I got my driving licence at 18 almost as soon as the DVLA’s scheduling system would allow. I was fortunate enough to have both my parents spend countless hours sitting as my passenger while I drove hundreds (if not thousands) of miles with me on my provisional licence to help build up some real road experience before taking my test, which helped me to pass first time having only had a handful of lessons with an instructor.
I was equally fortunate to receive my first car for my 18th birthday, a 1994 Vauxhall Corsa - unfortunately the photo of this one is omitted as the only one I can find is from when the car was broken in to - the door was damaged and the only replacement we could find at the time was a different shade of blue. It did the job, but did leave the car looking a little battle-scarred.
Buying the car was something my Dad later explained was partly his way of making sure I was safe on the road rather than taking the shortcut of doing a CBT (compulsory basic training) and buying a moped or similarly sized 125cc motorbike.
That tactic worked pretty well as the car helped get my on the road quickly - and safely - but ultimately only delayed what I suppose is the inevitable when you grow up with motorbikes around you.
From my Corsa I upgraded rather significantly to what was my dream car at the time, a Honda Civic.
I’d always idolised the EP3 generation Civic, and had longed after the glorious Type R, but given my age and the insane premium on insurance I couldn’t quite stretch that far. Instead I opted for the slightly more reasonable - though still more expensive than the cost of the car to insure - CTDi Diesel variant.
For the next 10 or so years, that Civic was the peak of my motoring history. I eventually sold the Honda when I moved to London, and had a string of smaller more affordable cars right up until we moved to Australia.
Having spent a couple of years off the road while living in Melbourne, I started to build up the desire to get myself a bike, and so that became my mission pretty quickly. I took my CBT and soon after picked up a Honda CBF125 with a plan to get myself some miles on the road on something smaller and more manageable, before looking to take my “big bike test” and upgrading to something with some real power.
The 125 was fantastic fun to ride. Shortly after buying it I stopped working from home and used it to commute about 80 miles a day for a good 6 months. I very quickly racked up a huge number of miles and some good experience, so felt ready to get myself booked on to a Direct Access motorbike course.
I opted to take my course over a long weekend. Day 1 covered off-road training: bike handling, maneuvers at speed, emergency braking etc. Day 2 covered on-road training which was a long series of rides out through the midlands with an instructor, pracitising lane discipline, handling yourself in traffic - ultimately learning how not to die when surrounded by idiots in 1 ton death machines.
Day 3 was the culmination of everything we’d covered in the training sessions, followed by two tests. An off-road (essentially a private car park at the test centre) test which checked our ability to perform the skills we’d learned on day 1, followed by an hour-long ride out being tailed by the examiner. I past both tests well, receiving only one minor mark for sitting to close to the back of a van in stand-still traffic and was really pleased to finish the weekend with my full bike licence.
With my full licence and a screaming desire to get on the road with some new wheels, I went on a mission to find myself a big bike and managed to end up with an absolute bargain on a 2007 Suzuki SV650S.
I had a fantastic first year on the SV, learned to properly ride a big bike and scared myself shitless a couple of times in the process. My dad (still riding) had recently bought a new bike and so we got to share a couple of short rides together, too. Unfortunately as with most luxury items, a couple of changes in my life meant I had to look at moving the bike on. I was sad to see it go but pleased I managed to get my bike licence and glad for the experience I’d had on it.
It’s been about 18 months now since I sold the Suzuki and being in a better place in life I’m starting to get the itch to get back on a bike. I’m hoping to pick something up - probably a little smaller than the 650 - this summer and looking forward to getting out on the road before the end of the season this year.
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