Friday 5 August 2022

The Monkey Motorbike Diaries - Episode 1

I have become a motor biker - well, kind of. I am still just a learner at the moment. But it is a start. I'm on two-wheels and with a machine. It's not quite in the all leather or hell's angel or even a mod type, but more in the practical sensible bike rider type. 

I guess my motives for motorbike riding are more dowdy and less rock'n'roll than most other bikers. I just wanted a way of getting around London without being heavily reliant on public transport and without having the car stresses of getting stuck in traffic, parking, expensive parking and congestion charge. 

Of course, I like to travel around by pushbike, and that is something I will still continue to do. But it's good to have another option for when you don't want to have to go by using pedal power all the way to North London, or when travelling late in the evening. Or sometimes I just feel tired and want a sedentary way of getting around on two wheels. I'm getting old!

So, after a number of lessons I got through my compulsory basic training (CBT) and now I have the prized D196, which let's me onto public roads, albeit with L-plates and limited to a 125cc motorbike. 

That's handy, as that's what I've got - 125cc Honda Monkey with L-plates on it. 

I picked up my new 2wheeled horse the very next day after doing my CBT. I had had most of my lessons on a Honda MXS 125cc (also known as the Grom), so the Monkey, which has the same construction as the Grom was a good bike to start with in my motorcycle riding journey. However, that still doesn't stop you from being nervous.

The worst moment for me, was after I paid for and picked up the bike from the showroom in Coulsdon, South Croydon, shook hands with the salesman and sat on the bike. which was parked right outside the shop on the main road. I really felt like everyone in the shop was watching me and I felt all the pressure to set off smoothly like I knew what I was doing. Of course I knew what I was doing - I had spent the previous afternoon riding around South London and had shown my instructor what I was capable of riding on public roads. So I really had to remind myself that I would be fine.

Riding through the Croydon traffic at rush hour was fun and games. I stalled the bike a couple of times when pulling away from lights. At least I had the presence of mind to pull into the side of the road, out of the way of traffic, and

 restart the machine and carry on. The busy Wellesley Road which includes many buses pulling out from the bus terminal and traffic coming in from the underpass proved a bit of a challenge. Likewise for Selhurst Road which involved stop-start traffic on an uphill stretch. 

In fact, it wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. Motorists seemed quite patient, and in any case the traffic was quite slow-moving given that it was rush hour. What I can look forward to is being able to filter through the traffic and leaving behind the four-wheeled vehicles.

Once I reached home at Crystal Palace, I felt like letting out a cheer that I had survived my first unaccompanied motorcycle ride through the London area. When I took my jacket off I realised that I was drenched in sweat - not just because it had been a hot day, but because it was reflective of how nervous I had been.

Well, I had made it home in one piece, and from here on in no other bike ride would be as nerve-wracking and clumsy as this one. So things can only get better. It was just a question of making sure I get out on the bike frequently, so that everything becomes a natural reflex. 

Given how much I like my little cute Monkey I don't think it will be difficult to will myself into getting on the bike.

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