You Can’t Control A Motorcycle

One of the problems I have with general attitudes in British society is that training is not seen as a valuable resource. This is especially so when it is being delivered directly to the public. People who ask about motorcycle training invariably ask about the cost first and complain about how much it does cost. This conversation from a couple of weeks ago is a fair illustration. As I explain to this cretin, motorcycle training has a low profit margin compared to the capital costs of running the business, yet we are accused of ripping people off and upselling to get more money.:

£900-1250 for a life skill is cheap. Bear in mind that not only does the ATB (Approved Training Body) have to provide a number of machines, unlike an ADI who only has to provide one car, we also have to source and fund a training area. The case being stated – a change of bike can happen. Bikes break down, they need to be serviced, another student might be using it. We cannot guarantee that one student will have the same machine throughout their training and it is unrealistic and unreasonable to expect it and to criticise the school for not being able to make such a guarantee.

If someone’s confidence is affected that badly, then, being brutally honest, they are not ready for test. By the time you reach test standard, you should be able to get on any bike and with a little time for familiarisation, use it.

Anyway, our moron decided to dig in.

All this tells me is that the man is a fool. I was more polite with him here than I might have been on my own platform. If someone cannot control the clutch, throttle and steering without hitting cones in a safe environment with no other traffic, how will they cope with junctions, roundabouts and so on? It won’t be cones they hit. What this person is criticising is a trainer exercising due diligence and doing their job properly. We do not upsell CBT continuations. We insist on people taking more training before we issue a certificate for one reason alone – they are not yet ready. That’s it. We are not in the business of killing our clients.

As a general rule, ATBs will break even on continuations. Sometimes they make a loss as most people don’t need the whole day, yet the instructor will be paid for the day and if you don’t have enough continuations for a day’s work as we frequently don’t, the cost will outweigh the income. The only upselling we do is encouraging successful CBT candidates to go on and complete their full licence, because that is what the DVSA expect – CBT is a gateway to the full licence.

The comment about having spoken to others who felt that their CBT went on longer than they thought it should merely confirms the Dunning-Kruger effect. I see it every day. I inform a student that they are not ready for the road and the majority will be annoyed. The response usually follows a pattern:

‘But I have a bike ready.’ To which, so what, not my problem.

“But I have a delivery shift all booked, so it will cost me work.’ See above for my reaction.

‘But I can’t afford more training.’ See my comment to the first whine.

I recall one individual who tried two of these reactions – he had spent all his available money on a bike, so couldn’t afford more training. It was eleven in the morning. He had spent two hours on the pad. The rest of the students were now doing figure of eights and U turns, while this individual still couldn’t pull away, balance the bike or stop without stalling or falling over. He had no control over the clutch, throttle or steering. And, yes, he really did expect me to take him out to play with the traffic. I flatly refused. We never saw him again (and I wasn’t sorry).

This is what we have to deal with, just as we have to deal with the kind of ill-informed, ignorant stupidity we see above from someone who may be able to ride a motorcycle, but has no idea what it is like to teach someone else to ride one.

Seriously, learning to ride a bike and do it properly takes time and a degree of aptitude – the latter becoming an ever diminishing quality. As is intelligence.


  1. Pretty chuffed that I got my m/c license a while ago in simpler times. The test consisted of riding around a block keeping an eye on the examiner who was going to jump out in front of you on one of the circuits. A set of highway code questions and that was that.
    Since then I have been “grandfathered” (see what I did there?) into getting the A license. Oh to be back in 1965. No requirements back then to receive formal training either. Been riding for nearly 60 years without a serious spill.

    • My grandfather had a full driving licence without ever sitting a test. Or driving a car. At least not on the public roads. His first job was at the Argyll motor works before WWI, driving the completed chassis across the yard to the coachbuilding shop. I think the story goes that during the Second Lot, they relaxed the rules a bit to allow anyone who was old enough to have got a licence before the test came in to do so again. He was in the ARP so he thought he might as well. You never knew when it would come in useful. (Which is probably why the relaxed the rules in the first place, come to think of it.) He kept it up-to-date till he died in the late ’60s.

      (Dangit. I wondered why this went into moderation. Where did that superfluous “s” come from in my username?)

      • My father, born in 1899, also had a driving licence without taking a test. He bought his first car, a Bullnose Morris in South London about 100 years ago and, never having driven before, drove it to his home in North London. My mother also had a licence without taking a test but had no feel for mechanicals at all and was a hopeless driver: fortunately she seemed to realise this and my father did all the driving.

  2. Well quite. Same here. The complaint about the cost of compulsory bike training is not so much that the trainers are ripping one off, but that one has to have it at all. It never used to be compulsory.

    As LR says, “We didn’t set the standards, the DVSA did, so if you don’t like it go and whine to them.” We did, but they didn’t listen and went ahead with it anyway. And once they are on the road of over-regulation, it only goes one way: tighter regulations and higher costs.

    • “We didn’t set the standards, the DVSA did, so if you don’t like it go and whine to them.”

      The progressive licencing arrangements are absurd. If you have a restricted bike under an A2 licence and want to upgrade, the minute you take your restrictor off, you cannot ride the bike unsupervised without L plates. Also, insurance for taking the test can be a problem. The idea of having to do module 1 and 2 again is ridiculous. No, the government didn’t do it as a money making exercise, they did it because they are incompetent chumps. No rational person would have designed a scheme so Kafkaesque in nature as what we currently live with.

  3. People are strange. Years ago I was involved with Karate and one club in our network had problems particularly with parents because the training fees were too cheap. We worked to a very high standard, and there were a few cowboy outfits out there. The low cost was down to the fact that the club got the use of a school gymnasium and changing facilities for next to nothing and were passing on the savings to students. But in the minds of the public, if it’s that cheap it obviously isn’t any good.

  4. I passed my motorcycle test just before the written exam came in. The training and test involved being followed by an instructor and then the examiner giving instructions through an earpiece. How much does it cost to get a full car licence nowadays, I don’t suppose that is cheap either.

  5. As far as I am concerned this compulsory course is just another tax. imo if you want the training then you pay for it. If you don’t it shouldn’t be forced on you.

    I had a bit of training when I started, my parents insisted or I couldn’t get help funding the bike, I attended a short course which was approved by Plod, if fact some Plod did the teaching. I enjoyed that.

    Then I had car lessons, only because I couldn’t reverse around a corner, having road experience from the bike which doesn’t have reverse, on the bike I had. I was hopeless. In the end I took the test and passed. I still make a hash of it to this day.

    • If you don’t it shouldn’t be forced on you.

      Technically it isn’t. In practice, it is so difficult – see my response above – that going to a training school is the only viable option. The A1 licence is the only one that can be done entirely unsupervised once you have a CBT.

      As far as the CBT is concerned, yes, that is compulsory – if you see some of the people I do, be thankful that there are people like me filtering them off the roads. Be very thankful. I think this is where we differ. I believe that as the road is a shared resource, demonstrating a basic level of competence before taking a motor vehicle out unsupervised is a responsibility that we all share, so I have no issue with CBT in concept. In practice, how long have you got?

  6. Asking the cost of something is a reasonable first step. If you can’t afford it, you don’t need to waste any more of anybody’s time and you can call back when/if you can afford it.

    I took my DAS test in 1998. I’d ridden bikes when I was younger on a learner licence and I had the best part of 30 years driving experience so I wasn’t going in cold and had some idea of what to do in traffic. As I remember, it cost me £560, but it’s 25 years ago so it could just as easily be £650 (or some other amount but about £600 is about right). Adjusting for inflation, the quoted £900 to £1250 sounds pretty reasonable. Don’t get too upset though, people have always wanted something for nothing.

    • Don’t get too upset though, people have always wanted something for nothing.

      I don’t get upset, I just treat them with the contempt they deserve. As I mentioned in the comments I show above, I had an ERS enquiry. Yes, he genuinely expected training for nothing and was put out when I refused to even contemplate a free taster session.

      As a general rule, I have a fair idea of the cost of a product or service before I start making enquires. Sure, at some point ask for a final figure, but if you have got as far as this, you should already have an idea and be able to afford it. If you have to ask, you probably can’t.

  7. “Seriously, learning to ride a bike and do it properly takes time and a degree of aptitude – the latter becoming an ever diminishing quality. As is intelligence.”

    People are increasingly divorced from the practical realities of anything. They have no idea how something works, it either does or it doesn’t, if it doesn’t they either get someone else to fix it, or (more commonly) throw it away and buy a new one. They live increasingly in a virtual world, that the real world rarely impinges on. They are also told from a young age how wonderful they are at anything they do (regardless of how sh*t they actually are). So they have no way of dealing with failure. The confluence of these societal traits is producing what you see today – people with absolutely no practical co-ordination skills whatsoever, do not have the temperament to learn them, but who are convinced they are the next Valentino Rossi.

    • Tell me about it. We are probably the first time teenagers hit the solid wall of reality and the first time someone has said ‘no’ to them and meant it. It’s usually followed by a complaint from a loving parent who is more than happy for them to go out on the roads, completely unable to control the machine, no understanding of roadcraft, and get themselves killed.

    • You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see this as perfect for people with rather dubious motives to offer their ‘oversight’ as a solution. I work in an entirely unrelated industry to LR’s but the overweening sense of entitlement and inability to do anything practical is commonplace among many graduates who work in my industry. The better ones are those who quickly realise their inadequacy and takes steps to address it – those are sadly a minority. The worse attribute it to whatever ‘ism’ is appropriate to their race, gender or other defining characteristics. It’s why we’re in such a shambolic place as a nation.

      • I seem to remember that when I first entered the world of work, in the mid 1970s, as an apprentice mechanic I was a bit rubbish. It was a bit of a jolt as it was so different from school. I eventually found my feet and learned how to fix things and to do a good job. So I would say that all is not lost.

        • That’s if anyone tries. In my industry, when I started there were swarms of us youngsters learning,and sometimes making expensive mistakes. Nowadays there are very few and most of the ones there are seem to go into project management or similar, not anything technical. So the skills shortage is already very real. When my generation retires, which is starting to happen, it’s going to get much more serious.

    • That smacks of “When I were a lad…” or “I remember when it were all fields round here”.

      You’ve turned into your Dad. 😀

      • “I remember when it were all fields round here”.

        When I was a child, I used to walk with my mother through the lanes to a village on the outskirts of Maidstone called Otham. We used to sit on the village green and have a packed lunch. Decades later, I went back. Otham no longer exists. The post office and the village green have vanished. The only recognisable landmark is the church.

  8. I worked for twenty years conserving and restoring historic wallpaper in stately homes and the like. You wouldn’t believe the ignorant and disrespectful comments I sometimes received!

    Qualified Full Motorcycle Licence, Great Bar 1974

  9. I did a CBT about 20 years ago after driving a car for 30 years, and struggled with the slow speed control around the cones. Got there eventually before going out on the road. On the same course there were two young lads who hade been riding motorbikes up on the mountains for some time. Their bike handling skills were great, but they were clueless on how to read the road. It must have been a nightmare for the instructor to deal with such different skill sets on the same day.

  10. We had a couple of old guys at my old workplace, well older guys, us youngsters were in our fifties by then, who were constantly crapping on about the past. Their golden age seemed to be somewhere around the 1960s. One guy used to say “well back in my day…” to which one of the younger old guys would say “what do you mean back in your day, it’s still your day, your not dead are you?” The concept that he was still alive and hence it was still his day seemed to leave him baffled.

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