Why I love my new Honda CBF125
What can I say; I've just taken delivery of a racing-red Honda CBF125, and I'm smiling from ear to ear. Got to be honest, if the me from 2009 had said I'd be a using a bike every day in 2010, I would never have believed it. I've been driving for some 12 years now and owned a weird and wonderful collection of 4 wheeled oddities, ranging from a rusty brown 1985 mini cooper, through a cute round headlight BMW convertible to most recently a Delorean gullwing.
This year however, I decided to make my boldest motoring move of over a decade, to switch entirely to two wheels. With the Delorean sold to a new UK owner, my CBT passed and my new Honda ordered, I've waited patiently for today, when I could finally call myself a biker. Much as I'm already dreaming of passing my full bike license so that I can enter the fantastical world of super-bikes, I know I've got a lot of on road experience to build up first.
I can see even now why some people are scared of bikes, they seem fast, they seem dangerous and they seem a bit aggressive . The reality though is that the average biker, is more cautious, road aware and considerate than most car drivers. Motor cyclists need to be seen, we're not 2 ton lumps of metal, we're flesh and bike mixed in one very nimble but fragile combination.
From the unique vantage point behind those handlebars, you can see a very different version of the road world. Awareness of other drivers is much greater, you spot more of what's happening in every direction. The need to be seen and see others, makes you a very safe road user.
The other good part of starting out on a bike, is that unlike the car world, beginner motorcyclists aren't allowed to own Ducati's, you have to build up your skills on a 125cc engine bike, more than fast enough for city use, but difficult to break the law (or bones!) with. So for all my worries about becoming a biker, my first day on the road has proven I made the right choice.
As I set off on a 2 hour trip around London, I suddenly realised why bikers loved their machines so much. With awareness and control, you can slip gently past all those cars stuck in line. Pulling up with all the other bikers next to the traffic lights, and looking back at the long line of cars you've made it past, really does make you feel part of a special club. There's a sense of being the naughty kids at the back of the class who've slipped out of class early and got to the front of the lunch queue. Skipping the line always feels good! Between sitting in a slow moving greenhouse on 4 wheels, or getting to my destination quickly, I'll stick with the bike!
So where do I hope to be in 6 months with my biking? Well let's be honest, sticking with an 1/8th of a litre engine size wont be fun in the long term, so I'm hoping my confidence builds, and that I'll be moving up a nice 500cc engine soon. I'm not rushing though. Bikes need respect. Sure enough they're actually very easy to control, easy to place in the road and nimble, but they deserve respect from the very start of your biking adventure.
My grandfather used to race bikes back in the late 1940's, I remember all his stories about the dangers of competing back then; to all intensive purposes, they were riding engines with 2 wheel attached. Bikes have advanced as quickly as cars, lots feature ABS, wide sticky tyres, huge disc brakes and driver aids, but with all that in place, you still need to keep in mind that when you create that unique combination of man and machine, mixed in perfect harmony, it still relies on the human element being in full control at all times.
I've had a few scary moments in my first months of biking, but without a doubt, every one of those, was down to me getting distracted or loosing concentration. That's ultimately the biggest change you have to make as a new biker; you have to become a better road user in every respect. The one thing that the change from car driver to biker has taught me, is that I was no where near as great a driver as I thought I was. It seems strange to relive those moments when I was 17, hitting the road for the first time, with all the fear, uncertainty and excitement that it brings, but I'm sure that becoming a biker, is really about being reborn as a better road user. Let's hope more and more of our friends and colleague join us on the journey. I think the roads would be safer with more bikers.
I'm trying out a Suzuki VanVan for a few weeks soon, a very different bike from the sporty Honda CBF125, but sure to be fun. After spending over a decade with cars, one thing that really has hit me, is how cheap bikes are. Even the best superbikes in the world cost less than family saloons. As such, I'll be trying out as many bikes as possible, starting with all the 125's I can get my hands on. It does seem that nearly every manufacturer has a 125cc option in their lineup now, so that gives me lots of options to try, before finally passing my full test and moving up to the bigger engine bikes.
Joining Get-On at Bedford aerodrome last week, I got to try lots of different 125's. It's amazing how different each bike was. In world of small engined cars for beginners there isn't that much to tell them apart these days, they all seem to be made in the same factory, then adorned with a different badge. I must have had at least 6 different riding experiences at Bedford, and that was only from 2 manufacturers! From a high revving 125 racer from Honda, to the V twin relaxed cruiser that is the Varadero, there really is a learner bike for all types of user. I'll be hinting at what I enjoyed in each bike in my blogs each month.
I'm certainly no biking expert, but like many of you reading this, I want to enjoy this new passion to its fullest, which means searching out the best bike for the job. Lots of fun ahead.
Take care and ride safe. Stephen