A beginner’s guide to motorcycling

Paul Allen passed his bike test in Ipswich in the 1970s. He tells us how to do it in the 21st century

By Paul Allen

So you want to get your full motorcycle licence?

    ...it’s one of the last bastions of personal choice and freedom.  

The good news is it’s unbelievably easy!

You pay 11 quid, then turn up at Ipswich Driving Test Centre along Woodbridge Road. You’ll have to answer three questions from the Highway Code, then go outside and read a number plate on a parked car a few yards away.

After that, you jump on your Yamaha RD250 and ride around the block, looking out for the examiner, who will be unenthusiastically attempting to hide his portly bulk by crouching behind a car. As he jumps out waving his clipboard, you feign surprise then come to a stop without locking up the rear wheel. And Bingo! Rip up them L-plates, boy… you’ve passed!

Then, after triumphantly wheelieing out of the test centre and nearly hitting a Kesgrave bus head on (in your ecstasy you have temporarily forgotten you are actually very bad at wheelies) you can get yourself down to Revett’s Motorcycles on Norwich road and sign your hard-earned weekly wages away for the next three years on HP.

You’ll be a heady £600 in debt. But you’ll be the king (or queen) of Manchester Road Hill and Chantry Estate on your brand new faster-than-anything-else-in-the-world 120mph state-of-the-art SOHC Honda 750. And your mum won’t sleep properly for the next few years as you selfishly come in late every night while she lays in bed listening out for your engine, so she can nod off in the knowledge that you haven’t been killed by either the bike or the locals at the Safe Harbour on the Whitton Estate.

Was there ever a pub in Suffolk or indeed the world so ironically named…?

Oh no, wait…

That was 1977. And here’s the bad news.

That test, the one that got me my licence, has long gone, along with Revetts, the old test centre, and indeed my long-suffering mum. The Safe Harbour, one of Tolly Cobbold’s grand old ‘30s pubs, is now an Aldi. Oh the ignominy.

Fast forward to 2019, and getting rid of those ‘L’s is a tad different, to say the least. The paths to a full licence are now so complicated the government has a flow chart on its website that looks at first glance like a heavily researched family tree. I would try to explain it, but I’m 60 this year, and honestly don’t think I have the time. Besides, even if I did survive to the end of an explanation, it would have changed again. It’s been through more incarnations over the years than I’ve had good hidings in the aforementioned ‘Safe’.

(That’s a lot, btw.)

Buying a bike and gear

£600 won’t get you a new superbike in this brave new world, but will just about cover a decent helmet. As long as you don’t want a top-notch product with a race-rep paint job. Bikes are now so expensive that dealers rarely talk in terms of their actual price: more how little it will cost in PCP payments.

    I’m of an age and disposition where the journey is far more interesting than the destination.  

It seems the old “never-never” (Hire Purchase) has made a triumphant return from the seventies, albeit with a posher name and a “balloon” payment at the end.

Of course you could use the three grand PCP deposit to buy a perfectly good second-hand bike. Like cars, motorcycles are built so well now that a 15-year-old minter will do you just as well as a factory-fresh vehicle. You’d actually own that, but you wouldn’t get the toys…

“Rider aids.” Wow. Everything from ABS to traction control and all manner of wonders in between. And to be fair, they do make biking safer. Though to old duffers like me they take away far more than they give. Which is handy because I can’t afford a new bike.

Clothing? A decent Rukka “two piece” (jacket and trousers) is about two grand. That’s more than I paid individually for three of my bikes! But if you can afford it, it makes sense. I guess.

Me, I ride old bikes, slowly. I’m of an age and disposition where the journey is far more interesting than the destination. I don’t wear expensive, or even bike-specific, clothing. My choice totally. I wear Dad’s old open-face helmet and a jacket and jeans. I would never in a million years advise anybody else to follow suit. Hit a car in a car, you lose a wing. Hit a car on a bike, you lose a leg. Or worse. But that’s one of the great things about biking, it’s one of the last bastions of personal choice and freedom. Which is, I guess, why I have four bikes, and no car.

Your choice is clear.

Choose a new, safe bike, with the best and safest clothing available, regardless of cost.

Or follow the path of a man who thought drinking Tolly Cobbold light and bitter in The Safe Harbour every Saturday night throughout the late 1970s was a good idea.

Published: 13 June 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you liked this article, you may enjoy – The best 10 albums from the 1970s (in my opinion)

You may also like – Why I became a writer: a builder’s tale

Jobs currently available

Equity Release Advisor
Sector: Accountancy, Banking and Finance
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Needham Market
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910156
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for an Equity Release Advisor to join an established company based in Needham Market.

Operating for over 20 years, our client has a great reputation in the local area. They are looking to take on someone with a real hunger to succeed within the industry.

  • A CeMAP / Equity Release qualification
  • Experience within mortgage broking or Equity Release
  • Great communication skills
  • A detail-oriented nature
  • Experience of dealing with clients, both in-person and over the phone
  • Strong market awareness
  • Great knowledge of Microsoft packages and be generally computer literate

In return, you will receive a competitive base salary plus commission.

Please get in touch if you would like to be considered for this exciting new opportunity.

Read more
Mortgage Advisor
Sector: Accountancy, Banking and Finance
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Needham Market
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910155
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Mortgage Advisor to join an established mortgage company based in Needham Market.

Operating for over 20 years, our client has a great reputation in the local area. They are looking to take on someone with a real hunger to succeed within the industry.

You will have:

  • A CeMAP qualification (happy to consider newly qualified applicants)
  • Experience within mortgage broking or financial services
  • Great communication skills
  • A detail-oriented nature
  • Experience of dealing with clients, both in-person and over the phone
  • Strong market awareness
  • Great knowledge of Microsoft packages and be generally computer literate

In return, you will receive a competitive base salary plus commission.

Please get in touch if you would like to be considered for this exciting new opportunity.

Read more
Technical Assistant
Sector: Marketing, Advertising and PR
Salary: £21,000 - £22,000 per annum
Location: Halstead
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909828
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Technical Assistant on behalf of a company based in Halstead, Essex.

Your duties will include:

  • Ensure finished product specifications are completed and correct, meeting legal and customer requirements.
  • Reviewing and approving artwork for new and existing product development.
  • Liaising with NPD and commercial/marketing for new product information.
  • Conducting internal audits against the quality management system.
  • Responsible for dealing with all Trade Complaints in a professional and timely manner.
  • Responsible for label creation and making sure the label system is kept up to date.
  • Completing customer documentation as required.
  • Dealing with various technical tasks on an ad-hoc basis.

Working Monday to Friday, 7.30am - 4.30pm.
Free parking.

Read more
Junior Web Developer
Sector: Media and Internet
Salary: Discussed at application
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910116
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Junior Web Developer on behalf of a company based in Colchester.

The purpose of this role is to support in the building of email templates, landing pages, micro-sites and any other digital projects as well as testing work produced by the Development team. You will be producing high-quality code as part of a team and as an individual.

You will ideally have one year’s experience in a development environment with basic level practical knowledge of HTML, CSS and jQuery. Having an understanding of JavaScript, PHP and MySQL would be beneficial.

Job responsibilities:

  • Support the Development team in the build of email templates, landing pages and micro-sites.
  • Front-end development across multiple devices, browsers and operating systems.
  • Fixing known bugs in front-end projects.
  • Help plan and timescale future projects as well as contribute with ideas for future client projects.
  • Keep up to date with web development, design trends and technologies.
  • Quality assurance functionality testing on websites, landing pages, email templates, web applications and apps built by the Development team. Includes front-end cross browser testing and back-end functionality testing.
Read more
Financial Advisor
Sector: Accountancy, Banking and Finance
Salary: £24,000 - £43,000 per annum
Location: North West London and South West London
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910114
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Financial Advisor to cover North West London and another one to cover South West London on behalf of a financial services provider.

The company is looking for enthusiastic and confident individuals to join their team. You will be offering savings, investment, and protection products to help families and individuals reach their financial goals, protect their families and improve communities. 

What the role entails:

  • You will be provided with a customer database which you will build upon.
  • You will also receive ongoing support, guidance, training and development in their processes, systems and products to help you succeed in your role.
  • You will enjoy the autonomy of being home-based and responsible for managing your daily activities and diary as well as being part of a successful team of Financial Advisers.

If you are from a sales background, and have a genuine desire in providing financial advice to help families and individuals reach their financial goals you will be rewarded with a basic salary of £24,000 plus uncapped earning potential for achievement of your goals (*average £37,000 in year 1 and £43,000 in year 2 based) together with a company car, life cover and a pension scheme into which the company will contribute up to 10% of total earnings.

Knowledge, skills and experience:

  • Able to build and maintain strong customer relationships.
  • Professional approach.
  • Drive and determination to succeed.
  • Strong communication skills.
  • Working knowledge of computer systems.
  • Sales background, previous experience in financial services would be advantageous, but not essential.
Read more