Learner rider | How to pass your motorcycle test first time

It’s the final hurdle you need to pass to get on two wheels. To save you the cost and misery of a fail here is how to pass your motorcycle test and avoid the most common fails

how to pass your motorcycle test

FOR many riders, figuring out how to pass your motorcycle test and taking the practical motorcycle exam is the most nerve-wracking time you’ll spend on a motorcycle. It’s fair to say that for most riders, the many miles you’ll spend on two-wheels after will be joyous in comparison.

And likewise, failing your test and having to go back and rebook it is a soul-destroying activity. The thing is, most fails are down to simple errors, brought on by riders not thinking clearly. If you or someone you know is thinking of booking their motorcycle test, get them to have a read of this article, it could save them a lot of time, money and effort.

Before you take your motorcycle test

Although not technically a part of the exam, there are some things you can do prior to getting on the bike that can help you ace the test. Let’s assume it’s about a week before your exam, here are some things you can do to assist you.

Know your enemy

No, not the examiner – although that may help too. Know the route the examiner will take you on. Most decent motorcycle training centres will have a good idea of which roads the local DSA test station use. Book a lesson that is set aside just for the purpose of riding these routes. Having that knowledge will help you massively when it comes to the big day.

Get kitted out

Turning up in the pissing rain in a one-piece perforated leather suit is not going to help anyone. Check the weather, dress accordingly and wear the right gear. Turning up in jeans and a hoodie may not be illegal but will never go down well with an examiner.

Likewise, with your helmet and gloves, make sure they are a decent fit and suitable for the weather conditions.

Try and relax

A massive mug of liquid energy (coffee) might be the way you rouse yourself before a day grafting but a heart rate of 140bpm on the morning of your test is going to make you feel as nervous as hell. Wake early, have some breakfast and take a few snacks with you to chomp on if you feel peckish.

How to pass your motorcycle test first time

Mod 1 test

The Mod 1 test is the first part of your practical riding exam and it takes place in a large tarmacked area at the test centre. The exam starts the second you touch the bike until the moment you get off it at the end. It takes about 15-minutes and covers everything from moving the bike on foot to hazard avoidance. Here are the most common fails and how to avoid them.

Missing a shoulder check

When you’re on the test centre area you must act like you are on the road. That means a shoulder check to each side before you move the bike. It may sound pedantic but it’s the way they do it. Missing a shoulder check might get you a minor fault, not bad in itself but it could push you over the five-fault limit and cause a fail. For something so simple as looking over each shoulder, it just isn’t worth it.

The U-turn

The nemesis of many a newbie rider! The key here is a shitload of practice. You’ll massively increase your chances if you practice on the same bike you’re doing the test on, and most training centres will sort this for you. Keep the revs up, slip the clutch, balance the bike on the back brake and look to where you want to go.

Before you set off, take a shoulder check to make sure the area is clear, set off and ride at a walking pace until you are in the correct position to start your u-turn. Now, before you turn, you must make another shoulder check. It's easy to forget this, but vital you make it.

Once you hit the half wat mark in the imaginary road you are turning in, you should be looking back to where you just rode from, albeit now focused on the opposite side of the road. Once you reach the point in line with where you started, bring the bike safely to a controlled stop.

Maintain a minimum speed

For some, the biggest problem is carrying out what the examiner will call the high-speed manoeuvres. These are the hazard avoidance (swerve) and the emergency stop – sometimes called the controlled stop.

Both must see you reach a speed through the speed trap of at least 32mph. the key to not becoming one of those statistics is your ears. Listen to the bike and learn what the engine sounds like in second gear at 33mph. That way you don’t have to look at the speedo and can focus on where you’re going!

Mod 2 test

The mod two test takes place out on the Queen’s highway, and will be a mix of city roads, possibly some country routes and almost always a bit of dual carriageway too.

The independent ride

After pulling out of the test centre, most examiners will ask you to follow the signs to a certain town, city or landmark. Don’t panic if they ask you to follow the signs to London and you’re in Kettering, you’ll only need to do it for five minutes. It doesn’t matter if you make the occasional wrong turn either – it’s about how you ride, not how good your sense of direction is.

Following another vehicle too closely

It’s easily done but it’s not worth a fail, or worse rear-ending a car on your test! Always keep at least a two-second gap to the car in front. To check this count “one hundred, two hundred” when the vehicle in front passes a fixed object at the side of the road. If you pass that object before you’ve got all the way through the words 'two hundred’, you’re too close. Don't worry and slam on your brakes though, that just makes you look panicked. Gently roll off the throttle, and resume once a safe gap has been attained. For safety a three-second gap is probably advisable, it’ll give you the best view of the road ahead to boot.

Not turning off your indicator

We’ve all don’t it – I still do from time to time – but leaving an indicator on during your test is not a good idea. Once or twice will probably result in a minor fault or two. Leaving it on and sailing past a junction will probably result in a major fault or a fail.

My instructor taught me to chuck a lifesaver after pulling out from a junction and then always press the indicator button when I began to face forward again. It’s a good habit to get into and should prevent you from falling foul of a fail.

Not obeying the speed limit

If you’ve ridden the route prior to your test this should be fairly easy. Keep an eye on the speed limit signs and try and ride to the pace of other vehicles – buses are a good shout as most will stick below the legal speed. Audibly call out each speed limit sign you pass, it helps your brain understand the visual picture and commits the image to memory.

Nail your roundabouts

For a two-lane roundabout, as above, you need to pick your lane and get in it early. If turning left or going straight on you need to be in the left lane. When turning right you need to be in the right lane. Place your bike in the centre of the lane you wish to use. If there are no road marking, go for the centre of the road. Slow the bike in plenty of time and stop near the white line but not too far from it, doing so could limit your view to the right and signal that you aren’t as confident as you should be.

Turning left (first exit) on a roundabout

Flick on your indicator as you slow the bike after carrying out all observations. Place your bike in the centre of the lane you wish to use. Wait for a clear gap and carry out your visual checks – to make sure you are safe to enter the roundabout. Then confidently make your way around the turn and continue into the appropriate lane that exits the roundabout. If there is another vehicle, bus, truck or lorry, to your right that pulls out don’t use that as a green light to go. Entering the roundabout with your vision obscured by another vehicle could result in a fault.

Going straight (second exit) on at a roundabout

As with turning left, get in the left-hand lane and slow the bike in plenty of time stopping a safe distance from the white line. Wait for your gap, visual checks and make your way onto the roundabout. Once you pass the first exit of the roundabout, some trainers advise flicking on a left turn indicator to make it completely clear you are exiting. Now you need to make another shoulder check at this point to check you are safe to exit the roundabout. I did this on my test, and it did me no harm – I passed with no major or minor faults.

Turning right (third, fourth or fifth exit) on a roundabout

As with the above scenarios, get in your lane early and let everyone know where you plan to go by flicking on your indicator. Approach the roundabout at a safe speed and look in the direction of traffic. After you can see if there is any danger or not, you can decide to enter the roundabout if it is safe to do so.

Once you have entered the roundabout, stick to the inside lane unless road markings tell you otherwise. Look to your exit and once you go past the last exit before yours, flick on the left indicator to advise of your intention. It’s vital here to perform a left shoulder check to make sure that another vehicle isn’t trying to squeeze around the turn from the outside lane or turn left out of the exit you have just gone past. Failing to do this could result in a fault.

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