Are you a female who has never been behind the handlebars but feel the overwhelming urge to make a start (and feeling somewhat apprehensive about the whole thing)? We’ve teamed up with Roz, the owner at Ipswich & Bury St Edmunds Rider Training to throw some thoughts around and hopefully offer some sound advice based on our experience.
At her training school Roz sees more women than ever before wanting to get their licence, of all ages (particularly 45+ years), of all heights and sizes, of all backgrounds and of all abilities. Don’t think what you’re about to undertake is impossible because it truly isn’t - only in your head. Roz herself has a story of when she learnt to ride, the male instructor felt it necessary to put his arm around her shoulders and inform her “you’ll never be able to ride that love”. Oh dear – two choices here – accept that or prove them wrong.
First of all, ask yourself this question: why do I want to learn to ride? The whole process will be much easier and much more enjoyable if you do it for YOUR reasons and not someone else’s. Secondly, on a practical basis, do you have the balance to ride a pushbike? This sounds like a silly question but if not then we suggest you get this area nailed before going any further, even if it’s just a refresher – there are even companies out there who offer top-up bicycle sessions.
So decision made, you’re starting your journey. We would highly recommend you earmark some riding schools, preferably based on recommendation from your peers. Give them a ring and ask to come and visit the school. There should be no reason why a school wouldn’t allow this, and if they refused then let that be an alarm bell. Lessons aren’t cheap and you need to make sure the environment you’re putting yourself in is one that you’re confident with so avoid ‘booking blind’ and know where your hard-earned money is going – research, research, research.
Here you are on your visit to the school –
- Does a friendly face greet you?
- Are you offered a cuppa?
- Ask as many questions as you need to – understanding will lead to you feeling more confident and lessens any fears.
- Have a look at the clothing (‘kit’) available for your lessons – does it look clean and fit for purpose? Ask to be shown the safety features on the garments – THIS IS IMPORTANT!
- Do you have the opportunity to meet any of the instructors?
- Are you offered a free 1:1 taster session?
Taster sessions can literally make or break a new rider, which is why it’s critical to get the right school to start with who is willing to make this investment in their students. The Nationwide campaign of Get On promotes these sessions so ask this question of the schools you visit. Almost forget about CBT’s or full licences at this point – baby steps.
A taster session shouldn’t be any less than one hour – it will be free or there may be a small fee involved and you may even need another one or two before taking the next steps. THIS IS OK. If you plan to ride a bike with gears then avoid having a taster on an automatic scooter if possible.
You should have been put with a tutor who is calm and patient (most are) – if you’re with anyone who intimidates you or makes you feel ill at ease for whatever reason, even if it’s just their use of language then stop right here and take stock. You’ve got enough to concentrate on; you don’t need to be worrying about the person who is there to support you.
Your hour will be spent in a private yard, not on a public road. You’ll go at your own pace and learn to sit correctly on the bike, feel where the pedals and levers are, then move on to pulling away, moving along (super-slowly, don’t panic!) and stopping. You might even get to changing gear but if you don’t then that’s fine, these sessions are to give you ‘a feel’ for what it’s like on the bike if you have limited or no experience, not to learn as much as you possibly can in the space of 60 minutes. Again if you feel you’re being pushed beyond your abilities you must communicate this and not get in a tiz.
Once you’re time is up you should feel massively inspired to take the next steps – or maybe not – maybe you need another session or maybe you’ve realised it’s not for you. But mostly you should feel massively inspired J
Now could be the time to think about booking a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). Important: approach this as a Training Course NOT a Test. This is often a full day where you start in the classroom learning some basics and then head back to the yard to hop on a bike. By lunchtime you or your tutors might think you need a little more time before going on the road, otherwise you’ll pop in a radio earpiece to hear your tutor at all times and have a couple of hours out and about on real roads. You’re off!
If all is good you’ll get a CBT certificate, which lasts for 2 years, and you’re free to go and treat yourself to your first bike – do it! Also at this point look online and find some local bike clubs – some are ladies-only but all will support you as you learn and be there to come on rides and enjoy 2-wheeled days out!