DANCE OF THE SEVEN VALES

(including Ebbw and others)

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After 28 previous attempts you would think they could get it right, wouldn’t you?
And I expect they could if it wasn’t for the rest of the bunch, who always, but always make it difficult by screwing something up……Arrrgh! But who really cares?

Anyway the instructions were simple; get yourself and your bike (full of petrol) to Sainsbury’s near Oxford by about 8.30 for a big breakfast and a briefing. You will be allocated to a team and you will do as you are told by the BIG BOSS and your team leader in that order. You will wear a silly little arm band in a twee colour to associate you with your group and prevent yourself from becoming lost or abandoned in that dangerous place called England.

I, along with several others in the group happened to be men of stature, middle aged spread in all departments! So when I was handed my Barbie Pink arm band sized XS I had to commission help to cut off the circulation in my left arm and fasten it around my wrist. That being the smallest diameter I was prepared to wrap it about. Other options were suggested by the helpful lady dispensing the tourniquets.

I must have done something very wrong cos I had to go in the girls group, and as we all know that’s no place for a real biker! The leader was a tiny girl stretched across a Gixer 750; looked like a small piece of laundry waiting on the ironing board for a pressing engagement. The back marker was a very severe lady on a loud motorcycle…I don’t know what her name was, couldn’t catch it over the racket!

We and the other teams bravely set off as instructed in the general direction of Wales. It was carefully planned so no two teams would use the same stretch of road at the same time and cause a terrible clash of colours. Well that was the plan. I really enjoyed meeting the guys in the Green arm bands, they seemed a great bunch, as did the Blue ones we met some miles further up the road…It was such a friendly day. We met everybody and waved and exchanged arm bands as a sign of kinship.

After a fine dry ride around some threatening black clouds we all arrived safely in Llandrindod Wells and were allocated beds…I was getting concerned as I had a pink arm band and really wanted to share with the boys. Then we could sit up late into the night telling stories like you do when let out on our own. I needn’t have worried, there were several isolation pens and one was for me. If you had been travelling in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea or were a known snorer you got a suite.

That first night was great; we all met in the bar and told stories while drinking locally-brewed ale. There was a choice of two, both dispensed from flexible bladders – both before and after drinking. The dark mysterious brew was called Rawlins Wrath and the lighter golden one was named the Morning After. We drank copious amounts and the stories got better and better, Chris Brownlee telling the most unlikely tale of how he managed to overtake a cart horse on a country lane….nobody believed him, but we were all in good humour and smiled knowingly. Craggy was extolling the virtues of his new bike – a product of Scrapheap Challenge and made of several well known makes grafted together, the joints cunningly concealed with duct tape. Ian had a super new Honda which was equipped with masses of luggage, mostly required for his missus evening dress and stuff and a small bum bag for his stuff.

All levels of rider and all types of machine are welcome on the excursion, from the rank novice to the expert rider. There were bikes with no gears and one simple control (Jez) to bikes with loads of gears, most of which don’t get used (Mr James).

Saturday was to be a day of exciting rides led by various advanced riders. It was a good day. The pink girlie’s stayed dry and had a great time swooping around the mountains and stopping at twee places for tucker and tea. The other colours all got wet (ha! ha!) and came back to the hotel telling tales of daring do. Craggy and Rawlins gave up! Too wet and cold for the boys with their weak bladders and dodgy bikes! What’s more their fags went out over 40MPH.

That night as usual, some got completely ‘advanced’. Fun was had by all, and much joviality found at other’s expense. Spoons abounded and rounds of applause and drinks could be heard into the wee small hours.

Early the next morning, trying to leave unnoticed under the cover of fog the guilty made their escape. First Des tried to start his bike quietly but woke the hotel as his loose change from the bar last evening fell from his pockets. Next to sneak off were Slater and Coneley, that well known dodgy duo from down Souf….Andy’s Akrapovic exhaust only marginally louder than Pat’s farting after the hotel meals washed down with lashings of local brew. We all rode back in a damp October mist that cleared to give stunning views of mountains in cotton wool when crossing the top of the Brecons.

Everyone got back sometime on Sunday with different tales to tell about #29 and started immediately talking about the inevitable #30! Hope you all had a great 7Ws….if it was perfect no-one would bother, and like life, it goes on regardless. That’s another 550 miles off my new set of PR4’s and a fitting end to 2014’s summer biking. I have to say within the groups of riders that I followed the riding was exemplary TVAM riding standard…the newcomers expanded their envelope safely and the ole war horses set a great example.
It is, after all, the epitome of TVAM and perhaps the linchpin event that underscores the club’s values more than any other. Well done the organising team and Daff for instigation all those years ago.

Colin Wheeler