I'm doing my SJA driving assessment on Sunday; I failed it last time, so I've arranged a couple of driving lessons. This will partly act as a refresher (since I don't have my own car), and partly get me familiar with new techniques. I passed my driving test in 1995, and a few things have changed since then; for instance, I was taught to change through every gear when slowing down (rather than jumping from 4th to 2nd), and to "pump" the brake pedal during an emergency stop to avoid skidding (no longer an issue with anti-lock brakes).
I had my first lesson this morning, and it went well. At one point I looked down and saw that I was only doing 15 miles per hour. It felt as if I was going faster, but I've had trouble "making progress" in the past; assessors like you to travel at the speed limit if the road is clear, so I'm trying not to be overcautious. As I accelerated, the conversation went like this:
Instructor: "What's the speed limit here?"
Me: "30mph. I know I'm going too slowly, so I'm speeding up now."
Instructor: "Actually, you're doing 40, so slow down!"
It turns out that the "revs per minute" dial and the "miles per hour" dial are the opposite way round to what I'm used to; oops! Ah well, no harm done, and that's something I can watch out for in the future. Speaking of the controls, the instructor had a duplicate set of foot pedals; the interesting thing is that they work in synch, so it reminded me of Knight Rider when I saw the pedals going down by themselves! (He didn't have to seize control because I'd done something silly, he was just demonstrating proper clutch technique.)
Speaking of vehicles, I've had some trouble with my motorbike recently. I don't use it very often; in fact, the last time I rode it was in July 2007, when I brought it back from the MOT. For day to day travel I use public transport, so the only time it's really useful is if I go outside London. However, if I don't use it for a while then the alarm drains the battery, which I then have to recharge. Back in July, someone had a go at the main lock with a screwdriver, and mangled it so that I could no longer get my key in. I finally contacted the insurance company on Monday, but it turns out that this isn't covered under TPFT (3rd party/fire/theft); damn those lazy thieves for giving up halfway through the job!
So, I'd need to pay to get the lock replaced: this would either mean getting someone out to work on it here, or hiring a trailer, since the bike's immobile. (On motorbikes, you generally "lock" the front wheel so that it's turned to the left, making it harder for people to wheel it away; however, that also makes it hard for you to wheel it to a shop in a case like this.) The bike's also overdue for its MOT, and road tax is due at the end of September, but I can't renew that without a current MOT certificate. Looking further ahead, the insurance is due again at the end of the year. This all comes back to what I mentioned recently, about the idea of having; I like the idea of my own motorbike (since they are intrinsically cool), but realistically I don't use it enough to justify the expense. So, I decided to sell it, and get money flowing in the opposite direction instead.
When I had the bike MOTed last year, I asked the shop how much it would be worth second hand, and they said that they might pay £800 for it. (That was a rough figure rather than a formal offer.) They would obviously want to make a profit by selling it at a higher price, so if I cut out the middleman then I could sell it at the higher price myself, e.g. via Ebay. However, I then got a bit snarled up in the logistics. For instance, if someone wants to do a test ride, would they be insured? Also, it's not like a car where I can go along as a passenger (unless I ride pillion), so there would be a risk of them disappearing off into the distance. I could ask for a deposit, but then there are trust issues in the other direction. So, I decided to keep things simple, and phoned the same shop yesterday (Greyhound Motors); they came round this morning and gave me £500 cash for the bike, which I think was fair.
I've posted off the relevant form to the DVLA, to notify them that I'm no longer the registered keeper of the vehicle; that way, they won't hassle me for road tax etc. I also cancelled my insurance policy; I was a bit concerned that I might have to pay a fee for that (according to the fine print), but that turned out not to be a problem. I paid in advance at the start of the year (rather than in installments), and they said it was far enough through the year that I wouldn't get any rebate for the "unused" months, so it all cancelled out, and I'm content with that.
* Heavy duty jump leads.
* Battery charger.
* Cargo net.
* Spray to lubricate the chain.
Most of those will only be useful for other motorbikes, but the jump leads and battery charger will work on cars too. I don't think it's worth sticking them on Ebay; similar items haven't gone for much, and the charger is heavy enough that it would be a hassle to post it. So, if nobody else wants them I'll go to Freecycle.
Edit: Items now disposed of via Freecycle.
Despite the issues with my motorbike, I hopefully won't be bereft of wheels for too long. Back in February, I mentioned that I was thinking about buying a bicycle. We've now set up a "cycle to work" scheme at work (via Cyclescheme), and I've arranged to get a Brompton folding bike through that. I'd prefer a "normal" bike, but this is the most practical option (at least for now). So, I got a quote from Bicycle Workshop, signed the contract at work for the salary sacrifice scheme, and collected the voucher yesterday. However, when I went along to the shop, they said that they don't do Cyclescheme anymore; apparently they've asked to be taken off the website, but it hasn't happened. That's rather annoying, since I now need to get the voucher reissued for a different shop. So, two pieces of advice for anyone else in this situation:
a) If you're buying a bike through Cyclescheme, make sure that the shop is still actively participating. (There's a special form they can fill out to give you a written quote.)
b) Avoid Bicycle Workshop. They seem like nice enough people, but they're clearly struggling to keep up with the amount of work that's coming in, so don't add to it.
I went along to BikePlus today, and they were a lot more helpful, so hopefully I can sort something out there instead.
While I'm waiting for a real bike, I went along to the gym this evening to do an "RPM" class (on the cycle machines). It was tiring, but I'm sure the exercise did me good. However, at the end of the class I had trouble pushing the door open! If I didn't know better, I'd have thought it was locked, but I'd already seen other people go through it, so I was just being feeble; once I put my whole weight against it, I was able to vanquish that obstacle.
I also made a trip to the recycling depot this afternoon, so all in all I've been quite organised and I have less stuff in my flat than I did this morning. So, why does my bed look as if a suitcase exploded? Ah well, nothing like a spot of late night tidying...