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​Day 2 – MOD1 Polishing Skills and Road Riding Thrills!

My second big day of training and my last before my MOD1 test. We merged my training into 2 big days of riding, so today has a dual focus of finalising MOD1 prep and then working through the MOD2 elements. With formalities out of the way last week, we’re straight out on the road over to the test centre for some on-site training. We go straight into a mock-test sort of scenario, with some focus on my bike handling. We’d decided that the side step was better for me than the full drag back in our last session. Not only does it balance the weight of the bike better, I find it also allows for better observations which often catch people out on the MOD1 as you’re on a paddock, not the road. You get so focused on the individual elements you forget that you’re supposed to act as if out on the road, full mirror checks and all. I squeezed the SV in the ‘parking bay’ (my turn is a bit tight it seems) we move onto the slalom and figure 8, which went well even though it’s my least favourite module. Slow speed, great, then onto my U Turn! Now, I find it really difficult to keep my head (and importantly my eyes) up and looking where I want to be as opposed to what I want to miss when I’m going these elements, which is why the figure 8 is a challenge. The important of the U turn as a skill isn’t an obvious one. In my year riding on my CBT, I don’t think I’ve ever done a U Turn in the road as a matter of ease, usually just out of morbid curiosity as to whether I can still do them. Which almost always is a no. I started throwing a few into my riding once I started training again as they were my Achilles Heel on my CBT and they seem to be my Achilles Heel now. You are tested as if you’re doing a turn in the road but is that when you’d use this skill most? If you think about it, if you go all the way around a mini/smaller roundabout, what are you doing? A U Turn! You can’t paddle your way around a roundabout so you can’t do it here. Can’t put your feet down on a roundabout, either, so the same applies.

Now the whole “look where you want to be, not at what you want to avoid” is one of the few biking things you’ll hear in other circles and the proper name is “Target Fixation”. Basically, you will naturally gravitate towards what you’re eyes are looking at. Which makes sense when you think about the fact that you don’t stare at your feet when you’re walking, you look where you’re going. So why does this change when you’re driving or riding? Who knows, but you can guarantee everyone is/was guilty of it. So this is my problem with the U Turn, I get fixated on the white line/kerb and fluff it up. Now on your CBT, you do this on an actual road, so you’re working with cambers, actual kerbs, drain covers, and keeping an eye out for other traffic (though your instructor takes care of traffic it’s always in the back of your mind). On the MMA, you’re on a specially designed area that flat, grippy, with no real danger of traffic (though you must observe as there is) and all that’s in the way are cones and lines. Could I stop looking at that bloomin’ line? Could I ‘eckers. I’d set off on my U Turn, do my lifesaver (for the hypothetical traffic) and start my turn. The chin of my helmet was on my shoulder but my eyes kept flicking towards the line! Which Paul could see a mile off (how I’ve no idea, he’s just that good.) You’ve really got to fight it, it feels so unnatural, but I did it eventually after many fluffs and curse words. We didn’t do them one after another, that’s where madness lies, usually. Throughout the test you will end up at the same point, on the actual test you can just turn around using all the area but when in training it’s a really good opportunity to practice your U Turns. And practice we did.

History 101 – interestingly, the test as we know it today is due to a revision in 2010. By all accounts, it wasn’t a smooth transition from the old to the new, as we were due to see the introduction of the European Standard 2-Part test in 2008, but this was pushed to 2009. Just 1 year later in 2010 a few things were revised, and now all the slow speed modules are done at the first half, and the “at speed” elements are done in the second. It does mean you end and start from the same point a few times throughout the test, but it actually flows a lot better than it seemed to on the old test diagrams!

Definitely an improvement!

Now the next bit that, again, takes some getting used to is trying to get over 30mph on what feels like a playground. Part of the standardisation in testing means doing certain elements at 50kph or above, in old money that’s 32mph+. You now get 2kph wiggle room on that so you can still pass the element at 48kph with a rider fault (aka a minor fault) but obviously, the aim should be to get through at 50kph. Now 30mph+ on an open road is fine, try and do it on a paddock and it feels like you’re doing silly speeds. Especially as in the back of your head you know you’re either going to have to stop quickly or swerve at the end of it all. It’s all very unnatural when you think about it, but you’ve got to react as you would should it happen in real road riding. As I’ve been riding for a year, I’ve had a few situations which called for me to anchor up so my in-built adversity to crashing got me through the emergency stop fine. The swerve, on the other hand, took some work. The actual action was easy, but I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve never had to swerve at 30mph, so getting the speed up was my issue. I tend not to open the throttle up until I’ve straightened up after the curve ride so I really need to hoof it to get to speed, and not come off the gas until I *just*hit the speed trap. Which is mildly terrifying. But, I consistently got over 49 kph by the end of the session so we were happy. We got a bit of extra time on the MMA as someone didn’t show up for their slot, so that was a cheeky bonus!

After a pretty intense morning on the MMA, we decided to go grab a coffee and have a chat about the MOD2 test. The MOD2 is what most people are familiar with as this is the road ride, the part of the test most like the traditional assessment. Y first asked to read a number plate at a set distance, which is 20m for the new style of number plate e.g. AB12 CDE or 20.5m for the older style. After that, you get a couple of questions, usually 2 “Show Me, Tell Me” style questions, and 1-2 scenario questions. The “Show Me, Tell Me” questions can be found on the gov.uk website, helpfully, and are to do with checking oil levels, brake fluid levels, horn and light operations, etc. If required you can turn your engine on to do these, or sit on the bike e.g. if you’re asked to show how you’d check your steering, this is safer to do sat on the back of the bike as you need to turn the bars to full lock on each side. The Scenario Questions can be found on the RJH Training website, and are things, such as “What advice would you give to a pillion passenger”. (I’ll include a full list below in a bit). These sort of questions you need to list as many answers as you can as there isn’t a single answer. As long as you cover all the bases it doesn’t have to be verbatim from the Highway Code, you just need to demonstrate a clear understanding of the changes that will take place, and how to counter them.

After a chat and come lunch, we went out on one of the test routes used for the MOD2, which took us from Darwen test centre up through Tockholes and through Pleasington to Witton. If you’re not from round our way these places will mean nothing to you, but they take in a range of riding conditions including national speed limit country roads, A-Roads, and Bus Lanes. I definitely need to do more country roads! It was interesting to know that you don’t need to fly around the national speed limit bends at 60mph. On most of the country road run through Pleasington is actually acceptable to do at 45-ish. It’s about reading the road and gauging what’s appropriate. Obviously, on the long straight which you can see a country mile down, they want you up to speed, but other than that going down the single lane track areas a slightly lower speed is actually perfectly fine. Also, something I learnt about Bus Lanes once we got back to base and had a chat, is that when they’re out of their time limits (some are 24/7 so this doesn’t apply to all) they should be used as a normal lane. Which means you could get a rider fault for not using the bus lane as you’re basically riding in the overtaking lane, which is bad drills. So be sure to keep an eye on bus lane times and look up your local bylaws to see if bikes are allowed in bus lanes in your area.

Before we knew it training time was up! We were back at base chatting about the ride, discussed how we should use bus lanes and so on, and made sure I had everything I needed for my MOD1 test! We’d got it booked nice and early at 0830 so we had time to meet up, do a few last drills, and head over in plenty of time. It’s only a short test, this one, and as nervous as I am I’m pretty confident!