“I was more nervous than playing a Rugby game;” said England Rugby international, Jack Nowell as he gave us the lowdown on what it’s like to pass his motorcycle test.
With a recent injury giving him a bit more free time than he was comfortable with, Jack Nowell decided that the time was right to do his bike test, so came into Bridge Motorcycles and booked himself onto the Honda School of Motorcycling.
In just a few short weeks, Jack went from being a complete two-wheeled novice to passing his practical assessment, allowing him to now ride freely on the road unrestricted, and without the need for those pesky L-plates.
“I’ve always liked bikes and always thought they looked cool when I saw them on the road,” Jack recalled. “Being injured gives you quite a lot of free time too and you want something to take your mind off it, so I thought that it would be the perfect time to get my test done! It’s a different challenge for me too, and I love challenging myself.”
“I initially came to Bridge to have a look at a Triumph Bobber and kept my head down a bit; I didn’t ask too many questions because I didn’t know too much about it at the time. I saw it, took a picture and then bribes the Mrs at home and told her that this is what I’m going to look to get.”
Starting with his Compulsory Basic Training (CBT), Jack quickly gained the grasp of the riding. He’d done his homework too and had a brief taste of riding before. “I actually rode a moped when I was 16, but it was that many years ago that I’d kind of forgot about it, but I know a bit about how to ride a bike and I’d also looked up tips too.”
The CBT isn’t a test, it’s a means of giving the riders the basic tools needed to safely go out and learn to ride on the roads. It’s a staple in the journey to getting your bike licence, and is where a new rider gets to grips with the controls of the bike or scooter under instruction before learning some of the basic exercises to help make you a safer rider, before then going on to a minimum of two hours out on the road with an instructor.
There’s no such thing as a fail with a CBT, there’s only more training. It’s usually completed in the space of a day, and means an individual can ride on the road with L-plates on a bike with a maximum capacity of 125cc (or up to 50cc for 16 year olds). The Honda School of Motorcycling will have a bike that can be used to complete the training with and all of the gear that’s needed to keep riders safe too, including a helmet, so all that’s required is just to show up with your provisional licence.
Jack was pretty smitten with the 125 initially, “going from a 125, I was very nervous to then jump on a big bike after and thought that it was going to be a lot different to what I’m used to,” he recalled.
“After 10-20 minutes on the road with the bigger bike, I literally couldn’t imagine being back on the 125. It was so much easier, and afterwards it made the 125 seemed like it was impossible to ride in comparison, which is a bit of a weird thought because I never expected that.
“On the bigger bike, the gears were smoother, and it felt like everything was a lot easier to get on with. The weight of the bike also helped; it would kind of counterbalance you a bit. I think the whole thing was awesome to be honest!”
The training doesn’t mean much though until it’s put into practice on test day. The examination is split into three parts; there’s a theory test which will be completed before then being allowed to complete, a Module 1 skills test and finally a Module 2 practical test.
Jack opted to complete both his Module 1 and Module 2 tests on the same day, so providing he passed the first test in the morning, he’d then be able to go on to complete the second test in the afternoon.
“Once you kind of master the slow speed stuff in your lessons, it’s not really that hard to fail – so long as you don’t put your foot down!” Jack recalled. “The trainers at the School are so good, they literally cover everything, you’ll do so many U-turns, so many emergency stops and spend so much time out on the road. I felt very confident going into my Mod 1 test that I knew exactly what was going to happen.”
Confidence doesn’t mean that Jack was immune from the anxiety of the test and, after being asked if he wanted to take his Mod 1 test 20 minutes earlier than initially scheduled, nervousness flooded him. “As soon as that happened the nerves kicked in, I was a lot more nervous than playing a rugby game I can tell you that! It might be really weird to say, but I’m so used to playing in front of a large amount of people in these big pressure moments where you kind of build up to it. Thinking that this was the one that counts and the one that matters, and that’s when the nerves kicked in.”
“I found it easy though. Well, not very easy, when the pressure’s on it’s a bit different, but I think I’m pretty good at controlling the bike and with the slow speed stuff too, but I’ve done it so many times that I knew exactly what was coming next so nothing really shocked me which I think made a big difference. And, if you do feel yourself tipping or falling then there’s little things that you can do to pick yourself back up again.”
Following the Module 1 test comes the final exam; the Module 2 practical assessment! It’s where riders put their training into practice and involves a ridden assessment on public roads. Jack had to keep a level head to ensure that the morning’s successes hadn’t made him too excited too early, nor become relaxed enough to let a mistake slip through the cracks. Careful observation and planning were the fundamental part to a safe and confident ride.
“I think getting the Mod 1 done in the morning helped me a lot because it almost got rid of my nerves. I had 20 or 40 minutes out on the road with [my trainer] Carol which helped to pick up my confidence.
“It was that initial bit pulling off, making sure you’ve got everything set, deep breath and away you go. As soon as we got out and the examiner said to follow the signpost, I was straight into it then which I was very happy with.”
Once into the test the rest is simple, keep calm and put the training to good use in the hope that there’s good news at the end of the examination. The end of the ride is arguably as tense, if not more so than the beginning though.
“I was pretty confident and didn’t feel there was a moment where I’d completely messed up. You never know until you’re told though, so to walk into the office and take a seat was a bit of a traumatic time, but then he said I’d passed. There was an instant sigh of ‘oh god, I’ve actually done it’! I don’t have to do it again now, which I’m very relieved at. There was one moment in the test where it was a 50mph zone and I was a little late to get down to the correct speed, but that was my only minor in the end which isn’t too bad!”
The School are there to help every step of the way, guiding Jack through from the very beginning of his learning journey, right through to him passing.
“The trainers put so much work into helping me pass. They literally covered everything, every single route you could take, obviously there’s some onus on you as well - It’s about being ready for what can come. You need to be aware of everything, you could do everything so perfectly but if a car does something you’re not expecting, that’s your test over. The School covered literally everything with me though, so by the time it came to the test, it was just about getting over the nerves a bit and getting it done!.”
“Well the guys at Bridge have convinced me that I need to have a Bobber… No I’m joking! I’ve had Triumph’s Bobber in mind the whole time. The first time I saw it I really wanted one, just from the looks alone! It’ll take some getting used to, but I’m super excited to jump on it. I already have visions of riding down to Cornwall along the A-roads when the sun’s out.
“A few of the boys at the club want to get their test done now too, and a few have already done it. We’ve got a few plans for summer when it’s nice and warm; rucksack, a bag on the bike, our passports and nothing else! A bike trip down to France with nothing and just see what happens, no plans, no booking into hotels, just rock up, see if we can stay there and off we go the next day!
“It’s a hundred percent the best way to do it, and I’m so glad I’ve got all the hard work done now!”
Jack trained with the Exeter Honda School of Motorcycling in association with Bridge Motorcycles, if you’d like to follow in his footsteps and learn to ride yourself, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the school by calling 01392 216 021.