Cramming for your Mod 1 or Mod 2 test? Alex from BikeMatters has written up his experience of going from CBT rider, to full bike Cat A licence holder!
Before we begin the full bike training...
Way back in October (2018) I completed my CBT with CamRider in Harleston (which you can read and watch here), and now it is - finally - time to go for my full licence with them!
If you’re anything like me, you’re fascinated by bikes but for some strange reason never took the step to get out on one on the road. With so many people around me on motorcycles and scooters, it’s particularly odd that I haven’t got this done earlier – but that’s another story.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get on any bikes in the few months between completing my CBT and these lessons, so I was recommended to be booked in for 5 sessions (3 for training and 2 for the tests) working out at once a week, fitting nicely all in April. Each session was scheduled as 4 hours, comprised of Mod 1 practice off-road and Mod 2 aspects on road.
Although one day did run over a little bit, to give you a rough idea of the overall time involved: my total time on bikes from zero to hero was around 24 hours.
I’ll break down the blog by practice day, and what we covered daily on the road to getting my full licence.
We've also got the Mod 1 video that you can watch as well - it goes into detail about each manoeuvre, and what tips helped me out the most.
Note that the Motorcycle Theory Test was passed in anticipation before any of this – needs to be done at minimum a few days before mod 1.
Day 1 of training (of 5)
After a bit of excitement and nerves leading up to the first day, it was finally time to practice and get going. Initially I started on Mod 1 stuff in the practice area to get back up to speed, but riding the CB125F around for about 15 minutes to warm up. The whole session was booked as a 125cc one, but I was confident on the bike straight away and it felt like I’d never put a bike down. Luckily Jim said they had their Category A bikes ready to go if I wanted to get going on one of those, so I wasted no time going to its bigger brother – the CB650F.
This felt much more stable and natural for me; bigger wheels, better stability (lower centre of gravity being the main thing) and proper brake discs front and rear, all far more confidence inspiring than the 125cc can offer. Plus it’s nice not weighing the same as the bike, like the 125cc I was on… the CB650F sounds absolutely incredible with its 4 cylinders as well.
I found that on a 125cc you can ride slower with the clutch out, but on bigger bikes you will need to be slipping the clutch to smoothly control your speed, so it does take a little getting used to when negotiating the Mod 1 course. Once you have that down the rest follows nicely from your CBT experience.
But I am worried about getting on a big bike!
Something important to remember for those of you that may be nervous about getting on a bigger bike for the first time - the bike will only have as much power as you allow it to have. Sure, moving from a 125cc single-cylinder to a 650cc inline-four was huge at the time, but I quickly got used to it whilst making sure I was steady with the throttle! You’ll be surprised how scarily quick you get used to having more power on tap.
Overall, to me, the bigger bike ends up feeling just “right” (alright Goldilocks). If anything, they tend to be all-around better bikes - better brakes, better suspension, bigger wheels... Just all-around better.
Jim wanted to make sure I knew the exact layout of the Mod 1 course and the order of the manoeuvres, which you can see below.
It’s all quite straightforward (even though it looks quite complicated!) just remember your examiner on the day will still guide you through each manoeuvre and what they want to see from you, so you're not expected to memorise exactly where to be at what point.
After a bit of time in the training area getting acclimatised with the CB650F and the Mod 1, we had a little ride to Diss (13 miles) to get used to the bike on the road – this is where I really got comfortable and it all started coming together well.
Day 2 - Module 1 preparations
Day 2 started with more Mod 1 work to get going. The main things Jim asked me to focus on were keeping it smooth through the slalom and figure 8, dropping my shoulder and relaxing, and keeping the revs up high! In all honesty, once you know the layout of the course, it’s just practice. There are no real “difficult” parts to it, just making sure your control of the bike is nailed in and you can safely negotiate around the course as instructed. This means lifesavers whenever setting off, avoiding all cones and overall having top control of the bike.
This second session was my first longer ride to Norwich on the CB650F, we took a lovely route to Norwich going through smaller towns and villages, which also meant discovering the backroads and some twisties on the way, great fun!
Once we had a lot of time on the road, on roundabouts and on the city roads, we covered Module 1’s high-speed manoeuvres off-site in Norwich. This is where I could practice the emergency stop, hazard avoidance, and getting up to the right speed for the manoeuvres.
The first few emergency stops were great, and I was working on feeling confident with using the front brake with urgency – a small part of me was worried about going over the handlebars when the twin discs at the front kick in (we’ve all seen those videos) but it’s all about progressive pressure.
Although knowing the bike has ABS and other rider aids meant flying off was no real concern - I could feel the ABS clattering (i.e. working) on a couple of the early attempts through my rear brake, Jim explained that this was when I wasn’t using the front brake as much as I could.
Everything is sinking in nicely at this stage – and I had a good day on the bike. At this point I’ve been really enjoying riding and training, which is again a testament to Jim and CamRider, I could really see my skill improving ten-fold from where I’d started, and my confidence was rapidly growing on the bike.
Oh, have you ever been on your bike and got stung by a wasp? Unfortunately, I left a bit of a gap in the zip at the top of my jacket (between helmet and jacket) for airflow due to the hot weather – a wasp took this opportunity to do a Luke Skywalker and shoot for that small gap whilst I was riding along… No real ‘injury’ luckily and it was all good, just feel sorry for the wasp. Learn from my mistake!
Day 3 - Last practice for Module 1 and Module 2 practice in Norwich
Again we started with mod 1 stuff, going over everything the last time to make sure I’m happy, as the next session would be test day. At this point I felt I was ready for the Mod 1 – the only slight concern was the U-turn and avoiding putting my foot down unnecessarily, but when I worked on that a few times focusing on using the revs for balance with a touch more speed, it was fine.
One major tip that Jim wanted me to remember was to keep the revs high and let the bike do the work. I was making it harder for myself by letting the revs drop whilst using a touch of the rear brake. Instead, keeping high revs keeps the bike nice and balanced, and sounds quite nice too.
Another tip: Elbows down! But not around corners because I’m Rossi at this stage; but rather Jim noticed I tended to sit quite rigid on the bike, with elbows out and waist locked. It wasn’t a huge problem and was quite easily solved, but it meant that I was making manoeuvres harder for myself and not letting “bike and rider” move fluidly. Moving with the bike is key to having superb control, especially for me with the Mod 1 right around the corner.
Jim suggested that in this session we also try some trickier roads ready for Mod 2 – so mostly focusing on city riding and low-speed manoeuvres with multiple lanes of traffic. Naturally, there were lots of roundabouts, lifesavers and odd lane markings thrown in to build further confidence. Jim was ensuring it’s all coming naturally and I could ride around comfortably without him having to tell me exactly where I should be on the road, and what I should be doing - all key aspects for passing your Mod 2.
We also covered the importance of safe riding and not just learning how to pass a test, as well as discussed a few more advanced techniques for riding post-test. Jim recommended looking at further training once passing too and really getting involved in the biker community once the full licence is in your pocket.
Patience and practice breeds confidence in your own riding, something clear to see for experienced riders - and if the examiner on the day can see you’re confident it shows them you know what you’re doing. Which can only help!
Day 4 - Module 1 motorcycle test day
Test day! We covered the last bits of prep in the morning, with a run-through of the full Mod 1 test. My Mod 1 was in Ipswich (37.5 miles away) so we had a bit of a ride there to enjoy first off. I made use of the time on-road by making sure my counter-steering was on point, particularly for the hazard avoidance. The ride to and from Ipswich isn’t really a “lesson” but I was still under instruction, so I had the chance to go through the last bits of prep with Jim in my ear and keep an eye on my riding. Either way, it’s valuable time in the saddle which means you’re constantly learning.
We arrived in Ipswich for the first time, took a quick look around the area local to the test centre in preparation for Mod 2, making sure I knew the nuances of the local roundabouts and roads near the test centre – to be fair this massively helped my confidence in the Mod 2 as I had an idea of where I should be on the road, so starting off on a good foot.
Anyway back to the Mod 1.
I was all ready to go with my bike parked up in the bay, and we saw another rider taking her mod 1 before mine. Not sure whether this was a good thing or not because waiting for mine was nerve-wracking enough, let alone watching someone else go through theirs, but she did really well and passed!
Then it was my turn.
I was feeling good for the test, and even if I did lean on the rear brake for my figure of 8 a tad too much (Jim said he was getting a sore foot watching that manoeuvre…), and hammer it through the speed trap for the emergency stop, it all came together perfectly and I passed with no minors. Although it wasn’t textbook – I just did everything safely and under control and got a clean pass.
With the speed-trap on the emergency stop, if anything over-egging the speed made it harder, so it’s important get the right speed. The examiner let me know the recorded speed - 57 km/h - and said “Went a bit quick through there! Good stop though.”
I just didn’t want to do the stop twice!
You often hear that Mod 1 is the most difficult test, whereas some think it’s the easiest because there are no variables involved – ultimately it just comes down to you as a rider having enough practice! I weirdly found it quite enjoyable, as we’d practiced plenty over the 3 sessions and I felt well-prepared thanks to Jim’s instruction.
Regardless, I think we can all agree that the relief when you hear “Right, I won’t ask you to do that again” is immense.
So Mod 1 passed, on to the final step - Mod 2! A lot of people said that the hard part is out of the way with Mod 1 now completed, and it was great to know there is one final step before I get that full A licence...
Day 5 - Module 2 motorcycle test day. The big day.
Here we are, the big make-or-break day! Way back when in session 1, I was given a sheet of Show Me / Tell Me questions to revise. These are all quite self-explanatory things, which covered general topics of bike maintenance and safety, but it’s worth covering these properly as the examiner will love hearing the buzzwords so they know you’ve prepared. For my Mod 2 stepping in as my instructor was the lovely Jan (read her blog on what bad habits are best to keep on top of here), and before we set off she went through each question over a cup of tea – definitely helped settled the nerves!
As there was no Mod 1 to worry about now, this time we got straight on the road and headed to Ipswich and to the test centre. As I hadn’t ridden with Jan before, she was able to observe my riding and give me some second opinions of bits to focus on – she’s also such a great laugh and really put me at ease for the test whilst riding there.
If you’re unsure about what the Mod 2 test covers; you are on the road for about 40 minutes and the examiner will want to see you riding on a range of roads, riding independently, as well as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions and an eyesight check at the start. You'll also be asked to pull over a few times to show you can safely park up and pull away.
The advice I heard the most going into the test was to just treat it like a ride with a friend, but a friend that hasn’t ridden for a while and is quite strict... This friend is telling you where to go, and you want to set a good example on how to ride properly. Ultimately just try to stay calm and relaxed, enjoy the ride and remember the little things: canceling indicators, carrying out lifesavers and observations before changing direction (or doing anything really), plus anything your instructor has specifically focused on with you.
Most importantly, just have fun. Try not to be too self-critical thinking you’ve fluffed it early on - I did, after passing a cyclist and being slightly too close with my following distance on one occasion I was already planning the re-sit, but I still ended up passing the first time with just those two "faults" as minors. All in all, not too bad!
Getting back and told that I’d passed, I was absolutely chuffed to bits! The McDonald’s that Jan treated me to afterward was well earned (huge thanks Jan!).
In all honesty, I will miss the riding and training with CamRider, and I couldn't have done it without them. At no point did this feel like ‘training’ and more just a ride with a mate. They are top guys (and gals) and I cannot recommend them enough.
One of us, one of us
I highly recommend doing a full bike licence even if you’re staying on small bikes. Training is invaluable to be safe on the road. Note that the training doesn’t even feel like training, once you know your bike it’s just like having a great ride with your mate who’s telling you where to go! Of course, your own mileage may vary – but I’m sure CamRider will no doubt give you the same experience as mine – top notch.
When you pass and can throw those pesky L plates in the bin, remember that the real training has only just begun. Yes, it’s a cliché - but only because it’s so true. Stay within your limits and remember everything that your instructor covered with you. Consider further training options also, not just to further your skill as a rider, but also due to advanced tests often bringing down insurance premiums!
Want to get on the road with a bike licence, but not sure where to start? We’ve got a blog on bike licences in the UK here, but the easiest way to get the ball rolling is to contact your local CamRider (or local training school) and get started.
There’s no doubt the further training and experience passing your test can be costly for both your time and money, but it’s well worth doing this to get that extra tuition - so I’ll always recommend a training school.
If you’re looking to book through CamRider, their current pricing (from online) for a 5-session booking is £659 – test fees are £90.50. (Correct at time of publish)
As well as the company of CamRider’s finest, I spent a lot of time getting to know the CB650F. I’ll miss you my bubby. Until we meet again. But now is the fun bit, looking for bikes...
Gear-wise, Oxford has kindly supplied BikeMatters with an incredible set of gear which included a HJC I70 helmet, Oxford Montreal 3.0 jacket and Montreal 3.0 trousers. Oxford Warrior boots I already had from the CBT, for gloves anything colder Oxford did provide the matching Montreal 1.0 (£44.99) gloves) too! The Oxford Montreal range is comfortable and versatile for all weather with removable liners, so I highly recommend the set if you’re looking at some serious rider wear.
See you out there, and safe riding.