Australia makes the process pretty easy for would-be motorcycle riders. As long as you are over 24 you can just up and take the theory and road test. For us, as we could already ride, the process was pretty much that simple. A quick lesson, then the test then a licence to ride what they call a LAMS approved motorcycle which is restricted by weight to power ratio. We had a Suzuki GS500E which was the perfect learner bike and it was heavy meaning that although it had a large engine, it still met the requirements.
Unfortunately for us, as we had not held our Australian licences for a full year, the UK would not exchange them for the UK equivalent so we were faced with starting the process from scratch. Luckily, we had allowed eight weeks buffer time into our plan for just this eventuality AND had the added bonus of already being able to ride.
At 25 years old, we were eligible for what they call the Direct Access Scheme (DAS). It doesn’t let you skip steps as such but it does let you move through the process as fast as you are able. We signed up with a local training school to help us through the whole process. Westside Riders in Gloucester were fantastic. We let them know that we had a strict deadline and their help was invaluable in securing upcoming tests dates and of course the training so we were able to actually pass the tests when we got there! The following steps had to be completed in order so here’s an overview to get you started.
Week 1 – CBT (Cost: £125)
The Compulsory Basic Training course was a full day, group activity type affair. It’s a few hours of classroom instruction a few more hours riding slowly round a car park and a 20 minute ride on the road with your instructor/group. Our group of four moved at a manageable pace considering only 3/4 of us completed the days activities and received our certificates. Our instructor made it interesting and I did drink lots of cups of tea, though could easily have been tedious for experienced riders as in it’s name, it’s pretty basic stuff.
Week 2 – Theory Test + Hazard Perception (£23)
We booked the test online. Spaces are in high demand so we went to Cheltenham which was a little further afield but had dates available sooner. Not only did I read the full highway code cover to cover (which was gripping stuff let me tell you…), the government practice tests and study app were also invaluable. A word of caution, some questions are worded quite deceptively so it was great to have an idea of their style before hand! After the test, I left the test centre with a sombre look on my face and shook my head to Rich who was waiting in the car to pick me up with a worried look on his face as if I’d failed. That was me trying to be funny as I whipped out my pass certificate and jumped in.
Week 3 – Module 1 Lesson + Practical Test (£210)
Upgrade to a 600cc bike! Module one is all about your starting, stopping and turning skills, split into six exercises. The U turn, the slalom and the walking-pace ride make up the ‘slow’ exercises. The ‘fast’ exercises were an emergency stop, a controlled stop at a marked location and the controversial avoidance manoeuvre (basically swerving around a cone at 50km per hour!). The entire test takes place in the test centre compound. Rich’s test began shortly after we arrived. No sooner had he ridden into the testing area, the examiner inspected his bike and announced that he couldn’t possibly take the test on that bike as he had a large nail in his rear tyre! An awkward start but we quickly swapped bikes and the test was allowed to continue eventually. You can download the diagram of the exercises here.
Week 5 – Module 2 Lesson + Practical Test (£275)
By this point, so far so good but the deadline was looming ever closer. The amazing team at Westside Riders, once again, pulled out all the stops to get us the soonest test date but as the test centre only operates once a week, it did put things on hold for another few weeks. The test it’s self was a 40 minute ride around town with the examiner in tow. Dual carriage ways, roundabouts, hill and angled starts, country roads, traffic etc. There were even some ‘show me’ and ‘tell me’ questions asking how you would check the oil or things that could be affected by a pillion passenger. I definitely lucked out on that section and aced my questions. It may even have made up for the genuine emergency stop I made at a traffic light during my practical test!
Passed First Time!
Despite my nerves, Rich and I both passed first time. A HUGE relief! It meant the trip was really happening, the first hurdle out of the way. After a celebratory coffee and a short ride back to the training centre, we rushed home to finally make use of our new bikes that were sitting in the garage, just waiting to be ridden…