If you’re thinking about getting yourself on the road on a bike, a CBT is required as your first step. Alex recently completed his CBT with Camrider in Harleston – have a read of the of the blog to see how he got on!
First things first
People usually have a lot of questions about a CBT – How long does the CBT last? Why do I need a CBT? What can I ride with a CBT? Well hopefully this blog will help you out a bit with some of these questions, as well as put you at ease if you’re a bit nervous about your upcoming CBT. I was wondering myself a lot of the time leading up to the training “what can I expect from the CBT?” - to be fair I found it to be a lot more enjoyable than you’d expect a training day to be.
I took my CBT with Camrider in Harleston, whereas normally it is within a day mine ended up being split over two days as we were also filming a CBT video (See below). Camrider Harleston is made up from a lovely bunch of people who really put any nerves at ease instantly with a cup of tea/coffee and a good dose of laughter – it’s exactly what you want out of your instructors as their attitude and enthusiasm for riding really rubs off on you.
My CBT was completed under the supervision of Jim (with Alan expertly demonstrating some parts for camera), as well as being welcomed by Bern and Jan who were also there in the morning.
It certainly helps that walking in to Camrider means walking in to Lings Honda, and their variety of new and used Hondas (also other manufacturers like Ducati, Triumph) means you really get your mouth watering and ready to get in the saddle – Pavlov’s dog maybe? But before any of that starts, the Camrider team settle you in and make sure you’re ready to go safely before commencing the CBT.
What is a CBT anyway?
If you weren’t sure, a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) is needed as the first step of a new riders journey to getting on the road on two wheels. You complete the CBT itself over a day of basic training, with some elements on theory and knowledge, but mostly for riding the bike with control and on the road safely.
The CBT will last you for two years before it expires, allowing you to ride up to a 125cc / 11KW / 14.7BHP limit with an L plate on your bike. When it expires you either take another CBT or will have already completed further tests for an A1, A2 or Cat A licence.
A few tips for your CBT
Something that I found helped me was to eat a big breakfast to give yourself enough energy for the day, even if you do still stop for lunch. Also aim to wear sturdy boots (that cover the ankle), heavy jeans and a thick jacket (if not provided by the school), along with the obvious motorcycle gloves and helmet. It can get cold on the bike so be ready for that!
If you can’t buy your own stuff yet; the CBT centre should provide you with the helmet, gloves and high-vis jacket (sometimes also a proper jacket, and boots). At Camrider they were able to provide me with a good jacket and helmet, I had the gloves boots and trousers, but it may be different at other places so call ahead if you are in doubt. Most importantly, do your research before the day, so you know a bit about the highway code and how the bike works (clutch and gears). Having previous experience with cars and even push-bikes is great, but there remains something unique to riding a motorcycle - something that you cannot replicate in any other way.
Knocking the nerves
If you’re nervous about going in to the CBT, getting some knowledge about bikes first is crucial. My best advice would be to look online for everything bike related and CBT related. If you can build up the familiarity with the bike before getting there, you will already be starting off on a good foot on the actual day. There are a lot of online communities and forums dedicated to bikes, and having that base knowledge will go a long way to helping you get confident. Hopefully, by reading this blog or by watching our video you can learn about how a bike works and other tips to help you through the day– after all, everyone has to start somewhere!
The CBT itself is training throughout one day split up in to 5 parts, the first parts are where you go through some important information and preparation about your kit when you get out on the bike, then some basics for the bike itself.
Jim covered some basics about owning a bike and some maintenance tips, how to check the bike before every ride (suspension, tyres, fluids, controls) and how different weather and conditions will mean preparing in a slightly different way each time.
First steps / wobbles
The instructor on the day (in my case Jim) will go through all of the controls and instruments before you are even on the bike; so the buttons, levers and brakes, throttle and gears. Usually you will be with others on the day completing the CBT as well, so make sure to get comfortable and have a chat with everyone to settle yourself down!
Following this you get your kit on and commence the slow speed manoeuvring portion at the nearby practice area. You practice walking with the bike and using the stands first (side stand and main stand) and switching the bike on and off – nice and simple bits just to get you used to the bike. Going through the various routines to get comfortable ‘at the helm’ is really the focus here, and Jim was more than happy to go at the pace of the rider – ensuring that any aspects you may be struggling with can be addressed early on. You’re also getting used to a manual geared bike here if you haven’t already given one a go. You then have a briefing before going out on the road, performing some manoeuvres, and finally the road ride itself.
As an example for the manoeuvres you’ll complete, you start easy going in a straight line and stopping – just to get used to moving with the bike. At this stage you’ll even be walking (or paddling) the bike around to go in a straight line again. Once you’ve got that down, you move on to steering the bike around a corner – it’s surprising how strange it feels at first. Because you are absolutely bossing going left and right, you then move on to multiple lefts and rights by doing a figure 8 to really test yourself. As you become a master of the low speed and using your rear break, you start to take it up a gear… by changing up a gear!
Now that you’re building up a bit of speed in the (tiny) test-track it would probably be the best time to practice stopping at an indicated area, and an emergency stop – which is handy because this is exactly what you do straight after! At this point you’re probably going to be feeling quite good on the bike; and getting used to how it all works so that you are ready to build on these basic skills on the road.
A few tips – look where you want to go, use the rear break to keep steady, and don’t worry about how much throttle you’re using, as this keeps you balanced and upright!
We did then go on to introduce some vital safety bits and observations – so checking your mirrors, using your signals and performing lifesavers when changing road position. A lifesaver is when you look over your shoulder to check your blind-spot – when Jim painted out the blind-spot with cones it’s a surprisingly huge area… you then know to do this every time you change lanes or move across lines of traffic which could literally save your life.
After a nice and difficult U turn (it’s honestly quite tricky) we were pretty much ready in terms of skills. We did also practice the procedure for turning from major to minor roads and using indicators whilst riding– I must admit I did press the horn a few times instead of cancelling the indicator… but that was only a few times!
When riding the bike and getting to grips with the controls within the contained area, it’s important to remember that the instructors are also making sure I can take these skills on to the road. This means making sure your observations (mirrors, shoulder checks / lifesavers) are completed when required. It does feel a bit silly looking for a non-existent car when setting off in a closed course, but as is said: start as you mean to go on. Performing a lifesaver could quite literally save you.
In terms of gears and clutch control, personally I didn’t struggle too much as I’ve been driving cars for quite some time so I had an idea on how it works. It’s worth using more throttle than you think on a bike – especially a 125cc – but at the same time you should get used to it quick enough. Changing gear was about the same, and once you have the technique down you’re sorted. Controlling the bike at slow speed is probably the most challenging, but then pulling a U turn in a small space is another matter!
The key thing highlighted throughout the CBT was that as long as you know what you should be doing and what is going wrong (if anything!) then you’re on the right track, as you practice your skills whilst you are riding on the road. It’s vital that you can ride safely and are always in control of the bike, which is why this is the first big step towards being on the road on your own.
Don’t worry if you’re struggling
Nobody is expected to get on and instantly be dragging knee like a prime Rossi; but if you’re already capable of low-speed manoeuvres safely and with control then you’re well on your way. Something that I found interesting was that from being used to riding a push-bike and holding your balance at low speed, I already had a basis for keeping upright and remaining controlled on a motorcycle – especially a bike like the CB125F which I was on.
Something to note is that if you are struggling with the gears of a manual bike, the instructors are more than happy to get you on an automatic scooter so you get to grips with the road (if there is one available at the time.) Jim made it clear to me that a CBT is really just making sure you have the right tools in your toolbox to allow you to continue learning on the road. Training someone from zero to hero in a day is just never going to happen! Jim and Camrider made clear that they will always make sure that a rider is asked back for another day if they need further training either way, as they will want to make sure a rider is going to be safe before being able to go on the road on their own.
Coming away from this part of the CBT, I really understood the skill and technique required to become a competent and safe motorcyclist.
The instructors are there to help guide you, but they clearly also enjoy welcoming new riders in to the motorcycling community whilst ensuring that everything is completed up to standard and safely. It’s not just about getting as many people in and out of the training school as possible, it’s more about properly involving yourself with bikes in the right way.
Finally on the road
We returned on another day to complete part 2 of the CBT – which I’d definitely say is the most exciting – the road section!
After a few words and drawings to prepare for the road portion, Jim took me over to the asphalted practice area to make sure I was fully comfortable with the bike as it had been a week or so since I was on the bike. We practiced a few manoeuvres and we were both happy to hit the road. I was back on the exact same CB125F, so luckily I didn’t have to get used to a different bike before getting on the road.
After a few wobbles and keeping it slow and steady to start with, we went around Harleston to practice a few left turns to find our way back to Lings. We then went back on ourselves through Harleston but mixed in some right turns – I appreciate it sounds incredibly complex at this stage, but stick with me… After a turn in the road (U turn) and an emergency stop, we set off for a longer ride. We took the main road from Harleston to Diss and it was my first time hitting 60 on a bike. Terrifying. But amazing!
Nothing really describes the feeling of riding the bike on the road, so I won’t try to explain that here other than by saying it’s incredible. Even on a 125 you can pick up decent speed, and I can tell you that 30mph definitely feels a lot faster on a bike than in a car!
With Jim in my ear giving guidance and some observations (like road positioning and gently reminding me to always check mirrors and lifesavers), we then took some roundabouts through Diss and stopped to have a breather near the Lexham office - funnily enough. Jim was very encouraging and overall it was going well – he said that from that point on he would just be giving me directions, and it was more of a supervised individual ride. We took a different route back to Harleston by going off the main roads and taking country lanes – and down these roads is where I found the brilliance of bikes.
Country roads, take me home…
With only a few cars every now and then, we were free on the roads to adventure through the English countryside. Corners are so much fun on a bike, and it’s really where you’ll find the most fun as I did. If anything, being on a 125cc means trying to keep speed up knowing that acceleration isn’t always as quick as you’d like, so safely carrying speed through corners becomes quite a challenge!
Even though we were dodging horse poo, mad drivers and birds on the road the entire journey - which you may think would retract from the fun - it instead just added to the action. I have to add this was all done to the book and safely..!
Something I feel is well worth mentioning is that I had a car pull out of a junction without seeing me, and a BMW driver overtake at quite possibly the worst opportunity with an oncoming car... Luckily with the training and coaching of Jim I was able to safely continue and avoid everything safe and sound. You can really see why the ‘Think Bike’ campaign is so important!
At this stage, if you’re learning how to ride safely, it doesn’t matter too much if you are making little mistakes (like leaving your indicator on for too long). If you’re improving and correcting your mistakes as the day goes on, you will be perfectly fine. The way I look at it, you’re better off making mistakes when there is an instructor there to keep an eye out for you and help you out, than when you’re out on the road on your own.
CBT? Completed it mate
We returned back to Camrider and Lings, and I had a huge grin when getting off the bike. As mentioned before, there’s a very clever marketing move as Camrider is situated in Lings Honda, so when you get off the bike (probably a Honda) and go back to the Camrider office. you walk past all the shiny new bikes in the dealership… You almost want to put down a deposit for a bike there and then!
Overall the CBT was an incredible experience that has left me itching for more. I went in to the CBT with next to no riding experience other than on my pushbike, but with years of car driving knowledge. That no doubt helped me get to grips with the bike and being on the road, but there was still so much to learn. For anyone going in to their first CBT with no road experience or knowledge at all, I can’t recommend reading up on the highway code enough – it’s vital that you know the rules before getting on the bike, and because the CBT is all condensed within a day, the instructors simply do not have time to teach you all of the basics of the highway code. You don’t have to be a young Valentino, but it would definitely help…
One thing I really enjoyed when on the road section of the CBT was getting a glimpse in to being part of the motorcycle community. Getting nods and waves, even thumbs up from other riders was really great. Seeing 6 bikes go by in a group now makes me want to run inside and grab my helmet to join them!
A question that I thought would be worth getting answered by Jim:
What happens if you take your CBT at 16 on a 50cc twist and go, then turn 17 and want a geared 125? Do you need to retake a CBT when changing over to a geared 125 bike?
Jim said that whilst it is not actually required as it stands to retake your CBT in order to ride a different class of bike within that 125cc limit, it is recommended. Your CBT is only valid for two years either way, but until this is changed in the near future the same certificate allows you to ride anything within that 125cc 11KW limit. The CBT is just basic training to make sure you can safely continue learning on the road on your own for 2 years, and it isn’t a full course – so if you are confident you are able to safely progress to a 125cc geared bike then that is fine, even if you pass on an automatic and/or smaller bike.
If you’re concerned about your CBT, or nervous at getting it completed – don’t be. Go at your own pace, make sure you let the instructors know if there is anything you need a tiny bit more help with, and simply enough just have fun!
There will be a video on the way with how the whole CBT, and we’ll make sure to add this here. Until then you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and stay up to date with everything myself and Zack get up to with the BikeMatters team. If you want to know more about taking your full licence, Roger wrote a blog about his experience doing this a few years ago. Of course if this has made you want to go on to do your CBT, I can’t recommend Camrider enough – they have multiple sites throughout the UK and you can book your motorcycle training on their website here.
If you want to have a watch of the CBT, I've got the video below:
The views shared are that of the author and are not necessarily that of Lexham Insurance Consultants Ltd.