GRR learns to ride – why all drivers should do it

02nd February 2017
Ben Miles

Confession time. Despite working for an estate that puts on some of the most exciting historic bike racing in the world, I had never had any interest in racing contraptions that motor around with half the wheels of a car.


They just never elicited the same reaction in me. There’s no real explanation for it; it’s just the way I am. But, no matter my scepticism for watching them race, the idea of riding one of those wobbly-looking contraptions, though, has always fascinated me.

Since I’m in no danger of becoming an obsessive convert to the temple of two wheels there was no danger in me joining the majority of the GRR team in having a bike licence,  as I’d probably remain an occasional biker, rather than a 24/7 two-wheeled hero. And it seemed a bit odd for me to be pretty much the only one without any experience on a bike. So when our friends at Honda asked if any of us fancied taking up the challenge of learning, I said yes straight away.

In case you didn’t know, the first stage on the journey to becoming a demon on two wheels is to take your CBT, which stands for Compulsory Basic Training in this case, not Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as Google will have you believe – although considering the potential therapeutic effect of riding a bike, it might as well be.

Without going into a long-winded feature on how astonishingly easy it is to be allowed on the road on a motorised bicycle, the CBT is as straightforward as the ‘basic’ bit of its name suggests: a single-day course featuring a mixture of classroom talks, carpark exercises and two hours out on the road. As long as you’re prepared to listen to your instructor, it is simplicity itself, as long as you’ve already passed your driving test in a car.


The name CBT immediately conjures up images of scooters, car parks and cones, not perhaps the most edifying of prospects on a slightly damp Sunday morning, but still a useful experience nonetheless. Thankfully, while the car parks and cones bit was right, GRR’s attempt at a CBT would be on a proper bike, a Honda CB125F to be precise.

While I have never previously ridden anything more than a hired scooter on a Spanish island holiday I feel safe in saying that the CB125F is an awesome little machine. Forgiving to the inexperienced amateur, yet able to hit 65mph and pull you out of danger should the need arise.

What isn’t excellent at first is the realisation that years of clutch control practice on four wheels are practically useless: bikes use a hand-controlled clutch and foot-controlled gears. If like me, you’ve been driving a car for over a decade, the first experience of changing gear on two wheels is something akin to trying to get dressed using only your feet: mind-boggling.

Thankfully, Greg, our instructor for the day, is calmness in Hungarian human form, as not only have I never used a bike, but neither had my fellow learner taking the course.


As anyone who has learned to drive will know, you learn far more out on the streets than you could ever do in a classroom or a car park. The first half of the course is merely an entrée to the real learning. The basics are important, there’s no denying that, but to actually get out on the road is an almost instantaneously informative experience.

Again, Greg’s calm nature was more than just an aid, while you’ve become pretty well accustomed to the CB125F in your couple of carpark-bound hours, having an experienced professional talking you through your journey on the radio is an invaluable source.

Out in the open, if you’ve remembered to listen in the morning, you find a new respect for the road. It should perhaps be compulsory for motorists, or even just motoring journalists, to acquire a motorbike license as well as their standard card. The sense of vulnerability that you get from being perched above what is, for all Honda’s brilliant advancements, still just an engine bolted between two wheels, is one that should play on any motorist’s mind when they pull out of a junction. Never would the words “Think Bike” sound louder than after you’ve had an Audi Q7 barrel past you at full speed, leaving only just enough room for you to keep the skin on your elbows.


All too soon, and after a quick lesson on the next stage (apparently you can get faster bikes than a 125, although for now, I’m quite happy to retain current power levels) the day is over, and the glorious little CB125F is returned to Honda’s sparkling HQ in Bracknell.

Almost to my surprise I’ve passed as well, I’m now allowed back on the road all on my own without Greg’s safety blanket, a daunting possibility, but one which the day on two wheels has firmed in my mind as one that I just cannot live without doing again.

Watch out Honda, you’ve not seen the last of me, now which one of these levers is the clutch again..?

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