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"Fast Bikes", January 1, 2013

Testing Times

We sent Al to retake his bike test. He failed...

ALASTAIR ‘A-FORCE’ FAGAN

Head to www.westsiderider.co.uk for lessons with Lovely Lian...

JONNY GAWLER

In case you didn’t know, the licensing laws surrounding bike tests are changing again on the 19th January 2013. It seems the briefcase wankers behind the EU’s law making and lap dog UK politicians are trying to screw anyone thinking of forging a way into the world of motorcycling, not to mention it all teetering on age discrimination...

Even at my tender age of 30, I remember riding around a few cones in a car park, reading out a number plate to the examiner, and having a quick thrash out on the roads. You either had to ride like a complete Gareth or crash for the pass certificate not to be handed over. That’s all about to change, big time. The simple message is; if you’re young, want to do your bike test but don’t want to waste years of restrictions and riding shitty bikes, hurry up and do your test.

We wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I trotted up the M5 and paid a visit to Westside Riders in Gloucester (motorcycle training school) to tackle Module 1 and attempt a mock exam. This first assessment involves car park-based manoeuvring and the dreaded avoidance (swerve) test.

First up is a simple u-turn, pushing the bike from one box to another. Simple, yes, but my nerves said otherwise. Then it’s a slow-speed slalom section followed by a figure of eight that tests throttle and clutch control, rear brake application, and general 2mph skills. I’m not making excuses; this was bloody hard work on the GSX-R with very little steering lock.

A lot of the riders that come through the school aren’t flustered by Module 1. It’s the more experienced and test re-takers that struggle with the environment, and I was no different. When has riding around some cones in car park been natural? Stalling the bike or dabbing a foot down (sometimes) constitutes a fail; I failed after just five minutes...

Next up is a simple u-turn, supposed to mimic a roadside manoeuvre set between cones seven meters apart. How could something so simple be so damn tricky? There’s also a controlled stop where your speed isn’t measured, and you can initiate braking wherever you like, as long as you stop with the front wheel in a cone-marked box. Then it’s the emergency stop where your speed is measured at 50kph or above. There’s a 5 per cent tolerance, so you can drop down to 48kph and take a minor mark, but any slower and you’ve failed. Check your speedo calibration! A lot of people fail their Module 1 by failing the emergency stop.

The real problems come when the UK’s inclement weather chucks up some surprises. At the moment, there’s no change in riding test parameters for wet riding. How novices are required to stop in the same time and distance as they would in the dry is ridiculous. It’s like the suits who design traffic systems in towns and cities who don’t drive a car – only far more lethal. And as for the swerve test, well, I think I’d rather play Russian roulette with my old feller and a hungry Badger.

The vast majority of riders who pass Module 1 have far more vehicle control than a heap of car drivers. Yes, things are changing, but don’t be scared as the tests are largely identical. Just keep a cool head. I didn’t!

KNOW YOUR LIMITS

On January 19th 2013, the UK will be adopting the third EU Driving licence directive. In short, if you are 17 and pass your Category A test you will still need to ride around on your 125cc machine. Then you'll have to do a test on a 400cc bike aged 19, the A2 level, and then at age 21 you'll need to take another test on a 600cc bike before you're able to ride anything above 54bhp. Even if you wait and pass your test at 21, you'll still need to spend two years on a 47bhp bike before taking the 600cc test. The Direct Access test age changes from 21 to 24.

The test or rather, tests, aren't necessarily harder, but the hoops that young riders will need to jump through have been made devilishly convoluted in the name of European harmonisation. A 17 year old desperate to get a big bike will have to wait six years and pass three tests to get on a big bike proper...

AGE

16

CURRENT REQUIREMENT

Provisional license and CBT (valid for two years)

CURRENT RESTRICTION

50cc restricted to 32mph

FUTURE REQUIREMENT

No change

FUTURE RESTRICTION

No change

AGE

17

CURRENT REQUIREMENT

Provisional license and CBT (valid for two years)

CURRENT RESTRICTION

125cc restricted to 15bhp

FUTURE REQUIREMENT No change

FUTURE RESTRICTION

No change

AGE

17

CURRENT REQUIREMENT

Passed Category A test

CURRENT RESTRICTION

33bhp machine for two years

FUTURE REQUIREMENT

Passed Category A test

FUTURE RESTRICTION

125cc restricted to 15bhp for two years

AGE

19

CURRENT REQUIREMENT

Passed Category A test

CURRENT RESTRICTION

None

FUTURE REQUIREMENT

Regardless of passing Category A test at 17/18, all have to pass further test on bike above 400cc between 33bhp and 47bhp

FUTURE RESTRICTION

Restriction of 47bhp for two years

AGE

21

CURRENT REQUIREMENT

Passed DAS test on 500cc machine

CURRENT RESTRICTION

None

FUTURE REQUIREMENT

After 2 years limited to 47bhp machine, take another test on a 600cc+ machine minimum power of 54bhp

FUTURE RESTRICTION

None

Age

24

CURRENT REQUIREMENT

CURRENT RESTRICTION

FUTURE REQUIREMENT

Pass category A motorcycle test on 600cc+ (595cc+) machine minimum power of 54bhp

FUTURE RESTRICTION

None

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