It was Friday, and more importantly, my second motorbike lesson with Connor. He was a good teacher, and I found that driving was easier than I first thought. Especially on an automatic – you only need to think about steering, clutch control, and of course brakes. I seemed to struggle with the last part. At one point, Connor got me to pull over, and we just chatted for 5 minutes. Then he made me get back on and asked if anything felt different. I replied that the only thing that felt different was that I’d forgotten everything! He smiled and said “exactly”. He explained that every time you get on the bike, you’re a different person to the one that got off, and you have to adjust all over again. Sensible advice!
Connor also taught me that I shouldn’t learn to brake by taking my hand off the throttle, but to focus on using the brakes first and then releasing the throttle. Otherwise, when you need to brake, your reaction wouldn’t be instinctive.
I took his advice and we started riding around my block. It was pretty entertaining. And I immediately had to put that braking advice to good use by doing a few emergency stops! The first time, someone overtook me on a corner while I was waiting for someone to turn right (who was on the wrong side of the road, of course). This shit doesn’t happen in England. I had that famous line pop through my head “You’re not in Kansas anymore”.
To finish the lesson, Connor got me doing figure-of-eight turns to get a grasp on my handling. This is a manoeuvre I’ve always hated, but I knew I had to master it to get my driving license. In fact, it’s the only thing drivers have to do before they’re let loose on the roads in Vietnam. At one point, Connor said to me “Georgie, that is not a figure of eight” and I replied, “Connor, that is not helpful!” He then took over and demonstrated, but it wasn’t long before he admitted that it was harder than he thought. In the end, I thought I was getting the hand of it. Actually, I thought I was doing pretty well indeed! But then I put too much pressure on the throttle and had forgotten about his braking advice…
I hadn’t even used the brakes before I was off the bike and on the floor! I’d bashed my knee on the curb and the bike was almost on top of me. Suffice to say, it was pretty painful. I was glad that Connor was there with me. He said that we should finish for the day, but I insisted on getting back on for a few more laps around the block. I wasn’t just being stubborn, I knew that if I ended the lesson with a crash then it would dent my confidence. I think he was impressed.
On my way around the block, just before a corner, I bumped into Ha and Rory who were back from America. It’s funny how you can bump into people so easily in the capital of the 14th most populous country on Earth! I was still shaking and full of adrenaline. I told them that it was only my second time on a bike, that I’d just fallen off, and that I was still shaking. I think that I must have been speaking at 100 mph (even if I was only driving at 30) because they looked genuinely concerned; they informed me that I shouldn’t just be using my front brake, but the back brake. This was the exact opposite of what Connor had told me, and now I didn’t know what to believe.
Speaking of the devil, Connor reappeared from around the corner looking extremely worried because I hadn’t turned up. I apologised countless times, feeling awful for making him worry. Rory offered to give me driving lessons once Connor was gone, but I’d seen the way he drove, so I didn’t fancy that. I mentioned the contradictory advice to Connor, but he was adamant that he was correct. He said it’s because the front brake is above the clutch and it’s more instinctual. He said that if you’re going fast and brake firmly with the front brake, you’ll get thrown forward, but if you brake with the back brake you’ll skid and come off that way. To add to this, he said it’s dangerous to brake when you still have the throttle on, and that’s much more likely to happen if you use the back brake as your other hand is still free to use the throttle. (I’ve since learned that a combination of the two is the best way forward.)
Connor began to get cold feet about convincing me to get a bike in the first place. I noticed that he was being very protective over who I got advice from.
After lunch, I went back home and relaxed. I had a shower, straightened my hair, and did my make-up in preparation for Connor’s leaving do. I had barely dressed up or worn make-up since arriving in Hanoi, people just don’t do it there. But tonight felt different…