Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Control Freak. ; THEORY TEST PASSED, MARK BURROW TAKES THE NEXT STEP TOWARDS HIS LICENCE WITH A HELPING HAND FROM BELLE VUEBASED MSM MOTORCYCLE TRAININGBECOMING A BIKER PART 2: Module OneSuzuki SFV650 Gladius

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Control Freak. ; THEORY TEST PASSED, MARK BURROW TAKES THE NEXT STEP TOWARDS HIS LICENCE WITH A HELPING HAND FROM BELLE VUEBASED MSM MOTORCYCLE TRAININGBECOMING A BIKER PART 2: Module OneSuzuki SFV650 Gladius

Article excerpt

ALITTLE while ago, Suzuki offered me the chance to fulfil my midthirties crisis by getting me safe and legal on two wheels.

With a little help from MSM Motorcycle Training (MSM), and a cracking Suzuki SFV650, I've spent the last few months training with a view to taking my test and buying a motorbike of my own.

With Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) and the theory test under my belt, the next step towards becoming a fully fledged biker is the practical test, which is divided into two parts.

In Module One, you must safely negotiate a series of exercises around cones in an off-road area. Module Two comprises a 40-minute ride on live roads accompanied by an instructor. But you can only attempt Module Two, once you've passed the first one, so to begin with, all attention is focused on getting through the cone challenges!

Luckily, MSM have a huge car park in which they recreate the test centre layout. Actually, I think they do it a little tighter than the official one, so that if you can get through the MSM course, it makes test day that little bit easier.

There's a big difference between the loveable little 125cc Suzuki VanVan I've been riding for the last couple of months and the kind of bigger bikes you need to master if you're going to pass the full A licence. There are A1 and A2 categories, based on age and engine size but if you want to be able to ride anything, providing you're over the age of 24, you must do your test on a bike that qualifies for the A category, i.e. minimum 595cc and at least 40kW engine power.

On a 125, most of the weight you're carrying is you. That means you're a little top heavy and not hugely stable at speed or in high winds. On a bigger bike, say 500cc upwards, there's a much lower centre of gravity, because the bike, its engine, wheels, brakes etc are all heavier. For me, this extra weight and power gave me heaps more confidence - I felt like I was aboard a more substantial vehicle, with the capacity to safely keep up with traffic instead of lagging behind, but also brake more safely and enjoy a more stable all-round ride. The 650cc Suzuki SFV Gladius used by MSM are perfect for the job - although only really a middleweight machine it was the first big bike I'd ridden but I instantly felt comfortable.

TAKING THE TEST The list of exercises looks simple on paper. Thankfully my examiner was a friendly chap and though he's obliged to follow the procedures to the letter, his demeanour put me at ease. In fact, I wasn't all nervous until he actually asked me to ride the bike!

The first exercise requires you to wheel your bike in and out of a parking space so having practised numerous times back at MSM, I duly rolled the Suzuki out of one space and reversed into another ready for step two.

Next you have to ride a short slalom between cones, followed immediately by a figure of eight ride - and this is where my nerves kicked in. This exercise needs precise throttle and clutch control and steady steering - you need to show this bloke that you're in full control of your bike. But with both arms and legs shaking like leaf, and beads of sweat beginning to form on my forehead, it felt like a completely different task to the one I'd practised back at MSM. I managed it though and while the examiner was catching me up on foot, I took the opportunity to give myself a 'talking to' and take some deep breaths!

Next up is the slow (walking pace) ride where the assessor strolls along behind you to make sure you're dawdling suitably (as per a slow-moving traffic situation) without wobbling dangerously. Job done, despite my trembling knees, we moved on to the U-turn. Again, this is a relatively straightforward manoeuvre - simply check it's safe, then set off and turn your bike around within a regular roadwidth space. But having watched the girl before me put a foot down and consequently fail her whole test, my heart was beating out of my chest as I moved away and executed the perfect turn. …

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