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

New job
Data Entry Clerk
Sector: Public Service and Administration
Salary: £8.21 per hour
Location: Essex
Role: Full Time
Contract: Temporary
Job ref: 909814
About the role

Are you available immediately?

Are you available for the next 3 months?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Data Entry Clerk on behalf of a company who have branches across Essex/East Anglia.

The role will involve working on a bespoke internal system – strong attention to detail is essential!!

This is a full-time, temporary position working Monday – Friday, 09.00 – 17.30.

Interested? Apply today!

Read more
New job
Sector: Public Service and Administration
Salary: £21,500 per annum
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909812
About the role

Do you have recent Audio Typing experience?

Are your Audio and Copy Typing speeds in excess of 60wpm?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Secretary/Administrator on behalf of a company based at their Colchester branch.

You will be providing administration and secretarial support to the branch – the majority of the role will be audio typing so you must be proficient!

This is a full-time, permanent role working Monday – Friday, 08.30 – 17.30.

Interested? Apply today!

Read more
New job
Freight Forwarding Coordinator - Exports
Sector: Transport, Logistics and Shipping
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Dunmow
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909809
About the role

Just Recruitment is looking to recruit an Export Freight Forwarding Coordinator on behalf of a company based in Great Dunmow, Essex.

We are looking for an experienced deep-sea Exports Logistics Coordinator to join a dynamic and growing team. You will have a proven background within the deep-sea export logistics industry, be confident, hands-on and able to work as a team member as well as using your own initiative.

Your duties will include:

  • Working within a team handling bookings from start to finish
  • Speaking to customers, creating documents and customs entries through the company’s IT System
  • Booking transport through the company's transport and shipping lines transport
  • Raising and authorising of sales and purchase invoices

Experience gained with a Freight forwarding / Logistics organisation dealing with export shipments by sea with a knowledge of exports by Road and Air would be advantageous.

40 hour week - covering between the hours of 9.00am - 6.00pm. Monday to Friday.

Three shift system 8.00am - 5.00pm, 8.30am - 5.30pm + 9.00am - 6.00pm.

Read more
New job
Interior Planner
Sector: Property and Construction
Salary: £19,000 - £24,000 per annum
Location: Earls Colne
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909805
About the role

Just Recruitment is looking for an Interior Planner on behalf of a company based on the outskirts of Colchester.

The primary role of the Planner is to deliver planning activities in line with the client’s brief whilst following the company’s standards and policies.

Key responsibilities:

  • To support the overall client’s brief and the company’s deliverables
  • Be accountable for the quality, accuracy and delivery of plans on time
  • Able to carry out store surveys in line with the client’s brief
  • Understand and apply the client’s standards
  • Contribute to the wider team and recommend how they can plan better/drive efficiencies in the future
  • Support, coach and train colleagues where needed
  • Complete general admin tasks for the company including an accurate timesheet on a daily basis

The ideal candidate:

  • Able to build relationships with clients and colleagues
  • Being agile in the way they think, making decisions that are right for the client and the business
  • Handle and manage change
  • Get jobs done through motivation, determination and drive
  • Use planning expertise to highlight innovative ideas for how the business can improve in the way we work
  • Be passionate about planning resulting in good attention to detail
  • Showing a willingness to learn and grow
  • Being flexible to the client’s needs
  • Have the correct credentials to deliver the company’s expectations

Knowledge and experience required:

  • AutoCAD
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Numeracy, literacy and IT are essential skills
  • Full UK driving licence
Read more
Techncial Sales Assistant
Sector: Sales
Salary: Competitive depending on experience
Location: Sudbury
Role: Part Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909803
About the role

Just Recruitment is looking for a Technical Sales Assistant on behalf of a company based in Sudbury on a Part-time basis.

You will have excellent organisation skills, high attention to detail and the ability to work on several projects at once.

Main duties:

  • Sales activities
  • Preparing and sending quotes
  • Providing administrative support including inputting data and filing
  • Managing and responding to incoming enquiries both on phone and via email systems
  • Liaising with customers
  • Liaising with the Marketing Department to provide updates and information on individual projects and contracts to assist in the preparation of promotional material
  • Managing and compiling industry compliance documentation, third party accreditation documents, forms and questionnaires
  • ISO Quality Management
  • Providing data for internal reporting and forecasting

A mix of the following key skills would be particularly beneficial to this role:

  • A minimum of 3–5 years in an admin/quality/technical sales role
  • Qualified to Graduate Level or equivalent, preferably with a technical / STEM-related degree
  • A professional, confident and approachable manner
  • The ability to plan, prepare and act decisively
  • An effective communicator who is customer-focused, creative and proactive
  • Self-motivated with the ability to work alone and as part of a team
  • A strong working knowledge of MS Office Applications: Excel, Word, Outlook, Powerpoint
  • The ability to prioritise, adapt and work to strict and competing deadlines
  • A solid understanding of the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

This is a part-time position with the possibility for full-time hours.

Further information:

  • Hours of work: 20-37.5 hours a week between 9 am and 5.30 pm, Mon-Fri. Can be flexible
  • 21 days holiday plus bank holidays
  • Free parking
  • The team also have a very friendly office dog!
Read more