My journey to becoming a biker
Donna Powell, AKA @LonelyTWAT (the Two Wheels And That club) always wanted to ride motorcycles but had never got round to it. Then, aged 24 she took the plunge and started passing her tests. What follows, over a series of contributions, is her journey, from taking her CBT to becoming a fully-fledged ‘biker’, for whom biking is now in her blood as she eats, sleeps and breathes to ride.
My love for motorcycles has always existed however it wasn’t until I turned 24 that I finally did my CBT.
I was living on my own and had been driving a company van for a while, and they needed it back. Therein lay a choice; get myself a car or the bike I always wanted. It was a no-brainer. To me, having always loved bikes getting one was the better option.
Contrary to some fellow female bikers having issues or facing discrimination from dealerships, clothing companies and training schools, I can honestly say from my experience these issues just didn’t arise.
My CBT was booked at a local training centre Exceptional Rider Training in Hemel Hempstead. They were all very friendly and I soon I felt confident on the bike. I’d driven a car for some time so my road sense was good, which was a huge help – not to mention a couple of years spent as a cyclist in London. That’s not to say I was overconfident but it definitely made me less fearful. Although a little bit of fear is necessary when riding as it makes you more alert.
As soon as my CBT certificate was handed over I went straight to a local dealership and bought my first bike, a brand-new red and black Honda CBR 125cc 2010.
Having researched thoroughly online about different bikes, this seemed to be the ideal starter. A 0% APR finance deal was available for the duration of my plan, so all that remained was a nervous wait for the phone call saying it was approved.
I remember the phone ringing and pulling into a pub carpark and was ecstatic when they said my finance had all gone through. I was finally getting my first bike. Although it would be a couple of weeks before picking her up (yes, ‘her’, although she didn’t have a name).
The reason for choosing to buy brand new was mostly because I wasn’t that savvy with bikes yet and didn’t exactly have a biker boyfriend or anyone who could show me the ropes of basic mechanics.
The perks of buying brand new meant it came with a manufacturer’s warranty, regular servicing and they also threw in other packages such as breakdown cover etc. As there was also a workshop at the dealership, I could just take her back any time to get checked out with minimal or no cost.
This was just what I needed as a novice to motorcycling. In hindsight, as it was October, my riding days would begin by going through a very British winter, on a brand-new bike which was very likely to get ruined very quickly. But on the plus side, the support of the dealership would be there for any issues I faced.
Collecting the bike and riding it home would be a different matter; Accidently beeping my horn every time I tried to indicate, stalling at every roundabout and even managing to drop it from excitement on the last corner to my house. My motorcycle skills would take some practice yet! Maybe it wouldn’t be the winter destroying my new biker after all.
The next step would be getting my bike gear. No beating around the bush here, I found a women’s specific motorcycling clothing shop. It’s all fair and well going into any motorbike shop and buying gear but I wanted a good choice and a female’s point of view. Something you don’t always get from a standard dealership.
Having extremely short legs (I am 5’2″), my biggest problem was finding a brand of trousers that fitted correctly! The lady in the shop was very helpful and a biker herself which made it a lot easier. Unfortunately, the only trousers which fitted right were the most expensive at the time, Alpinestar, although a very good brand.
My first lot of gear would be textiles, which I thought would be more practical and they were waterproof (vital going into autumn/winter). Unfortunately, the cost of leathers was slightly out of my budget. I didn’t want to skimp on these items as protective gear is the most important kit you will buy when riding.
I chose a lovely fitted Ixon ladies jacket which zipped directly onto my trousers (essential for my jacket not to rise-up my back when riding) and some fitted Richa winter gloves.
Who said women’s gear couldn’t fit correctly? Going to a female clothing company was one of the best choices I made when starting out. The gear would prove to last for several years and come and through all weather. Nowadays, with an increase of female bikers, there is a vast amount of woman’s wear on the market, with online sites specific to woman’s motorbike clothing such as Lady Biker and Moto Girl.
My helmet was another very important decision to make. I chose a Scorpion Exo model. It fit extremely well, had adjustable pump up cheek pads for a more secure fit, a pin lock system to help prevent fogging, a built-in tinted visor (ideal for people who wear glasses for riding like me) and to be fair it looked pretty cool. I would definitely be buying Scorpion helmets going forward. But just to point out different brands fit different head shapes, there’s no ‘one size fits all’. If you’re looking for a helmet, don’t be afraid to try before you buy. I had to try on several brands before I found one that fitted correctly (and looked good). You can always try in the shop and then by online.
ED: Top tip – Go to the shows for a new helmet at bargain prices – there will be lots of choices, you can try each helmet on and there are great deals to be had. For tips on how to buy a helmet, read this.
So here I was, 24 years old, geared up and ready to go and start riding, great! But truth be told, I had no friends in the biking community, wasn’t really on Facebook and had no-where to start. I felt very much alone and only really used the bike to commute to and from work and to see family. I was a bog- standard motorcyclist.
I didn’t think about it too much at the time, but I was about to start my motorcycle days riding through winter with no alternative transport. In hindsight riding through all weathers would prove to be the best way I would learn to ride a motorbike.
One morning, when I had to get to work 25 minutes away, I rode through think snow with both feet on the floor. My little Honda CBR 125 tackled the whole 13 miles, taking over an hour. Just pure madness!
I decided early on to use the two years I had on my CBT to home in on my motorcycle skills before looking at getting my full license. It was a great decision, and in these two years, I properly learnt to ride a motorbike, through all weathers and all seasons. This would become essential later-on when I got a bigger bike and started riding on much more challenging roads.
But this was only the start, and I couldn’t become the biker I am today without gaining my full license.
Next, Donna takes the plunge and goes for her full licence.
You can also follow @LonelyTWAT on her personal blog: https://motorcycletravels.site/
Get yourself sorted:
Do you like the idea of riding a motorbike but haven’t tried yet? The national Get On programme has free taster sessions around the country. See here for dates and venues.