Pass your CBT: The hardest parts of learning to ride a motorbike

Having been working in the motorcycle industry for a few years, I decided it was time to take my CBT, which stand for Compulsory Basic Training and it’s a bit like your provisional licence for a motorbike.

I took part in an hour’s taster session back in 2015 ‘Ride to Work’ week and that’s about as far as my motorcycling experience went – I’d said at the time that I’d do my CBT but never actually got round to it.

Online practice

Then I met the guys at VideoBiker; an excellent new venture to bring online learning via video into the motorcycling world in a comprehensive, up to date and accurate format, they offered me the opportunity to have motorcycle lessons and learn to ride with them.

The date for my CBT eventually arrived and with VideoBiker being based in Birmingham, I jumped in the car and hit the M25 with the sun shining.

20 minutes into the journey there was a torrential downpour and a massive decline in visibility, the traffic slowed down to around 30mph – I was thankful that I had a roof over my head and was feeling for the biker in the slow lane who had to pull up under a bridge for cover.

Having already watched many of the training videos created by VideoBiker I was feeling pretty confident of my abilities as I arrived at the training centre.

CBT training begins

The initial course introduction and briefing about safety, the Highway Code and the bike controls etc was all very familiar – “this is going to be a doddle” I thought to myself.

It was time for the non-road training, getting on to the motorcycle and actually learning how to ride it.

It’s done in a car park and feels totally safe, you start by going through various checks you should perform on a motorcycle and how to use the stand/s.


What is a CBT?

CBT stands for Compulsory Basic Training and gives you a provisional licence to ride a motorcycle. Your CBT license has to be renewed every two years, unless you take your full test before it expires.

What CBT laws are there in the UK?

You still need to display L plates when using only a CBT licence. It usually takes one day to complete, this is usually in a car park or similar to start and then on the road once you have built your skills up. You can only ride bikes of 125cc or less.

How long does a CBT last?

A CBT takes one day to complete; that is if you pass. Some training schools may bring you back in for a second day if they don’t feel you’re ready for the road on a motorcycle by yourself quite yet.

There is quite a lot of industry support for making the CBT two days anyway, so don’t feel too dismayed if you’re not ready in one day! It’s more important that you can ride a bike safely…

First gear

At first you learn to ride the bike in first gear, the throttle is pretty sensitive and the ride is far from smooth.

Moving up into second gear becomes more enjoyable and you can pick up the pace a little; third gear is better still but then this is where your gear exposure ends off the road.

There’s lots of moving up and down through the gears and getting a feel for the bike, getting your observations right and looking further ahead than you’re used to ensure you send the bike in the right direction!

Laid back

How you sit on the bike is another one of those things that doesn’t really cross your mind, you just sit on it and you’re away.

However, as someone who does like to recline in their chair, I found myself trying to do the same on the bike, leaning back into a relaxed position – this was soon corrected and I was encouraged to lean forwards more towards the handlebars. Perhaps I should be considering a cruiser for the future?


When you first have to start cornering, everything in you wants to turn the handle bars into the corner, which much to your dismay, starts to affect your balance.

The key when learning to corner is pushing your handlebar forward on the hand in the direction you’re turning, leaning into your direction, rather than forcing a hard ‘steer’ – it sounds odd when you’re first informed of this but the difference it makes to your control of the motorcycle is obvious once you get the hang of it.

Slow control

Up until this point everything was going smoothly, the changing of the gears was fine, cornering and observations came pretty quickly but then it was time for slow control…

Using some rear brake, dropping down into first gear, maintaining some light gas on the throttle and then using the clutch to determine your slow speed – basically clutch control.

When I’m driving my car my clutch control is second nature. When you’re learning to drive, once it clicks it clicks and you’ve got it; however now I’m trying to get my head around using my hands rather than my feet and it just wasn’t coming easily to me!

This is the part of learning to ride a motorcycle that I found the hardest – it has such a knock-on effect to the rest of your riding too.


The difficulty with slow / clutch control was now about to be exacerbated by simulated junctions in the car park setting.

Cones were set out to show your road markings and you had to imagine looking out from a junction to see if the road was clear, starting with turning left out of a junction having to only check if it’s clear one way, and then right out of the junction making sure it’s clear in both directions.

Heavy handed

The main problem I was facing was my heavy handedness – the light touch needed to maintain the throttle and control the clutch with my hand with a biting point range of about 10mm wasn’t quite coming together for me.

I felt a little like Maureen from Driving School as I headed far too quickly into the simulated junction with the engine roaring loudly in first gear.

There’s no level of preparation that can predict which part of the CBT you perhaps might find tricky.

For some it might all come totally naturally, for others they might find slow control the hardest (like me), others might need a little extra time working on their balance, gear changing, observations etc.

As long as your trainer is professional they will spend extra time on elements that you haven’t quite got to grips with yet and not rush you through for the sake of time.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

My best advice for anyone who is looking to take their CBT is to undertake as much learning beforehand as possible, whether that be using online videos, blogs, forums, infographics, diagrams, anything to prepare you really…

The more prep you do will help you on the day, as you never which parts you may unexpectedly find difficult.

Like anything, good preparation will help with your confidence too… even if it is slightly misplaced! If you’re taking your CBT soon, good luck!

Stay calm, be patient and with the help of a good trainer, it will come!

Thanks to VideoBiker and RMT Motorcycle Training!

Now you’ve passed your CBT, it’s time to book your theory test!

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