Learning to Ride


I was totally ready to do my Mod1 test. I’d put in the saddle hours and visualised what I had to do over and over again.

I even got out my daughter’s toy Ducati and ran the test manoeuvres on our dining room table.

But I still failed…

One of the things you have to do at the end of the test is to ride through a speed check above 32mph and then execute an emergency stop.

For some reason I got really hung up on this, and worried that I wouldn’t go fast enough. So in my test, I came out of the bottom corner, rolled back on the throttle and flew through the speed trap.

The examiner raised his hand and I hauled on the brakes.

Now in my practice sessions I’d occasionally locked up the rear wheel, but as I felt this happening I’d always release the pressure then reapply so I didn’t go into full skid mode.

However on test day one thing had happened that I’d not experienced in training, nor accounted for that morning – it had rained.

So when I locked up my rear wheel it slid beautifully along in the wet with no real feeling at all. So much so that I didn’t realise what I’d done. ‘Nailed it,’ I thought to myself.

I looked up and the examiner and he indicated for me to ride over to the exit gate.

‘I’m sure we’ve not done one of the manoeuvres yet,’ I thought. And then slowly, like a creeping death, it dawned on me that we had missed one out. I was being made to leave the test because I’d failed.

I was devastated. And that got even more so during my debrief.

‘You rode so well throughout the test that I assumed you’d been riding off-road for years,’ he said to me. Which of course I hadn’t – beyond my two CBTs, training and riding to the test centre I had zero motorbike experience.

So for that reason I was chuffed. But then…

‘Then you went for your emergency stop. I asked you to achieve a speed of at least 32mph. In the wet, you did 52.’


Ah. My fear of not going fast enough made me overcompensate by such a stupid margin that I’d made my emergency stop even harder to pull off.

I rode away from the test centre with my head dropped, cursing myself out loud inside my helmet all the way back to my training ground.

A week later I went back to retake it and passed.

In that debrief, the same examiner said to me: ‘Your emergency stop was shit, but you rode so well for the rest of it that I have no problem in giving you the pass.’

I was chuffed to bits!

Second time lucky: finally got the Mod1 pass!

Then I had to tackle the Mod2. Now I’d dreamed about riding on the road for so long that I was pretty confident I’d be ok in a test situation, so booked one for the following week.

With a full time job and three kids, that left me just one 3-hour window of opportunity to do some proper on the road training. Out on the road I immediately knew I still loved it. But I was also really obviously lacking in any road riding experience, and fluffed a few junction entries/exits and the like, so I had to really get my game face on and focus.

I wasn’t far into that training session before I realised what the Mod2 was all about, and it certainly wasn’t riding a bike.

If you’re learning and someone tells you that the Mod2 is a test of your motorcycle handling ability then don’t listen to them – that’s what the Mod1 taught you.

Mod2 is to make sure that you understand everything else that happens beyond the confines of your bike.

Reading the road is completely different on two motorised wheels, and way more involved than the more detached reality of driving a four-wheeled tin box, so that’s what you’re actually being tested on in the Mod2. It’s all about moving through your doors of perception, and assessing how open you are to what’s going on in that new environment.

I think from years of riding push bikes, and also obsessively imaging I was riding a motorbike every time I got behind the wheel of a car, I was pretty adept at riding on the road. Which was good, because by the time I’d finished my three hour training stint my instructor said: ‘if you ride like that in your test then you’ll pass.’

Which, I’m happy to say, I did!

I took my test on a cold but bright early October morning, and apart from two minors it went as smooth as I could hope for.

My examiner was a super calming influence, and every piece of advice I’d been given by those who knew more than I did played out well on the day.

‘I’m pleased to tell you, Mr Hibbard, that you’ve passed,’ was one of the best things anyone has ever told me.

I couldn’t quite believe that I’d actually managed it, after so many years of dreaming about it.

And then I didn’t ride a bike again for four months…

[When I’ve written it, you’ll be able to click here for Pt3.]



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Joel Farquhar says:

    This is a great read mate. I failed my mod1 1st time a couple of years ago and it dented my confidence but not my love of motorbikes. Cbt and theory has thus expired but will have to go for it again! Just kick myself I didn’t redo the test straight away.

    Great to see you’re back blogging!


    1. jamiehibbard says:

      Yeah mate get back on that horse! I though Mod1 was way tougher than anything else so can see how it would knock you. But do it! And thanks glad you like it 🙂


  2. Tom Hartland says:

    Haha – I found myself doing exactly the same thing. Fortunately test-runs were in the wet and the test in the dry, so I nearly thumped over the handlebars. Couldn’t fault my commitment mind – it was an emergency after all… Looking forward to part three!


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