7Ws – A Success Story
The 25th iteration of the 7W’s had to be a cut above the rest, having said that the 24th was a corker as were all the preceding events, just the ticket in their own right. The reason for this is that every 7Ws consists of a cast of thousands and the mix is the same; a few Observers, a few Associates, a few Green Teamers, and within each of those groups, a core team who support the event each and every time. So you have first timers and experienced 7W’ers all riding together.
The backdrop for this is mid Wales and its heady mix of challenging roads and open sweepers along with mist, rain, suicidal sheep and hard unforgiving terrain; also beer and mystical stories of daring do.
The whole thing started back in the mists of time by a wild welsh biker known as Daff (or Daff-t) depending on your point of view. He decided that some of the virgin bikers the club was attracting needed an opportunity to stretch their legs and have a real challenge. So he laid down the basis for the 7Ws and it has remained much the same for 25 wonderful repeats. Held at the beginning and end of the biking year, that is March/April and October. It is now a pilgrimage for many and an aspiration for some; many have tried to book a place and never managed to get one yet?!
The venue has changed over the years to cater for the ever increasing numbers and their high expectations. The latest being a collection of wooden huts hidden deep within the pine forests of Llanfukinlostagain, a little akin to Stalag 14 but without the fence. It is run by a consortium of East European Mafia who have few regular visitors other than TVAM. Most of their previous guests sleep with the fishes.
The luxury wooden cabins are lushly fitted with bri-nylon curtains, original Cyril Lord carpet and are ‘top notch’. They boast a kettle and a bed; mine was supported on four house bricks (that’s the bed) and had a duvet and matching pillow cases. The kettle had a long and useful lead so you could use the common power outlet some 48 metres away if unoccupied by others?! The leccie cost you a pound coin about once every 90 seconds if you use a hair drier when boiling the kettle. Views from the cabins are a fantastic panorama of other bikers fighting over the power socket and two wild donkeys; one is called Chocolate; he wears a wide brimmed straw hat and sucks a carrot, the other is called Sweetie and looks frightened!…….
Food is provided to those participating whether they want it or not. It is not permitted to smuggle in wholesome snacks or vegetables. The day starts with a hearty breakfast of cornflakes and chips washed down with lashings of Welsh tea. The evening meal is a celebration of Nouveaux Welsh cuisine based around the fried potato. There is plenty of local beer and wine to add height to the already tall stories and increase the volume of applause to the Spoon receivers.
Now the ceremony of the spoon is a very special part of the 7Ws …it is the duty of all attending to grass up (or lie) about the riding skills (or lack of) displayed or imagined to be seen whilst out on the road. Thus, if you are lucky enough to have a dodgy overtake witnessed by the hoard, you may be in for a wooden spoon. They are presented by a fearsome figure of a woman standing 1.4meters high in her stocking feet and suspenders!? But worse of all is the story of how you won your spoon as interpreted by Rawlins…now sarcasm is his second name and he crafts his tales to ensure maximum discomfort is given to the poor unsuspecting recipient of the trophy. This year to mark the occasion the spoons were especially finished in sparkly fairy dust lacquer to mark the 25th year. It is quite hard to get a spoon; you have to be real bad or stitched up proper.
The whole point of the 7Ws event is to have sustained riding over a long distance on good roads that challenge you. This is further enhanced by the ability to watch others and learn from their skill or mistakes. There is no doubt that all who attend are improved by the experience, they not only get to ride 500 miles with other good riders on technical roads but meet with other TVAM riders and forge friendships that stand the test of time and make them part of the club. This is ever harder to do as we expand and grow to corporate proportions and lose some of the cuddliness we once had.
I have been on about eight of these training holidays from early tentative days as a novice rider through the other stages and got something positive out of all of them. I could recommend it as a must for all who aspire to ride well on two wheels and long may it continue.
Many thanks to those who step up to the plate and spend time and effort organising it (you know who you are)