To get a little flavour of what this trip is about, what follows is the story of the September 2008 trip from three different perspectives. Mine (Louise D), an Observer and organiser of the runs, Lou, an experienced Associate; and Ashley, a let’s just say “newer” Associate.
Fox’s Diner on a beautiful sunny day in late September. 30+ bikes. Lots of excited faces and quite a few nervous ones. This was the normal start to another 7Ws trip.
Steve and I got organised and I prepared for the run briefing chat. As any of you who know me appreciate, I am somewhat vertically challenged so have to stand on a table to address the group about how the runs are going to work and what the ground rules are. From my highly elevated position, I noticed this lad I’d never seen before, who put his hand up when I asked if there was anyone who didn’t understand the marker system. This was Ashley, and after Steve took him to one side and explained how it worked, he dutifully set off on Daf’s run of 200+ miles over to Aberystwyth.
My own run set off and we had a lovely day, arriving in Aber at around 6:00pm. As I was walking into the hotel, I looked up the road and there was Ash walking (staggering) towards me. “How was the run?” I asked, fully expecting the usual glowing report. “My balls are in absolute agony” came the reply. “I can hardly F*@*””g walk”. All this was accompanied with the same grin I had noticed that morning (though somewhat strained), but it was true, Ashley was doing a superb impression of walking like John Wayne. I was really puzzled, and asked him what had gone wrong. Well it turns out that Ashley (pin your lugs back), had only passed his test a month before, had had his GSX600 for 2 WEEKS; had joined TVAM the previous Sunday and had been persuaded by Daf to go on the 7Ws trip only 5 days later. The longest trip Ash had ever undertaken was the 60 mile trip up the A34 from Basingstoke to Fox’s to make sure he knew where everyone was meeting. He was fully expecting to go up to Wales using as many Motorways as possible; have a pootle about on Saturday and to come home on the nice big 3 laners again on the way home.
Talk about baptism by fire! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “So what has sort of mashed the manhood then?” I rather naively asked. Well Ash couldn’t get the bike around bends without braking (rather violently it turns out). Every time he tried, the bike wouldn’t do as he willed it to so he would end up breaking and slamming his delicate bits against the rather unforgiving GSX’s petrol tank. You can imagine what a state he was in by the time he got to Aber – especially since Daf had taken the run via the Old Ross Road; 21 miles of beautiful twisties.
I told him to get himself in and settled and I’d talk to him later.
The next day, having organized Ash to hook up with Craggy (ROSPA Gold rider and a bit of a happy nutter), and Lou who was feeling a bit frustrated with the bends with Jamie, we all set off on our respective runs in blazing sunshine. I joined Ian’s run (hubby), as did Ash and Craggy; Lou and Jamie. We headed up towards Snowdonia and stopped for lunch at the Ponderosa Café at the top of the Horseshoe Pass. I had a chat with Craggy and Jamie to see how Ash and Lou were getting on. Turns out that Ash was ready to head back to the hotel. He just couldn’t get the bike to go where he wanted it to and was getting seriously exhausted. Jamie and I had a quick chat and decided to let the run go. We would take Ash and Lou back to Aber and use the trip back to see what we could do to help. The run went off and Jamie and I worked out a nice route back which avoided all the busy “A” roads. Since Jamie had the SatNav, he was to go up front followed by Lou, Ash then me.
We decided to have another cuppa before we set off to allow everyone to chill out and recover from the morning. Jamie and I also wanted to have a chat with Ash and Lou about their riding. Ash was talking to me about the problems he was having and described exactly what I saw happen with another rider who insisted on riding everywhere in 6th (saves petrol and the bike is perfectly capable of going around a corner by itself), ie. that the bike insists on drifting out to the other side of the road. Bingo! Ashley thought he had to get the bike up to 6th as soon as possible and stay there.
Since we were riding under very controlled conditions and speed (Jamie and I agreed 50 max), I asked Ashley not to take the bike above 3rd, and in fact to see how it felt in 2nd. We set off and after Jamie went wrong within 50 yards and took us down a sheer mountainside covered in gravel and weeds and heart-stopping drops, we found ourselves on the open road. Within 5 miles, Ash got cramp and he and I had to stop. I don’t know whether he wanted to laugh or cry through the pain since it only took that short distance for him to fall in love with riding and “get it”. We had a fabulous run back and he even did his first decent overtake, though I have to say it earned him the “Simon Rawlins Horse Box of the Year Overtake Award” wooden spoon for the crappiest/cheekiest/least IAM O/Take of the 3 days. What did he do? Overtook on a double white line going up a hill with me right behind him. What did he say when he received his award? “I don’t care, it was bloody worth it” And do you know what? It was.
Oh, and that wasn’t the only thing he was awarded on the trip. We clubbed together and bought him a box of ice cube bags. We’re all heart.
So to end my tale, I ended up with Ash as my new Associate. He and I, together with Lou, Steve, Ian and Ian W(allace), left the main run and made our own way back to Oxfordshire. Simon R, bless him, waited for us at Burford Little Chef, and we made it just before dark at 5:30pm, Ash and Lou having ridden beautifully.
No, it wasn’t what I expected but did I enjoy it? Of course I did. Am I looking forward to the 20th March? I can’t wait. Is Ash going? You bet he is!
See you on the 20th Guys and Girls and if I’ve missed the March deadline, hope you all enjoyed it!
Day 1 Lessons learned.
Riding around in the countryside is not supposed to be enjoyed in 6th gear at 35mph, but does give great fuel consumption.
This is not the bush, tree, car or shrubbery on the other side of the bend that you think you’re going to plough into and can’t seem to stop looking at.
90 degree bends should not be attempted in 5th or 6th gear as this tends to leave the rider in a constant state of panic, watching one’s life flash before his or her eyes. Luckily I’m only 29 and lazy so it did not take all that long. I spent the entire trip to Wales contemplating what I had got myself into especially on one section that contained linked bends for 20 something miles…….. W*NKER! I mean who in god’s name made a road like that? Sure as hell not the Romans. Me …. I like the Romans they made straight roads, no bends and you can do 35 and even 40mph with out having to worry about on-coming sheep, bikes, cars or 3 legged dogs.
Now I hope your reading carefully as this is the most important lesson of all. Tank slapping is not supposed to be breaking harshly on the approach to a or in my case many 45+ degree bend and burying your manhood into the huge seemingly immovable metal object just in front of the seat. IT HURTS!…… LOTS. Although, again there is one plus side….. you get to do a great John Wayne impression without saying a word.
Day 2 Lessons learned Cont.
Having a full English breakfast is not a great way to start a bike ride. Getting the Simon Rawlins horse box award (wooden spoon) for worst overtake at the end of that evening is also not a good thing but telling your Observer it was worth it does not help matters.
I spend the afternoon being restricted to only 3 gears; none of those were 5th or 6th. However it did seem to change my riding. No longer did I look like the un-dead when I got off my bike, corners started to be fun and not life threatening. Counter steering started to feel more natural and fluid and for once, when I opened up the throttle the bike actually reacted. By the time I got off my bike I had a grin on my face from ear to ear – it felt like a completely different bike and I had barely touched 60 on the entire ride back. And there was no longer a chicken strip along my tyres.
Day 3 ………
Today I was given a new gear, yeah 4th not that I saw much of it. Most of my time was spent ringing the neck out of second and on a progressive run getting to grips with third and all the fun that it brought. Lag was not a new thing to me be but seemed to be a pain in the arse in third, solved by changing up to third at 12 thousand RPM as apposed to 9/10. After a near miss with an oncoming bike the overtaking procedure seemed like a good idea to follow too. With that I was over taking one, two cars, trucks, sheep and caravans it was great. Later that day I was told that my overtakes were a bit slow and to open it up next time. Okay I’m game. As the next car came into view I started to prepare. Right hand side check, one second rule – good, second gear check, high revs – yeah. The chance came, I for it… I moved across to the other side of the road, decided on my point of entry after the over take and gunned it. This resulted in two things 1. I nearly dislocated my wrist and 2. I had left the car for dust in record breaking time. It was fantastic, after that point I was willing cars to come into view just so that I could try again. By the end of day three I was pleased with everything I had learned and more than aware of how much was still ahead. We arrived at Burford around 5:30pm to a welcoming group and enjoyed a much needed cup of tea or in my case coffee. After that it time I said my good bye’s and was helped to a familiar place. But it was night, it was dark and it was cold. All weekend I had been told – don’t get relaxed when you’re close to home as that’s when accidents happen…lol relax! My heart felt like it was beating for England. For the next 50 odd miles all I could see in my mirrors were lights and all I could see in front of me was pitch back. I could not remember for the life of me where the main beam button was. After an hour and a half or so I got home and was welcomed back by my loving wife who presented me with a roast dinner, a beer, chocolate and a comfy sofa and a video of the F1. With that my trip was over. It had been a fantastic weekend and I met lots of great people …… so to everyone on the trip
My 7Ws Experience
What can I say, my first dodgy email from Steve saying I would likely be sharing my room with a sheep told me there was going to be trouble, just didn’t realise I would be the one causing it!
Sequence of events, Suzi taking me over to Fox’s Diner, 20 mins late (‘Suzi’s Time’ she says, although after the weekend we all know why she was late!) threw me into a panic, thought she’d forgotten me so phoned Steve, this was useful as he had his phone turned off (the organiser of the trip as well!). Eventually she rolled up with support driver in tow and reason for lateness (Dave, bless him he took my luggage as well,) and we shot of to the diner, got there for 9.30am, supposedly departure time, but Suzi being on the trip before knew they didn’t always run to time! (LouD’s time)
We split into 3 groups, two groups set off then ours, which was LouD’s. All excited I got on the Ducati and started it, nothing, 2nd panic, I thought ‘I don’t want to go home I want to go to Wales.’ To the rescue came Ian and Simon solved the problem and within minutes the bike fired up, a big sigh of relief and we were off.
Great weather, (thanks for organising that specially, Steve) great company and a great lunch at the Royal Oak Inn in Ledbury. The poor bar man, thought we were all a nightmare, had to serve all 15 of us separately for lunch, then we played games with the money throwing it down cracks in the floor board, getting that taken off the bill then fishing it out and keeping it. Louise D you were a naughty girl….. ). After lunch I even had time to go blackberry picking in the next door field so everyone got at least one of their 5 a day for pudding.
There on after it all becomes a blur. All I remember is riding, riding and more riding, it was all the bendz that sent me off the rails. Boy I was glad to get to the Marina hotel in Aberwystwyth. Suzi being the back marker, only because she fancied chasing after someone who may take the wrong turning, had me in view for practically all the way down, guess I was lucky and ended up not marking. I got off my bike vision blurred and very quiet, thinking “when will I be able to go around these bends”. An honest chat to Louise and a few drinks later, I had been allocated Jamie as my observer for Saturday. A good meal, a few more drinks and a good night’s sleep would do the trick.
Saturday dawned, and after breakfast we all met on the promenade to choose our runs. Ashley and I were given preferential treatment, me because of my bendy work and Ashley because he had only ridden a motorbike for about 3 days before he came on the trip! (By jove after the next 2 days he was proving to be a natural and up to an A standard) The ride took us up to the Ponderosa Café along the Horseshoe Pass, not before, I might add, a few dodgy hairpin bends. They are always a challenge, as was avoiding all the roaming sheep on the roads, seeming oblivious to all us bikers and car drivers!. A sandwich for lunch then a debriefing from Louise and Jamie, a special shorter easier route mapped out and we were on our way. Only to find 50 yards into the journey Jamie decided to take us off-roading (blaming his SatNav for bad directions, he did). It was like a rally course, especially when a Merc in front decided to zoom into the distance leaving us all in a cloud of dust. The road was about a foot wide and covered in gravel with bends and drops so severe I couldn’t get my bike to go slow enough around and down them! It made me wonder what was to come next on this preferred route. Needless to say it only got better from there on in. We got back to the hotel for about 6ish where I was pleasantly happier than yesterday, to hang my boots and helmet up for the night. Got in my power shower and relaxed going over the events of the day. All refreshed and glowing from the sun and wind I joined the motley crew for drinks and dinner.
Dinner turned out to be a giggle, firstly Ashley requested some jokes from the 118 guys, on my phone. Robin seemed not too impressed with their childish nature, requested some adult jokes! After a longer pause we received a text in short, saying, ‘some requests were just too naughty for the 118 team to respond to, so they chose not to answer!’ So Robin next time you will have to get Simon to tell you some of his naughty jokes!! A strange award ceremony followed, giving out wooden spoons would you believe, to ‘the knob of the day’, I won’t mention any names (probably because I can’t remember any!) otherwise I would. Then a queue for the dessert table, the staff were so obliging, I had three deserts to taste. Followed by a discreet departure to bed again. All this riding and fresh air takes it toll………not to mention a full tummy.
Last day, weather holding out and full tummy, some had full pockets of sausage sandwiches too, we again all attended the promenade briefing, bikes laden with luggage, apart from Suzi and I as Suzi’s support driver Dave (everyone should have one) was on hand to take our luggage.
Basically Louise was going to be back marker with myself and Ashley in tow, leaving all the hooligans and boys and girls to play ahead. We made our own sweet way back to England and then Burford. Ashley sandwiched between the Dickinson’s (don’t ask) and me sandwiched between Ian and Steve (ooh err, don’t ask).
The end result (apart from the ride home on unlit country roads in the dark) was what a fantastic first trip to Wales I had, first day trauma gone and replaced by more confidence, riding bends, couldn’t really not as there were no straight roads in Wales! This trip is a must for everyone, it is so well organised, fantastic value for money and you meet a wonderful crowd of like minded people, in my case a few likeminded nutters! I feel part of the TVAM family now as everyone is so welcoming. A special thanks to Louise and Ian, Jamie and Steve for their help and guidance.
p.s. For all you interested (not) cat lovers I have met, my moggie likes her welsh blanket!!!
And for those of you who really wanted to know, the wooden spoon awards are as follows:
The Simon Rawlins Horse Box Overtake Award
First awarded to Simon himself for doing such a tight overtake, it woke both the horse and driver up, causing them both to jump rather violently to the left, resulting in both box and 4X4 leaving some rather deep furrows in the grass verge.
On a later trip, this award has gone to no less than our Steve, who tried to overtake a very big wagon on the approach to a blind left hand bend while mentally willing the oncoming mountain to move out of his way. Who said blokes can’t multi-task?
The Gnob Of the Day award
For the most outstanding instance of “Gnobbish” behaviour observed during the weekend.
Consists of a main wooden spoon and two mini runner up awards, one of which was awarded to me for overtaking the run leader and taking two Associates with me 15 miles past the lunch stop.
Crap Marker Award
A new award for September 2008, and issued with great pride to our Jamie, Senior Observer and 7W’s virgin who overtook (me) the run leader while at the same time mentally criticising them (me) for poor marking