Tuesday, 6 November 2007


So, I've done it.

"'It'?" you cry, in a veritable orgy of apostrophes, "what 'it'?"

Only my blimmin' CBT, I tells ya! And before anyone asks - no, I wasn't particularly good at it, and covered myself in no glory whatsoever. I was about as good as the guy I was paired with - a local lad called Shaz - and we seemed to pick up on each others' faults with astonishing regularity. For example, I was remembering to switch my indicator off without any trouble whatsoever, until I took the second rider position behind Shaz - and then I took up his habit of forgetting.

But I leap ahead.

First things first - the lesson began at the unGODly hour of 8am. It needed to be that early to get the requisite number of hours in during daylight. Thus, I attempted to turn in at 11pm - a good 3 hours before my usual bedtime - and inevitably just ended up daydreaming, wide-eyed, about (for some reason) camping and climbing on Skye with Phid - and getting utterly pissed on whisky in a tent. Strange what the brain will do when kicked into neutral (tap left foot up from 1st).

I fell asleep at 1am, then woke thanks to my marvellous body-clock alarm. Rising, grimacing at the still-dark sky, I washed my face, stared in horror at myself in the mirror, and tried hard to shake sleep from the corners of my brain. Then I checked my watch, uttered a small scream, and went back to bed.

It was 3am.

Luckily I got back to sleep with ease, and woke again around 10 to 7. Strangely, while I'd been rather nervous the night before, I was now quite calm. I was also extremely reluctant to get out of my warm bed and into the freezing cold morning air. Eventually I hauled myself out and into my clothes, scurried downstairs leaving Fisher a-snorin', and set off.

It was Baltic. Never again will I bitch about Helga's (Fisher's German shot-putter of a car) over-efficient heating system - but even so, I'd only just warmed myself through by the time I arrived at Scot Riders' training ground .

Naturally, the first aspect of training was standing around in the cold talking about helmets, clothing, and taking an eye test. This went on until every bone in my body was aching and my jaw had permanently welded itself together. This biking malarky wasn't really melting my butter. Or, for that matter, freezing it. It just wasn't ... buttery. It was dull. And cold. How could anyone talk for that long about helmets? All he really needed to say was:

"This is a helmet. Wear a good one every time you get on a bike and it may stop you dying. If it gets damaged, even if you just drop it, throw it away." But no - he had to show us a helmet cut in half, point out the difference between a scratch and, ye ken, a bad scratch, and tell us several horror stories about brain damaged biker friends - all of whom, it transpired, were wearing helmets - so that really cheered me up.

At last - at last - we were allowed onto our bikes! They were jolly nice. Chinese. Something like this (possibly they were this, but I wasn't really paying attention. I think they were grey):

The first thing we were taught was PIGS - Petrol switch (down), Ignition (switch it on) Gear (make sure it's in neutral by rolling forward and back) Start - er, off you go.

Yes. Off I went indeed, wobbling all over the place. I didn't find the actual process of getting clutch (left hand lever, like a brake on a bicycle) and throttle (right handlebar handle) in synch difficult, and was soon pulling out ok - but the balance was much harder than I'd anticipated. The faster I went the better it was, but being a cowardy custard I only wanted to go as fast as my feet could stop! We drove in circles, coming to a stop, pulling out and driving in circles again, until our instructor thought we'd got the hang of it.

A word about our instructor: he was lovely, and looked perfect for the part. He even had a handlebar moustache and two earrings! I couldn't have asked for more. More importantly, he was clear, reassuring and friendly - except for the brain damage stories.

Argle. It's 1.20am and my eyes are sticky. I'll have to pick this up tomorrow.