Tuesday 14 February 2023

The Monkey Motorbike Diaries - Episode 4

I have passed my motorcycle test - yay!

I knew I would get there, but it seemed to be a slow-going, at times, frustrating process. My multiple choice test, which I took last October had gone smoothly after I put in the hard hours and practicing. I assumed that with the same amount of application I could also sail through Module 1 and Module 2. Not so.

On Module 1 I missed the pass by a whisker, on two occasions, both times after messing up the hazard avoidance test - the last exercise of the test. When I passed I found it hard to celebrate because I was conscious of the fact that I still had some way to go. Passing Module 1 doesn't get you a motorcycle licence. 

What passing Module 1 had taught me was that even with all the practicing in the world you can still fail on the proverbial slipping on the banana skin. So I needed to really focus on the next few weeks so that I could get through Module 2 without too many re-takes.

Fast forward to the start of this year when I took Module 2. The weather was not a great omen - pouring rain and low visibility. I was very tempted to not attend the test, but a little voice inside me willed me to go along anyway - pass or fail, at least I would have had the eexperience of riding in challenging conditions. And at least I would have an instructor accompanying me in a protected environment.

During the test, in which the route went around places I knew in Thornton Heath, Pollards Hill and Mitcham Common, I felt relaxed and it was more like an ordinary day riding around - albeit in the rain - something I wouldn't normally opt to do.  

Everything seemed to be going okay, until once again I messed up on the final instruction of the test.  That area of London has a lot of roads with 20mph speed limits, and I had gotten used to riding along those roads throughout the test, and respecting the enforced speed limits. 

Then when I turned left on the south side of Mitcham Common, returning to the cycle test centre I slipped on the banana skin. The thing is, I didn't realised I had slipped on it until I returned to the test centre and heard the dreaded words, "Unfortunately you have not passed the test on this occasion."

Riding along the A236 road along Mitcham Common southside, I was unsure what the speed limit was. All the other roads bordering Mitcham Common had been 20mph zones, so surely this would be the same too. Or maybe not. I wasn't sure. I could either ride at 30 mph and fail for breaking the speed limit, or I could do 20 and hold up the traffic, which would probably just be a minor error - after all I wasn't breaking the speed limit. To hedge my bets further I rode at 25 miles an hour.

Then that familiar voice came through my earpiece "May I remind you that the speed limit is 30 mph." Feeling embarrassed, I sped up to the maximum permitted speed. But apparently, according the the examiner during his assessment, I still didn't get up to 30 mph quick enough and I had caused a long trail of impatient drivers behind me. To be honest, I deemed that to be just London driving! I didn't think it would necessarily be a fail. But that was it - one major error and you're out. He also noted minor errors that I didn't agree with - riding around speed bumps meaning that I was too close to parked cars, taking a left-hand turn to wide, being hesitant at a junction. My disagreement with him was probably more to do with emotions I felt on receiving the shock news that I'd failed. I thought I'd ridden okay, and hadn't felt at all nervous during the ride. I had treated it just like another day out on the bike.

In the interim period when trying to book to do the retake the test was cancelled twice - once due to icy roads, another time due to roadworks outside the test centre.

I had also contemplated taking the test in other places where the speed limit rules may have been less complex - like at Tunbridge Wells. At least there, it is just the one local authority making the rules of the road, as opposed to Mitcham where there Croydon, Merton, Sutton all govern different sections of the area and impose their different rules.

At one point it looked like I wouldn't be able to get a booking until April, and so I signed up to be tested at Tolworth. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be able to get a test, and after all that I could still fail again!

So by the time I presented myself to the test today I was relieved to have got there - I arrived one minute before my scheduled test time - though I was not feeling especially hopeful.

My examiner was the same man I had for my first attempt at MOD1. He was polite, but not especially reassuring in his delivery. My frame of mind was just to focus and get this damn thing over and done with.

The route overlapped a little bit with a test route for the area that I had found on YouTube and practiced - around Beddington Farm, Purley Way and Mitcham Common, However, there were a lot of the back streets in Wallington that I was not familiar. To compound matters the traffic lights were not working on a big junction between Beddington and Wallington, and I was asked to go through that area on two occasions.

On returning to the test centre after my exam I didn't feel very positive. I was aware of little errors I'd made, and it would just be a case of whether they would be classed or major errors or minors.

"Well done, I am pleased to say you've passed," were his words. It was quite a pleasant surprise that came out of the blue for me. I was elated today as I'd been angry five weeks previously!

I could have kissed the examiner - but I quickly came to my senses and realised it wouldn't be the best idea. Given what day it was, receiving this test certificate from  the examination would beat any Valentine's card! 

Related posts

The Monkey Motorcycle Diaries - Episode 3

The Monkey Motorcycle Diaries - Episode 2

The Monkey Motorcycle Diaries - Episode 1

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