In this week's article we explore the reasons why we think you should learn to ride a motorbike or scooter. As ever if you have any questions either visit our website or call us on 0208 331 1103, we are always happy to talk to you about anything to do with motorbikes or motorcycle training.
So, let's look at why you should you learn to ride a motorbike. Before answering that, think. Should you ride a motorbike? After all, it is the most dangerous form of motorised transport. After pedestrians and cyclists a motorcycle is the most vulnerable vehicle on the road. You are more likely to suffer injury riding a motorcycle than any other form of motorised transport.
According to .gov in 2020 there were more than 115,000 road casualties in the UK. A casualty is considered anyone who reported some form of injury as a result of a road traffic collision (rtc). Those injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to fatalities, of which there were nearly 1500. 13,000 of those casualties were motorcyclists. Of the 1500 fatalities, 285 were motorcyclists. That’s 19%. But when you consider that across the UK a motorbike only accounts for between 1-2% of road traffic those figures take on a different meaning.
This is why whenever you mention to friends or loved ones that you intend to learn to ride a motorbike you are beset my lots of “good” reasons for not doing so. The primary one being that if you do you will undoubtedly lose your life. Usually in a horrific and graphic manner. The media doesn’t help with this because, anytime a motorcycle appears in a film or tv show of any kind, the rider usually ends up in a crash. Even films that glamourise motorcycling, like Easy Rider, where both protagonists end up dead in a roadside ditch.
Aside from all the scary stuff, it’s freezing in winter, baking hot in summer and, in the UK, throughout the year it buckets with rain so you get soaked. For those of you with a vain or fashionable side, your hair will always look like crap and whenever you arrive at a destination you look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. I’ve been riding more than thirty years and there’s a really good reason I look the way I do.
I’ve certainly never seen anyone get off their bike shaking their perfectly conditioned hair in slow motion into a sunlit golden breeze, for it to settle perfectly into Vidal Sassoon like perfection. Nope. My reality is more like flies in my teeth, crap all over my beard and hair that makes me look like Wurzel Gummidge after a rough night on the town, then falling in a drunken stupor into a muddy pothole by the rubbish bins. Don’t know who Gummidge is? Look him up on your favourite search engine.
So there are plenty of reasons why not to ride a motorcycle. Maybe a nice sensible safe little car is the answer. But, you’re here, reading this, not in a car dealership looking for friendly little hatchback that’ll keep mum and dad happy and ensure you still retain a chance of an inheritance at some point. Or maybe you’re at the hairdressers waiting your turn in the chair of torture and just about to shake off the shackles of fashion conventions running screaming out the door shouting “I don’t give a s**t!!!” as you run to the nearest motorbike dealer.
So before you go over the point of no return, before consigning your hair dresser to the junk folder of life, never to be seen again, let’s examine if there are any good reasons for you to ride a motorbike.
There is indeed a very real risk in riding motorcycles and you are very much more vulnerable than in other forms of transport. Valentino Rossi may have a cigarette paper thin advantage over me in terms of ability but put us both on motorbikes on a street in the heart of London and he is just as vulnerable as I am. Never heard of Valentino Rossi? Never mind, it’ll all make sense in the end.
We can never eliminate that risk but we can learn how to identify it, manage it, control and reduce it. By reducing our risk we increase our safety. This is where effective training comes in and all our training courses are designed to help you do that. Did you know that a year after CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) was introduced in 1990 in some areas motorcycle casualties were reduced by somewhere between 30-40%? It has remained effective over the years. Never heard of CBT? We have a blog post that explains it all in more detail.
The weather also affects your safety and we teach you how to deal with that during your training too so that you are more comfortable, more in control, more aware and, therefore, safer.
Yes, you could ride a bicycle. Yes, they definitely produce less emissions, whilst in motion. But are they really zero emission vehicles? Yes, you could drive an electric car with a sticker on the back stating “zero emission vehicle” and a little green band on the number plate increasing your sense of self satisfaction. But, is it really a zero emission vehicle? The thing is, where are those emissions?
Did you know there are more than one billion bicycles in the world. Twice as many as cars. There are around as many motorcycles in the world as cars however this figure includes all forms of motorised two wheeler, including electric ones. All forms of vehicles produce emissions. All forms of vehicles affect the planet in utilising raw materials and resources. All are manufactured in factories which produce emissions. Those factories are using power and energy, and fuels of different types. That power comes from a power station. The harder the factory works, the more emissions it produces. So, all vehicles produce emissions and there is no such thing as a “zero emission” vehicle.
Next time you’re sat in traffic, have a look at that Tesla in front of you. Look at the size of the thing. Even though there it sits with its green stripe on the number plate just think how many natural resources and energy have gone into producing it. Now look at that motorcycle that has just zipped past in the traffic jam. How many natural resources and energy went into producing that by comparison? Then think of which of those vehicles is easier to recycle at the end of the vehicle’s life. The world has a problem with mountains of rubber, for example. Compare the two again.
But what about bicycles? They use take the above argument and throw it at the motorcycle and, to an extent, it cannot be argued that a bicycle is more environmentally friendly than it’s engined cousin but, the margin isn’t as clear cut as you think. More and more we are seeing electrically assisted cycles and even electrically powered cycles. Those are using heavy batteries. Those batteries, like all forms of battery, will malfunction and they are then consigned to a landfill site or a deep sea disposal facility. No one knows how long a battery will take to break down or even if it ever will bio-degrade. We already have an environmental issue with batteries. Look at how many we use, they’re everywhere, in our phones and tablets, in our laptops, in our vehicles. How many batteries are fitted to that Tesla? Electric vehicles may not produce emmissions as they are running but they do when they are having to be re-charged and certainly do have as much of a detrimental effect on the environment as other vehicles long term.
There are around ten million electric cars on the road. Think of the impact of having 600 million of them in terms of resources and batteries and the effect on the environment at the end of their life. In the UK we have something called “half time syndrome”. This is where during high volume broadcasts, for example the football world cup final or similar, when at half time everyone goes into the kitchen and puts the kettle on the National Grid can’t cope with the sudden demand. The government wants us all in electric vehicles by 2030. We don’t produce enough power. What happens at half time when we put the kettle on and put the Tesla on charge at the same time?
My argument is not that motorcycles do not affect the environment, of course they do, but, long term they are much better for the environment than cars or larger vehicles. Bicycles are definitely a more environmentally friendly alternative but by no means are they free of effects on the environment so just because you’re on a bicycle does not mean you’re saving the planet. Even walking is not zero emissions transport. Unless you do so totally naked.
If you are sat in a traffic jam, look at the cars around you. Most of them will have a single occupant. Now try to mentally imagine just a quarter of those cars as a motorcycle. What impact would that have on the volume of traffic around you?
Anyone who has travelled in S E Asia where motorcycle numbers are vast will attest to the fact that two wheelers can also cause congestion. But think on this. Most motorised vehicles are in western societies where the number of motorcycles is much less. Here a motorcycle can help to alleviate congestion so it is baffling that councils in London are applying the same range of punitive measures to motorbikes as they to cars.
Size does matter. In a city like London, one of the largest, most populous, and congested in the world all you need for effective transport is a 125cc motorbike or scooter. You really don’t need anything larger. They are nimble and agile, easy to park, economical, frugal, the benefits are tremendous. If we wish to have a massive effect on congestion levels a switch to a small motorcycle is one way to do it. 25% more small bikes on the road would not aggravate traffic levels but if that 25% came from a switch from cars it would make a huge difference.
The government however is not encouraging people to make this switch. Instead, it is trying to convince people to walk, cycle or use public transport. Firstly, walking to work is not a practical option for most. The nature of our cities means that a very large proportion of the working population of London lives outside of it.
For some, cycling to work can be an option but again only if your place of work is sufficiently near home. The further away you live the less of an option it becomes. Then there’s the “public transport” option. In the UK we have no such thing. Mass transportation here is provided by private companies. Like all commercial enterprises they have profits and shareholders to consider and that has an effect on price.
Here’s an interesting statistic. Between 2002-2012 the average London salary increased by 32% but the cost of bus fares increased by 87% in the same period. The rising cost of mass transport is one factor for the increase in demand for motorcycles which cost less per year than most people’s average public transport expenditure.
Another factor is the sheer unreliability of mass transport. It’s one thing that drove me to bikes many years ago. I just could not guarantee getting in to work on time. My commute by train form Dartford to Bond Street took well over an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. The same journey by motorbike would take around forty minutes.
What about the nature of our work? What if your job involves visiting several sites spread across the city? Good luck doing that in a car or on the bus…or on foot! I can depend on my 125cc motorbike. I cannot depend on my local bus.
Two weeks ago I took the tube to Central London to collect a scooter. It cost me £6.30 in fares. On the way home I filled the scooter up. It cost £6.10 and I was still riding that £6.10 four days later. My journey to collect the scooter took me an hour and twenty minutes. The return trip took thirty seven.
Life is simply too short to waste on “public” transport and you cannot put a price on your time on this planet. Time is so precious yet so many are happy to spend a third of it crammed on a tube or a bus. With a motorbike you spend less time hanging around waiting and more time doing, working, enjoying, living.
As you know fuel prices shot up sharply a few months back and even though they have dropped a bit in recent weeks we are still paying high prices. Like many households we also have a car. It’s nothing special and has a 55 litre fuel tank. The petrol station up the road is today fleecing its customers to the tune of £1.59 per litre of unleaded so it would cost £87.45 to fill up. We can expect around 200 miles for that driving around London, or 44p per mile. We also own a 125cc motorbike. Again, nothing special. It has a 12 litre tank and at the same petrol station would cost £19.08. But, from those 12 litres I can reasonably expect 320 miles, or 6p per mile. The vehicle tax on our car is £145.00, on the wee bike it is £22. The bike also is congestion charge exempt meaning I can ride it into the heart of London.
Where we live in London, a monthly travel card would cost me £167.10, (more than the cost of a CBT each month) that is more than £2000 per annum! Yet, a five minute search on ebay has thrown up a gorgeous 2020 one owner Bullit Hunt S 125 only ten miles away going for £1450. Stylish economical transport, cheap as chips and I have the best part of £500 in my pocket each year. It’s a no brainer!
The cost of living is going up yet we can have a positive impact on that. If a financial whizz-kid came along and told you they can save your household £500 each year you’d think that was brilliant. Well there you are then. I’m certainly not a financial genius but, you’re welcome!
A life skill
It’s like riding a bike, you never forget. I did a CBT course for a reasonably well known actor a while ago. He’d never had a previous interest in learning to ride a motorcycle but all of a sudden he was offered a script for a part that he wanted but it called for motorbike riding skills.
He promptly enrolled in a CBT course to give him the chance of landing the role. Every now and again I catch sight of him on google images and there he is, with a motorbike. Whether he got the acting role or not, he ended up with a skill that he can call upon and he clearly got the bug for bikes.
We don’t know how the rest of our life is going to go or what is going to happen in the future. I made some crap decisions over the years but I also made some good ones and taking a CBT course and learning to ride a motorbike was one of them. It’s a great feeling to know that even if life kicks you hard in the unmentionables, you always have a means to earn a living and keep the wolf from the door, simply for the fact that you know how to ride a motorcycle.
Today I’m a motorcycle instructor because I monkeyed around with different career paths over the years, worked different jobs, slid up and down the slippery pole of progression and I hated every single one of those jobs. This one I love. I believe in it. I may not be earning some bugger millions in sales or contributing to some corporation or other’s share value. I may not be a multimillionaire and never will be. But, I’m spending all day talking about bikes, playing with bikes and helping people stay safe on the road on bikes. How cool is that? Being honest it’s the only job I have ever thought that I’m really good at and it all started by taking my CBT and learning to ride.
The above should already be improving your blood pressure levels. Stress is one of the biggest killers in modern society so a motorbike has already started improving your quality of life, and you cannot put a price on that.
There are three strands to well being. Mind, body and soul. To those we can add wallet as that certainly affects the others.
How on earth can a motorcycle positively affect your physical well being? Well, because of everything in the last few paragraphs. Any doctor will tell you that if you can relieve stress and lower blood pressure you will be healthier. Travelling by motorcycle is a terrific way of doing that. Riding a motorbike is a great way to relax and unwind, whether on your commute to work or as a leisure activity. You can escape from the pressure of life on your motorbike and have a much better balance, both physical and mental.
Covid 19 had a tremendous effect on our lives over the last few years and it continues to do so. We never used phrases such as “self-isolation” or “social distancing” before. Why do you think there was a spike in motorbike demand at the time of the pandemic? Because people wanted a means to get around that allowed them the benefit of doing both, certainly on their journey to or from work. The risks of contracting conditions such as covid are much lessened if you are less in contact with possible carriers. Who knows what other diseases are waiting for us in years to come? Let’s remember this lesson the next time it happens.
I have heard the expression “my motorbike is my therapist” many times and I understand it. The increase in mental health conditions over the last few years has caused alarm in the medical profession as mental health care is considerably less well funded than other forms of healthcare. There are increased stresses on people owing to how we live our lives. Having a facility where one can switch off from normal routine and allow the brain to reboot itself is very important. There are many wellness and/or mindfulness techniques out there, and a motorbike is definitely one of them. Ask any motorcyclist. Whether we are engaged in our ride to work, escaping the city at the week end with some friends or travelling off to explore on holiday by motorbike, because our mind is engaged in the experience of riding and concentrating on the ride we tend not to be thinking about our worries or fears. We have time to contemplate or think clearly, almost like meditation.
One of the side effects of modern life and a factor in increasing mental health conditions is that of the feeling of isolation. Our world offers us more and more ways and opportunities to interact with others yet we do so from a position of isolation a lot of the time. One of the existential needs of a human is for contact with others and a motorbike is a great vehicle for social interaction and integration.
You can travel to another part of the country, alone, on a motorcycle and stop at a café or even just park by the side of the road. You won’t have to wait long for someone to come along to chat. It can be another biker, or someone who happens to have a similar bike or because a relative owned one once. If you travel to a café where motorcyclists congregate you will begin to build friendships and contacts in no time. Join facebook groups or forums, go on the rides they organise, it will open a new world for you. It’s important for you to know that there are others out there that share the same interests as you and it’s easy to find them. All you need is a motorcycle.
Near me for example in a B&Q car park there’s a burger bar. There’s always bikers there having a laugh and a chat. I've been there many times and someone has just walked over for a chat about bikes over a burger. At the end of it you feel great, you've had a good chat, met an interesting person and had a positive experience that day. You may have the briefest of chats whilst waiting at a red traffic light. A little positivity each day will make a big difference at the end of the week. You now have a different outlook on life, people, the world around you. Motorbikes can do that for you. They really are great things.
If you drive a car try the same thing at your local shopping centre car park. Just walk up to someone, start chatting away about their choice of tyres or wing mirrors and see what happens. They’ll probably think you’re a weirdo and have you arrested! Walk down Oxford Street, smiling and saying good morning to passers by, they'll think you’ve gone nuts.
But walk up to a fellow motorcyclist you’ve never met before and compliment them on their bike and you’ve made a new pal. Your approach to life will be different. It is a much more positive way of being. Your mind and body affect your soul and vice versa. Mystical types talk about having things in balance and what not, I don’t understand all that but I do understand that if I’m financially, physically, mentally and emotionally healthier I'm in a better place.
Fun with a capital F.
So there are many, many reasons for you to ride a motorcycle. We haven’t even begun to talk about how much fun it is.
There are many reasons why we ride bikes. Some of us purely for their convenience and practicality but some of us get totally attached to them. Not just practically but emotionally too. I’m not going to expand on the fun bit. That is one of the reasons why you’ve been drawn to motorbikes in the first place and maybe why you’ve been reading this.
I have hopefully highlighted above some things about motorbikes that you hadn’t thought of or even considered. The fun bit I will leave for you to discover because I can tell you this, there is nothing quite like the feeling of being on a motorcycle.
I’ve been riding for many, many years but each time I sit in the saddle of a bike, any bike, my heart starts pumping and I feel alive. The other day we had a 50cc scooter delivered and I took it for a test ride. I rode around with the stoopidest of daft grins on my face and arrived back home grinning like an idiot. Not the biggest, most powerful, fastest, prettiest or coolest bike on the road by any stretch of the imagination but it put a smile on my face and anything that does that can only be a good thing. I could never be any good as a motorcycle journalist because I'd end up praising every single machine I sat on.
This is why I have chosen to become a motorcycle instructor. To hopefully impart my knowledge and experience to others and also some of the passion so that they too can experience the joy of motorbikes. I would love for you to be on a motorbike but I want you to be safe so, take the plunge, call us to arrange some training. Do it for you. Today is the day to something legendary. Today, is your day!
How do you do it? It all starts with a CBT training course. Find out all about it on our blog post or go ahead and book your own here:
Want to try a bike first? We've got you covered, book a one hour taster session here:
If you would like information on all our courses simply visit this page on our website. Next week, we continue discussing the driving licence in the UK and explain how to progress from CBT to passing your test.
Gift cards: Give the gift of motorcycling with one of our e-Gift cards. See our website for details.
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