“Train hard, fight easy”
Preparations intensify at BMW Rider Training Centre on the eve of my module one test
After being afforded a hard-earned Sunday lie-in by our stringent instructor Paul yesterday, when we didn’t need to be at the centre until 9am, this morning it was ‘by your beds’ for 7 so that we could be on our bikes ready for an 8.30 start. As I mentioned in my second blog Paul is only 12 months out of a 23-year career in the army and he has everything ready and prepared for us when we arrive – I reckon he’s been there since 5am polishing the bikes.
Tonight the alarm will be set for 6am so that we can be out on the pad for 7.30, giving us ample time for one final rehearsal before riding to Swansea for the module one test. After a dry run this morning we completed a mock test, which I was chuffed to pass with a single minor fault for a ‘dab’ on the slow control heavy traffic ride. It was an intense start to the day, to be followed by an afternoon of three or four mock module two tests around the roads of Merthyr Tydfil, but as Paul told us this morning: “Train hard, fight easy.” It is a mantra here, where absolutely nothing is left to chance, and when you are taking your life and that of others into your hands on the road that is exactly the way it should be.
The instructors, who with the obvious exception of Paul are mostly acting police officers, are first class and 100% serious. In case any of us needed reminding of that one of our fellow students was this morning politely told that he wasn’t suitable for the advanced course he was on after apparently riding an F800R in an ‘inappropriate manner’ yesterday. To be fair it came as little surprise to those of us that he overtook across double white lines on a blind bend in the morning – and that was in our cars on the way from the B&B to the training centre!
So for myself and my riding partner John, from New York, today was simply a case of perfecting our manoeuvres and road procedures from yesterday, which were already a huge improvement. It felt good to be confident enough to allow my gaze to briefly flick from the mirrors, speedo and road ahead to enjoy the stunning scenery and take a relaxed position on the bike, even at 70mph. Even Paul left the radio alone for a couple of minutes (only joking Paul!).
In Merthyr we arrived at and left the test centre four times, riding potential routes in between, and on the final visit, Paul’s meticulous approach finally rubbing off on me, I decided to do a recce on the nearest loo - I figured it could be a pretty useful piece of knowledge to have in the moments immediately before the module two test on Wednesday. As it happens they were in a shopping centre across the road, which I was delighted to discover is also the home of the statue of the boxer Johnny Owen, which was unveiled in 2002 by Lupe Pintor, his opponent on the night he tragically died.
Owen trained hard and fought even harder – too hard, in the end. Hopefully a bantamweight fraction of his spirit and endeavour will be enough to see me through a relatively trivial test on the tarmac tomorrow.