big roundabout with five exits. Cars were coming around it at what I judged at the time to be no less than three or four hundred mph. Taking my cue from the instructor over the one-way radio, I took a 'gap' (never have I seen anything that I would less happily describe as such) and sallied forth, trundling pathetically towards the inside lane, losing count of what exit I was at, eventually lurching off desperately at what I hoped was the 'fourth exit'. Cars swirled about me like monsoon rains.

By the time we pulled back into the safety of the carpark I'd just about had enough.

I was annoyed at this point that I don't smoke, as it just seemed so apt. My fellow road-goer and I hung about in the carpark walking in circles and shaking out limbs - as though that would help. Our instructor, who had done a blinding job of keeping an eye on us, I thought, congratulated us on an 'overall good' ride, despite some 'control issues'. I was incredulous (especially when I looked over at my trusty Yamaha to see that I'd left the indicators flashing), but heartened.  It began to dawn on me - I hadn't stalled, I hadn't crashed, I hadn't even cut anyone up. I'd got away with it - but it was time to go again.

The second ride was fantastic. Something imperceptible had changed completely in that 15 minute break. I felt relaxed, in control, confident. I stopped looking at my feet every time I wanted to change gear. I began to observe. I had stopped glancing furtively around me like a harried fugitive as an afterthought at the last possible moment. Cornering became a pleasure. Shifting gears felt natural as I began to understand what the bike was doing and respond appropriately.

The second time around my nemesis roundabout I didn't even notice where I was until I was halfway round it. It felt great to be on a bike. I felt lithe, maneuverable - more nimble than the unwieldy cars that had terrified me so much last time. When I dismounted for the last time I was genuinely hacked-off that I couldn't have another go, so much was I enjoying just riding.

That feeling was mitigated by the thought that the next time I rode a bike, it would be mine. As the instructor rubber stamped my certificate, I felt a bit more pride than the situation perhaps warranted. I couldn't help but feel that I was now, in a very modest way, a biker of sorts. OK, so I'd only passed the perfunctory sounding 'compulsory basic training', which is almost impossible to fail and doesn't entitle the holder to much beyond an asthmatic little bike with no power. But everybody has to start somewhere, don't they?

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Discuss this story

It can be failed...

Posted: 07/11/2012 at 15:32

Ye gods, this takes me back to my own CBT! I did have a roundabout 'experience' myself, stalling just as I'd hit the point of no return, on a VERY busy roundabout, frantically trying to restart the little bugger as the instructor repeatedly shouted "GET OFF THE ROUNDABOUT" into my earpiece. How I was supposed to do that effectively on a stalled bike is still a mystery...
Anyway, another smile inducing article - keep 'em coming. Oh, and well done on the pass! Only the test to go now eh?
P.S. loved the "bin lid dropped down a well" line :-)

Posted: 07/11/2012 at 17:24

Very good article (and really funny)!!!!

Posted: 08/11/2012 at 05:06

@Fiver - It can't be failed because it isn't a test.

Posted: 09/11/2012 at 10:11

I remember back to my CBT passed on a Yam DT50. Despite pristine machine control in the car park, on the road it became about wheelies from the lights and the need to remember there are lanes on the road. Riding on the white lines is not good lane discipline apparently. Despite this I passed which opened the door to bigger and better (faster) things. I recall my biggest concern was stalling the bike a bit like Leon Trotsky and causing the car users to wait for me. This did happen but my instructor swiftly pulled up alongside me on his Pan Euro (to prevent cars moving around me resulting in further panic) And calmly looked at me. Looking into his wisdom filled eyes I was able to negotiate the 1st gear, slow clutch release whilst feeding in revs conundrum and pull away and finally ended up safetly back at base. Its daunting trying anything new, but taking my CBT was one of my best decisions ever and I would recommend everyone to do it.

Posted: 09/11/2012 at 15:16

Brilliantly written. I still remember the blind panic that took over when I was told to get ready to go out on the road during rush hour on a Saturday after a grand total of 1 hour riding around cones at 10mph!

Posted: 09/11/2012 at 16:02


I remember my CBT when i was 18 - thoroughly researched and told "you can't even fail it" I had never driven a geared vehicle before.

Because of this, due to nerves and a lack of mechanical aptitude i was so rubbish at it they didn't even let me on the road. The instructor proceeded to tell me: "Some people are made to ride motorbikes, but you arent"

I re-did the test on a scooter and scraped through, performing a perfect stop - just at a GREEN LIGHT.

Anyway, years later i saved enough money to do the full test, passed - and now i ride a 2005 FZ6S 600 every day.

Not made to ride motorbikes my arse.

Posted: 12/11/2012 at 11:59

Good on you sir!

As a biking convert from Car to bike (Mighty CG125 and a KLX125 Test Bikes!)I completely understand! Rewind to 2010 after my car test I couldn't do the CBT but quote "You'll have to comeback".

Now after some sublime mickey taking/advice from some RAF Police Officers with bikes ranging from Blades to Harleys and everything inbetween! Fast forward to the present day I passed my test in 8 days!

Keep at it! Like you found out no two rides are the same, you'll learn new things on every single one. Even the riding hierarchy like your Rossis, Martins, McGuinesses etc...

Start out local and build your way up, mind you that does come from a guy who got lost 2 miles from home and ended up in a completely different county! Not bad for a guy who had his bike for 2 days :)

No matter what happens Keep at'll get the "Bikes are dangerous speech" time and time again usually by ignorant sods who have never been on a push bike.

Just be wary t'is a bigger world'll be planning continental road trips by day 3!

Be Smooth, Be Safe and Have a great time! It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on!

Oh and if your reading this: Thank you Martyn and Jenny from 1 on 1 rider training!

Posted: 12/11/2012 at 15:27

Makes me break out in a cold sweat when i think about it ! I was 40 and it suddenly seemed a good idea to buy a bike ( Otherwise known as a midlife crisis ! ).
I remember going for my CBT having never even sat on bike before, surrounded by spotty teenagers and wondering what the hell I was doing at my age. I had read an introduction guide on how to ride a bike and sat for many hours pretending to ride a bike and trying to rememebr where all the leavers were and gears sequence.

I passed, and when onto to do my direct access and havent looked back - well except for the life saver glances over my shoulder that is.

Posted: 12/11/2012 at 20:35

My cbt.
First time on a bike ever aged 17 including being pillion.
Literally pissed it down all day long. My partner for the day dropped it on oil right infront of me which did not help the nerves in the slightest. But i passed and never looked back!

And CBTs can be failed. My mate from college wasn't even allowed to continue into the afternoon because he was that bad. They told him to go home! HA!

It also bucketed it down the entire way through my full licence test!

Posted: 13/11/2012 at 03:39

I had a horrendous experience on my first attempt. I had never ridden before, and I just couldn't pull away without stalling?! I complained that the clutch felt 'weird' and I was having real difficulty with it, but they said they were all the same so it must be me.

After several very frustrating hours they wouldn't let me out on the road and told me I had to go back the following week, but I could carry on practicing on the mock-up roads they had laid out at the training school while everybody else went off to complete their courses. Embarrassing much? AND to make it worse I was the only fecker there with proper riding gear that I'd either bought or borrowed!

At the end of the day I was asked to ride all the school bikes up to a container to be put away, and only then did I find out that they weren't all the bloody same, mine was a total dog! Needless to say, the following week I cherry picked the one with the nicest clutch and I was immediately like a CBT God! I was out on the road within minutes and had a very enjoyable day :)

Posted: 28/01/2014 at 16:18

I remember doing mine, was pissing down with rain in March, first time ever on a bike (apart from sitting on one and pillion). Had some issues with the clutch at first, but quickly got over that and became a riding god (haha). However because it was so cold and wet, by the afternoon everyone was told to go home and come back for the road session the following week.

Did the road session the following week and went onto do my DAS course. Loved riding those little 125's so fun and flickable, opposed to the lazy V-twin that I learnt on. However I'm now a full fledged biker, and love it, well I will love it once it warms up a bit....hate winter.

Oh, and you can not fail a CBT, it is Compulsary Basic Training, not a test. So if you are not up to scratch they should keep training you until you meet the standards to get that certificate, they should not tell you that's it, it's over, go home.

Posted: 29/01/2014 at 07:46

Too old to have done CBT. It was a single part test and then home to collect the RD350YPVS that was waiting for me :)

On my borrowed RD125 I took the test and as the instructor gave me the 'pass' said... "you will be a statistic within 1 year".
Miserable old B@stard.

Been riding all around the world. He is probably still an examiner.

Posted: 30/01/2014 at 09:15

Great article and congratulations on getting your CBT.

I give up riding when i was 20, having never passed my test. I returned in 2012 in my mid 40's after a work colleague bought himself a sexy black Kawasaki Z750. I had to have a bike again.
Did my CBT in April that year jumping on a brilliant Yamaha 125, it was so much fun and like I had never been off of bikes for 25years, it felt so natural. The young lad I did my CBT with had to return the following day for extra training because he was all over the place on the road, he was totally freaked, I do know he did get his certificate. I decided to carry on and I completed my DA training and passed my test in June. I've sold the car since then, i ride my bike (kawasaki ER6N)every day in all weathers, and I love every minute of it! Later this year I will add a second bike.

Posted: 01/02/2014 at 01:21

I took my CBT today and christ I was not good at all. Keep in mind I only have experience with a pedal cycle and a little driving. The clutch is such an odd thing at first and I was trying to get a hang of it when turning corners in the car park. Kept jolting all over as the clutch and throttle control is really difficult to get down having only driven a car a few times and still a learner.

It kind of went downhill from there when I had to do figure 8s and found it pretty difficult and when turning on it accidentally turned the throttle hard it wheelied slightly and threw me over. Cut my knee up and bruised my thigh. I decided to throw the towel in and thought I would come back for another day. Until I got a call from the training centre saying I had to pay £250 as the bike was a 'write off' when I fell over...not sure I could total a bike after only riding at 10-15mph...I do want to learn to ride but maybe not at that training school.

So not the best experience and I just messed up I guess.

Posted: 10/05/2014 at 15:50

Sounds like me, rode at 16 17 and 18 then had to pick
either car or bike test as couldn't afford to do (or run)
both. Chose car and hadn't slung a leg over a bike for 21
years then finally went back and got my licence aged 40.

Did my CBT (on and off road) on a Fazer 600 after just literally
30 mins on a YBR 125 to show my instructor I had a bit of experience.
Did part 1 test about a week later after just 3 hours of additional
tuition which was nearly a clean sheet all bar getting 1 minor fault for 49kph in the swerve. And after another 3 hours on road training
did my part 2 and passed with a complete clean sheet this time.
All tests and training done on the Fazer(03 model) apart from first half hour of CBT on a YBR125.

Posted: 11/05/2014 at 00:53

The worst one for me was when I renewed my CBT. I'd been off bikes for about 18 months after loosing my job & I'd been noisily confident about how I'd used my bike everyday for work & so it would be easy.

When I climbed onto the battered little YBR125, in that first moment, I suddenly forgot everything. I was proud of my good clutch control, but I couldn't find the bit point smoothly, the rear brake seemed non-existent, the steering was weird...

Fortunately, it was all plain sailing for me, after a bit of time going up & down the car park, it all came back to me & I've recently passed me Mod 1 & got the Mod 2 booked.

Posted: 17/05/2014 at 12:04

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