11 Things I Wish I'd Known About My CBT Motorcycle Training Before I Took It

I am always around motorbikes. I love riding on the back of a bike, down the country lanes and off to visit some cool historic places. It's cheaper to travel, it's fun and it's easier to park in tight spaces in towns, cities and castle car parks. So I decided to sign up for my Compulsory Basic Training and get myself a motorbike so I could join in the fun. 

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Here are some things that might help you, from one CBT-er to another, before you start your training. I hope it helps. 

(this is related to my own experiences of CBT training, in the UK, in England - double check if the rules are different where you live)

Check if you even need a CBT
Currently (please check the current rules in case they've changed since writing this) you can drive a 50cc bike on a full car licence if you passed your test before 1st February 2001. If this doesn't apply to you and you got yours later, or you have a provisional licence you will need to do your CBT, even if you intend to ride a 50cc bike. If you want to ride a 125cc, then even if you have a pre-2001 licence, you'll need to take the CBT. 

You might want to get some practice in before you sign up 
The course, as I understood it, was for beginners and many people who have never ridden a scooter or moped do fine and do really well on their CBT. Everyone I knew who had done it shrugged their shoulders and told me it would be easy. I turned up full of confidence - I mean, how hard could it be? I ride a bicycle and I've driven a car for over twenty years. But when I actually got on the scooter I struggled to maintain a constant speed and not wobble. Many motorcycle training schools offer pre-CBT lessons and this would be a good idea before you shell out the £150-£200 for a day's CBT, so you can get the measure of how you do on a bike before the big day. At the least it will give you confidence, or some prior experience of riding, which will help you on the training day. 

Read the stuff they send you 
Don't file the email the training centre sends you with all the attachments and links under 'yeah whatever'. You'll need to satisfy the instructor that you're safe and controlled on the training ground as well as on the road later in the day and they'll ask you questions about the Highway Code. Brush up on the Highway Code, remind yourself what all the signs mean and how you can stay safe on the road. Your email will also have information about any paperwork you need to fill out and bring, along with your ID and licences and what to do on the day and what gear you need to bring or wear. Read it thoroughly. 

Arrive early
My training school wanted us to arrive fifteen minutes before the start of the training day. Don't ignore this. You might be in a small group and waiting around after the start of registration for someone to turn up means less time practicing on the bikes for everyone. You might even find that if you're not on time you forfeit your day's fee and that's an expensive lie-in. If you arrive early too, you can relax and start the day unstressed. 

Shop around
Don't automatically just book in with the closest training school to you. Shop around, read reviews and get personal recommendations from people you know. I found some schools offered different courses, like lead-up courses to the CBT and then also more advanced lessons to build more confidence after the CBT. You might even get the same instructors for all your training. Instructor fees also vary, I found them between £150-£200-ish. I think it's just good practice with any service you buy to do your research before you book in. 

Check what you can actually ride afterwards
You won't finish your CBT and then jump on a super-sports bike with a 1200cc engine once you get home. You'll need the CBT and then a lot more training for that afterwards with the full motorcycle licence. Similarly, if you have a pre-2001 licence (see above) and only want to ride a 50cc bike, you won't need a CBT but I found it was really useful for practicing and being aware of the proper riding technique, bike maintenance and safety. Rules about what you can drive during the training and afterwards are also dependent on your age, so read up on the different regulations and laws. 

Consider training on your own bike, if you have one
The day of my car driving test, my driving instructor called to say that the clutch on his car broke earlier in the morning and I'd be driving a different car to the one I'd just spend months in going up and down the local roads. The braking felt different and the clutch point was in a slightly different place. I guess it's easier if you get used to your own scooter or moped and use that, in the same way as some people like to do their driving test in a car they know. If you don't have your own bike, the school will lend you one. But every vehicle is different. It's just something you might want to consider. 

Prepare for the weather
You're going to be outside all day: rain, sun, wind, cold - whatever (the training probably won't be running though if it's icy or snowing, for safety reasons). If it's cold, take layers. If it's hot, take a couple of bottles of water. Maybe even a warm drink in a flask in the winter for your lunch break. Training will continue through the weather and you'll need to stay focused, so be prepared. 

You might find it a bit fast paced
We weren't riding around cones for half an hour at a time and practicing the riding and handling at leisure. We got a few chances to get it right and then had to move onto the next element of the training. The instructor is on a time limit - there will be an end to the training day - and within that time they need to get you learning the basics and then out on the road for your two-hour ride. Another reason you might want to invest in some private lessons before the day. If for any reason the instructor isn't happy with your safety or control they'll let you know and you might not complete the training in one day (this is also not a problem and not as bad as it sounds: read on).  

Ask questions
One of the first things my instructor said was to ask questions if you're not sure about anything - and don't set off on the scooter if you're not completely sure what the instructor just asked you to do. Ask - it's safer. 

You literally can't 'fail' it 
Relax. One of the things I hear are people saying they 'failed' their CBT. Honest disclosure: I didn't complete mine. I couldn't get the hang of the scooter, I was too wobbly and couldn't ride it safely with precision. I got home and felt frustrated, but then realised that my training just isn't complete yet. I learned a lot from the morning I spent on the scooter and I just need to build on that. The CBT is a training course so although you're being assessed at the end and throughout, you can't actually 'fail'. If you don't complete the training in a day it just means you need more training, and the instructor will tell you what you'll need to work on. I found the instructor and other people in my group lovely but I will take some private lessons before I book my CBT in again. I hope it goes well for you. But if it doesn't, don't worry. You just need more training to be safe on the road. And that's what matters really, isn't it? 

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