The UK motorcycle test keeps getting more complicated, more expensive and, some would argue, more irrelevant to a lot of riders. Over the years, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have called for inclusion of a section of off-road riding in the UK Motorcycle test, or even a bit of track riding, and plenty of them have made a fairly strong case. Here’s what I think…
This is something I’ve put a lot of thought into, over the years, and the more thought I put into it, the more benefits I tend to see. At the time of writing, the UK motorcycle test consists of four main parts. First you do your CBT (Compulsory Basic Training), which is mainly just riding round cones. Then your theory test where you answer 50 questions on a screen followed by a hazard perception test. Then Module 1 and Module 2. Module 1 is more riding round cones. Module 2 is where you’re let loose on the street, with an examiner following you and scrutinising every move you make.
You could argue that the CBT is a bit of a waste of time; it’s not actually a test, rather a bit of very simple training. And if you ask me, it can’t be used as evidence that someone can ride a bike (a chimp could complete the CBT). It can only really be used to prove someone can’t ride a bike. It means kids can get on two wheels at 16 though, and grownups can dip their toe into the two-wheeled world without shelling out for a full bike test.
I’m not saying we should scrap the CBT, I just think it should be tweaked. Rather than ‘Compulsory Basic Training’, let’s have ‘Circuit Based Training’. You learn more about what your bike’s capable of doing in a single day on track than you might in a full year on the road. It doesn’t have to be Silverstone or Brands Hatch, an old kart track would do. Getting out your comfort zone, and being able to push a bike that little bit further in a safe(ish) environment will definitely make every new rider a better rider.
Too many bike crashes are caused by people running into corners ‘a bit hot’ and not having the confidence to just throw it in. Nine times out of ten, you’ll make it round without any issues, but that’s easier said than done. Especially when you’re panicking. And someone with a bit of experience on track is much less likely to panic. That’s my theory, anyway.
And speaking of ‘theory’ the theory test is a great way for the government to make a load of money from all of us, so that’s not going to change, which leaves Mod 1 and Mod 2. I don’t have a problem with Mod 2. There’s a lot going on, on the roads today, so I think it’s fair enough that we all have to get signed off as proficient when it comes to negotiating junctions, roundabouts and other road users whilst on our bikes.
Mod 1 (the riding round the carpark bit), in its current form, seems like a complete waste of time to me. How much bike skill can you demonstrate by slaloming round some traffic bollards at a snail’s pace. Not a whole lot, I would wager. No, Mod 1 needs a shakeup. A big dirty shakeup. Let’s make Mod 1 the off-road section.
And before you tell me how 90% of the motorcycling population have no intention of ever going off road, let me stop you, because that’s not what it’s all about. I’m not talking about forcing newbie bikers up Daker style sand dunes or signing them up for Weston beach race in order to pass their UK motorcycle test. It’s about learning a few simple skills and building the confidence to control a bike should either one of the wheels, for whatever reason, loose traction. And we all know that there are a million reasons why that can happen on the UK roads. We’ve all encountered gravel, mud, diesel, horse shit and all sorts getting between our tyres and the tarmac, and it’s usually when we least expect it. What do most people do when that happens? They panic. What happens when they panic? They crash.
Almost every skill that you learn when riding off-road, from body position, to throttle control, would benefit a road rider, especially when conditions are less than ideal. Having the confidence to ‘go with the flow’ and let the bike do its thing underneath you without grabbing a handful of front brake, or just panicking and throwing the thing on the floor, will, without a shadow of a doubt, make you a safer rider. And one that enjoys his bike a lot more, too.
I’m not sure if the Secretary of State for Transport, the Right Honourable Grant Shapps MP, is a regular 44teeth.com visitor, but if he is, and he’s found the time in his busy schedule to get balls-deep in this post, hopefully it’s given him some food for thought. Come on Shappsy, do the right thing, mate.