My Get On experience

Starting from scratch with motorcycling

WHEN I first joined Visordown I knew absolutely nothing about motorcycles - not a single thing. I was eager to learn about the subject and liked the culture, but didn't immediately think I would end up riding a bike - I didn't think I needed to.

But, just out of university and unable to drive a car, it quickly became apparent that I was in dire need of wheels of some description. The tyranny of the tube-bus-train triumvirate on the human soul is well documented - and after a couple of months of watching money disappearing from my Oyster Card with astounding and dismaying haste and nothing to show for it, I realised it was time to get under my own steam. 

Despite working for Visordown, I was not immediately convinced that learning to ride a bike was the solution. Don't get me wrong, the practical appeal is obvious: cheaper, more convenient and surely more fun than driving a car, I loved the idea. But would I actually enjoy it when suddenly I found myself sat astride a bike? Would I catch 'the bug', or be left cold?

The answer was to have a go at Get On. For those who don't know, Get On is an industry-funded scheme that subsidizes free hour-long sessions to introduce potential riders to the world of motorcycling. 

I signed up - registration was easy and booking a session at a nearby school totally painless. I was quickly contacted for confirmation and firmly reminded by email a week later, a couple of days before the big day. No timewasters allowed.

So I arrived on a cold Thursday afternoon for my 'little go'. As pathetic as it may sound, I felt a jolt of apprehension. My imagination ran riot - they wouldn't expect me to go on the road would they!? (Despite knowing for a fact that there was no chance of this happening, I somehow still feared falling into the clutches of some renegade, Colonel Kurtz-esque bike instructor who's lunatic orders I would be unable to disobey.)

As it happened I needn't have worried - on arrival I was quickly furnished with a helmet (smellier than I'd have liked, less smelly than I'd expected) and high-vis vest, and reassured that we'd be 'taking it easy'. We were told we'd be riding scooters, before being taken over to the training area. Straight away I was sat on the scooter and shown the controls - I had expected a bit of introductory bluster so was pleasantly surprised, and not a little apprehensive, that I'd evidently be on the move in the very near future. 

My instructor was a good teacher - he outlined the controls and the principles of slow movement and before I knew it I was wobbling between cones, grinning widely and generally wondering what all the fuss had been about. Despite having not yet exceeded 10mph, I was already loving it. Clearly, I'm easily pleased.

We were assisted through a variety of slow movement exercises, presumably chosen to simulate the CBT fairly closely. Figure of eights, slalom and stopping to a designated line all featured and certainly helped me grasp the nuances of the controls, the importance of careful throttle control and being gentle with the brakes. After a light scolding over my profligacy with the throttle early on, I really started to get to grips with it and by the end was straining to go faster and turn sharper. 

I went home and immediately booked my CBT on a geared bike. I can categorically say that I wouldn't have done so if I hadn't had the benefit of my Get On experience, even if it was just pottering around a carpark for an hour on a scooter. Parting with £100 for a full day's CBT seemed like a real leap of faith. Not post-Get On: it was as natural a step as I could imagine. 

I really felt the value of that introduction when it came to my CBT - it diffused much of the pressure that I would otherwise have felt entering into something that I knew would require me to be road-riding by the end of the day. What if I couldn't do the basics? I knew I could. What if I hated it? I knew I didn't. With an hours free session to dispel all of the above concerns, I was in good stead for the next stage. 

In summary, if you are interested in learning to ride a bike, or know somebody who is, sign yourself/them up for a Get On session. It's not sexy, but it's a start. It can only be good experience if you do decide to continue learning, and will save you no insignificant expense if it does turn out it isn't for you. Best of all - it's free!

Book Get On here.

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