My previous two experiences of motorcycling, both of which were outside of the UK were what I would describe as ‘interesting’. The first was in 2002 riding pillion on the back of a scooter in Ayia Napa, which due to a constant hungover state, did not inspire me to get on a motorcycle again anytime soon. My next experience was in the town of Krabi in Thailand in 2004. Of course this was before the devastating Tsunami hit the town, and it is probably a very different place now, but I digress.
My experience in Krabi was only short, one hour in total, partly due to not wanting to rent the bike overnight, having heard of how the people who rent you the bikes stole them at night and then made you pay exorbitant amounts, and partly because I wasn't sure if I would be enjoy it at all. I should mention at this point that I was not alone in hiring the scooter, and was joined by a friend. Having paid my money and handed over my driving license as a deposit, I was shown three things - the ignition, the brakes and the throttle. Then I was handed the keys and left to hit the road.
If I had taken my free ride before this, I would have been well aware that you need to use the back brake, as instructed by Cosmo at the Metropolis Motorcycles free ride centre in Vauxhall, to control the 'take off' speed. Unfortunately I had not been privy to this and turned the throttle, shot across the main road and just managed to stay upright on the pavement on the opposite side of the road. The good news after this was that it was a straight road to where we wanted to go, but every time we stopped on the way to our destination, getting started again was a rather nervy experience.
About 20 minutes into our journey we turned off the road, onto a gravel path and were then forced to turn around and get back onto the road. Unfortunately for my friend, he was about to come to the end of his adventure as like myself he was unable to control the initial acceleration and crashed the bike - he was fine, escaped with cuts and bruises, but had no interest to get back on the bike again.
So why am I reminiscing about this, well because I took my free ride yesterday. It wasn't the best weather for it, but the session was great. The instructor, Cosmo, was a good teacher and a really friendly guy as well. I explained my previous experiences and within five minutes, I felt infinitely more confident. We were on Piaggio Typhoon 50 scooter , which felt easy to handle; we mastered turns, then did some figures of eight and finished with a couple of 'emergency stops' (albeit at a rather slow pace).
Of course the next step after taking the free ride is to do a CBT and Cosmo talked us through what we could expect if we decided to do this. I'm definitely considering doing this in the new year, so watch this space...